Maturity Model for Microsoft 365 - Collaboration Competency


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Maturity Model for Microsoft 365

Overview of the Concepts [tl;dr]

Microsoft 365 is at its core all about collaboration. The collaborative underpinning of the platform goes all the way back to the earliest days of SharePoint when it was code-named Tahoe. For this reason, collaboration is often the first draw to the platform for a new customer. Microsoft 365 has broadened into a rich set of apps and services, many of which support the concept of collaboration.

Definition of this competency

Collaboration is all about people working together to reach a common goal. Within Microsoft 365, this means multiple individuals working jointly within the platform, using its capabilities to facilitate their activities.

Evolution of this competency

See the Maturity Model for Microsoft 365 - Introduction for definitions of the Maturity Model levels.

From the days of a knowledge management focus - from which much of the current thinking about collaboration has sprung - we have the paradigm of data turning into information, then into knowledge, then into insight, then into wisdom. Some organizations were able to move along that path, and others were not.

With collaboration, we have a similar set of states:

  • Document collaboration
  • Team collaboration
  • Cross-organization collaboration
  • Serendipity
  • Innovation

These states align roughly with the levels below.

Level 100 - Initial

In many cases, the first move into Microsoft 365 is a simple migration of shared folders on a file server into SharePoint. (This usually follows a migration of email hosting from an on-premises Exchange server to Exchange Online. While this is extremely important, the average end user may not even realize it has happened. At this level, most collaboration occurs in an unstructured way, unsupported by specific technologies. Task and document collaboration together with knowledge exchange in conversations take place via email or phone, or in person in physical meetings. There is minimal tracking, and an over-reliance on real-time, co-located, in-person working.

Initial level characteristics include:

Governance, Risk, Compliance and Security

  • Out-of-the-box collaboration sites are created as needed without structure or organization.
  • No formal process exists for requesting a new collaboration area (site, team, group).
  • Naming conventions, planned information structures, oversight etc. are absent.
  • End users are not trained enough to see utility in the platform.
  • The dangers of information leakage are not understood.

Information Architecture

  • Out-of-the-box collaboration sites set up as needed without structure or organization (organic growth)
  • Folder structures are re-created from shared drives, usually based on individual preference.
  • There is a lack of consistency, duplication, and difficulty finding or deciding where to store files.
  • All documents stored in the Documents (aka Shared Documents) library, or in local folders, the desktop or other personal stores


  • Collaboration is document-based – a means to share a document we are working on
  • While links can be emailed rather than the documents themselves, copies of documents still get attached to emails.
  • Versions proliferate, usually by saving a copy of the document with a new name.

Task Management

  • Shared activities and tasks are managed via personal lists or post-it notes. There is little visibility of status and activity of shared tasks other than via weekly reporting or by asking for updates.
  • External collaboration may be actively blocked


At this maturity level, many people in the organization are likely to be asking: “So what?” They may feel they are working harder to accomplish the same goal, without seeing a benefit. Staying at this level is generally a recipe for dissatisfaction.

Level 200 - Managed

At this level, the focus tends to be on document and file collaboration; workspaces (Microsoft Teams, SharePoint, etc.) start to have defined structures and content rules based on specific goals. Each team decides how to best collaborate within that workspace, though there is little reuse and minimal consistency outside each group.

Managed level characteristics include:


  • There is agreement (but not enforcement) not to send attachments.
  • Training and knowledge remain inconsistent.

Governance, Risk, Compliance and Security

  • Some mechanisms are in place for new site requests, whether instantiated technically or by convention.
  • External access uses default settings and is not controlled.
  • Most users have had little training on how to use the tools.
  • Better practices have not been established.

Information Architecture

  • Unique document libraries are created for specific team needs.
  • Specialized views become more common to enable better decision making.
  • Metadata is used to organize documents beyond the default values e.g. status, dates etc.


