What is an early adoption program for Microsoft 365?

Microsoft describes an early adoption program (EAP) as a kind of ‘dry run’ of a new technology among a representative group of users. Rather than simply rolling Microsoft 365 out to all your colleagues in one go, an early adoption program involves testing the platform with a smaller number of employees from across the business. You can then gather feedback, identify any problems and then learn from this when it comes to completing the wider roll out.

If you are planning to deploy Microsoft 365, check out the ultimate guide to Microsoft 365 and SharePoint adoption.

3 reasons to implement early adoption programs

Planning for adoption of Microsoft 365 really contributes to the success of your entire Office 365 roll out. Here are 3 reasons why EAP’s are so useful:

  1. EAP’s give you a baseline for success and help you monitor progress.
  2. You get learning and insight in advance of the wider organizational change. Validate strategies, gather feedback and decide what parts of the roll out need to be changed.
  3. Provides evidence of the technology’s benefits to your entire organization, so you can ‘sell’ it to them.

So, how should you go about running an EAP?

5 characteristics of a successful early adoption program

An Early Adoption Program is usually limited to the IT team, a handful of end-users, and a small number of prioritized software solutions. The EAP can be broken down into 5 steps:

  1. Prioritize the solutions you wish to use

Focus on the real problems that Office 365 can solve for your organization. Whether that is collaboration, productivity, data security, regulatory compliance, or something else, you should focus on encouraging the EAP members to use Office 365 tools that address these issues.

If, for instance, you want to use the cloud for collaboration, make sure you get the EAP members to use Microsoft Teams when they work together.

  1. Create a collaborative workspace for all participants

Launch a Teams channel or a Yammer group dedicated to all individuals that are participating in the EAP. This can become a hub for everyone to view announcements, leave comments, share feedback, and communicate with other members of the group.

Your IT support team - plus the staff who are responsible for change management - must regularly use this EAP group and encourage others to do the same. This centralized hub will mean that everything is organized, and it avoids the need to search for content elsewhere.

  1. Handpick appropriate people to include in the program

Besides your IT team, you should handpick a small pilot group of potential early adopters. The IT team will offer support and the end-users you have picked will become super-users, evangelists, and influencers.

So, who should be included in the EAP group? The following criteria can help you narrow it down:

  • Aim to have at least one person from each department
  • Choose people with a natural aptitude for technology
  • Find people who embrace innovation and new ways of doing things
  • Ensure that they are individuals with some influence in their department
  • Select people who regularly collaborate
  • Choose people who are open and communicative – including those who will speak their mind about problems as well as benefits

Since you may be tweaking things along the way, it is not necessary to include people from the C-suite at this stage. Bring your organization’s leaders in when you are ready to officially launch across the entire business.

  1. Provide training to the EAP

Ensure that individuals on the EAP receive effective training with how to use the new software. To begin with, provide the same level of training you initially planned for the entire organization – this will tell you if you are offering too much or too little training.

You might also consider providing contextual microlearning solutions. These technologies provide users with information about how to use Office 365 features that is directly related to the page they are looking at. If you are in the middle of a data migration, you may not have time to offer extensive in-person training, so using a micro training platform should make training and support a lot easier.

  1. Offer space for feedback and questions

The EAP is an invaluable tool for learning about how Microsoft 365 is going to fit in with your organization. It shows you the benefits but will also highlight weaknesses and potential issues that staff may encounter.

It is therefore a good idea to set up a weekly Teams meeting where staff provide feedback and ask questions.

Begin with an early adoption program

Beginning your move to Microsoft 365 with an EAP is a smart idea – especially if this is your first time initiating an organizational change on this scale.

When planning to deploy Microsoft 365, an EAP lets you test the waters first with a small group of users that is flexible enough to allow you to solve any unexpected issues.

From there, you will be able to roll the technology out to your entire organization much more smoothly and with greater confidence too!

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