Since its arrival, our team of developers and UX experts have been looking thoroughly at the technology evaluating how we can bring our customers the most value from employing SharePoints modern experiences as part of their digital workplace.
From version 6.31 of Wizdom, and onwards!, the Wizdom product supports SharePoints modern experiences with a solution that bridges the worlds of classic and modern SharePoint into one coherent, future-proof digital workplace.
Bridging the worlds of classic and modern SharePoint
One global navigation
As you have probably heard and perhaps even seen, modern sites and pages are beautiful and fast performing. However, modern SharePoint does not offer a global and governed navigation across sites and areas.
Also, there is simply no solution for a navigation that unites the modern and classic world. If you build content with modern pages, this content will be completely isolated from the content on your classic SharePoint intranet.
Without sacrificing any functionality, from this version, the Wizdom Mega Menu can be enabled on modern sites too.
Preparing the Mega Menu to span across classic and modern sites has been a top priority. This allows you to fully integrate modern content into your classic SharePoint intranet. Users can use the global navigation to go back and forth between classic and modern pages and maintain the feeling of moving around in one coherent, digital environment.
One module administration
Administering a Wizdom intranet that includes both classic and modern SharePoint sites shouldnt mean double work.
All modules in Wizdom, whether used on classic or modern SharePoint pages, are still administered in Wizdom Configuration Center. There might be a few separate module settings for classic and modern sites, but, again, its all configured in the same place, in the way youre familiar with.
One news center
Wizdom Corporate News web part has been updated to collect and display news articles from both classic and modern sites.
This means you can offer users one news center that will present the collected feed of relevant corporate news, no matter where on your digital workplace these news articles reside.
Keeping content targeted by supporting personalized and multilingual intranets
To keep your intranet personalized and help users quickly find what they need weve enabled Wizdoms content targeting mechanism for the modern experiences.
Using the Mega Menu, you can still offer users a navigation that matches their location, position, and interests. Targeting of news to a specific subset of employees is, of course, possible with the Corporate News and the Noticeboard module. Providing users a set of personal links, that provide access to the tools and resources that only they need, can be done with the Quicklinks web part and the Service Menu. Wizdoms notifications mechanism allows for personal notifications to all users.
This all make up for the modern experiences current lack of a solution for content targeting.
Supporting a multilingual intranet
Would you like to offer users in your multilingual organization the new modern experiences of SharePoint? And still allow each user to read content in the language he or she prefers? With the content targeting mechanism of Wizdom comes the possibility to, also, support a multilingual intranet.
Use the Mega Menus features to create a global navigation with content that adapts to the preferred language of the user.
Wizdom modules can now be used for modern sites
Soon, all Wizdoms features and functions will be available for SharePoints modern experiences. With this version, we have the first pack of Wizdom modules ready.
As they live in the modern environment, the user experience of Wizdoms web parts will be slightly different here. However, the modules for modern SharePoint will include the same functionality as they do for the classic version, now and onwards.
The Wizdom functionality introduced for the modern experiences with this release are the following:
Cross site features: the Mega Menu, custom branding, Service Menu, site creation function.
Web parts: Corporate News, Noticeboard, Policies I Must Read, People Directory, Quicklinks, Cafeteria Menu.
As written, you configure modules for the modern experiences exactly as youre used to configure them for the classic experiences. All Wizdom modules, whether theyre used for classic or modern, just have one module administration. The settings performed here will apply to the module on classic as well as modern sites.
Administration of the web parts for the modern experiences differs slightly, as web parts are configured differently in SharePoints modern experiences. Administration of the web parts for the modern experiences will be thoroughly documented.
I was browsing the app store on my iPhone the other day and I came across an app called “Tornado Guard” which, apparently, alerts you when there is a tornado warning in your area.
It had an average rating of 4/5 stars based on 4 reviews.
Admittedly, there arent many tornadoes in South West London, but it was the first time Id seen an app for predicting or warning about natural disasters, so I had a look.
Here are the 4 user reviews:
5 stars. “Amazing user interface design. Lots of choices for alert tones.”
5 stars. “Runs like a dream. Very fast and no crashes.”
5 stars. “I like how you can set multiple locations.”
1 star. “Did not warn me about tornado.”
Now, obviously this highlights a problem with average ratings, but also something else:
The initial reviews are focused on something called Surface Delight. A user experience can include elements of surface delight. These are usually local, contextual and isolated components of the overall user experience. They provide a brief sensation of delight in the user. Some examples include:
Beautiful photography or graphics used in the content of the user interface
The travel website AirBnB is a great exponent of this with large enticing photos of interesting and beautiful destinations, but also people enjoying holiday experiences.
Admittedly, this is a lot harder to do on a digital workplace, unless you have a professional photographer on your team. But there are ways to borrow some inspiration from sites like AirBnB.
For this client we created an interactive header element that made use of some really nice brand imagery, but also housed a photography competition where employees who were keen amateur photographers could submit their own photos. The only constraint was that they had to embody the brand slogan Never stop moving.
Subtle animations that add an additional layer of visual clarity
Again these are used really well on some websites. For example, http://rollpark.us/. This site uses some really nice animations to explain how Rollpark works and the benefits. Some are key to the explanation like the one that shows the layers of the carpark surface and explains what they are. Others are just for decoration, but add a touch of fun to the graphics. Its all done very tastefully.
