Episode 19

Throughout this blog series we emphasized that humility is a necessity. We won’t know all the answers and we must collaboratively experiment to bring truth to unknowns. The complexity of the problems we solve today is bigger than any single individual, team, or organization. The coordination of both human and technological systems is challenging. There is a struggle between the need for standardized processes to capture economies of scale, yet we must remain flexible to allow room for innovation. All organizations have a certain amount of momentum that leaders must contend with as they guide change. Fostering curiosity and building a practice of experimentation will lead organizations along paths of setbacks and discovery. It is this process that forms the gateway toward organizational transformation. A gateway drug is a habit-forming drug that, while not itself addictive, may lead to the use of other addictive drugs. Over the last few years we have helped organizations modernize and replace legacy systems, many of which moved to Microsoft as the foundational platform for their system. In many ways Microsoft Office is a gateway drug, the very inexpensive monthly licensing model offers users access to enterprise level functionality. Most would agree that drugs are bad, mmmmkay, but what can be gained by exploring Microsoft’s platform while avoiding a bad platform addiction?

Out of the gate, Office 365 for Business provides Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and One-Drive. With a few clicks, you have a communication tool, productivity apps, and storage. For many S&MEs these applications are likely going to cover most workflows. Additionally, these foundational applications require almost no staff onboarding as nearly all of us have had exposure through our education. For organizations that require a collaboration tool, an upgrade to Office Premium nets you not only Microsoft Teams and SharePoint but entry into Microsoft’s Power Platform suite of solutions. Microsoft Teams on its own is a powerful collaboration platform which integrates natively with every other Microsoft product, making using a third-party collaboration platform almost pointless if your organization is already an Office user. With access to the Power Platform, more technical users within your organizations have the tools to build solutions without the need of a professional developer. Power BI for data driven insights, PowerApps for internal app development, Power Automate (formally known as Microsoft Flow) for process automation, and Power Virtual Agent for chatbots to engage with both employees and customers. This steppingstone progression system is masterfully engineered to help leaders manage the momentum challenges organizations face when adopting new platforms and services. You only pay for what you use, and the platform scales with the organization’s needs. For larger or more complex problems, the Dynamics 365 platform is where we find the hard stuff. Starting with a small hit, organizations are on a pathway for Microsoft to completely takeover all the organization’s technology needs. From office productivity and collaboration, to truly massive enterprise solutions all under one roof. Amazing! Right?

drugs

It is Microsoft’s vision to help people and businesses throughout the world realize their full potential. Microsoft has a ridiculously hard job building a solution platform that, at least in theory, works for everyone. We know from the last blog that this matching problem is very difficult and is not perfect. Organizations that start with the gateway drug of Office 365 have a high probability of experiencing quick and significant wins. This is attributed to the extremely low cost of entry, rich functionality, and that the expense of staff onboarding was effectively prepaid prior to the employees entering the workforce. As organizations move up the adoption curve, the license fees begin to accumulate as well as the learning need requirements. The value potential provided by solutions within the Power Platform scales with the additional adoption risks. This is where the very real risk of adoption failure begins to increase. The Power Platform can provide organizations with amazing tools; however, it takes time and resources to learn, to experiment, and to answer unknowns with these products. The real cost to the organization is not just the incremental increase in licenses. With time and effort, wins can accumulate, and the organization can use these tools to scale their business. For enterprise solutions, the Dynamics 365 suite of products are available, but the jump in licensing costs is larger than that from Office 365 to Office Premium. For a significant increase in monthly fees, you are provided with a product that provides a significant increase in capabilities. Likewise, the increase in capacity is matched in magnitude with the increase in expected staff onboarding costs.

While the Microsoft platform is not sticky, people and their processes are. The effective potential of Microsoft’s platform is undeniable, but the value added to your organization is a function of user competency and application fit. Competitive gains can evaporate if the organization attempts to use brute for the adoption of a late stage solution like Dynamics Business Central, when the application might not be a great fit for the problem that need solving. Additionally, if learning and onboarding time are underestimated, the application might not be used to its full potential. If processes solidify before the applications capacity is fully explored, the organization will face a hidden recurring opportunity loss. Just think of a time when you discover a “hidden” button or feature that solves a complicated problem, or removes a messy, time consuming work around. Paying large license fees while unable to derive the full benefits of the platform like Dynamics 365 is the software equivalent of the later stages of drug addiction.

To avoid a bad platform addiction there are some questions to ask. What problems are we trying to solve and how will this platform address them? Is our organization ready and does it have the capacity to learn a new platform? Does our organization have enough resources to cover the later tier licensing fees if early wins show great promise? Microsoft has built an amazing platform: the journey starts easy but can become progressively more challenging if mismanaged. Knowing what to expect will arm you with the tools to more effectively manage your organization’s transformation.