Building a Strong Foundation in the Cloud

In today’s digital age, harnessing the power of the cloud is essential for small businesses to grow, innovate, and thrive. Microsoft offers a range of tools and services that can help by improving efficiency, enhancing communication and collaboration, and automating business processes. But migrating to the cloud can seem daunting for a small business with limited resources. And with new and more advanced tools flooding the market every day, it’s impossible to know where to start.

In this blog, we’ll walk through eight steps you can take to build a strong foundation in the cloud, paving the way for the implementation of AI and other cutting-edge technologies.

1 – Assess Your Business Needs

This critical first step may seem obvious, but it’s one that many small businesses either skip altogether or fail to put full effort into – assessing the needs of your business. When migrating to the cloud or optimizing your current environment, a thorough assessment is the only way to ensure that your solution is tailored to meet your specific needs and challenges. Start by identifying the current challenges and inefficiencies in your organization’s communication and collaboration. This might include things like:

  • Scattered communication across multiple channels or tools
  • Difficulties accessing or sharing documents
  • Difficulties working together on shared documents
  • Lack of visibility into project status and next steps

As part of this process, analyze your workflows and business processes to identify areas where improved communication and collaboration tools can make a significant impact. Look for opportunities to streamline processes, eliminate bottlenecks, and enhance efficiency. Include any existing tools, systems, and applications used within your organization and assess whether Microsoft can integrate with or replace those systems, as these offer opportunities for cost savings.

Document your findings from the business needs assessment, including key challenges, goals, objectives, and integration points. Prioritize these requirements based on their impact on organizational goals, urgency, and feasibility. Use this documentation to inform the design and implementation of your cloud solutions.

2 – Involve Your End Users

The business needs that you define in step one will likely be different for each department, as well as for cross-department collaboration. So how do you define the proper business needs across the entire organization? You must involve your end users in the process.

Each department will be the best representation of their own pain points, challenges, and requirements related to communication, collaboration, and document management. This could include department heads, team leaders, IT personnel, and end-users. Use brainstorming meetings, surveys, and one-to-one discussions to get as much input from your end-users as possible. Not only does it help build the best system for your business, but it will also increase the level of adoption across the organization. That’s because end users will feel a sense of ownership over the solution and the solution will more accurately reflect their day-to-day workflow and processes.

3 – Focus on Organization and Workflow

Now that you’ve collected feedback from your end users and defined the requirements for the cloud, it’s time to map out your new environment. You can start by defining spaces for individual teams, then adding cross-functional or organization-wide areas for broader communication and collaboration. These spaces should be organized based on workflow. For example, throughout a specific project, what kind of file structure would resemble the start-to-finish workflow? What kinds of internal discussions will take place? Are other departments or external participants required for the project? How will they access conversations and files related to their work? These types of questions can help identify the required Teams, SharePoint sites, and file structure.

4 – Deploy Microsoft Teams and SharePoint Online

Once your cloud environment has been mapped out, you can start creating Teams and SharePoint sites. Within each Team, customize the channels to align with specific topics or workflows. Create Teams and channels for ongoing projects, department discussions, announcements, etc. Utilize tabs to integrate relevant apps and external tools directly within Teams channels. For example, we recommend adding a OneNote and Planner tab for each channel to make these auto-generated tools easy to find within each Team.

In SharePoint Online, design your sites and document libraries to support the document organization and collaboration needs of the functional area or working group. Create SharePoint sites where access requirements differ and define document libraries for organizing and sharing files related to specific initiatives or topics.

Throughout this process, establishing naming conventions and governance policies for Teams and SharePoint helps to ensure consistency, organization, and compliance across the organization. We recommend defining guidelines for naming Teams, channels, SharePoint sites, and document libraries, as well as policies for content management, version control, and retention.