This is really much less common on intranets and its because it can feel really tacky and in bad taste if money is invested in animations when other aspects of the experience are left wanting. But, some subtle loading effects and transitions on carousels etc can add a premium feel without breaking the budget.
Heres an example of a nice scrolling animation effect we implemented on a customer intranet. This was to promote a fundraising initiative that involved a sponsored walk. The key thing is that these little embellishments dont get in the way of the user doing what they need to do and that they dont delay them in any way.
Well written micro-copy potentially with appropriate touches of humour
I have noticed that MailChimp do this really well. MailChimp is an email marketing tool and they have really embraced a clean UX concept, with touches of humor. This extends to the micro-copy the small bits of text that appear throughout the site, such as form validation messages, signposts etc.
If you have a talented writer, then why not add thoughtful microcopy it can really add a human touch to the digital workplace, through the use of humor and friendly non-technical language. You dont want your digital workplace microcopy to read like it was written by developers.
These types of UI elements are a bit gimmicky, but if the underlying product is excellent, then they can be the finishing touch the icing on the cake. However, if the underlying product is poor, they can feel tacky and incongruous.
Theres something that contributes much more to a truly delightful user experience than Surface Delight:
Unlike Surface Delight, which is pretty superficial stuff, Deep Delight is much more fundamental and holistic. It can really only be achieved when all or the vast majority of – user needs are being met.
What do those needs look like?
Youve probably heard of Maslows Hierarchy of Needs. Well theres one for user experience too:
Functional thats the base of the pyramid. The system does something that is useful to users.
Reliable When users want to use it, its available and it doesnt crash etc
Usable The system is easy to use
Pleasurable Having fulfilled the bottom 3 foundational elements, the system does something extra to improve the user experience even further
Now the delightful experiences can come only when you are operating in that 4th layer (at least the more meaningful deep delight ones). Most digital workspaces today are operating in the usable layer. But, we should really aspire to more.
Were going to explore some ways to achieve delightful experiences for users. Some are about surface delight, but some are about achieving that delight at a deeper more meaningful level. For inspiration, were going to look to an unusual place… Hollywood.
1. Do thorough user research
Can you name the TV show or Movie from this screengrab?
Thats right Columbo! Hes an LA cop, but he doesnt carry a gun. All he needs is a notebook.
He disarms his interviewees with his non-threatening non-judgemental demeanour. People warm to him and dont see him as a threat. But he combines perseverance and thoroughness to really get to the bottom of what happened. He is extremely curious, he leaves no stone unturned and no pertinent question un-posed. All the while remaining extremely polite and courteous towards his interviewees. He never pushes too hard, but always comes back to ask more questions if he needs to.
And thats how he solves the case he learns so much about everyone involved and their motivations as well as the events that led up to the murder. And bam the answer comes to him the hole in the story of someone becomes obvious. He knows the answer.
If he turned his hand at interviewing users, he would surely be the most informed UX practitioner around. He would know everything about what users are trying to achieve, how they work, the barriers they face and so on. And this intimate knowledge is vital in setting the right course at the very beginning of the journey to a delightful user experience.
By adopting a Columbo style approach to user research, you will be in a much stronger position initially to deliver a delightful user experience. Because you will understand your users and what they truly need perhaps better than they do themselves.
Make time to talk to a wide range of users. Dont just ask them what they want they often dont really know whats possible and feasible. Ask them about their role, who they interact with and how, processes they follow and how they access the information they need.
You can capture detail of processes in process flows or user journeys. Capturing this info, you can then look for opportunities to improve a single step in the process, or the whole process and youll be able to add value.
Also, having spoken to real users, you can create personas like the one below These serve as a reminder when you are designing or building out new features a reminder of who you audience is and what their needs and frustrations are.
2. Make new mistakes
Can you name this movie?
After the spectacular failure of his Jurassic Park experience, creator John Hammond went back to the drawing board.
When he told Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) about his plans for a second park he said Dont worry we wont make the same mistakes again
And Dr. Malcolm responded: No no no, youre making all new ones
Like John Hammond, you must avoid making the same mistakes again and again with the digital workplace. Here are a few common mistakes that we see organisations making over and over again:
Not paying attention to search. Just leaving it as is and wondering why users hate it. Theres lots you can do with search if you configure it correctly. But, you also have to refine it over time review the search logs and they can tell you a lot about what people are searching for and how you can improve the experience. A really simple one that often gets overlooked is promoted results or best bets. These are manually curated search results for common search phrases. You might have noticed this, but the majority of users are terrible searchers! They often enter one really generic key phrase and expect the search engine to know exactly what they are looking for. These search experiences are exactly the kind that you can improve with carefully curated promoted results.
Not being disciplined about governance and ongoing research and improvements. When the new digital workplace is being launched everyone has good intentions about governance and continuous improvement. But, it too often loses momentum usually when the vision holder, the driving force behind everything, leaves the business. And the digital workplace falls in to 5 yearly cycle of boom and bust. Well, this is going to sound like a sales pitch, but you should really consider having a consultancy organise and chair your governance committee. If you find one worth their salt, theyll be keen to keep the business and will be proactively driving things forward come rain or shine.
