Maximise M365 with an Evergreen Framework

As a leading consultancy for M365, we have seen and heard our client’s frustrations navigating through the nuances of Microsoft’s continuous improvements. This ranges from small technical fixes to new features on heavily used services such as Microsoft Teams and SharePoint. This is why we have decided to put together a two-part blog series to start conversations around evergreen and how to build a successful evergreen framework.

Let’s start with a story

Megan, a staff member from a large accounting firm needs to run a series of training sessions for a new payroll portal that’s rolling out. She needs the ability to easily manage registrations and isn’t sure her company has the right technology available to support this need. She’s a regular user of Microsoft Teams and is well across its features…. Or so she thought!

Megan’s company has had Microsoft Teams for about two years. Previously told that Teams did not have this capability, she finds another solution on Google. Enter shadow IT and siloed tools!

This is a common story across organisations of all sizes where you have proactive and capable staff, but no framework to support them to adopt and maximise the new features that are added to the platform.

What is evergreen all about and why should you care?

A quick glance at the M365 roadmap reveals that change is the only constant, with over 500 changes scheduled for MS Teams alone this year, and plenty more (some 1500 odd) across the rest of the stack (e.g. Outlook, SharePoint, Yammer and Office 365). It’s enough to make anyone feel overwhelmed, let alone end users. We know that the pace of change isn’t going to slow, so it’s important that businesses plan for how these changes are managed and adopted.

Graph complied from Microsoft’s roadmap as of 06/07/2021

Microsoft defines evergreen as “running services comprised of components that are always up to date.” While this sounds simple enough, for most organisations it’s easier said than done. We often find ourselves having similar conversations and fielding common questions from our clients. Key questions that we commonly get asked include:

  • How can we make sure that our business is absorbing and maximising the new updates that are coming out?
  • How can we support our staff through this constant change?
  • Which of these changes are valuable to our IT ecosystem and which of these changes are valuable to our people?
  • Is there an easy way to triage new updates?

The answer to all these questions can be found by having a solid Evergreen Framework.

While the majority of changes to a SaaS platform like M365 have minimal technical risk or impact, it requires careful consideration and planning around how these new features are implemented. This includes the governance and controls you put in place all the way to how end users hear about and adopt new changes so that you can generate ROI and reduce the risk of shadow IT (remember Megan’s story?).

Looking at the sheer volume of change, it’s clear that there’s a need to blend Organisational Change management practices with existing IT functions. A few years ago Brian Levenson and Carroll Moon published a blog outlining a framework for Modern Service Management of Office 365. The framework highlights the 5 major areas that businesses should consider ensuring successful and smooth running of the technology. These include:

  1. Monitoring and major incident management
  2. Service desk and normal incident management
  3. Administration and feature management
  4. Evergreen management
  5. Business consumption and productivity

While most businesses have a solid approach for points 1-3, we see gaps in the approach for points 4 and 5. Many of our clients and people we engage with in the industry are overwhelmed by the volume of change and unsure where to start.

At Engage Squared we are strong believers that, along with the five service management practices mentioned above, your organisation needs to ensure that there is a solid digital strategy and roadmap to underpin your approach and help you manage the platform. Doing this will help you map two things – first how you can leverage existing functionality and two, how you can plan to absorb and maximise new features in the future.

So, what does a successful evergreen model look like in an organisation?

Tune in next month to find out! In part two we’ll share practical tips to help you create and maintain a successful evergreen framework.

In the meantime, take a listen to our governance in a pandemic webinar which speaks to how we think about governance and touches on managing evergreen towards the end. Plus, make sure to keep an eye on our monthly M365 blog, published towards the end of each month where we summarise the top 10 releases. Our latest blogs feature in our monthly newsletter so subscribe to never miss an update!

Finally, if you are interested in how to adopt an evergreen framework or what an evergreen may look like in your business contact us!

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