The omnipresent intranet that is in your flow of work is here

One of our 2020 predictions for the intranet and digital workplace is that intranets outgrow the homepage. We believe employees, particularly in knowledge organisations, will increasingly be able to access intranet content from whatever application they are in, driving a less fragmented digital workplace experience. In this article Im going to explore this concept and describe how we are now seeing the rise of the omnipresent intranet.

The trouble with the intranet as a destination

The corporate intranet is an essential part of any digital workplace and is a key channel and a destination for news, communications, policies, task completion and social interaction. However, the intranet is not always the destination of choice unless an employee has a specific objective such as a task to complete or a piece of information to find. Employees rarely go there just to see whats going on.

The applications dilemma for intranets

One of the problems for intranets in knowledge organisations is that employees spend most of their working day in applications. Some of these are ubiquitous for all of us Word, Excel, Outlook and increasingly Teams while others are specialist for a particular function or role such as Salesforce for Marketing or ServiceNow for IT support. Nobody spends most of their time working in the intranet apart from the intranet team.

A dilemma for intranet teams and internal communicators will be how to ensure that the intranet is worth visiting to justify that additional effort it takes to get there. While a user may make the effort because they are completing an uncommon task, they are less likely to visit to just read the latest news. How do you get a user to come out of Teams, ServiceNow or Salesforce and read the latest corporate messaging?

An omnipresent intranet in the flow of work

Imagine how convenient it would be then if there was an intranet that was truly omnipresent and could be accessed from whatever corner of the digital workplace a person was in. An intranet where you could view news and information or perform searches from within Teams, Salesforce or through the Windows 10 desktop? It reduces the effort to visit the intranet and therefore removes a barrier.

This represents a significant shift in thinking of how we deliver intranets and how users experience intranets; is the homepage the only way that a user should access intranet content? Thats not to say the homepage is not important it will still be a primary way that users view news and communications and access search, especially if you have it set as the default browser homepage but it doesnt need to be the only way.

The direction of travel

The omnipresent intranet is in fact how is currently evolving an intranet that can be accessed from within any application, not just from Office 365 suite or the Microsoft stack, but potentially any popular workplace application including Salesforce, Slack and Jira.

I agree with Wizdoms CEO John Wainer, who recently wrote about the ethos behind the product:

If intranets are there to help employees get things done and be more efficient, then why not allow intranet and its related content to be accessed from within the applications employees are already working in all day? This is clearly more helpful and efficient for the user than having to open up a new application.

The idea of the omnipresent intranet also aligns to the current direction of travel of the Office 365 roadmap (where integrations are getting easier and easier) as well as Microsofts continuing investment in Teams.

One of the reasons Teams is so successful is that you can easily integrate other applications within it, viewing critical information and also completing simple transactions, sometimes with AI or the automation of Microsofts Power Platform working in the background, sometimes selecting from the out-of-the-box integrations available for popular applications. Here adoption of other applications both benefits enormously by being directly in the flow of work; for example, a Learning Management System

The power of the Power Panel

Wizdoms execution of the omnipresent intranet is primarily through two experiences; allows the intranet to be viewed through Teams, while the Power Panel creates a personalised toolbar that can essentially be accessed from wherever an employee is in the digital workplace.

The Power Panel has proved popular with digital workplace teams who can configure it to include intranet content, links into applications, a set dashboard experience, the ability to drive simple transactions and potentially even a chatbot. It provides a simple, convenient, consistent and relevant gateway into the entire digital workplace that simultaneously drives efficiency, findability and supports internal communications for employees. It brings the intranet to where busy employees work rather than the other way around.


Intranets evolve for the better

The rise of an omnipresent intranet is an exciting development and a new step in the direction of the evolution in the intranet. Intranets have always evolved for the better to make them more relevant and useful, and I think were going to see more and more examples of intranet features and content being able to be accessed across the digital workplace. This will result in greater consistency and efficiency, and less fragmentation and frustration. If youd like to discuss how you can start to create an omnipresent intranet then get in touch!