Not giving things silly names. Its too tempting to brand everything. The policy library doesnt need to be called The BPK Bible, or whatever. Just call it something that someone who walked in the business yesterday would understand. Calling things odd names creates something we call Mystery Meat in UX navigation items that youre not sure about what is in them, and youre hesitant to try.
Agonising over graphics or the look and feel. Dont get me wrong, I totally endorse having professional graphic design for any digital workplace, but the level of attention and budget it often gets relative to the other aspects of the experience. Its just insane. Keep it clean leave it to the professional UX designers, try not to make it your baby.
There are many areas like this where companies fall into the same traps again and again. So, be careful not to do that.
However, unlike Jurassic Park, you shouldnt worry about making all new mistakes. In fact, you should be prepared to make them continually, but have the right feedback mechanisms in place to learn and correct them quickly. This often doesnt involve scrapping an idea or part of a system, but simply shaping it in a slightly different direction. The result of doing this continually will be an evolution towards something better than what came before. And users will see continuous progress. They wont assume it will never work well, or theyll have to wait for some upgrade in 5 years time.
As Thomas Edison once said I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that wont work.
Truman Burbank was the unsuspecting star of his own TV show. From the day he was born, his whole world was designed around him, and full of actors. But, at eventually he began to notice that something wasnt quite right that people always seemed to appear at the exact same time, and traffic would always materialise to block his exit from the city. When he was feeling down, his best friend would always just happen to turn up with a few beers. For Truman it became a nightmare that he must escape from.
But, this experience would be a nirvana for your users. Imagine feeling like the digital workplace was all choreographed and organised around your needs and your personal priorities.
Wizdom gives you a lot of power to tailor the experience for different users based on what they do or where they are based and so on. But, to make this personalisation and targeting work well, it requires a lot of work behind the scenes. You need to make sure your Active Directory is in good shape and has accurate information on people. And you need people who know the content to make decisions about what is relevant to whom and, even at what time. But, get it right, and it can feel really special to your users.
When designing a digital workplace for a UK university, we designed the navigation entirely around roles and timings. A first year student would see a set of guidance in the navigation that was specific to them during those first few weeks of study, such as how to enrol. Whereas a third year part time masters student in a different faculty would see a completely different set of guidance.
4. Why so serious?
Why so serious?
The Joker character in the Batman films and comics has always added a touch of humour despite his sinister motives and actions.
The audience can chuckle at his gags, but still see him as a serious threat.
Something that can really make a digital workplace feel more like an extension of human society is a bit of humour, especially people not taking things too seriously or even making fun of themselves.
Its interesting to employees on two levels. Firstly, people are interesting to people. When you look at analytics reports for intranets youll notice how frequently visited content is that involves people winning awards or getting promoted, and seemingly trivial stuff like photos from the annual conference. Secondly, the humour adds a level of humanity and emotional engagement.
We have run a few campaigns for companies that involved generating interest in a new initiative or in the organisations core values and so on. One of the most successful ones included an animation that kicked off a peer recognition competition. Employees were encouraged to nominate colleagues who embodied the company values in their actions. Senior leaders in the organisation agreed for their faces to appear on little characters and they even voiced the roles themselves. As you can probably imagine, the acting was of a pretty low standard but it generated real interest as it was very authentic. That campaign ended up achieving 80% participation across the whole business. Thats participation, not just reach. It reached literally everyone in the company and 80% of them actually took part by nominating someone either via video or written nomination.
Also, we had some fun on the intranet homepage on the launch day of the campaign:
Its really worth looking for opportunities like this to add emotion to your digital workplace don’t make it too clinical and humourless.
5. Shop windows?
There was a movie released in the 80s called ‘Mannequin’ which was about a department store window dresser and his mannequin.
When nobody was around except for the window dresser, the mannequin would come to life and they ended up falling in love.
The mannequin was played by Kim Katrall of Sex and the City fame. Thats not her in the photo by the way.
Can you imagine the moment when she told her family she just won a part in her first Hollywood movie…
Fantastic! Oh well done! So whats the role?
At least she didnt have to worry about her acting being too wooden.
But anyway, shop windows is a term we often hear in relation to sections on the intranet. That the landing page should act like a shop window.
NO the landing page shouldnt be a shop window.
Shop windows either look like this:
No, no, no. What users really need a section landing page to be like is a Store Directory!
The one you see on a big board once you are inside the store. This tells you everything you can expect to find in a neat and logically organised fashion.
Heres an example:
Dont let anyone tell you that it looks too text heavy theyre talking nonsense.
Sit and watch someone take a usability test using pages like the ones below and watch them breeze through it:
6. Greed is good
In 1985s Wall Street, Gordon Gecko addresses the stockholders of Teldar Paper after just buying a majority stake in the company. He famously states:
Greed is good. Greed is right. Greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit
And if youre going to deliver a delightful user experience, youd better get greedy. There are so many areas that you will need to invest time and budget. You wont achieve delightful user experience on a shoestring.
You cant just accept what you are given. Someone with no understanding of whats required or whats at stake will normally have put an arbitrary number down and that became your budget. You will need to make your case. Demonstrate return on investment.
If youve done your user research right like Columbo would then youll be aware of many processes that users are completing. You can calculate how long they take, how often they are performed and by how many people. You can then put a financial cost on the total time taken across a year.
