10 digital workplace trends from the Digital Workplace Strategy 2021 survey

You dont need us to tell you what a pivotal year 2020 has been for the digital workplace. Many organisations have found that the investment they have made in tools such as Microsoft Teams and platforms like Microsoft 365 have been critical for business continuity, as well as keeping employees informed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This rapid acceleration of digital workplace maturity means that digital workplace teams will be starting 2021 in a very different way to 2020. The wider business and working climate will be very different, with the ongoing pandemic meaning a highly fragile economy and scaled-up patterns of hybrid working are set to continue.

With such a period of intense change, we were keen to understand in more detail how the events of 2020 impacted digital workplace teams in the tools that they use and how they see the future. We decided to run a survey called Digital Workplace Strategy 2021 that asked various questions with a range of multiple-choice and free text questions. We ran the survey for a few weeks in late 2020, and received responses from digital workplace professionals in nearly 60 organisations

Here are ten of the key takeaways from the survey.

1 The digital workplace is maturing

In the past, digital workplace surveys have suggested that the collective maturity of the digital workplace has been at a relatively early stage, although investment in Microsoft 365, collaboration tools and awareness of the digital workplace concept has seen some advancement.

Our survey suggests that one of the impacts of 2020 is a significant advance in the maturity of the digital workplace. 56% of organisations told us their digital workplace was either growing or fully embedded, and had reached maturity. Only 17% described their maturity level as basic or early. While we dont have a truly comparable set of data for 2019, our strong impression is that the needle has moved on maturity.

2 COVID-19 has changed the plans of digital workplace teams

With COVID-19 having a tangible effect on the digital workplace, it has also inevitably influenced the corresponding plans and intended roadmaps of digital workplace teams. In our survey, we asked about the extent of the impact of COVID-19 on digital workplace strategy; only 3% of respondents told us that COVID-19 had had no impact, while 64% said that the pandemic had changed strategy a little or moderately.  A third told us it had changed their digital workplace strategy a lot or a great deal.  The vast majority of digital workplace strategies have been shaped by COVID-19 in some way.

3 2020 digital workplace priorities are 2021 priorities

With the pandemic changing digital workplace plans, we wanted to understand how that might translate into strategies for 2021. Here, the priorities that proved important during 2020 as pillars of business continuity robust digital communication channels and support for remote working look set to continue in 2021. Nearly 80% of organisations told us digital communication and content was a very important priority, the most popular answer, while support and scale of remote working was very important for 57% of organisations. Other very important areas were digitisation and automation (60%) and employee onboarding (57%).

4 Investment in digital skills is critical

With more and more digital interactions required because of remote working, we believe investment in digital literacy and skills is going to be increasingly important, particularly as sections of the workforce who previously had less access to digital workplace tools start to drive more sophisticated usage. In our survey, 54% of respondents said that improving digital skills was very important for their organisation; we believe this will be a focus going forward.

5 Company culture has become more empathetic

COVID-19 hasnt just impacted the digital workplace, its also changed organisational culture. While there have been many anecdotes of support for employees and customers, alongside inspirational stories about people helping each other out, our survey suggests there has been a deeper impact on organisations.

64% of respondents told us COVID-19 had made their organisational culture more empathetic and supportive, while 17% told us there had been no change. Perhaps surprisingly, 19% said their organisation was less empathetic and supportive, possibly a reflection of difficult choices made in the face of very tough trading conditions.

6 Digital workplace budgets and teams are still largely intact

We wanted to ascertain the impact of COVID-19 on investment in digital workplace tools and teams. Despite the economic fallout of the pandemic, investment appears not to have suffered as much as we may have anticipated; possibly, this is a reflection of the value that the digital workplace has brought to business continuity.

When we asked whether budgets had been impacted by COVID-19, 31% said there had been no impact and 28% indicated that their budget had increased, while 25% said it had decreased.  In terms of team size, 75% had seen no change, while the number indicating headcount had been reduced (14%) was partially offset by those who had actually seen an increase (11%).  This is despite the fact that many of the organisations who participated in the survey had been negatively impacted by COVID-19 – nearly half of respondents reported an overall negative impact on business.

7 But budget constraints may bite in 2021

Although budget cuts to the digital workplace were less significant than one might expect, there was less confidence about what lies ahead. We asked respondents to pick their top three challenges for 2021 from a number of choices. Here, constrained budgets are expected to bite in 2021 with 51% of organisations declaring it a top challenge; continuing uncertainty due to COVID-19 was the joint second most popular answer (40%).

8 Adoption of other tools has piggy-backed off real-time communication success

Everyone knows about the massive uptake in the adoption of real-time communication and collaboration tools like Microsoft Teams and Zoom, but what about other tools? We asked respondents about how adoption of a range of tools had fared during the pandemic. Being a Microsoft consultancy, we used the Office 365 suite of tools as a basis for constructing the list of tools from which respondents could choose.

Here, we found an increase in adoption of digital workplace tools across the board, clearly piggy-backing off the scale-up of Teams and equivalent technologies. While respondents reported the biggest rise in adoption was for collaboration and communication tools, every other tool also enjoyed some kind of reported rise in adoption.  Use of streaming video, cloud documents, cloud drives, and CMS (e.g. SharePoint) all saw large increases in adoption.

9 There are multiple opportunities to drive value in the digital workplace

In terms of levels of adoption of different tools, whilst many organisations reported moderate adoption of important tools such as video platforms (42%), workflow and automation tools (39%) and dashboard and data visualisation capabilities (33%), far fewer attributed significant adoption levels to these tools. We believe this indicates there are considerable opportunities to drive value in tools that have a real potential to initiate transformation, such as in automating processes at-scale or opening up data to aid decision-making for all employees.

10 Everyone has had a different journey

2020 has been a rollercoaster ride, and organisations have had wildly different experiences down to a variety of factors including size, sector, business line, workforce demographics and the level of digital workplace maturity before the pandemic struck. The range of different journeys were evident in the variety of responses we got when we asked for any additional comments.

Some organisations had not been impacted greatly; in fact, one reported the biggest outcome was not having an in-person conference. For others, it has a been a harder journey – one respondent told us We were behind the curve and are still catching up. Other answers reflected on the factors that had made a difference, including the importance of digital workplace strategy.

 

Whats your digital workplace strategy?

Its clear that COVID-19 has had a profound impact on everything from digital workplace adoption through to organisational culture. The survey has provided some fascinating insights into digital workplace trends and the strategies that different teams are following. How has your digital workplace strategy been impacted? If youd like to discuss any of the results of the survey or the next steps for your digital workplace, then get in touch!

 

£100 Amazon voucherAnd the winner is…We promised to run a prize draw to win £100 of Amazon vouchers for people who completed the survey. The winner is from The Specialist Works.

What is the Microsoft Power Platform and how do I get started?

We often get asked what particular Microsoft 365 tools are and what they do. We try and cover the common answers through articles here on the Content Formula blog.  This time its the turn of the Microsoft Power Platform – one of the most exciting parts of the Microsoft 365 suite. Note that on the blog we have already covered some of the other individual tools, such as Power Virtual Agents.

