Navigate Microsoft 365 Like a Pro

Digital transformation experts share tips on implementation, management, governance, and user adoption of the popular platform.

Microsoft 365, colloquially referred to as M365, is a cloud-based platform comprised of cloud solutions, device management tools, productivity apps like Office, and security solutions. Demand for the solution skyrocketed during the pandemic due to its ability to facilitate home-based work, and it’s only become more popular since.

Moving from an on-premise solution to M365 can be intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. Here, we provide a guide for planning your migration, avoiding complications, providing governance, and encouraging user adoption.

Exchange Online: One Path to M365 Adoption

Exchange Online, a messaging platform that provides access to a cloud-hosted version of Exchange Server, is one of the first M65 services many organizations adopt. The solution allows any endpoint device on the network to access resources such as email, contacts, calendars, and tasks.

“Exchange Online is like a gateway to M365 in general,” said Tom Jelen, senior strategic consultant, technology consulting, DelCor Technology Solutions. “It’s the first service that most associations jumped to several years ago, and they’ve reported that it’s working quite well.”

Jelen has seen the calendar aspect of Exchange Online present a few roadblocks, but they’re easily overcome with a little foresight. He suggests associations set and communicate policies around calendar use.

“Come up with internal guidelines regarding whether or not you want to share calendars, what details of your calendars you’ll share, etc.,” he said. “Keep in mind that scheduling meetings is easier when you take advantage of the platform’s capabilities.”

With Exchange Online, back-and-forth emails to determine meeting availability are a thing of the past. If you’re working with people outside your domain without visibility into your calendar, check out Microsoft’s Find Time, a solution catered to stakeholders from various organizations.

Further Down the M365 Road

Andrew Leggett, IT Consultant at DelCor, said adoption of Exchange Online opens the door for additional possibilities.

“When an organization moves from Exchange Server to Exchange Online, they’re also getting access to Microsoft Teams, SharePoint, and everything else that’s included,” Leggett said. “It’s about looking forward and moving on from premise-based Exchange Server. With Exchange Online, you no longer have to worry about upgrades. There are multiple benefits.”

When the pandemic hit, many associations jumped into Microsoft Teams headfirst. It was a lifesaver in many ways, enabling remote communication and collaboration. But today, Jelen said some organizations could benefit from a bit of governance.

“You want to create simple, memorable standards for staff,” he said. “Teams is a whole new channel. If you just keep adding new tools, you’ll burn your staff out. When introducing a new tool like Teams, also consider what you should no longer use for internal communication and collaboration.”

Gretchen Steenstra, Director, Client Strategy at DelCor, cautioned against too much governance. “You don’t want people to feel like they’re drinking from a firehose and negatively impact adoption,” she said. “You can even introduce one guideline at a time based on your biggest pain points, and then graduate from there.”

Fully utilizing all dimensions of M365—Exchange Online, SharePoint, and Azure Active Directory’s cloud-based identity and access management—makes collaboration across your association easier than ever.

“It brings everything under that one umbrella that Microsoft is very focused on,” Leggett said. “They’re probably not going to devote a significant amount of time to legacy Exchange serves at this point—more likely, they’ll be doing things like improving the user interface and administrative capabilities of Office 365.”

Preparation, Training, and Communication

Of course, M365 is as much about the technology as it is the people using it.

“The migrations I’ve done usually involve a committee or subcommittee within the organization helping organize files using institutional knowledge,” Leggett said. “It can be overwhelming at first, but you realize the shared drive you thought was the Wild West already has 50 folders with some semblance of organization.”

After implementation, give employees a chance to practice new, more efficient behavior, and never underestimate the importance of education and training.

“Thanks to the pandemic, things have changed drastically in a short time, and people are struggling to keep up with all these different tools,” said Joe Savage, Senior Technical Project Consultant at DelCor. “They need more recurring lunch-and-learns, sit-ins, and things along those lines.”

Ultimately, it’s about creating a new culture, and modeling the behavior you’d like to see is one way to do so.

“It needs to start at the top,” Steenstra said. “When the president of the organization is still sending email attachments that sets a precedence for the general employee to say, ‘I don’t need to utilize this link sharing if it’s not being adopted by those watching over me.’”

DelCor works closely with associations and nonprofits to offer outsourced IT support, CIO services, technology assessments, and digital workplace consulting. For more information on DelCor’s digital workplace consulting services and association technology solutions, visit While you’re there, check out Reboot IT, a podcast exploring all things association and nonprofit tech!

(Handout photo)