Then you can highlight the changes you plan to make to the process, and the new time it will take (based some quick and dirty prototype testing you did). Voila! you have a monetary figure in terms of cost savings something to bolster your case.
If the process is not of interest to the intranet sponsor because its not their department, then go to the person whos department it is. Why not get a budget from every dept in the organisation?
And you need to do it regularly. Not once every 5 years. How can you evolve the digital workplace if the budget goes into hibernation for years at a time?
We have a customer that is involved in the UK property market we designed and built their digital workplace for them and help them to evolve it. Our main point of contact at that business has been very successful in getting lots of continuous investment. After the initial launch, rather than saying job done, he went to the board and gave them a very simple message:
We used to need three people to manage 30 property deals a month now we only need one. Imagine what we can do with other parts of the business.
Recently this project won an Intranet Innovation Award.
7. Speed matters
You gotta be gone in 60 seconds
That was the rule of master car thief Randall Raines. If he couldn’t steal a car in under 60 seconds, then he shouldnt attempt it or risk getting caught.
Speed is important in the digital workplace too. But, your users wont give you 60 seconds probably less than 10.
Getting pages to load quickly can be difficult it relies on so many factors:
Local network bandwidth
Contention ration (how many people are using the connection)
Apps running on server
Calls to other services
Efficiency of coding
And so on.
If youre having problems with reported speed issues, you need to get an understanding of each of these areas and the impact (if any) it is having on the performance.
We recently worked on a digital workplace project that had users connecting from China and they were having problems with speed. We narrowed the problem down to the relay time from the laptops of the Chinese based users to the server, and the additional delay in relay time to other services e.g. stock prices, weather, even Google font libraries.
We minimised the impact of these issues by changing a couple of things:
For Chinese users only (using targeting) we removed some dynamic blocks on the homepage, and replaced them with hardcoded links into that part of the site e.g. Blogs.
We also moved many of the assets regularly used on the site to a Content Delivery Network (CDN) this meant that these files would be delivered from local servers in China meaning less relay time and faster loading.
Essentially we removed some of the non-essential bells and whistles, but improved the User Experience because we fixed a more fundamental issue.
8. Did I say seven?
This is the Jonny Cab from Total Recall – the original starring Arnold Schwarzenegger where he goes on a virtual vacation to Mars, and then ends up going for real.
So, the Johnny Cab – along with a colony on Mars was a vision of the future from 1990. It was basically a self-driving car – that for some odd reason wasted half of the interior space in order to accommodate a spooky dummy as the human driver. Of course, the tech for driver less cars is here now minus the scary dummy, thankfully.
Were obviously still working on colonising Mars. But, another area where we have made progress is Artificial Intelligence (AI) and a subset of that Expert Systems. Expert systems can do things like diagnose diseases based on symptoms and DNA data, but they can also serve you business information typically via a chat bot.
Chat bots are starting to appear in the digital workplace. At the moment they are a bit rudimentary and sort of work like glorified search. But, the beauty is that they improve the more you use them they are built to learn based on inputs and reactions to the responses they provide. And they can be training to be more effective.
Here’s a chat bot that we implemented on a customer intranet its called Cyril. Its early days for this bot and it does things like give you information on people or offices or policies etc when you ask it in the chat window.
But I think what is most exciting about Chat Bots is when they are delivered via your regular messaging apps on your smartphone. That makes it super quick and super easy to interact with the bot and get information quickly when you are on the go.
Were just about to enable access via Skype for Business on Cyril. So you wont need to open the chat window on the intranet anymore. We’re positive that this will deliver a delightful user experience to heavy mobile users.
Remember the pyramid
So, thats 7 ways you can deliver delightful user experience. Though, as weve discussed doing just one of them wont cut it. You need to build up your pyramid and you need to weave all of these things together to achieve Deep Delight. Thats the only way you can achieve a true, deep level, holistic sense of delight in not just one but all your users.
Over the past couple of years Microsoft has been rolling out the SharePoint modern experience and while some parts of it are still in preview, it has been released globally for elements such as Team Sites. New SharePoint features such as Communication Sites and Hub Sites have also been released using modern pages.
What is the modern experience?
Modern pages represent a superior user and content editor experience for SharePoint, fills some of the gaps around publishing that Microsoft probably should have dealt with years ago and has various other advantages.
The Modern Experience is based on the SharePoint Framework, a development framework which presented a fundamental change from the classic platform, with everything developed on the client rather than server side. Without going too much into the technical aspects of this, it basically means developing SharePoint is now much more about configuring the front-end experience than the processes that run in the back end, which was the case for the classic SharePoint of the past.
While inevitably with a new whole development framework and design there have been a few glitches on the way, and there are still occasionally features of classic SharePoint which we miss, overall the introduction of SharePoints modern pages has been highly beneficial. Here are eight things we love about the SharePoints modern experience.
1. Its changed perceptions of SharePoint
Here at Content Formula weve worked with SharePoint for years, and while its always been a platform you can get some incredible results with, project teams and intranet managers who have worked with it closely have often found it frustrating and difficult. And users havent exactly been wild about the classic SharePoint user experience either.