Help! Our Office 365 roll-out is an epic fail

Rolling out Office 365 or a 365 intranet certainly has its challenges. While some of these may be technical, there can also be problems with adoption, governance, findabilty and more. Your users may be bewildered and confused by your array of tools, or your central team may simply be overwhelmed by the change management efforts to roll everything out. Perhaps youre a victim of your success and MS Teams is already running out of control?  There could be risk issues because restricted documents are being loaded to your intranet. Maybe your employees are addicted to Slack, email and spreadsheets, and you cant get them to use the new tools at their disposal?

Sometimes IT functions and digital workplace teams experience a number of these issues and conclude that their Office 365 roll-out or SharePoint Online intranet is not a success and needs some kind of re-boot. At its worst, we have had clients declare it an epic fail and asked for advice on how to rescue the roll-out and get things back on track.

If you feel your Office 365 or SharePoint Online intranet is an epic fail, firstly dont panic. Youre certainly not alone! There are a variety of things you can do to try and make the situation better and although it realistically will involve more work its good to move forwards rather than stagnate with an unsuccessful programme.

Here are some of the approaches that can help rescue a failing Office 365 intranet or programme.

1. Revisit your strategy

We often find out that when an intranet or digital workplace programme is failing, it might be that the original strategy wasnt quite right. Perhaps it had the wrong focus, the wrong prioritisation, or the wrong scope. Perhaps circumstances have changed and what you were originally planned has less chance of succeeding.

If things simply arent working out, pause your efforts and revisit your strategy. It could be time for a fundamental rethink and also helps to draw a line under your previous approach. Revisiting your strategy is an opportunity to get things back on track; many of the suggestions below are steps that might be a part of or help you define your new strategy.

2. Set a more realistic roadmap

Rolling out Office 365 or some of its constituent tools like Microsoft Teams or a SharePoint Online intranet requires ongoing support and change management to be successful. Central teams can trip themselves up with inadequate resourcing and difficult logistics if a launch programme is too ambitious, finding themselves simultaneously rolling out and supporting what theyve just rolled-out.  In these cases, either the launch methodology or the change management effort may suffer, impacting the overall success of a programme. If this is the case, a more realistically paced or phased roadmap may be required.

3. Identify use cases that are going to make the difference

You can do multiple things with Office 365 and its tools covering collaboration, communications, workflow, mobile apps, innovation, reporting dashboards and more. Many of these may be constituent parts of  a 365 intranet. The range of capabilities means it can be difficult to know where to start.

Successful Office 365 programmes tend to identify clear use cases where the use of Office 365 tools is a no-brainer because it drives efficiency or effectiveness. Identifying the right use cases helps drive adoption and establishes ROI and  can make all the difference to success.

4. Do some fresh user research

If you are revisiting your strategy it may be necessary to do some fresh user research to gain insights into what may be going wrong with your current Office 365 programme. If you dont know why things arent going right, you cant take corrective action. Understanding your users through workshops, interviews, surveys, observation and more, as well as understanding the priorities of your stakeholders, is rarely a waste of time. If you didnt carry out user research before, it may also explain why your current Office 365 programme is an epic fail.

5. Work on the governance side of things

Having a robust governance framework in place is key for Office 365 or SharePoint Online intranet success. Without the policies, roles, processes, structures and guidelines in place that clear governance establishes, then adoption, findability and user experience can suffer. You need a stack of governance in place for a successful intranet, and even more for the wider focus of a digital workplace or Office 365 programme.

The types of governance you need can be widespread, covering everything from agreement on ownership and strategy to guidance on which tools to use when, to data security and privacy policies and more. It can also be quite specific for example putting some processes in site provisioning around Microsoft Teams can avoid the proliferation of unused, duplicate and high-risk sites. If your Office 365 is failing, then a lack of governance could be what you need to address.

6. Create custom business apps

Sometimes organisations work in specific ways that arent quite met by the range of different Office 365 tools on offer. In these cases, creating some custom business apps that are wrapped around the way people work can have a huge impact. If you wrap these into your Office 365 intranet, even better. For example, at Moving Made Easy we crafted a whole custom digital workplace centred around key business processes, enabling digital transformation, and super-charging the Office 365 programme.

7. Use your SharePoint Online intranet as an integral part of Office 365

If you have an Office 365 programme it makes sense to include a SharePoint Online intranet as part of your roll-out. This can make any programme more successful, actively contributing to other aspects of your digital workplace,  including:

  • integrating other Office 365 tools into your intranet to drive business efficiency, and workflow
  • driving adoption by helping people find sites and spaces they are members of
  • supporting governance by encouraging use of certain tools
  • helping drive digital literacy through internal communications and access to resources.