5 – Apply Security Best Practices

When creating your Teams and SharePoint environment, it’s important to consider industry regulations, data privacy laws, and internal security policies. Some best practices to implement in the process of configuring your cloud environment include:

  • Team and site permissions
    • Control access to sites, Teams, and channels by specifying who can join, post messages, and access files.
    • Restrict guest access and prevent external users from accessing sensitive information.
  • Data encryption
    • Teams and SharePoint encrypt data at rest and in transit to ensure confidentiality and integrity of communications and files shared within the platform.
    • Use features like end-to-end encryption for private calls and meetings to further protect sensitive conversations.
  • Access controls
    • Integrate Teams with Microsoft 365 compliance features such as sensitivity and retention policies to help meet regulatory requirements.
  • Multifactor authentication
    • Enable multifactor authentication (MFA) for all team members to add an extra layer of security and verify user identities before granting access to sensitive information.
    • Require users to authenticate using multiple factors, such as passwords and biometric authentication to access Teams and associated data.

6 – Coach Your Team

Providing coaching to your team is a crucial step in ensuring the successful implementation and adoption of your new cloud environment. Develop tailored coaching programs for different user groups in your organization, taking into account their roles, responsibilities, and skill levels. Offer both introductory and advanced training sessions to cater to users with varying levels of experience with your cloud environment.

Hands-on workshops and interactive training sessions where users can explore the features and functionalities in their own environment offer a best-case scenario for adoption. Provide opportunities for users to practice with the tools, ask questions, and receive real-time feedback from trainers. Create a site or Team where your users can access video tutorials, user guides, and knowledge base articles, and ask questions of subject matter experts. Promote continuous learning and skill development by offering regular and ongoing training opportunities and resources for users to say updated on new features, best practices, and tips for maximizing the value of your new cloud environment.

If possible, identify user adoption champions within your organization who are enthusiastic about using Teams and SharePoint and can serve as advocates and mentors for their colleagues. Empower these champions to share their knowledge, provide support, and encourage adoption among their peers.

7 – Gather Feedback

The best way to iterate on and improve your cloud environment is to establish feedback mechanisms and provide your team with the opportunity to recommend changes and improvements. Surveys, focus groups, suggestion boxes, and town hall meetings are great ways to gather input from users about their training experience, challenges in the new environment, and suggestions for improvements. Use this feedback to refine your training program and address any gaps or concerns in your cloud solution.

8 – Continuously Improve and Expand

It’s important that throughout the implementation and after your new solution is live that you continue to improve and expand to meet the evolving needs of your business. Some tips include:

  • Celebrate successes and milestones throughout the implementation project. Recognize and reward teams and individuals who have demonstrated exemplary usage of the tools or achieved significant productivity gains through their adoption efforts.
  • Secure support from organizational leadership that reinforces the importance of using the new cloud environment. Encourage leaders to lead by example and actively participate in training sessions and other adoption initiatives.
  • Monitor usage patterns and gather feedback from your team to identify areas for improvement and optimization. Use analytics and reporting tools provided by Microsoft to track adoption, user engagement, and collaboration metrics within the new environment.
  • Stay informed about Microsoft’s roadmap to ensure that your business is leveraging the latest features and innovations. Participate in community forums, attend webinars, and stay connected with Microsoft’s updates to maximize the value of these platforms for your organization.

The Bottom Line

In today’s fast-paced digital landscape, small businesses must adapt and innovate to stay competitive. Harnessing the power of the cloud through Microsoft’s suite of tools can be a game changer, enabling organizations to streamline workflows, enhance communication and collaboration, and drive business growth. However, embarking on the cloud journey can be daunting, especially for businesses with limited resources or expertise.

The key for small businesses is to build a strong foundation in the cloud. Mapping out the implementation of SharePoint and Teams with a strong focus on organizational needs and workflows can empower teams, drive collaboration, and unlock new opportunities for growth and success. It also sets your business up to properly implement AI and automation tools in the future that continue to increase productivity.

Looking to move your business to the cloud but not sure where to start? We can help! At Regroove, we understand that success lies in the people behind the technology. That’s why we prioritize your team, ensuring your IT infrastructure is not just functional, but optimized to enhance communication, collaboration, and productivity. Get started using the form below!