Lets be honest, until a couple of years back, SharePoint was not a very popular platform and was associated with long, complex projects which were over-reliant on development resource and could easily end up with low adoption. But over the last two to three years weve noticed that perceptions of SharePoint have changed to something more favourable. This is down to multiple factors, including Office 365 and more bolt-on options, but also down to the modern experience with its far superior user experience and ease of use. The days of SharePoint regarded as a beast of a platform are disappearing.
2. Modern pages look great for users
While theres always improvements which can be made, generally modern pages look great with clear page layouts, greater use of images and a contemporary feel. They also render very nicely on mobile devices too, another key advantage of modern pages. And thats just right out of the box.
The superior look and feel when compared to the dated and sometimes cluttered feel of classic SharePoint ensures a better reaction to content from users. These are sites employees are far more likely to want to use and will find easier to use.
3. Performance is better
Because the SharePoint framework means all the web parts are executed on the client side rather than the server side it means that generally performance is better, especially for content editors or site administrators. Previously things could be a bit clunky with loads of page reloads, but now SharePoint is faster and smoother.
4. It has given power to content editors (at last)
The lack of a CMS or a decent content editor experience in SharePoint for a long time had left many of us puzzled. Why, when so many intranets use SharePoint, didnt Microsoft invest in developing decent publishing interfaces? To a certain extent, intranet-in-a-box products like SharePoint have bridged that gap, but now the modern experience has opened up SharePoint to content editors who are used to the easy experience of a popular CMS like WordPress.
Modern pages are really easy to edit. For example, with just two clicks you can add the necessary web part and the changes are made there and then on the page. Many of the off-putting elements for content editors such as page reloads, confusing terminology and other frustrating elements of classic SharePoint are gone. This puts SharePoint in the hands of content editors more than ever and opens up the opportunity to publish for all. They need less training, can be more self-sufficient and sites are most sustainable.
5. Less development resource is required
The other benefit of giving more power to content editors is that you need less development resource. Before youd need a .NET developer to achieve some of the things that content editors can do on their own now. Insert a Yammer feed web part? Thats now two clicks away, not a business case which has to be made to the Head of IT Development.
Of course, youll still need developers to do some of the things you need to achieve, but ultimately, youll save money and your IT developers will be freed up to use their time to add more value to more complex projects.
6. Communication and Hub sites add value
Communication sites, and more recently, Hub sites are an integral part of the modern experience and have made it much easier for teams within organisations, as well as smaller companies, to distribute information and communication via a simple intranet-like experience. With web parts for easy publishing of news, promotions and events and an attractive layout, Communication sites do make it easier to communicate!
Hub site also can connect numerous communication sites and present an aggregated view of news and content a little like an intranet homepage and departmental sites, for example. These sites are a useful addition to the tools available within the digital workplace and while they are nowhere near in providing the sophistication of an in a box product such as Wizdom, particularly for internal communicators or knowledge management functions, they give welcome options to teams, departments and smaller companies.
7. Modern pages are good news for turnkey intranets
Modern pages are also good news for turnkey SharePoint intranets like Wizdom which can utilise the design and approach of modern pages, and even utilise Communication or Hub sites, while still filling the gaps that SharePoint out of the box doesnt provide. In our view, the better SharePoint gets, the better the SharePoint in-a-box products get too.
8. Modern SharePoint web parts wrap themselves around Office 365
One of the obvious advantages of SharePoint Online and the modern experience is that it integrates more easily with the rest of Office 365. By letting content editors easily add templated web parts which enable people to add document libraries, Yammer feeds or the latest updates from a relevant Microsoft Teams site, SharePoint becomes the obvious place to build an integrated experience with the rest of the Office 365 suite. This adds value to Office 365 and your SharePoint intranet and helps to drive adoption.
Make it modern!
SharePoint modern pages bring lots of other advantages which are too numerous to mention here, but including arguably better security, more flexibility and more.
Modern SharePoint irons out many of the issues with classic SharePoint and delivers a great user experience. If you fell out of love with classic SharePoint, then its really worth taking a fresh look at the modern platform for your intranet, collaborative spaces, workflow needs and more. If youd like to discuss any aspect of modern SharePoint modern pages or Office 365 then please get in touch!
Go into any organisation or ask any employee and we can guarantee that there will be many business processes which can be improved or tasks which can be made easier to complete. Automation and using workflow are critical to ironing out inefficiencies, removing bottlenecks, streamlining tasks and creating new business applications. By replacing paper forms, email trails and spreadsheet-based reports, organisations save time, increase productivity and reduce frustration. Digital workplace teams can even start to reshape the things ways are done and create new opportunities to work better and serve clients.
A combination of Office 365, SharePoint Online and an intranet-in-a-box product like Wizdom provides an excellent digital workplace from which to introduce automation and workflows which will make a real difference to your organisation. Whats most exciting though, is that the options for automation with Office 365 and Wizdom include tools which no longer need to be coded or configured by developers. Instead, power-users and even content editors can create their own simpler workflows, meaning that automation and the benefits that flow from it no longer has to be exclusively delivered via your IT department.
Of course, process automation and workflows have always been possible with SharePoint, but you would generally have needed a resource who was very knowledgeable about SharePoint to be able to implement it for you. Other options would have included using a product like Nintex which some organisations have used successfully, but this comes at an additional cost. Without Nintex or a similar product, generally an average content editor using on-premises SharePoint 2013 would not have been able to produce any significant level of automation on their own without using a central IT resource.