What is the Microsoft Power Platform?

The Microsoft Power Platform is a suite of four integrated productivity tools that can be used to build what Microsoft describes as an end to end business solutions. It consists of:

  • Power BI – mainly used to create data visualisations, dashboards and reports
  • Power Apps – used to build a range of custom business apps
  • Power Automate – an automation and workflow tool that can be used to create, automate and streamline complex processes
  • Power Virtual Agents – a tool and canvas to create powerful chatbots that leverage different Microsoft / Azure frameworks.

Although these tools are separate and can be purchased individually, they work most powerfully together, and are often available for purchase as the entire Power Platform, such as with some Microsoft 365 licenses. More value is generated when the tools are combined, for example, with Power Automate driving the workflow used in a mobile app built on Power Apps. As Microsoft put it, the Microsoft Power Platform is more than the sum of its parts.

What does each element of the Microsoft Power Platform do?

Lets explore the four core tools that comprise the Microsoft Power Platform.

 

Power BI

Power BI is a business analytics and data visualisation solution that offers the opportunity to create custom dashboards and dynamic views of business data from multiple sources, not only from the Microsoft 365 universe, but also from non-Microsoft solutions.

Power BI dashboards can easily be shared throughout businesses, and efficiently embedded into SharePoint, Microsoft Teams and other apps.  It is an excellent application to visualise data and analytics at scale in order to drive reveal insights that kickstart better decision-making, track success and monitor information in real-time. Dashboards can be personalised, meaning they can also help to drive reporting processes across different divisions and teams, and for multiple use cases.

Libraries of popular visual elements and data connectors also open up Power BI to more users, helping to drive a culture of transparency and data-driven decision-making.

You can find out more details in our previous article on Power BI and how to use it.

 

Power Apps

Power Apps allows businesses to build powerful and sophisticated custom apps that are suited to their specific needs. Microsoft defines it as a suite of apps, services, connectors and data platform that provides a rapid application development environment for app creation.

The apps you can create can:

  • Be browser- or mobile-based, or both
  • Incorporate forms, workflow and automation
  • Share data across different Microsoft applications
  • Leverage libraries of connectors to involve non-Microsoft tools.

Power Apps can be used by developers, but also by non-IT professionals, opening up app creation to a much wider population; although, for more sophisticated app creation, technical expertise will need to be involved.  The app design canvas with drag-and-drop capabilities is one of the ways in which Power Apps is effectively democratising app creation.

Again, you can find out more detail in our article on Power Apps, including common use cases.

 

Power Automate

Power Automate, previously branded as Flow, is the workflow engine that powers automation across different applications; it if often combined with other elements of the Power Platform, like carrying out the core workflow of a Power App.

Power Automates intuitive interfaces allow power users to define multi-step workflows across different applications (Microsoft and non-Microsoft) that are triggered by an array of events. When you start to combine different workflows dependent on different outcomes, you can deliver automation that makes a real difference to users and eliminates inefficiencies.

What makes Power Automate so powerful is its  flexibility that allows for both enterprise-scale automation and modest smaller scale workflows used by individual teams.

You can find more about Power Automate in our previous article on this blog.

 

Power Virtual Agents

Power Virtual Agents is the new kid on the block in the Power Platform: it allows teams to create chatbots that can be displayed in Microsoft Teams, on a SharePoint intranet, in individual Power Apps and potentially across other areas of your digital workplace.

These chatbots can trigger Power Automate workflows to enable automation with a bot interface, for example, based on the responses from employees.

The no code elements of Power Virtual Agents are particularly well-designed, with an excellent authoring canvas and the ability to drive easy integrations, including the possibility to hand off to live chat if such a facility is available in your organisation.

Power Virtual Agents is also extremely flexible, thus supports the constant improvement of bot responses and adding of choices which is often the best way to drive adoption and value, using analytics to fuel such improvement.

We recently published a post about Power Virtual Agents, where you can find out more.

 

Rise of the citizen developer

One consistent theme across all four core capabilities within the Power Platform is the low code / no code approach which effectively opens up potential use of each tool to non-IT professionals.

This is driven through a combination of:

  • Intuitive and well-designed interfaces and canvases
  • Libraries of pre-existing and popular elements
  • Libraries of data connectors
  • The underlying Microsoft Dataverse framework which allows data to be easily managed and shared consistently across different applications
  • The tight integration between each Power Platform tool and the Microsoft stack in general.

All this means super users within particular teams such as Finance, Marketing or individual lines of business can create their own dashboards, apps and automations that are suited to their own business needs, with little or even no IT involvement.

Although all these tools are designed with no code in mind, Microsoft has also ensured that they can be used by software developers to create highly sophisticated and complex solutions. Here at Content Formula, we are constantly leveraging the Power Platform in the vast majority of our projects.

Opening up the full power of Microsoft 365 to an army of citizen developers is a very exciting stage in the evolution of the digital workplace, and takes digital transformation to the next level. It starts to extend the fuller power of Microsoft 365 to support functions and business lines, driving process improvement and automation at scale, and also drives a culture of using the digital workplace to improve productivity and stimulate innovation.

Were still early on in the rise of the citizen developer, with inspiring examples of imaginative practice emerging, but we expect this will start to rapidly increase over the next year / eighteen months. Despite the promise of less IT involvement, realistically, you still need IT developers to create more sophisticated apps, and IT functions will wish to establish some governance and probably a review process that reduces risks and ensures super users are using the tools in the optimum way.

How to get started with the Power Platform

The Microsoft Power Platform and its constituent tools can bring value to any organisation in multiple ways, regardless of size and sector. The Power Platform can drive digital transformation by:

  • Creating business solutions specific to different parts of your organisation
  • Creating custom apps that can be used both by a specialist team or the entire workforce
  • Creating rapid solutions and apps to meet urgent business needs
  • Driving automation, process improvement and digitisation at scale
  • Creating dashboards and data visualisations to transform decision-making and reporting
  • Driving a culture of innovation and improvement through citizen developers.

If youre not using Microsoft Power Platform, its worth getting started by:

  1. Considering what you want to achieve in terms of digital transformation and digital workplace maturity, and how the Power Platform may help
  2. Working out the specific use cases for the Power Platform; these might be business problems that need solving, opportunities for process improvement, or areas where teams want to innovate and experiment
  3. Starting conversations – if youre a business stakeholder, speak to your IT function or the Microsoft 365 team, or vice versa
  4. Starting a pilot or working on an obvious use case – develop either a pilot or a straight-forward use case that will demonstrate the value of the Power Platform
  5. Speaking to people in the know; find Power Platform experts or practitioners across your peer network or get external help weve had conversations with multiple customers who have been at an early step in their Power Platform journey to assist them along the way.

Want more information? Get in touch!

The Microsoft Power Platform is a potentially transformative set of tools that is genuinely exciting. If youre on the Microsoft 365 path and youre not leveraging the Power Platform, then you should be.

If youd like to discuss the potential of the Power Platform, how to get started or a specific project, then get in touch!

