Microsoft's controversial productivity-tracking tool is back -- with some key changes

Microsoft has ditched Productivity Score in favor of Adoption Score, which aims to give IT admins granular data about employees' use of M365 apps.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer
worried woman working at computer in office
Getty Images/10'000 Hours

Microsoft is taking another shot at giving managers a tool to measure user productivity with a new tool called Adoption Score that replaces its controversial Productivity Score dashboard. This time it's promising to ensure "user-level privacy". 

It's been two years since privacy advocates branded Microsoft's Productivity Score dashboard a "full-fledged workplace surveillance tool" because it allowed IT admins to monitor individual employees' usage of Microsoft 365 apps, such as who opened an application like Outlook or Teams, what time they had it active, and so forth. 

The furore over the feature happened six months into the Covid-19 pandemic, when some employers, lacking pre-pandemic oversight at the office, started using intrusive employee surveillance software. Studies since have shown employees can be just as productive, if not more, when working from home.  

The controversy forced a denial from Microsoft that Productivity Score was a work monitoring tool but rather a way of "discovering new ways of working, providing your people with great collaboration and technology experiences." 

Microsoft last year did make changes to M365 usage analytics to pseudonymize user-level information by default. But global admins could switch back to reports with more personally identifiable information.

And now Microsoft is promising "user-level privacy" with Productivity Score's replacement, Adoption Score. 

Microsoft stresses that "no one in a customer's organization can use Adoption Score to access data about how an individual user is using apps and services in Microsoft 365."

Adoption Score is rolling out today in the Microsoft 365 admin center. Global admins need to approve its use in order to for other Office admins to see the time trend data it provides in the dash.  

Microsoft says in a blog post the Adoption Score dashboard provides M365 admins and IT leaders with "set of metrics and tools … to improve the everyday experiences of their workforce and to help organizations get the most out of their investment in Microsoft 365." The tool is meant to help admins drive adoption after the business invests in Microsoft's business software. 

The main current feature Adoption Score is Time Trends, which helps admins understand "historical information about aggregated insights across the organization." It attempts to measure "people experiences" and "technology experiences" and spits out a score out of 700. The people experiences score is out of 500, while technology experiences are out of 200.   

For people experiences, Adoption Score offers Time Trends metrics for the categories Content Collaboration, Meetings, Teamwork, Mobility and Communication across Exchange, SharePoint, OneDrive, Teams, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Yammer, and Skype.

Technology experiences include endpoint analytics, network connectivity, and Microsoft 365 Apps health.  

Organizational trend data available in the dashboard is also increasing from 28 days to now 180 days. Admins will be able to see, for example, the response rate for new emails with @mentions and how that has changed over the last 30, 90, or 180 days.   

Microsoft plans to add new functionality to Adoption Score. It doesn't say what that is, but it aims to change how IT admins and customers can "get more out of Microsoft 365, all while maintaining our commitment to user level privacy."

Adoption Score can only be accessed by IT pros with roles as the global admin, as well as admins for Exchange, SharePoint, Skype for Business, and Teams. 

Editorial standards