We think this “democratisation” of automation has exciting potential for productivity improvement to reach every part of an organisation, particularly within lines of business and support functions, and individual teams. It can even spark innovation. While we think its still critical to work closely with central IT functions to reduce risk and optimise the configuration of sites, and developers will still need to be involved for complex processes, Office 365 does have the power to deliver tangible efficiencies and inspire a more digital mindset among employees.
Lets look at some of the options for delivering automation using Office 365, SharePoint Online and Wizdom.
Flow is an Office 365 tool that has made workflow and automation much more accessible to non-IT professionals. Flow delivers the power of automation through easy-to-use templates and the ability to build workflow experiences in the browser without leaving a page. For example, a site administrator might have created a list in SharePoint and wants to add some workflow associated with that list, such as adding a notification email if somebody adds an item to the list of a specific value. This can now be done easily within the page just by pointing and clicking.
There are also connectors inside Flow that allow interaction with third party systems. So, for example, you might want to raise a ticket on Jira every time somebody adds something to your SharePoint list or make a request to a third-party API based on some criteria. Before Flow doing that would have been very technical, but now Flow allows content editors and power users to set up their workflows independently.
PowerApps is another Office 365 tool which provides another option for automation, as well as the ability to create new experiences for users. PowerApps comes with its own app for mobile devices which can be used by those without an Office 365 license.
If you want to create some automation for a mobile workforce that use their own devices and dont have Office 365 identities, then PowerApps can be used to deliver functionality that will kick start various internal processes. For example, perhaps you want to create various approval workflows for simple business requests such as ordering a new uniform, requesting travel or raising an IT ticket. PowerApps can help you to automate employee requests via a handy mobile app.
3. Power BI
Power BI brings automation to versatile and attractive dashboards which can display the latest statistics, KPIs and other metrics. Because all dashboards update automatically, it means that reporting which previously had to be done manually and was hard to maintain, is now effortless. Power BI is used by everybody from management teams who want a snapshot of the latest company KPIs in real-time to Office 365 teams who want an overview of the adoption of different tools.
Power BI is incredibly powerful because it can pull data from a variety of sources, both within Office 365 but also from external resources. Once trained, power users should be able to create and administer several highly useful dashboards which can be consumed by any user. You can also put in options for different reports to be generated, based on the values of the data flowing in.
4. Wizdom forms and polls
Wizdom provides easy ways for content editors and site administrators to create forms and polls for users to enter information which can then be used to kick off a workflow and deliver an automated process. Lets say a content editor uses Wizdom Forms to easily build a form using drag and drop elements. Because data entered by users in the form can be captured inside a SharePoint list, it then means that list can be combined with Flow or one of the other tools to effectively create a business application. This can be straightforward to configure and end up delivering a powerful solution. A great example might be a form for booking maternity leave which would generate emails and approvals to various people that need to be involved and informed.
A similar approach can combine Wizdom polls with Flow to create workflows. For example, if an IT service was rated by users as poor in a Wizdom poll, you could automatically kick of a workflow to start a follow-up process with that user.
5. Artificial intelligence
AI is likely to become the way to deliver automation in the future, for example using chatbots as the interface to receive information to kick off workflows, but also to power different automation processes within Office 365. In fact, Wizdom will shortly be implementing some AI-powered automation into its toolset, with the ability for a bot to suggest automatic content tagging for any article as part of the standard publishing workflow. In this case, AI uses language understanding services to make sense of text and match phrases and keywords to a company taxonomy.
We can increasingly see AI as being part of automation, with new tools becoming available for content editors to be able to make meaningful independent configurations which exploit AI.
6. SharePoint workflows or SharePoint designer workflows
Before Office 365 if a SharePoint intranet needed any process automation (such as custom staged approvals) an IT professional might use SharePoint Workflows or SharePoint Designer Workflows to build the workflow. Using these tools today is still a valid approach for IT professionals, and there are other options in SharePoint too, but you need to be very savvy with how SharePoint works and be confident to make it succeed. For complex workflows and for less experienced power users who havent received the right training, initially speaking to your IT function or implementation partner is always the best first step.
Automation and workflow are no longer specialist activities for central IT functions. Office 365 and tools like Wizdom are unlocking the potential to set up simple automation for power-users and even content editors. We think thats going to have a beneficial impact on organisations, not only in terms of making efficiency a habit, but also in creating a more digitally-confident workforce.
With several options, including Flow, Forms, Power BI and PowerApps, and with AI creating opportunities in the future, any organisation not currently considering automation-at-scale may be missing a trick. If youd like to discuss automation, workflow and improving processes using Office 365, SharePoint and Wizdom then get in touch!
Building a true digital workplace is a path which many of our clients are now following. With the help of Wizdom and Office 365, they are going beyond the confines of the traditional intranet and implementing an experience where employees can carry out more and more of their everyday work efficiently and effectively, all wrapped up in an attractive user interface.
Earlier in the year, at our Digital Workplace conference in Copenhagen, we heard from a number of organizations who are on their digital workplace journey, as well as from members of the Wizdom team or trusted partners, about what needs to be done to build a successful digital workplace. Clause Ole Hasle, Wizdoms COO and Christian Larsen, Director of Internal Communication and Corporate Events, and Events, GEA Group presented together about some of the best practices to follow.
