Time to read: About 5 minutes
Intended for: All users at any stage in your Office 365 implementation. Whether you’re just doing some initial research or have already implemented it at your organization.
Key takeaway: I’ve been an Office 365 Customer Immersion Experience Facilitator for more than three years. In this post, I share some of my most interesting and useful pearls of wisdom!

Microsoft Office 365 Customer Immersion Experience (CIE)…have you heard of one? I’ve been a Customer Immersion Experience facilitator for more than three years and love that this is part of my job! If you’ve never heard of an Office 365 Customer Immersion Experience, here’s the high level overview:

CIEs are unique, hands-on events where you get to experience firsthand how Office 365 helps turn diverse groups of users into high-performing teams. We walk through YOUR day-to-day work struggles and see how the tools within Office 365 could help you become more collaborative and efficient. This isn’t a training or a demo. Instead, you get to play with all the O365 apps and see how they could be applied at your job. The sessions are 2.5 hours long and we cover whatever apps the attendees want to explore.

So, what trends am I seeing, what have I learned from being a facilitator?

#1: You have to get your hands on it to drive interest

When I first got certified, my goal was to facilitate four sessions a year. Now, I am facilitating two per month at least, which tells me two things:

  1. Interest in O365 growing.
  2. Organizations are seeing the value in giving users some hands-on play time before making a decision on a tool set.

When we shop for almost everything else we want to “try before we buy,” so why can’t we do that when it comes to technology for our businesses? By attending the CIEs, my clients are able to see and touch the technology, apply their real-life scenarios and get a feel for how the technology could be used at their organizations. It gets the gears turning, which is always my goal!

#2: Collaboration is the main focus

At the beginning of each session, I ask my attendees what areas they’d like to focus on, Collaboration, Mobility, Security or Productivity. 90 percent of the time they want to focus on collaboration. It doesn’t matter if the organization is a huge enterprise, or less than 50 users: They all want ways to better work together.

I noticed that some of the functionality I take for granted isn’t possible today for some users. For example, seeing the ability to co-author, chat, and share documents without sending attachments can have a huge impact on their path to higher efficiency and better communication throughout the organization. In some of my sessions, we have spent 3/4 of the time just in Microsoft Teams because it serves as a “pane of glass” through which all other apps can be seen.

This ability to collaborate so easily also ties into the mobility of all the apps and as a result, helps our productivity. Having “butts in seats” doesn’t always mean they’re being efficient and working hard; let’s give our users the tools they need to get the job done wherever they are–especially during a Minnesota winter! Am I right?

Actual footage of one of the attendees from my January 2020 outdoor CIE in Minnesota

#3: It HAS to be easy

Remember the days when a new technology roll-out included endless hours of user training? Having to provide booklets, one-pagers and tons of in-person training sessions to get people to feel comfortable using a new system? I personally was a part of many of these implementations from ERP systems, to HR systems to SharePoint on-premise.

Now, people need tools and apps to be so easy that little to no training is required. This shouldn’t be such a huge request when you think about it outside of the workplace. Think of all the technology you use on a daily basis that you required no training on; your phone, an app, online shopping, etc. So why can’t our technology at work be the same?

When clients come to a CIE, it’s so important to me that they see how easy it is to use these apps as well as seeing how they will help them to be more productive. Go ahead, create a Team, add a tab, chat with your colleague, create a document in OneDrive then share it. Wasn’t that easy? We will always need to have some training materials available, but gone are the days of creating massive booklets for people; everything is in video format or quick and easy web-based versions. Not only does this help with user adoption, but it also helps with timelines for rolling out these new tools to users.

#4: Organizations keep trying to fit a square peg into a round hole

How many times have we tried to use a technology to solve a problem knowing full well that it’s not the right fit–but because of budget, timing, lack of adoption, or some other reason–we don’t have access to the right technology to meet our needs. I can’t tell you how many times I hear that organizations are using OneDrive to store all of their company files and sharing them out, or they’re using Outlook as a content management system. Why? I’m not shaming, believe me, I fully understand that we hit a wall sometimes and are unable to implement what we really want.

But do you know what users will do if they aren’t given the technology they need? They will find a way to get the job done anyway and oftentimes it doesn’t meet security policies, it costs more money, and it still won’t solve their business needs. One of the things I love about facilitating CIEs is that I get to listen to the struggles and be able to talk through how one of the 80 apps (there aren’t really 80 but there are so many apps!) in O365 can solve their business needs. And if there isn’t one, then let’s find a third party that integrates with O365 so we can continue to get the most out of all the tools included in the subscription. But please, stop trying to fit a square peg in a round hole!

This is your opportunity to experience what a day would be like if you had the right tools at your fingertips and my job is to help you explore. Finding solutions with my clients is one of my favorite parts of my job, and seeing the “Ah ha!” moments during a CIE is so rewarding!

If any of the above sound like struggles you’re having at your organization, I hope you’ll consider attending one of my general attendee sessions. We can also work with you to book one with your organization. My next CIE is coming up on March 12, 2020 at the Microsoft Technology Center in Edina, MN. If you use O365 (and who doesn’t?) and you’re in the Twin Cities, come check it out! If you’re out of state but still want to learn more, feel free to email us or reach out via our contact form.