  • Links are shared or emailed rather than documents as attachments, starting to lead to one version of truth.
  • Collaboration efforts are collected in document libraries using coauthoring and automatic versioning.
  • External access uses default settings and is not controlled.
  • Introduction of File naming conventions.

Task Management

  • There is some use of status indicators in documents or metadata.
  • Shared lists allow visibility of activities and task status; interaction with the list is via read-only views or require downloading of a file. There is no aggregated progress overview or reporting within the shared activities; requiring manual reports to be issued.


  • There is recognition that collaboration needs to happen.


At this level, users begin to have confidence in the platform and start to see it as an improvement over file shares: they are thinking beyond the file share. The way they collaborate will still vary widely by functional area.

Level 300 - Defined

Commonality across teams starts to drive how workspaces are created and set up. Sites or Teams are created based on the type of work which will be done rather than just using out of the box templates. Document templates exist within the workspaces or are available from a wider intranet.

The process of collaboration is well defined and agreed as a standard business process. There are sets of defined and documented standard processes established, signed off, in use and subject to some degree of improvement over time. The processes may not have been systematically or repeatedly used to the extent needed for their users to become fully competent or the process to be validated in a range of situations, hence there are gaps in adoption and consistency. This could be considered a developmental stage - with use in a wider range of conditions and user competence development the process can develop to next level of maturity.

Defined level characteristics include:


  • Teams are able to determine their own style of collaboration; this is defined in policy and procedure
  • Processes exist to manage site and content lifecycles, external access, document status, ownership, task allocation etc.


  • Discussions, meetings and actions are wrapped around collaboration activities.
  • Collaboration is enabled and encouraged within projects etc.

Governance, Risk, Compliance and Security

  • External access is audited and managed to remove access when collaboration ends
  • Site de-provisioning process is established as manual process
  • People profiles are completed to identify roles and responsibilities, supporting expertise location
  • Better practices have been identified but are not strongly implemented
  • Deviation from established tools and approaches is discouraged

Information Architecture

  • Information architecture is centrally considered and managed across the enterprise.
  • There is consistency in terminology, naming conventions and formats.
  • Company-wide metadata is standardized, and document libraries include this standard taxonomy, where appropriate.


  • Site templates are developed for specific site needs.
  • Sites are provisioned with rich solutions, including template documents and features appropriate to the need.
  • Collaboration extends beyond documents and is supported by other apps and features
  • Mobile access is considered with every solution implementation.
  • There is a mechanism to differentiate Work-in-Progress from Final / Approved.

Task Management

  • Tools to allow shared ownership and management of tasks are in place and adopted by project teams and some other task-focused teams. Where this is the case, there is a degree of automated reporting and ‘at-a-glance’ insights into progress.


At this level, the organization sees a path to real ROI for the solution. There are clear standards around the implementation, although they may not be used throughout the entire organization. Users have a sense of security and consistency as they collaborate.

Level 400 - Predictable

Rather than focusing on specific point solutions, a more strategic view of platform apps and services leads to a mixed-use set of solutions. Collaborative opportunities exist not just to facilitate ongoing work, but also to support areas of interest, centers of excellence, etc. These opportunities lead to serendipitous connections between people who might not have found each other before.

Predictable level characteristics include:


-Templates are continuously improved based on usage statistics/feedback

  • The culture is collaborative – empowerment, trust and permission
  • Tacit knowledge is transferred through departments and roles
  • Collaboration is understood beyond task-based activities


  • Collaboration is governed and compliant
  • Collaboration supports line of business systems.
  • Diary management is well-established, and availability for collaborative work is managed (including real-time presence and ‘focus’ time slots).
  • Asynchronous collaboration is facilitated by features (e.g. @mentions) that signpost colleagues to content and actions, ensuring notifications are productive rather than interruptions.
  • Productivity and other collaboration metrics provide insights.
  • Opportunities for informal conversations are actively created (water-cooler conversations), especially within disciplines

