Re-Imagining Productive Work with Office 365 – Michael Sampson

by | Aug 31, 2016 | Collaboration, Digital workplace, Information Management, Intranets, Reviews

When I was working on the IMF intranet in 2001 (during 9/11!) I was given a book that was the result of an ethnographic study of how the IMF worked. Ethnography is the study of how people behave in a social setting, such as an office, and ever since that project I find myself looking around offices as I conduct interviews to try to get a sense of how work is being accomplished. The reason for this introduction is that Michael Sampson’s new book is not just a handbook for Office 365 but a handbook for a digital workplace which happens to be using (or planning to use) Office 365. This is an important distinction because even if you do not use Office 365 this book provides a specification for all the work elements that you need to support in whatever platform you are adopting.

Michael’s books always have a structure to them, and each chapter has sections on The Big Idea, Research Findings, the Office 365 Capability, Analysis and Evaluation, What Firms Are Doing, Behavioural Aspects and On Improving Performance. After the introductory chapters the topics covered are

  • Storing and Sharing Files
  • Profiling Employee Expertise
  • Co-Authoring Documents
  • Managing Meetings
  • Holding Discussions
  • Running Team Projects
  • Thinking Productively

The section on research findings is important because there are many lessons to be learned from well-conducted surveys and from academic research. Most practitioners ignore this wealth of knowledge but Michael presents it in a way that the implications for a digital workplace manager are clear and helpful. This book is not a ‘quick read’ and certainly does not set out to be a populist “101 on Office 365”. Some authors make me feel that they are talking to me; with Michael I feel that he is alongside me guiding me through the forest of digital working to show where Office 365 offers good solutions, and also where it is currently lacking in functionality. Rather like a tour guide around a new city! It has taken me a while to write this review just because I have been working through it slowly (very unusual for me) and adding digital comments to the digital text as I went along.

As with all of Michael’s books the production quality for this self-published book is at a level that the leading commercial publishers would be proud of. The book is presented in landscape format which works well when text and screen shots have to meet up. I would like to have seen the comments about where Office 365 does not deliver given a little more highlighting and perhaps a suggestion of a work-around. My own frustrations with Office 365 are the error messages and the latency. I can work more quickly than the server! There is also no reference to search in Office 365 apart from a passing reference to Delve. There is a particular issue with people search, but that’s a long story and you can read more about it in Enterprise Search.

The single user price is $19, which is less than a couple of coffees and two nice cakes! If you look at the comments from other readers you will see that most of them focus on the benefits to Office 365 users. But this is far more than the Unofficial Handbook for Office 365. If you have any plans or even pretensions of creating a digital workplace then you need this book. Jane McConnell will guide you on strategy, Michael shows you how to put the strategy into action using Office 365 as an example platform.

Above all this book will make you think about what the core working patterns are in your organisation. Without this understanding any digital platform will fail to support productive work. Sometimes you may even have to change the working patterns to get the best from the technology so that overall the organisation benefits from the investment. You will certainly benefit from investing in this book.

Martin White