5 tips for migrating from Lotus Notes to SharePoint

Digital workplace teams and IT functions tend to remember Lotus Notes with mixed feelings as an extremely flexible and powerful platform that provided solutions that drive real value, but also one that was sometimes eminently frustrating and difficult to work with.  Many early intranets and custom collaboration environments from the late nineties onwards were built on Lotus Notes and Lotus Domino; many of these environments were then later migrated to SharePoint during the 2010s, particularly as more organisations signed enterprise agreements with Microsoft that included SharePoint.

Although some assume that Lotus Notes is no longer supported and available, it is actually still a going concern. Although IBM largely retired the Lotus brand name in 2013, the platform has continued and was sold to HCL Technologies in 2019. Today, Notes and Domino are now known as HCL Notes and HCL Domino respectively.

Migration projects involving Notes are not as common as they used to be, but we still get clients that are looking to migrate to SharePoint or SharePoint Online. They are often active users of the tools or have legacy Notes databases – there are some ancient custom environments still in use today. This is partly a testament to the durability of Lotus Notes, but also a reflection of the general complexity of most digital workplace landscapes that can  include a number of legacy systems, particularly in companies that are built up through acquisition.

We recently covered five tips for migrating Jive to SharePoint Online; now lets look at five tips for migrating Notes.

1 Run an audit of what you have

Any migration project will involve a data and content audit; you need to know whats out there before you can plan your migration. The audit is particularly important for Notes migrations because they often involve old legacy systems and databases; digital workplace teams, IT functions and business owners may not actually know what is out there. For example, a company may have acquired company after company and steadily inherited a collection of data and content along the way with little idea of what it actually contains. Carrying out a robust and thorough data and content audit is necessary before you can plan and budget your migration project.

 

Get in touch to discuss your project

 

2 Identify the owners

The content and data audit also needs to identify business owners for the content to make business decisions on migration in order to be responsible for it going forward in the new Microsoft 365 world. Identifying the right business owners can be more challenging and time-consuming than it seems, not only due to potential complications with older legacy Notes content, but because some busy teams may be reluctant to take on ownership of a new content collection that requires time and effort to sort through.

Clear and engaged content ownership is at the heart of good intranet and digital workplace governance, so you want to make sure this is covered on your new platform by identifying any content owners before migration takes place.

3 Map content types and features to Microsoft 365

An important part of planning a migration is carrying out a mapping exercise that covers what your old Notes content will look like in the new environment. Like a Jive migration to SharePoint, a Notes migration to Microsoft 365 may not map perfectly in terms of content templates and capabilities. However, Microsoft 365 and SharePoint are highly flexible tools, and sometimes perfect is not necessarily the best approach – business value needs to be the overriding factor. For example, you may only need to migrate 80% of your existing features because there are actually better options available in Microsoft 365.

The mapping exercise might involve defining the content templates that will need to feature in SharePoint, but again, eventual business value rather than like-for-like migration should be the guide to your actions.

4 Keep an eye on permissions, data governance and compliance

For any data or content migration, two thorny issues which often arise are permissions and data governance. You dont want to migrate content that might be sensitive and need to have the right permissions; with legacy data and content in Notes databases, permissions may not necessarily be up-to-date and will need extensive attention. Do you have the right permissions on the content that you are migrating?

When carrying out a SharePoint migration of Notes content that was effectively lost or hidden, you can expose content that is suddenly available in SharePoint search. If this content hasnt been reviewed, you may unwittingly open up access to sensitive content.

Its worth ensuring you meet data governance and compliance requirements for example, there may be a legal requirement to keep content and data available for a certain number of years. When there are old Notes database inherited from an acquisition, your instinct may be to delete or archive that content rather than migrate it over; however, make sure your decisions reference your compliance, regulatory and legal commitments.

5 Decide the best migration path on a case by case basis

Most data and content migrations require a hybrid approach to migration using both automated and manual approaches. When possible, automation can add real value, but thats not true for every content collection or database. For example, where content needs to be rewritten or reformatted and there is a potential for large amount of content to be deleted, a manual approach may have more business value because it forces through a more robust review process involving business owners. Similarly, if an automated migration will need extensive manual checking of content, it may not be worth the effort.

Overall, it is best to decide the preferable migration path on a case-by-case basis for each pot or collection of content. This is particularly true for Notes migrations; each migration approach will depend on how neatly the content and features map to the Microsoft 365 content, technical considerations, the business value of the content, the level of the review that needs to take place and the migration tools open to the project team.

 

Get in touch to discuss your project

 

Planning your Notes to SharePoint migration

Lotus Notes and Domino migrations to SharePoint and Microsoft 365 need some planning and thought. If youd like to discuss your migration project and methodology, then get in touch!

Microsoft Teams consulting – 8 services we could help you with

The impact of Microsoft Teams on the world of work has been profound; it now forms a major part of many enterprises digital workplaces, and a collaboration hub for countless individuals. In fact, it is not unusual for some employees to be spending most of their working day in and out of Teams. Anybody with a digital workplace based on Microsoft 365 needs to be thinking about Teams, and even those who arent may find employees are using it when communicating with third parties.

What next for Microsoft Teams?

The growth of remote working during the Covid-19 pandemic has only accelerated Teams usage, and by October 2020, the platform had reached 115 million daily active users. This growth has been so rapid that many digital workplace teams and IT functions may have found themselves with a well-adopted Teams platform that was not initially installed with the planning and guardrails which would normally be in place for such a launch, leaving some necessary governance and formalisation yet to take place. They may also be wondering how they can best utilise Teams going forward now that attention has shifted away from driving adoption.

Some organisations who arent quite at this level of maturity, or are still undergoing their Microsoft 365 digital workplace journey, may also be thinking about the best way forward. A Microsoft 365 implementation will likely involve a Teams roll-out in some way.

Its also worth remembering that Teams is still undergoing investment from Microsoft, with new  capabilities emerging regularly. With an aggressive roadmap and many other third-party applications working to integrate with Microsoft Teams, the tool will continue to evolve.

Talking about Teams

We are increasingly finding that existing customers and other professionals from across the digital workplace community are talking to us about what the next steps for Microsoft Teams are, the role it plays in various digital workplace related strategies, and ways they can improve governance.

As part of our Microsoft 365 and SharePoint consulting service, we provide comprehensive advice on different aspects of Microsoft Teams. Here are some of the main themes that customers are talking about, all of which are areas that anyone using Microsoft Teams should be considering.

1 Digital workplace strategy and roadmap

If you have a Microsoft 365 digital workplace, then Teams needs to be part of your digital workplace strategy and roadmap. The continuing investment from Microsoft, ability to integrate applications, high levels of adoption and potential for value, means that Teams is difficult to ignore. Questions to consider include the possible use cases for Teams, its role in key organisational processes, how it is supported and other themes listed below.

2 App delivery framework

For many organisations, Teams is now where work happens. This means it is emerging as a key platform for delivering both third-party tools and custom apps created using the Microsoft 365 Power Platform. An app delivery framework involving Microsoft Teams takes a structured approach to defining Teams apps and integrations, ultimately helping employees to work better and smarter.  As part of the app delivery framework, the value delivery of bots and automation should also be considered.