Governance, Risk, Compliance and Security

  • There is a strong understanding of the value and risk of collaboration and governance and security approaches are implemented to minimize data leakage, allow and prevent sharing as needed, to reactively review or investigate activities.
  • There are time, location, device and person limits on access to content and collaboration between people
  • Content is protected to ensure history of changes, prior versions etc. remain accessible for productivity and compliance purposes.
  • Duplicate content is actively disallowed unless a scenario requires it - single version of the truth.
  • Processes are in place to minimize the risk of staff using out-dated information and files in collaborative decision making or activities.
  • There is an auditable history of collaboration activities with an understanding of how it can help support effective governance.
  • Collaboration extends to appropriate solutions within Microsoft 365 (ex. Task management in Planner).

Information Architecture

  • Company-wide metadata may integrate with other enterprise systems (e.g., ERP, CRM). Consistency extends across platforms.
  • Enforcement of information structure, metadata, site and directory design ensures consistent use across roles and departments


  • Communication channels are used to segregate topics.
  • There is a mechanism to segregate Work-in-Progress from Final / Approved, and to protect Finalized versions from change.
  • Content can be shared across organizational boundaries enabling efficient collaboration with partners, clients etc. without loss of control or governance.
  • Strategies are in place and effective for remote and offline working on collaborative content.

Task Management

  • Task management tools are consistently and widely used to track and monitor team, department and organizational activities.
  • There are shared notifications for activity updates alongside on-demand ‘at-a-glance’ insights.
  • There is active support for multiple collaboration modes, including real-time co-working and co-editing, ‘as-needed’ collaboration.
  • Collaborative activities are largely unconstrained by geography or time zone.
  • Most activities can be completed collaboratively, with simple mechanisms to find and access co-workers.
  • There are tools and processes in place to protect individuals’ time from interruptions.
  • Diary management is well-established, and availability for collaborative work is managed (including real-time presence and ‘focus’ time slots).
  • Mobile, remote, and office scenarios are equally supported.
  • Asynchronous collaboration is facilitated by features (e.g. @mentions) that signpost colleagues to content and actions, ensuring notifications are productive rather than interruptions.
  • Productivity and other collaboration metrics provide insights.


At this level, users rely on the platform for their day to day work as well as for special interest areas that contribute to company culture. The platform is seen as work-enhancing, not detrimental. Users understand and follow governance best practices, with a high degree of trust in the platform. The collaborative experience is fluid and largely frictionless, allowing easy access to internal and external colleagues on demand.

Level 500 - Optimizing

At this level, many transactional actions are automated to ensure consistency and good governance. Because people are connected across the organization based on their skills, interests, and work, innovative collaborations arise without formal structures. These innovative efforts are encouraged and given space to work and flourish.

Optimizing level characteristics include:


  • Collaboration is baked into the culture.
  • Staff are expected to do non-traditional/non-task collaboration
  • Deep collaboration enabled through cross-skilling, placements and multi-disciplinary meetings.
  • Informal and formal knowledge transfer are designed into the organizational culture (water-cooler conversations) across disciplines. No one needs an excuse to collaborate.


  • Automation enables and protects collaborative efforts, in line with understood policies.
  • Downstream collaboration processes are automated & optimised.
  • Staff are accountable for tasks and commitments; with feedback used to assure productivity.
  • Collaboration processes and benefits extend to external partners.

Governance, Risk, Compliance and Security

  • Automated processes exist for de-provisioning and archiving sites when collaboration ends.
  • A policy or mechanism is in place to check for duplicates, reducing site and content sprawl.
  • Active data loss prevention is in place, including keyword/term flagging, communication monitoring and deep dive eDiscovery across all technologies.
  • Graded security with policy enforcement is leveraged to provide different levels of protection during collaboration depending on sensitivity, risk and environment.
  • Governance and security intervention are seen as business enablers that provides a safe framework for collective endeavors.
  • Metrics are used to measure and improve collaboration outcomes, clearly connected to strategy.

