Office 365 storyboards

The art of connection | Office 365 storyboards

To a non-technical employee in the first stages of being introduced to Office 365 it’s all a tad conceptual and can be pretty confusing.

Organisations can struggle with consumption and adoption of technology because their workforce doesn’t truly understand what the new technology enables them to do.

Take Nigel. He’s a sceptical employee in the midst of multiple technologies and complicated circumstances. He’s pretty time starved and he’s struggling to make sense of the relationship between the new software in his work environment and what he needs to achieve with his colleagues. He’s comfortable with the odd dabble in Yammer or Skype because they’re similar to technologies that he’s used before. Beyond that he finds the new technology a bit of a drag. Nigel has more pressing things to do than experiment with new productivity tools.

Office 365 storyboards

As a User Experience Consultant working in the Office 365 space, it occurs to me that much of what we do at Content and Code is to help people like Nigel to keep up, by building connections with context.

Whenever people try to work out what one thing means in relation to another, they’re trying to understand context

Context can be an alert they receive where the speed of response makes a difference to a colleague, or it can be the differing perspectives of a junior or senior level employee, or it can be someone on a busy train with a phone versus a user working (across the globe) quietly at home on a desktop. Whatever the context, in any given situation one aspect remains consistent – people need the context to be clear to be able to make sense of it.

With sense making Karl Weick suggests that when ‘what’ proceeds ‘why’ it’s impossible to undo

In other words, a focus on technology use too soon for a specific step, takes the user away from visualising a broader business process. It’s the productivity improvement of a whole user journey that’s important, hence our focus on high value activities and how they can be improved. Then it’s absolutely valid to map out technology use for each step, once we have collectively built out the zoomed out view of the whole journey. You can see examples of high value activities as user journeys in the diagrams below.

At Content and Code we avoid the ‘what before why’ pitfall by applying an impartial user research process to identify user context and to understand the real world problems they need help with. We run user workshops to focus employees on opportunities to improve interlinked activities, before there’s any talk of ‘what’ technology. This allows us to draw out (quite literally) specific examples of what collaboration with colleagues actually means, and how different individuals can work in diverse ways.

People enjoy stories and story-telling. Stories are part of many cultures going back hundreds and even thousands of years. We apply user research to create unique Office 365 storyboards from business stories, for clients that we work with.

Office 365 storyboards allow us to articulate change in a relevant and inspiring way – showing individuals’ interactions as part of a wider ecosystem

They also help us to move people away from thinking about Microsoft experiences as product driven and ‘transactional’, and towards thinking about better and more human-centred ways of working.

Our Office 365 storyboards are not intended to be logically exact – they work best when they’re clear enough to point people in the right direction and stay away from the complexities of precision. This is because people favour plausibility over accuracy for sense making. Precision comes later; when there’s a project adoption plan and measurement in place (yes, we can help you with that too).

Instituting new ways of working supported by new technology, can make organisations much more effective and efficient, and needs both management direction and employee buy-in. It requires a vision that everyone buys into. The experience of the user is often assumed, taken for granted or overlooked, but it’s critical for user adoption, which is why we focus on it.

There are the economic and rational (top down) benefits for the organisation, and the personal benefits to the individual (bottom up). At Content and Code we have a blended approach that combines these factors to provide you with balanced recommendations.

As a User Experience team, we work from the bottom up viewpoint to undertake user research that helps employees really get ‘what’s in it for me’. When we run user workshops we’re looking for ways to make the disparate parts of working lives fit together, from an individual perspective and as a whole. We’re all familiar with the concept of relationships being the glue of social media. Office 365 collaboration platforms need a different kind of glue – a high value business activity, and it’s these business challenges, from Nigel’s viewpoint, that we’re seeking to identify. We’ve found time and time again that impartial user research (with a bit of fun thrown in) puts employees at ease. This enables us to win hearts and minds by eliciting high value activities that convey before-and-after stories that have relevance.

At Content and Code we practise the art of connection to make organisations more successful. We help people cross the divide — to get them comfortable with technology, to get them using it, and to help them fully understand how it makes their working lives better.
If this strikes a chord in your organisation, and you’d like our help, contact us.

Below is a ‘before and after’ example of an Office 365 storyboard.

Natalie Inwood

Head of User Experience

Natalie is passionate about effective comms drawn from User Research and has many years experience with the BBC. She leads the User Research Team at Content and Code and is responsible for ensuring that end-user high value activities are identified and represented on client engagements. Natalie has helped many clients such as Mott MacDonald, Sony Music, Wellcome Trust, Yorkshire Water and Pizza Hut, succeed by simplifying and making technology easier to use, through change management.

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