3 Microsoft Teams governance

During 2020, many digital workplace teams and IT functions were forced to roll out Microsoft Teams in a hurry to support business continuity. For the sake of expediency, this means that they may not have employed the usual governance measures which might be put in place on a major launch of a tool like Teams.

Some organisations might now need to be playing catch-up with Teams governance, ensuring that the platform meets any security, compliance and regulatory commitments, but is also optimised for use and findability.

The settings in Teams, both at the platform level and across each Team, allows for considerable levels of governance, while site provisioning processes are critical in order to reduce site sprawl and duplicated spaces. Organisations may also have specific requirements around auditing, for example. Governance is one of the key areas in which  we are regularly advising clients on their options.

4 Digital communications and channel strategy

Teams is primarily a team communication and collaboration tool; it is not necessarily an internal communications tool. However, it is a channel that is hard for internal communications teams to ignore for several reasons, including its high adoption and length of time employees are using it, as well as its ability to consume content and information from other tools. Additionally, new functionality, such as the ability to run large events on Teams, offers new options for internal communicators.

Here, key questions include the role of Microsoft Teams in your digital communication and channel strategy, and, more specifically, the relationship Teams has with your intranet, Yammer and even your broadcast channels.

5 Meeting rooms and hardware

With Microsoft Teams still continuing to grow, there is an emerging ecosystem that offers hardware that is designed to enhance the Teams experience, as well as help to equip meeting rooms that may involve connecting users via Teams. This includes everything from headsets and webcams, to desk phones and more complex meeting room equipment.

With the new reality of hybrid working likely to be a permanent feature of the way we work, and Teams being a primary collaboration platform in this prospect, hardware can be an important area to consider. A key question is how to optimise the Teams experience both in the office and outside of it; for example, many organisations are now offering hardware such as optimised headsets to assist employees working from home.

6 Unified communications and telephony

When Skype for Business was incorporated into it, Microsoft Teams effectively became a unified communications platform. This means there are multiple options to consider when using the system (including the hardware you use), including a number of specifics regarding telephony; Teams can have an impact on your in-bound dialling, so how to deal with call-routing, call-waiting and  conducting calls when working from home are all themes that need to be explored.

7 Digital literacy, support, adoption and launch

While the huge scaling up of Teams during lockdown  may have moved the focus away from driving adoption, there is still considerable thought that needs to be put into how to best support employees with optimal use of Teams, and how wider digital literacy programmes can train employees to get the best out of the platform. There may also be further launches that are required to facilitate this. Support and training programmes are important in helping get maximum value from Teams.

8 Migration strategies

Many organisations are migrating data, content and collaboration spaces over to Microsoft 365, such as from Jive. This migration may involve Microsoft Teams; here, the details of the migration need to considered to ensure the migration process is smooth and the new environment delivers a good employee experience.

Need advice on Microsoft Teams? Get in touch!

Microsoft Teams looks set to be the main pillar of many digital workplaces for years to come. It is a highly configurable tool packed with a wide variety of features that has the potential to make a real difference at an organisational, team and individual employee level. If you need support and advice on Teams and think you may want to utilise our Teams Consulting service, then get in touch!

8 must have features of a mobile intranet app

Strong mobile access for any intranet is now a given. Employees want to be able to consume information and access digital services in the way they do outside work, so an intranet app which presents a mobile-optimised user experience is important. It is especially critical in sectors such as retail, manufacturing, leisure, travel and healthcare; here a large proportion of employees are deskless and may not have digital identities. A mobile intranet app is therefore essential for firstline employees, particularly in these challenging times when all employees need access to trusted and up-to-date information.

A mobile intranet app does not always have the full functionality of a desktop intranet and may focus on the critical features and content that employees need to access on their mobile device. Choosing the right product is important for example, through our partnership with LiveTiles we help clients implement LiveTiles Reach mobile intranet app, a strong mobile intranet app which is focused on strong communication with all employees.

Lets look at eight essential ingredients of a mobile intranet app, all of which are available in LiveTiles Reach.

1 Remove barriers to access for all

A mobile intranet is an excellent way to reach all your employees, and a good intranet app removes the barriers to access that can exist in desktop intranets. Traditionally, not all the workforce has had  access to intranets because:

  • there is no easy access to a work computer during the day
  • employees do not have a corporate digital identity or email to be able to authenticate into the intranet
  • employees are not covered by Microsoft 365 or intranet software licensing
  • outsourced workers, consultants, contractors or regular freelancers need access to information but are not employees.

Here a mobile intranet app which allows potential access to employees or trusted external third parties on any device employee or corporate owned, iOS or Android, with a corporate ID or not removes all those barriers. To make this happen, strong security and onboarding features are important, ensuring that only the right people have access to the app and also install it easily.

2 Strong news delivery

A mobile intranet is a key channel in the digital communications landscape and plays an important role in delivering updates so every employee can stay up to date. This has never been more important during the COVID-19 pandemic where the situation remains fluid. A mobile intranet app should be able to deliver news and updates in an engaging and informative way, that also allows employees to comment, like and share.

While some news will be important for everybody to read, an app also needs to be able to target updates to different groups to ensure that the intrant remains relevant to each individual. Here, automatic translation capabilities (a feature on the LiveTiles Reach app) can also help overcome any language barriers for multinational workforces.

 

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3 Social collaboration and community

Some of the most powerful features of any mobile intranet app  are social and collaboration tools  such as the ability to comment on news, participate in discussions, post social updates, celebrate success and create community spaces. This not only allows for focused collaboration, but also give everybody a voice, supporting both engagement and efficiency.

Social and collaborative capabilities are powerful in supporting everyday work, but also in gathering feedback on initiatives, supporting professional and even non-work communities, and also nurturing and amplifying a more positive organisational culture. When we are all working remotely, collaboration and culture can be impacted; a strong mobile intranet app makes a tangible difference.

4 Content and reference pages

At the core of any successful intranet is useful content that helps employees get things done and stay informed. While some of this will be news and updates, there are also likely to be many static or evergreen pages that contain essential reference information on different topics such as how to complete tasks, details of products and services, organisational strategy, operational information and key company policies. For customer-facing staff, access to this kind of content can be very important for supporting customer service.

Many employee communication or social collaboration apps are quite weak on this aspect, relying on PDFs to present structured information. A true mobile intranet app provides robust access to content pages as well as documents, allowing employees to access structured content and organisational knowledge, including policies and forms.

5 Employee directory

A must-have feature of any intranet, both desktop or mobile, is the employee directory, ensuring employees can find information about their colleagues, contact them, search for experts and more. Arguably, the humble employee directory does more than any other one feature on an intranet to break down siloes and barriers across an organisation.

A strong mobile intranet app should have a comprehensive employee directory, allowing employees to find contact information, view profiles of their peers with salient information, and search using a variety of different criteria, such as job role and expertise area.