Information Architecture

  • Metadata is used across site collections to centralize relevant information so that it can live anywhere but still be found / leveraged.
  • Automated tagging may be present.
  • Sensitivity labelling is automated and related to the content, purpose and risk of the collaborative activity.
  • Better practices are continually developed to enable effective collaboration across a wide range of tools, scenarios and roles; existing practice is routinely reviewed and teams are helped to collaborate more effectively based on insights.


  • Site designs or templates are enforced and used to reflect project phases.
  • Content and task status are actively used to provide insights and trigger actions, including automation of downstream processes.
  • There is active monitoring of content shared across organizational boundaries.
  • Lifecycles, redaction, and access revocation are enabled and largely automated.
  • Live documents are shared as attachments in email only as exceptions.

Task Management

  • The collaborative platform is highly integrated, serving a wide range of tools and capabilities that seamlessly support many simultaneous modes of collaboration.
  • Task management tools are required at multiple levels across an organization and individuals and teams are held accountable for their collective tasks, including to board level.
  • There is organizational level monitoring of collaboration activities, with targets for the degree of interaction expected based on roles.
  • There is specific focus on optimizing collaborative activity to enhance productivity, minimize cost and risk.
  • Collaborative work is a strategic element of the organization’s culture.
  • External partners are supported in adopting collaborative approaches.
  • Legacy ways of working are actively replaced or removed through an active continuous improvement.


At this level, business leaders and platform administrators are implementing continuous improvements based on user activities and feedback. Users are proud of their collaboration platform and can show real ROI over the way they previously worked.

Cost & Benefit

When we talk about the benefits of collaboration, we are often asked to provide a clear ROI. This can be difficult to do, just as it has been with other knowledge-based efforts in the past.

Some examples of collaboration ROI include:

  • Faster time to produce results and respond to requests (reduced time spent in searching, locating latest version, collating changes from multiple users, etc.)
  • Reduced travel and overhead costs
  • Increased employee satisfaction (feeling supported rather than hindered by tools and systems)
  • Innovation is common (generating and executing on ideas through making connections that would not have been possible in the old file-share world)

Anecdotes can be incredibly important for demonstrating benefit. It’s powerful when a team says they reached a goal faster or better and are willing to be quoted on it. “Better” cannot always be quantified, but if the professionals in your organization claim it, it is probably real. Collect these anecdotes as you go along; they will prove useful.


Leveling up your collaboration maturity means you are rethinking processes. This leads to direct benefit as you shift from “the way we’ve always done it” to “how could we do this better?”

With collaboration at its core, the Microsoft 365 platform can be an incredible enabler of better practices. This can only be realized if your organization continues to learn, grow, and evolve its practices, striving for improved collaboration.

Common Microsoft 365 tool sets

Every organization can choose how best to use the Microsoft 365 platform for collaboration. The best answer for a large multi-national conglomerate would make little sense for a five-person financial advisory firm. The Microsoft 365 apps and services most likely included in the mix for collaboration include the following:

  • Excel
  • Loop
  • Microsoft Teams
  • OneDrive
  • OneNote
  • Outlook
  • Planner
  • PowerPoint
  • Project Online
  • SharePoint Team Sites
  • To Do
  • Viva Engage
  • Viva Goals
  • Viva Insights
  • Viva Sales
  • Viva Topics
  • Word
  • Yammer



Join the Maturity Model Practitioners: Every month we host sessions exploring the value and use of the Microsoft 365 Maturity Model and how you can successfully develop your organization using Microsoft 365. Each of these sessions focus on building a community of practitioners in a safe space to hone your pitch, test your thoughts, or decide how to promote your use of the Maturity Model. Sessions may also include a brief presentation about the Maturity Model including recent updates.

Principal authors:

The MM4M365 core team has evolved over time. These are the people who have been a part of it.

Core team: