Cloud Services – Launch with Outrage
The cloud may as well have been designed by Australians. After all, what is more True Blue® than the concepts of mateship and a fair go for all. The cloud promised exactly that. Everyone got access to the same cloud-based versions of all your favourite software titles. Seamless upgrades.
The latest technology, democratically shared throughout your company. No longer did high-powered executives or those with friends in high (IT) places get access to ‘special’ upgrades or unique versions.
General managers didn’t get special permission to forward their e-mails to their smartphone Hotmail account to get them on the go. Instead, everyone got Outlook Mobile.
Everyone got ‘the thing’ (here we’re talking about Office 365), and ‘that thing’ was the latest, shiny version from Microsoft. Well, that was the promise.
The reality is somewhat different. Microsoft actually offers a couple of different release schedules, depending on how bleeding-edge your company wants to be. There’s the Office Insider track, where you get the latest and greatest features, even when they might not be completely polished. Then you have Monthly, Semi-Annual (Targeted), and Semi-Annual channels which are described in more detail here. Different people in your organisation may be on different channels, but chances are that most of the people you come across will be set to the same one as you.
Adopt & Embrace prides itself on keeping up with the latest technology. As much as possible, we try to keep ourselves on the more up-to-date channel as possible for Office 365. If nothing else, we need to do this because we need to understand what our customers are seeing in the products we’re talking to them about!
Two features have recently crept into Office 365 in a haphazard kind of way. The first being new icons for Outlook, and the second being background blur in Teams. For some inexplicable reason, despite everyone at Adopt & Embrace being on the same channel, it just rolled out to some people and not others. Maddy got the icons, Jenni and I didn’t.
And this is where the outrage creeps in. Aussie mateship, in a world of cloud services, is sharing a screenshot of what you can do, what shiny buttons you have, or what new icons show up. Here at Adopt & Embrace we had a very robust conversation on Yammer about who had which icons.
The outrage stems from the promise of egalitarian technology. “If Maddy has the icons, why don’t I have the icons?”. The cloud promised. The cloud woefully underdelivered.
According to the official Twitter status, background blur is “available now”!
The other cause of mass confusion is A/B testing. Inexplicably releasing features to different people provides a challenge. Microsoft sometimes decides to up the ante and show you new features but only intermittently. Its guaranteed, as soon as you try and explain to the IT support person what’s going on, everything magically goes back to normal. This also happens if you ever ask a colleague to look at your screen, bringing into question your grip on reality and more generally your sanity.
While all of this might seem like a bit of a non-event, there are three instances where this really does matter.
Firstly, in a large technology roll-out, you need to be reasonably confident that the live demonstrations that you do will work. You need to know where buttons are. You need to be able to give the appearance of confidence, not looking optimistically at the screen searching for something you knew used to be there. There is an easy fix to this – set a demonstration account up on the Semi-Annual channel.
Secondly, your most nervous users will want to perfectly match the screenshots (or demonstrations). The same as you’ve provided with what is appearing on their screens when they try the same thing. The colour of the Format Painter icon won’t matter to someone who’s reasonably confident, but it will throw someone who’s never used it before. All sorts of questions – “Am I doing this right? Have I missed a step?” This is slightly harder to plan for – you don’t want to be recording demos using the shiny new Office Insiders version while people are stuck on Semi-Annual releases. Nor do you want to be recording using Semi-Annual because you know that’s going to be out of date soon.
The ultimate solution to this is educating people that “the cloud” can actually mean that the versions are different on the same day for different people. They need to prepare themselves for this, and accept it as the new normal. For whatever reason, your screen might not look like your neighbour’s, and that’s perfectly ok. No need for outrage.
We’re safe in the knowledge that one day, we’ll be the ones with the shiny new icons. Won’t we, Jenni.
Other posts by the author
Shifting the goal posts of adoption
People should be able to use technology so why doesn’t this always happen? Ben explores why.
Choosing your yammer community manager
Ensure the cornerstone of your investment is chosen wisely. Get an insiders view on how to select the right person for the role