Transform from an email culture to a collaborative culture

Whenever people start using new technology at work, they are not just simply confronted with a new tool, but foremost with a new way of working. Rather then just telling people about functionality (what does the app do?) we focus on how Office 365 apps are used for a specific productivity scenario.

A work scenario describes what apps can be used for that specific process, or team, or context. Often a scenario describes a combination of several apps, and focusses sometimes on just some features of these apps. This new way of working also requires to stop using one tool or feature, and start using another. Something we usually describe as Stop doing / Start doing patterns.

Not surprising maybe, we would like to stop using email for collboration. And start using something else instead, better suited for collaboration. Organisations need to transform from an email culture to a collaborative culture.

Co-authoring documents productivity scenario

To clarify what it means to ‘transform from an email culture to a collaborative culture’ take a look at the co-authoring documents prouctivity scenario. With all the disadvantages of collaborating through email, there is a very strong need to collaborate more effectively. Collaborating on a file through email is a nightmare. We end up with lots of email threads and copies of the file. The result is nobody knows exactly where the latest version is.

Particularly when we are co-authoring files, we need to stop using email, and start using more collaborative tools. We encourage employees to start using tools such as OneDrive (for their personal work files), or team files (in a Document Library).

True co-authoring documents means:

  • having access to the file in a shared document library (as in Teams Files or a SharePoint Document Library)
  • file versioning is done automatically anytime someone edits the file:
    track who did what and when, and possibly revert back to an older version
  • working on a document with others at the same time
  • we have a conversation about the file in a shared space for questions or feedback (as in Teams Conversation)
  • working on files on- and offline
  • talking to co-editors directly live using audio/video and chat, while in the file
  • stop using email for sending files to your team
  • stop using email for discussion

Train on the How, not the What

With productivity scenarios we train people on the How, not so much the What. The ‘what’ is the features of Office 365 apps. These are changing rapidly. Almost every month great new features or even whole apps are introduced to Office 365. It is not the ‘What’ that inspires people – unless you are an IT person ;-).

Most of your employees fall under the Early and Late majority (combined 68% of your workforce). And these groups in Rogers curve are looking for how Office 365 can be applied to their daily work. One of the common daily work scenarios is co-authoring documents.

Almost all desk workers collaborate around a file: review each others work, write a document together, ask questions and give feedback. There are two ways to do this: using email or use collaborative tools that work better. Therefore we need to train people on how they can change the way they work. So they understand what it means to transform from an email to a collaborative culture. How do we co-author documents using smart collaborative tools instead of email and fileshares?

Transform from an email culture to a collaborative culture

Office 365, and particularly Teams, is perfect to co-author documents. The difficulty is not in getting people to understand the ‘What’. In fact teaching people how Teams and Files works, is fairly easy. The true difficulty is changing the way people work. They need to transform from an email culture to a collaborative culture.

Comparing ‘what’ to ‘how’

This table illustrates the difference between focussing on what (features / apps) or focussing on how (work done in a productivity scenario).

What How
Upload a file to your Teams Files Share a file with your Team
Start a conversation in Teams on the file Notify your team or ask questions or request feedback on the file in the Conversation (with a link to the file)
Edit a file in Office Online Make simple changes in the file while in Teams / browser (no advanced functionality needed)
Edit a file in Office desktop Open the file in your Office desktop app (Word, Excel or PowerPoint) to make elaborate changes to the file (requiring advanced technology)
Add a comment to a file Collaborate on the content by adding comments about particular parts
Start a Skype chat in Office online Chat with people who are also working in the file to discuss process, align who does what, etc.
Sync files using the OneDrive sync client Using sync, you can access your files from anywhere, even when you do not have internet


About the Author:

Sasja Beerendonk is a senior Consultant at Silverside and is one of the most experienced end-user adoption consultants in Europe. She is recognized by Microsoft and IBM as a subject matter expert and speaks at international conferences on Social Collaboration, Change Management and User Adoption. She works closely with organisations such as Saxion University, the Dutch Tax Office, Kawasaki, SES, NN Group and Shanks.

Sasja is passionate about enabling a new way of working and motivating people to embrace technology to work smarter.

Outside of work, Sasja loves running and going on long walks with her dog. You may wake her up for spinach any time.

Beerendonk, S (2018). Transform from an email culture to a collaborative culture. Available at: (Accessed 24 April 2018)

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