What are you trying to do?

Iron Man getting caught

I’m going to describe a situation where I felt like Pepper Potts, surprising Iron Man when he delivered that great line “let’s face it, this isn’t the worst thing you’ve caught me doing.” But before I get to that story…

The customer was a bit more embarrassed than Tony

I haven’t talked enough about what questions you SHOULD be asking. I’ve covered models for considering what tools to choose for collaborative conversations. There’s posts on my site about how we should work together and exploring why you need to have a mind open to change. One of the promises of this site is to encourage you to replace the “which tool question” with other questions, or at least start in a different place.

Let’s start with a baby step. It may even feel like a “which tool when” question. In my recent work with healthcare customers in Scotland, we’ve been spending a fair amount of time improving their basics. This is how that conversation typically goes:

“Chris, we think there’s a way to use Office 365 to improve process X.”

“OK, what are you trying to do?”

“We’re using [Email / Excel] to do X, and it’s really slow and painful.”

“Let’s abstract what you’re trying to accomplish and see if there’s a better way.”

90% of the time, what they’re trying to do fits one of these simple categories, which is easily mapped onto the following tools in the Office 365 toolbox.

What we’re trying to doWhat we’re usingThe new way to do it
Conversations: smallEmailTeams
Conversations: bigEmailYammer
File collaborationEmailTeams
Corporate NewsEmailSharePoint news
Approval requestEmailApprovals app
Task listEmail / ExcelTo-Do and Planner
Tracking stuffExcelLists / PowerApps
FormsExcel / WordForms / PowerApps

What are you REALLY trying to do? That’s the first question to ask. If you’d started with “how do we use Teams better?” you’d very possibly head down the wrong path. This is why we see comms teams trying to put everyone in the organisation into one Team, for example. A better example is a real one I was presented earlier this year. Yes, this is the Iron Man story. I’ll leave it anonymous to protect the guilty 😉

I was asked to help a team use OneDrive more effectively. When I asked what they’re trying to do, they were trying to collect a set of numbers from every ward in every hospital in the country several times a day. They’d been using an Excel spreadsheet on a shared network drive. And they were wondering if using OneDrive would help with the edit clashes. OK, not the worst thing I’d caught them doing… Taking a step back, we designed and built a PowerApp for them in a few hours. Putting that in a Team channel then gives them automated reminders and notifications for important updates with the reporting app and dashboards a click away.

This brings me to an all-important but often neglected step in making these shifts: change management. A 5-minute demo of the modern way of doing the old thing is enough to get a team’s attention, but change is hard. To get buy in from the whole team, you have to sweeten the pot. It’s usually simple enough to add some automation by including Power Automate to get some real efficiencies.

So, it’s best to abstract what you’re trying to accomplish to something as simple as one of the items in the left column above, then see if a simple tool lying around was made for that job.