Here are some of some observations from that session, which were also reflected in some of the other presentations. Here are six best practices to follow in building a digital workplace.
1. Consider a wide scope which focuses on the full potential of the digital workplace
The digital workplace can have a very wide scope with a broad range of functionality, capabilities and content. Often the wider the scope, the more potential value your digital workplace will deliver to employees.
In working out what you want your digital workplace to be, its critical to not to have a traditional intranet mindset and focus just on news publishing and static content. Consider how employees do their work, what will deliver business value, the key processes in your organization and outcomes such as increased productivity and even digital transformation.
In considering a wide scope of the digital workplace, several elements were outlined including:
People and communication
Standards and procedures
If that scope sounds ambitious, thats because it is! But its worth remembering that the digital workplace is a platform which evolves. Having a wide scope from the start means that you can build your platform in a way so that it can keep on expanding and delivering value.
2. Use standard products and limit customization
Office 365 and products like Wizdom keep on adding more and more tools and capabilities. Microsofts investment in the Office 365 toolset is impressive. We also focus much of our effort on making Wizdom better and better.
The sheer scale of the tools available as well as their configurability, means that organizations can usually meet the vast majority of their digital workplace needs out of the box. Theres also a much better user experience compared to a few years back, so organisations dont need to change interfaces.
Using the standard product functionality for your digital workplace has many advantages. Its far easier to maintain and cheaper to run, quicker to introduce changes and your digital workplace keeps on expanding. Youre taking advantage of a platform which keeps on improving, particularly if you are in the cloud rather than on-premises.
Customizing your entire digital workplace comes with risks its expensive, time-consuming and may not be compatible with the latest updates. It will mean there will be more work involved with any upgrade to your platform and a higher risk of issues. We know that in complex organizations or for particular processes sometimes customization is needed. However, we strongly recommend limiting the level of customization to only where your business has particular complex needs and will truly deliver value.
3. Invest in search
Search is an essential part of the digital workplace. As soon as you start building an experience with a wider scope beyond the traditional publishing intranet, you also create an expectation from users that they will be able to search for everything in one place. Your users are also used to using Google and will expect to have a similar ability to tap in just one word and find everything they need.
Unfortunately, many enterprise search tools come nowhere near meeting the expectations of their users. And while some users do have unrealistic expectations of what can be achieved (Google and enterprise search are two very different things!), if you can achieve even just a decent digital workplace search with good findability youll be helping to drive productivity, and already making a massive impact.
SharePoint has a great search engine, which works well out-of-the-box, but you only start really getting the value when you invest some time and resources in configuring the search, establishing some governance and working on a pattern of continuous improvement.
Spend time on:
establishing search refiners
widening the scope of search
tweaking search rules based on metrics
putting governance in place around tagging to improve findability
having a regular process to make improvements,
optimising content and more!
Doing all these things will help make your search better and better. In our view, investing in search is absolutely worth the effort!
4. Work on a task-based information architecture
Along with a decent search, having a great information architecture that mirrors the way employees think will also help them to navigate around your digital workplace and find the information or application they need. Its important that an information architecture is built around the way employees work usually around completing tasks and other common themes with intuitive labelling so it is easy to understand for your employees.
All too often traditional intranets have a navigation based on the organisational structure or full of horrible acronyms, but this means that you then have to know your organisation and systems very well to be able to find what you need. Thats no good for a new employee!
Spend time on developing a good information architecture based on tasks and needs which has been thoroughly tested with your users. Having a task-based information architecture will make your digital workplace much easier to use.
5. Carry out usability testing
Having a strong information architecture, useful content and intuitive interfaces is key for your digital workplace. This can only really be achieved through usability testing. By carrying out ongoing tests with your users you can make sure your digital workplace is meeting your users needs. A common way to do this is to make sure that your users are able to complete particular tasks by finding and using the content they need.
Usability testing not only saves you time and provides better results, but also creates user buy-in as they know an intranet has been centred around their needs. Sometimes those involved in your testing may also become digital workplace champions, helping to support your launch. Having usability data also helps to drive consensus around decision-making and eliminates time-consuming arguments about what should go in the navigation or where content should be placed.
6. Dont get scared off by multi-language challenges
Workforces are diverse, especially in global organisations. Thats something to celebrate and working with colleagues from around the world is one of the most exciting things about modern working life. However, one of the challenges can be around the use of multiple languages. You may have a smaller number of official languages and even just one or two (for example English and Danish), but in your everyday business perhaps employees need some critical content in the digital workplace to be translated into their native tongue.
Having a multi-lingual policy and digital workplace that actually works on a day-to-day basis to meet employee needs can have a significant impact on both productivity, but also employee engagement, especially for employees in country offices who may feel disconnected from their global HQ.
There are lots of options for multi-lingual digital workplaces, ranging from auto-translation to language variations of critical pages and documents (e.g. HR information and policies) to personalisation. Make sure you exploit the out of the box functionality in your digital workplace to meet the needs of your employees. Dont get scared off by the challenges of multi-language!
8. Building a great digital workplace
If youve invested in Office 365 and a solution like Wizdom, you certainly have the right tools to build a digital workplace. Its now important to get your approach right. Consider using some of the best practices detailed in this article on your digital workplace journey to achieve the right solution for your employees and your organization.
Wizdom’s latest release has plenty of functionalities that bring the power, extensibility and branding of Wizdom to SharePoint’s Modern Pages Framework.
The following are now available in the easy-to-use Modern interface:
Page properties, governance, targeting etc.
Policies and procedures (including mandatory read)
There’s more to come – Wizdom will be fully on Modern by the end of 2018. We are very excited by this latest release. Please watch the video to see some of the things that are now available. The video is technical in parts but demonstrates clearly that Wizdom is becoming fully integrated into Modern.
We ran a free webinar on October 10th 2018 on how to customise MS teams to your ways of working.
Lots of people know that Teams has taken the digital workplace by storm thanks to its easy-to-use collaboration features. But something people are less aware of is its powerful integration capabilities.
Forward-thinking companies who adopted MS Teams early are now making use of these capabilities and customising it to suit their processes and ways of working. We’ve been helping them do this and now have some useful learnings to share with you.
In this webinar we:
– Show you examples of real-life Teams customisations and integrations that go way beyond what’s available in the tabs.
– Discuss some of the technologies that enable customisation and explain the art of the possible.
– Answer your questions about how Teams can be extended and customised
– Discussing Microsoft’s future plans for Teams.
We will run other webinars. If you want to be informed about these then sign up to our mailing list. You can unsubscribe by clicking the link at the foot of every email we send out.
Wizdom have recently released Wizdom on Modern. Wizdom on Modern integrates Wizdom with the new SharePoint Modern Pages experience which aims to be a much simpler and user-friendly way to publish pages and articles on SharePoint. Wizdom is moving all its functionality so that it is available on Modern Pages as well as the old Classic Pages. Watch this short video to see from the back end how easy it is for an editor to publish a news article on Wizdom within the new SharePoint Modern Pages experience. In this video you also see how easy it is to create multiple language versions of the same article and target them to different locations using Wizdom’s targeting functionality.
Wizdom, Gartner Cool Vendor and top-rated intranet solution provider built on SharePoint and Office 365, is proud to announce the launch of the companys new Mobile app for Wizdom. The app is included in the Wizdom product license and can be implemented after updating to the latest Wizdom version 220.127.116.11.
With the ever-present need to be mobile and access essential company information and workflows on-the-go, the new Wizdom Mobile app enables companies to take their intranet one step further to make it available to users as an app on their mobile phones and tablets, making the intranet more accessible than ever.
With the new Wizdom Mobile app companies get the most used intranet features right out of the box. For example, Quick Access enable users to swiftly access tabs with essential intranet functionalities like corporate news, focus content, noticeboard messages including Social Functions, resources, links and more.
People Directory offers users to look up contacts with only a few clicks in the app while the Custom Design features allow companies to setup the app with pre-designed themes or create a custom theme with colors and fonts that completely aligns with company branding.
Lastly companies can fully tailor the mobile experience for their users via Wizdom Configuration Center where admins can define and setup the content of each tab in the app to ensure a targeted and engaging intranet on mobile.
Within Wizdom, the launch of the Mobile app has been eagerly awaited. Were extremely happy to bring our Wizdom customers this feature-rich Mobile app as part of their product license. Our developers have worked hard to implement all our knowledge and valuable feedback from our many customers and turned it all into our first Mobile app. Customers who have had a sneak peek are already embracing this tool and we are sure many more will follow and extend the reach of their digital workplace says John Wainer, CEO at Wizdom.
Wizdom mobile app is IOS and Android compatible and works with SharePoint 2013, 2016 and Office 365. Please contact us for more information on how to get started.
The Step Two Intranet and Digital Workplace Awards are global awards that recognise outstanding contributions to the fields of intranets and digital workplaces. We’re super proud to have won an award this year for our work on Moving Made Easy.
This is what Step Two had to say in their summary of the Moving Made Easy entry:
Moving Made Easy: Using Office 365 for core business processes
Small property company Moving Made Easy has rebuilt its core systems using Office 365, resulting in a new custom-built digital workplace. The new system covers every part of their selling process from logging customer and property details, through to capturing details of the sales process to generating marketing documents. Power BI has been used to deliver an extensive set of management dashboards.
The new system is already supporting enhanced decision-making, delivering significant time savings, supporting a positive shift in culture and providing a springboard for the evolution of the company.
Why this won a Silver award
Its great to see Office 365 used creatively to rebuild core business processes and to be at the centre of the way the organisation works and interacts with clients.
There are significant time savings which have a considerable impact on a small company
The digital workplace is already contributing to a change to a more proactive and learning- centric culture.
The extensive use of Power BI to build management dashboards and expose sales data has already helped in decision-making and focusing sales teams.
We admire the commitment to using the digital workplace as an enabler to move the business forward, from driving further efficiencies to client service innovation, there is already an ambitious roadmap planned.
Book in a free consultation call with us to discuss your project and find out more about our services and how we can add value to your digital workplace. Simply fill out the form and pick a time and date in our calendar.
Alternatively, if you have a question and would like to find out more about us first, please use our contact form and we will get back to you as soon as possible.