6 Event calendar and registration

Events such as town halls, webinars, conferences, training and celebrations are an important part of organisational life. In the past, many firstline employees have not participated in events because they simply couldnt access information about them. A good mobile intranet app will include an event calendar with relevant information and even the ability to register, giving the opportunity for all employees to take part in events such as town halls, perhaps for the first time.

7 Integrations

Most intranet apps are focused on employee communication, but the ability to carry out integrations with other systems and applications can be important. Integrations help with two different capabilities:

  • allowing employees to view other essential information and content such as Microsoft 365 documents)
  • allowing employees to carry out simple transactions such as booking leave or viewing roster information, for example.

A good mobile intranet app should allow for the possibility of integrations, either through connectors out of the box, or through customisation options.

8 Easy administration and robust analytics

On a mobile intranet app, its not only the user experience which is critical. The administrator experience must also be intuitive so that the app and its content can be easily managed on a day-to-day basis, and that the initial roll-out is also simple and straightforward; ideally a Comms or intranet team should not have to involve their IT function.

A good intranet app should also provide access to strong analytics that help you to track success, make improvements and drive insights about engagement with content.

 

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Any questions? Then get in touch!

Its essential to have a mobile intranet app, but it needs to have the right capabilities. If youd like to discuss setting up a mobile intranet app or want information about LiveTiles Reach, then why not get in touch or even organise a free demo?

Why you should migrate from classic SharePoint to modern SharePoint

Modern SharePoint has been around for four years, and while there were some initial gaps in functionality and capability when compared to classic SharePoint, the platform has now matured to the extent that migrating from classic to modern makes a lot of sense.

There are still many companies who have yet to make the move. One of the reasons for this is that they have customised environments based on classic SharePoint, meaning that migration to the new system will cause operational headaches and incur some costs. While these are short-term pains, in the medium- to longer-term, organisations will reap multiple benefits from moving to modern SharePoint.

In this article, were going to look at ten advantages that modern SharePoint has over classic SharePoint, and why you should consider migrating sooner rather than later. For a more detailed view of the differences between the two, you can also see the information provided by Microsoft.

1 Superior and more user-friendly interfaces

If you were involved in one of those huge custom intranet developments based on classic SharePoint from a few years back, youll know that a recurrent theme in the design was an attempt to develop a UI that ensured users were protected from the more confusing elements of the classic interface. A classic SharePoint intranet that looked as dissimilar to SharePoint as possible was regarded as a good thing. Thankfully, the far more up-to-date and user-friendly interfaces associated with out-of-the-box modern SharePoint are hugely superior to classic, resulting in more attractive and intuitive digital workplaces and intranets, supporting better adoption.

This has had a significant impact on super-users and site owners covering both communication and collaboration who can now manage their own sites with greater ease and confidence, allowing digital workplaces to flourish and evolve. Quite frankly, we dont want to return to the bad old days of the classic interface.

2 Better news and publishing

One of the mysteries of classic SharePoint was why Microsoft failed to develop a decent content publishing experience, particularly for news and updates, given the dominance of SharePoint as the base technology for corporate intranets.

Of course, modern SharePoint provides much better support for news publishing, with not only attractive web parts, but also the ease with which users can create and publish an item. Communication sites, for example, can effectively democratise internal communications within their enterprises by potentially opening up news publishing to all, encouraging news and content publishing at both team and function levels, and offering easy layouts and options. Meanwhile, internal communications teams can also leverage modern SharePoints web parts to drive publishing at the corporate intranet level. Any approach that involves devolved publishing is far easier to achieve using modern SharePoint compared to classic.

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3 Better and more comprehensive mobile experience

A major draw of the modern SharePoint is a far superior and more comprehensive mobile experience. The poor mobile support for classic SharePoint has always been a pain point, but all modern SharePoint site templates and web parts are responsive by default. Its not just mobile browsers that benefit from modern SharePoint, but also the app too: with modern, the SharePoint app now provides comprehensive mobile access, avoiding the gaping holes in the app associated with classic SharePoint. With modern, organisations no longer need to rely on third-party or customised apps.

4 Better integrated team sites

In classic SharePoint, arguably the star of the show is team sites, a great way to drive collaboration at scale. But modern team sites offer even more, fully leveraging the power of Microsoft / Office 365 groups, meaning you can more easily add elements from across the Microsoft 365 suite such as Planner, Yammer, Calendar and Stream. These features may already be part of your digital workplace, in which case migrating over to modern means you can start to deliver far more integrated and richer team sites.

4 A multitude of better features across libraries, lists and more

SharePoint is a highly complex and mature platform with a huge range of capabilities. As Microsoft has invested in and improved the modern experience, the gap between the capabilities in classic and modern has grown.

This is shown when you look at the detail in two of the core features of SharePoint lists and libraries. In modern SharePoint libraries, you can download multiple files in one go and upload an entire folder, and the admin interfaces are quicker and easier to use for tasks such as updating metadata.  Here, the devil can be in the detail, and whilst some of the capability gaps might seem modest, they can be highly significant to individual users and admin in particular scenarios. Over the whole platform, these enhanced capabilities point to a significant advantage of using modern SharePoint.

6 Leveraging modern site templates

Modern SharePoint comes with a range of different site templates that are ready out-of-the-box and give teams a head-start in supporting collaboration and communication needs, as well as in stitching these together into a more cohesive digital workplace experience. Organisations are using modern communication sites, hub sites, team sites and home sites to not only help site owners get up and running more quicky and become self-sufficient, but also to drive a more integrated experience that is not available in classic. Whats more, there are now page templates in SharePoint modern too which make it extremely easy to standardise content creation within your organisation.

 

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7 Reducing the need for customisations

The rise of cloud-based systems has changed attitudes to managing platforms, even for on-premises solutions. While some light customisations are important for the individual needs of organisations, heavily customised environments result in significant additional costs and huge effort around upgrades, and can limit the use of new features for users. Most IT functions will want to avoid customisations as far as possible, but classic SharePoint usually needs far more customisations than modern SharePoint in order to deliver a strong user experience and generate business value. To adopt a less customised environment, a migration from classic may well be required.

8 Quicker implementations and continuous improvement

With next to no customisations in modern SharePoint, and site templates readily available out-of-the-box, it is far easier to perform implementations quickly. Nobody wants to go back to the old days of long, expensive classic SharePoint intranet implementations – we certainly dont!  Modern SharePoint also means it is far easier to make small, iterative ongoing changes, and ultimately drive a more agile digital workplace or intranet based on continuous improvement. In turn, this means you can react much better to employee feedback and drive a platform that can be smoothly adopted and have more business impact.

9 Integration with the rest of Microsoft 365

Because SharePoint is intertwined with the rest of the Microsoft 365 suite, many organisations think in terms of the whole platform and what it can do, rather than just SharePoint. A huge advantage of modern SharePoint over classic is that it integrates far more easily and tightly with the rest of the Microsoft universe.

To fully leverage the power of collaboration and communication in Microsoft Teams, alongside the workflow and automation of Power Automate from your SharePoint environment, then going down a modern route is the way to go, allowing you to evolve a fully integrated and consistent experience.

10 Future proofing your digital workplace

Microsoft continue to invest in modern SharePoint and while its still possible to maintain a classic SharePoint experience, its long-term future is unclear. We suspect it will stick around for quite a while, but one day, Microsoft may make an announcement that either officially ends support for classic, or renders that day inevitable.  Moving to modern makes sense in order to ensure you can leverage the continuous improvement and investment in the platform.

Microsoft also has a vast ecosystem of suppliers and developers who continue to create solutions, plug-ins and more that work alongside modern SharePoint and can add value to your digital workplace; the intranet-in-a-box market is a classic example. With an eye to the future, these solutions are now likely to be developed to work with modern SharePoint rather than classic, meaning moving to modern SharePoint ultimately helps to future-proof your digital workplace.

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Have any questions? Get in touch!

In our view, modern SharePoint beats classic SharePoint in numerous ways. There are many other areas we could have covered in this article, including better performance, better security, easier development and more. If youd like to discuss the differences between classic and modern SharePoint and migrating across the systems, then get in touch!

5 leading SharePoint intranet examples 2020

Here at Content Formula weve delivered numerous SharePoint intranets, both custom-built and based on LiveTiles intranet in-a-box product. This means weve built up a great library of SharePoint intranet examples, some of which you can find on our website. In delivering these, weve also learnt some of the key approaches that can make all the difference in making an intranet a real success.

We often get asked by clients what are some of our best SharePoint intranet examples? Here is a selection of five that also illustrate some essential approaches to delivering an intranet. You can also see some of our best Office 365 intranet examples too in a companion article.

1. Legal and General: A hub for getting things done

Employees are always busy and there never seems to be enough hours in the day to complete everything they need to do. A key role of an intranet is to help employees to complete tasks and get things done quickly and efficiently. It does this in several different ways including:

  • ensuring users effortlessly find what they need;
  • establishing clear and up-to-date procedural information that employees trust;
  • provide links through to essential apps and systems;
  • and even presenting data from other applications through integrations. An intranet that delivers efficiencies for employees is a successful intranet.

Legal & General is multinational financial services company offering insurance, asset management and other services. The company has a complex structure, a diverse portfolio of services, and a very busy workforce with a wide range of information needs, who use an array of IT applications. We partnered with the Legal & General team to create a new SharePoint and LiveTiles intranet built on detailed user research that helps employees in their day-to-day work and gives them back some time.

Evergreen content acts as an essential reference guide for employees on the things they need to know. An extensive How Do I library is a powerful, central repository of easy-to-find procedural and task information which can be searched from the intranet homepage. Central catalogues of enterprise apps and workspaces are just one click away with the intuitive information architecture and provide a quick window into the wider digital workplace. The popular and highly innovative LiveTiles Everywhere toolbar also includes a dashboard of essential links and information delivered through integrations, following employees wherever they are. The intranet really has become Legal & Generals hub for getting things done.

View case study

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2. TTEC: a critical intranet that navigates risk and mobility challenges

No two SharePoint intranets are the same. Every intranet needs to have a laser-sharp focus on the needs of an organisation and its employees, sometimes navigating complex challenges without ever compromising on the user experience. Security and data privacy challenges can have a significant impact on how a SharePoint intranet is set-up and consumed, while a workforce of predominantly frontline employees can mean mobile access is critical. The trick is to design your intranet based on a deep understanding of organisational priorities and user needs delivered through research, and then continue to work closely with stakeholders and employees to refine and improve the platform.

TTEC is a global provider of customer experience services, providing solutions focused on strategy, technology, training and outsourced customer support to a large client base. Headquartered in the US, most of the companys 50,000 employees either work on client premises or at home and are regularly exposed to sensitive customer data. This means that on TTECs SharePoint intranet there are particular measures that must be put in place to safeguard client information. An intranet also has to be available on mobile devices to be able to reach a highly mobile and remote workforce. We undertook extensive user research and worked in close partnership with TTECs digital workplace team to ensure the SharePoint intranet considered both these factors.

Personalization means that the TTEC intranet delivers highly targeted news and updates to different client teams. ensuring relevance. Guardrails have been put in place to protect data; these include a sensitive content scanner to identify if client data has been added to the intranet, additional IP-based restrictions and local shared terminals placed within each contact centre. Meanwhile a mobile app allows all employees to access the intranet from corporate and employee-owned devices, both iOS and Android. Best of all, the user experience has not been compromised, meaning staff can access a vibrant, modern intranet that supports efficiency and engagement.

View case study

3. Intranets can help facilitate learning and development

Continue reading “5 leading SharePoint intranet examples 2020”

7 reasons why a LiveTiles intranet is better than just using SharePoint Online

A key question for intranet teams is what base technology to use for their intranet. For most organisations that are using Microsoft 365, this tends to be a relatively simple question, as the advantages of using SharePoint Online for your intranet are obvious. However, on top of that, there is often a question about whether to use an additional in-a-box solution that works alongside SharePoint and comes ready with templates and capabilities to enable a much quicker and easier implementation.

Two years ago, and perhaps even just last year, the value of deploying an intranet in-a-box product was pretty clear for most organisations. However, recently, the development of SharePoint Modern and more intranet-ready features becoming available more or less out of the box with SharePoint Online has opened up the number of options for intranet teams. It is now far more feasible to launch an intranet based on SharePoint Online largely out of the box; in particular, IT teams are keen to promote this approach, fully leveraging their Microsoft 365 agreement and reducing licensing costs.

On balance, while we think this is a valid argument for small organisations, an in-a-box intranet product like LiveTiles (formerly called Wizdom) provides considerable value for medium and large organisations, and is still a more realistic option for the intranet than just relying on SharePoint Online alone. Not only does LiveTiles offer far superior intranet capabilities for navigation, content and governance, it also has several unique features that are not available in SharePoint out of the box.

As this is a question that is being asked now, has always been asked, and will continually be asked as Microsoft continues to add features, here is our current take on seven key areas in which LiveTiles provides real value over SharePoint alone.

1 Global navigation

A staple of modern intranets is to have a global navigation and mega menu similar to that which you might expect of a global organisation, spanning across different site collections and even different applications. In this respect, you also need to have some flexibility to meet the kind of restructuring and renaming that is commonplace in most organisations. With a LiveTiles intranet, you get all the flexibility to meet complex and evolving needs, as well as the ability to direct different navigations to varying target audiences. This is a real strength of the product.

How the navigation looks is an important consideration too. The LiveTiles megamenu looks engaging and can include images, videos, dynamic content, widgets and labels.

Global navigation is an area that Microsoft hasnt nailed with SharePoint out of the box. It is still difficult to create a navigation across site collections, with navigation generally shared across a single hub. The look is very basic too. Here, a LiveTiles intranet provides far better support for a global intranet navigation.

2 LiveTiles Everywhere

One of the most popular features of the LiveTiles platform is the LiveTiles Everywhere capability – a personalised toolbar that features the ability to view news, relevant information, personal links and apps and complete transactions from any number of different systems that you want to integrate (we call these micro-services). You can also expand the toolbar to give a dashboard view.

What makes the LiveTiles Everywhere features so powerful is that it can be viewed consistently across different applications, including within Microsoft Teams. This brings a unifying and consistent single-entry point into the wider digital workplace that fits directly into the flow of everyday work, helping employees save time and enabling communicators to drive messages to where employees actually are. There is simply no comparative feature available in SharePoint Online.

3 Support for internal communications

A key use case for any intranet is internal communications. Here, an intranet product like LiveTiles will far better support the needs of internal communicators with content targeting, news templates, homepage displays, noticeboard feeds with different channels, video feeds, RSS, channel subscriptions, mandatory channels, content governance features, content approval workflow and more. Because features on the LiveTiles intranet have been developed to meet the needs of internal communication teams, and have been shaped by their feedback, a LiveTiles intranet ticks the boxes far more convincingly than SharePoint Online.

Just using SharePoint Online is likely to leave Internal Communications teams frustrated, particularly in larger and more complex organisations. There are many gaps to fill. Even though SharePoint Modern has hugely improved information and content publishing from SharePoint classic with much-improved templates like Communication Sites, it is still unlikely to give communicators the control and features they need. This includes configuration of the homepage, the use of different news templates, the ability to target news, and easily surfaced local news that most internal communications will expect from their intranet software.

4 Content governance

An intranet is only as good as its content. Related to the needs of internal communicators is the kind of content governance that needs to be in place across an intranet to ensure content is up to date, of good quality and truly sustainable. A LiveTiles intranet has several advantages over SharePoint Online for this, with several core content governance features, including:

  • Content approval workflows to help preserve good quality and findability
  • The ability to display clear ownership of content down to the page level, encouraging ownership and accountability
  • Automated page review notifications to ensure content is up to date
  • Editor dashboards these are aggregated views of the pages a person is responsible for, helping them to keep on top of content management.

Additionally, a LiveTiles intranet has a template for a Policy Library that allows you to implement mandatory policies and the kind of governance you need in place in order to establish a central location for key organisational policies – often a staple requirement for a good corporate intranet.

5 Collaboration governance

Successful digital workplaces also need to have some measure of collaboration governance. Site sprawl, duplicated and unused sites, using the wrong tool for the wrong type of collaboration, and the inability to lock down certain collaboration tools are all common issues. As Microsoft Teams (and soon, Yammer) use has ramped up recently, usually without much governance applied, these are all issues that many organisations are now facing.

In the face of these problems, a LiveTiles intranet and platform can add real value through collaboration governance features which increase control over the collaboration site provisioning process, covering different types including Microsoft Teams, team sites and Yammer Groups. This provisioning process can add approval workflow and spin up different types of tool depending on use case, helping to maintain control and governance over your collaboration tools. These features will not be present in an intranet based on pure SharePoint, meaning that it can be difficult to drive effective collaboration while also maintaining any control over the platform.

6 Intelligent insights and tools suited around intranet needs

Another key feature of the LiveTiles platform is the ability to integrate intelligent tools that are suited to the specific needs of intranets. Again, these are capabilities that are not available out of the box in SharePoint Online. Many of these features are included in the LiveTimes Quantum suite of tools, and include:

  • Advanced analytics around content that engage content owners and underpin user experience, for example, heat maps tracking places where users interact on the page
  • An intelligent employee directory that notifies users with requests, completes their profile and fills in any gaps in AD profile information
  • A bot platform that allows non-IT people to create bots to handle repetitive tasks that can then be embedded into the intranet.

7 An internal communications app

Another advantage of the LiveTiles platform is its great mobile app, that can be easily deployed and focuses on employee communications. While the SharePoint mobile app is decent, it does not deliver convincing news and updates to all employees regardless of location and device. In particular, the LiveTiles Reach app is excellent for organisations with a high proportion of frontline or deskless workers who need to be kept informed and engaged, even if they dont have an Office 365 licence.

Have any questions? Get in touch!

Its important that intranet and IT teams make sure they have the right intranet technology for their needs. For medium and large organisations, a LiveTiles intranet and  platform have several advantages over just using SharePoint Online.

If youd like to discuss intranets, the LiveTiles platform or SharePoint Online, then get in touch!

Seven reasons why a SharePoint LMS will be your best option for learning

SharePoint is not traditionally viewed as a learning technology, but this is changing. There are now Learning Management Systems (LMS) and Learning Platforms available that are based on SharePoint, and can integrate seamlessly with your existing SharePoint and Microsoft 365 environment. The best SharePoint-based LMS on the market is LMS365, a solution that we implement with our clients, but there are a number of different products available.

There are multiple reasons why an LMS must be part of any learning and development strategy, as they help to support a blended learning programme, put learners in control of their own learning and help to deliver remote learning in the current pandemic. But there are also additional features which make a SharePoint LMS likely to be the best option for your organisation.

Lets explore seven reasons why a SharePoint LMS will bring more benefits than any other system.

1 Bringing learning into the flow of work

Most digital workplaces are built on Microsoft 365, and that invariably involves SharePoint. Microsoft 365 is the platform where work is truly happening, with many employees using Outlook, Microsoft Teams, Yammer, and SharePoint throughout the working day.

When you seamlessly integrate a SharePoint LMS into your digital workplace, you can not only use AAD profiles to ensure single sign-on, but it also means you can leverage the familiarity of SharePoint Moderns design. With SharePoint, your LMS is truly embedded into the heart of your digital workplace, allowing learning to happen into the flow of work. It even gives you the ability to view learning material through a channel like Teams.

Accessing learning through Microsoft 365 helps drive adoption by removing many of the barriers associated with a traditional, non-SharePoint LMS; if your LMS is on the periphery of the digital workplace, often with a different password and a different interface to a users network ID, the extra effort required to access it can damage the take up of learning.

2 Integrating with your SharePoint intranet

If you have Microsoft 365, it is likely that you will have a SharePoint intranet. Integrating your SharePoint intranet and your SharePoint LMS brings a number of advantages, including the ability to:

  • Create additional interfaces, views and entry points into learning content to drive value and support adoption
  • More easily promote learning via your key communications channel, for example, reminders to do mandatory training
  • Bring learning content into your intranet search so course material is more discoverable
  • Bring different content on a single topic together all in one place, such as SharePoint documents, course material and a Yammer group to form a one stop shop which could be used to create a portal for new starters
  • Bring intranet pages and assets into your learning course catalogue
  • Leverage the power of SharePoint lists to integrate into your learning.

Ultimately, a SharePoint LMS and intranet helps you to create content and experiences which will support both adoption and wider learning goals.

3 Using social channels for peer-to-peer recommendations

SharePoint commenting, Yammer, Microsoft Teams and even (arguably) Outlook-based email, are all social channels where conversations between employees happen. When you have a SharePoint LMS, it opens up the possibility for peers to recommend and link to courses and learning content using these social channels across the Microsoft suite. Social learning and peer-to-peer recommendations can help to drive the adoption of more formal learning material that you have on your SharePoint LMS; this can also be the exciting point where you start to create a bottom-up learning culture which can have multiple benefits for employees and organisations.

4 Using Azure Active Directory (AAD) profiles

Many organisations use Active Directory (AD) or Azure Active Directory (AAD) profiles to target content and messages to different groups based on location, role, division, place in the hierarchy and so on. For example, content targeting on a SharePoint intranet usually uses AAD profile data. SharePoints integration with AD & AAD means that a SharePoint LMS can effortlessly use profile data to target learning to different groups, and also underpin automated enrolment to various courses, one example being a course for sales staff. This can save learning administrators huge amounts of time, as well as help ensure learning is relevant across a diverse workforce.

5 Leveraging the power of SharePoint search

With a non-SharePoint LMS, the findability of learning content is usually restricted to searches made through a course catalogue. This limits the discoverability of learning material, and also leaves you to the mercy of the quality of the search tools within your LMS. With a SharePoint LMS, you can leverage the full power of SharePoint or Microsoft search; this makes your content far more discoverable, not only because of the superior search facility, but also because you can include learning content in more general topic searches on your intranet. This, again, brings learning directly into the flow of work and supports adoption efforts.

6 Integration with the rest of the Microsoft 365 suite

Because a SharePoint LMS can integrate with Microsoft 365, it means you can easily take advantage of the suites power to make it easier to manage your learning programme, while also creating a better experience for learners. For example, integrating a SharePoint LMS with Power BI means you can create exceptional learning dashboards to track progress and even bring in data from other systems. These dashboards are not necessarily just for learning teams – they may even be useful as a personal option for learners and their managers.

You can also use Power Automate to create workflows around learning, for example, triggering bespoke registration for different new starters courses, or Outlook messages and calendar invitations when someone registers for a course. There are also exciting options to use PowerApps to create an app with a learning component which could be used to support employee onboarding. These kinds of opportunities are not always possible using a non-SharePoint LMS.

7 Future proofing

SharePoint and Microsoft 365 are not going to be disappearing any time soon. In fact, they are likely to be the dominant work platform for the next decade, and possibly beyond that. By investing in a SharePoint LMS, you are investing in an LMS that can evolve along with your digital workplace.

Need to implement a SharePoint LMS? Get in touch!

If you have Microsoft 365 or have a SharePoint intranet, then a SharePoint LMS is absolutely the way to go for your learning platform. If youd like more information about a SharePoint LMS, the LMS365 offering or your digital workplace, then get in touch!

How organisations can use Windows 10 notifications to deliver value

For many of us, Windows 10 notifications are an everyday part of our IT experience. These come in two forms: popping up in the right-hand corner of the screen, and appearing in a feed with the Windows 10 Notification Centre. These notifications can be interactive with calls to action, buttons and the ability to post replies, and can also include images.

In practice, few organisations are actively using Windows 10 notifications in their digital communications or digital workplace. In this article, we are going to explore how they can be utilised by companies to provide value for employees and support organisational goals.

The value of Windows 10 notifications

Windows 10 notifications provide an interesting option for organisations to issue push notifications relating to essential updates, internal communications, and even autogenerated notifications from across the digital workplace. These provide value in different ways:

  • Employees do not necessarily have to be in a particular application to receive the message.
  • They do not have to authenticate into anything apart from the network.
  • Windows Notifications can be very precisely targeted to different groups.

There are a number of potential use cases:

  • Letting employees know about urgent updates relating to operational issues, such as IT outages and office closures.
  • Keeping employees abreast of developments relating to COVID-19 – an ever-changing situation where employees need to stay informed.
  • Providing more general push notifications for the intranet, allowing employees to keep up to date with internal communications and news without necessarily having to visit the intranet.
  • Providing another channel for priority notifications across the digital workplace, such as approvals, reminders and to-dos, some of which may be autogenerated from systems.
  • Providing updates from social channels and collaborations, again providing the basis for more extensive notifications without the user having to necessarily visit the root system.

How Windows 10 notifications work

The Windows 10 notifications that pop-up to users are known to developers as Windows 10 Toast.

They are defined by business logic, and can be targeted to different users and devices. Each time an individual logs in to the network via their device, a profile is set up for that session. These can incorporate different information, including:

  • Individual AAD profile data such as role and base location
  • Device information including the model of laptop, or if a mobile device is being used
  • The location of the user when logging into the network
  • Applications being utilised, such as the browser.

Combinations of such information can be used to create tags that target the device and user for that session.

These tags can then be used to define groups to direct notifications too, including division, role, seniority, device model, application used and current physical location, providing the ability to target urgent messages.

This granularity is important. Lets say there is a COVID-19 case associated with  a particular office – you may need to issue a vital communication to all those who are actually at the location as indicated by that session, but also people associated with that location through their Active Directory profile who may be planning to visit the office on another day.

Having information on a per-session basis is also important. If more than one person uses the same device quite possible in places like hospitals, local authorities and call centres then having per-session details means that notifications can also be targeted to each users individual needs.

The set-up of the business logic associated with each tag is done within Azure Notification Hub, a cloud-based service from Microsoft.  The Notification Hub provides a very flexible approach to setting up Windows 10 notifications.

Approaches that drive value

To get maximum value from Windows 10 notifications, there are a number of different approaches that organisations can follow.

Avoid noise

Windows 10 Toast notifications can get lost and be regarded as noise or an annoying distraction. To avoid this, ensure you use them sparingly and focus on high value use cases, and also establish the priority cases or levels when they should be used.

Take a content management view

To ensure that notifications have value and impact, consider them as you would any other piece of internal communications content. Use images, short and to-the-point text targeted to audience needs and languages, and apply appropriate calls to action. The ability to post replies and messages back can also have real value.

Extend your intranet notifications

A recent theme we have noticed from Content Formula clients is more interest in how to push intranet notifications to users without them having to visit the intranet. This is perfectly possible to do, although you will likely need developer involvement to make it happen. Consider how you can configure key notifications using Windows 10 and how this will fit into your overall approach to digital communications.

Extend your digital workplace notifications

Windows 10 notifications can be used to extend your digital workplace notifications, for example, triggering workflows through Power Automate, receiving alerts from transactional systems like Service Now, and more. To access the full potential of digital workplace notifications, you may need to install a custom, intermediary application to run on a users machine. This is something we are already talking to some clients about.

Make it easy on your admins

Although, again, this may require some custom development, ensure that you have a good experience for admins that allows them to easily target notifications as they happen, or configure the wider business logic and rules to automate notifications. For example, an option to be able to send a Windows 10 notification from the intranet puts the power in the hands of the internal communicators, and means they do not have to rely on the IT function.

Make it easy on your users

It is also possible to give more power to your users by building a custom interface through which employees can control the notifications they receive. This could even involve a subscription model to different types of notifications, supporting a better digital employee experience.

 

Interested in the power of Windows 10 notifications? Get in touch!

Windows 10 notifications are an under-utilised feature in most digital workplaces that have useful potential, particularly during the current global crisis. If youd like to explore or discuss Windows 10 notifications and how they can provide value to your business, then get in touch!

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