As Microsoft continues ever closer integration between different Office 365 tools, your intranet can become the front door and the guide to the wider Office 365 universe.

8. Double down on change management efforts

As stated above, you usually need some kind of change management effort to support the best use of Office 365, a SharePoint Online intranet and the range of different tools. Change management can consist of a variety of different approaches including formal training, communications and support resources. A network of champions or evangelists who can promote your digital workplace to their peers is also now a common and highly effective way of rolling out Office 365. If your main problem relates to adoption, then doubling down on your change management efforts will be an effective tactic.

Still stuck?

Another option is to bring in external expertise and help to get Office 365 unstuck. Weve supported Office 365 and digital workplace teams both with advice as well as development work thats resulted in better tool adoption and a refreshed momentum. If your Office 365 roll-out is an epic fail and youd like to discuss ways to stop the rot then get in touch!

Webinar: What does learning look like in the modern workplace?

Webinar details

Date:  4th March 2020
Time:  2:00pm to 3:00pm UK time
Presented by:  Dan Hawtrey, John Scott and Joe Perry

  • What does learning look like in the modern workplace?
  • How can the L&D function deliver techniques such as nudge learning and blended learning?
  • How can you inject collaboration into the learning mix?
  • How can you deliver learning in the natural flow of work?

These are all key questions on the lips of L&D managers and we’re going to try to answer them for you.

Content Formula, a leading London consultancy in the digital workplace, is excited to announce a new partnership with LMS365 – an up-and-coming and important disrupter in the Learning Management System space. Join us to see some of our ideas and some of the tools and techniques that leading innovators in the learning space are using in the modern workplace.

In this webinar we’ll cover:

  • Modern learning techniques
  • Challenges faced when employing such techniques
  • How learning can be made seamless and delivered within the flow of work
  • Some of the features and functionalities that a modern LMS should offer

Register now

The power of discovery: how research is critical for your intranet project

If youve worked on a new intranet or digital workplace project, youll know just how important undertaking user and stakeholder research is for getting a great end result. You need that fundamental understanding of user needs and stakeholder views to build an intranet that will be successful and sustainable.

Because its so important weve made research and discovery an early phase in many of our projects. In this article were going to explore why it is important and how we go about our discovery phase.

Nine reasons why user and stakeholder research is so important

1. Building a user-centred intranet or digital workplace

Every successful intranet or digital workplace must be centred round users. An intranet that is not user-centric will simply not get used to its full potential or will miss opportunities to drive productivity, efficiency and engagement.

User research is absolutely critical in order to understand users and their pain points, preferences, habits, beliefs and more. Only from this understanding can you then design an effective digital workplace. You also cannot rely on your assumptions about what your users want or need its a road to digital workplace failure.

2. Getting the support of stakeholders so it is relevant and credible

One of the reasons we also interview stakeholders to get their views is that any successful intranet or digital workplace needs to reflect the strategic priorities of functions like IT, Communications and HR, as well as align to wider organisational objectives. Getting stakeholder input therefore gives an important strategic framing for your project. Involving stakeholders in research also drives their buy-in which often proves critical and also helps give your research and project credibility.

3. Establishing priorities

Sometimes Its hard to know where to start with a digital workplace project. User research often gives you more clarity over the prioritisation of your efforts as you can identify the biggest areas of pain, the low hanging fruit that will impact most users, the more niche cases that can perhaps wait further down your roadmap and so on.

4. Designing for personalization and relevancy

Workforces are diverse and complex, with a wide variety of different roles, needs and preferences. Intranets and digital workplaces need to be relevant and personalised; one size does absolutely not fit all. Undertaking user research helps you to understand the differences in how groups work and the relative nuances you need to make in terms of development, design, content and even change management interventions.

5. Getting the fine-tuning right

Often you need a detail of understanding to finesse an approach, workflow, user interface design and other requirements. Returning to the detail of user research can help you get the fine-tuning right.

6. Suggesting the backlog

As every seasoned intranet and digital workplace professional will tell you, a platform is never finished. There are always improvements to make. In-depth user research will often suggest a backlog of changes, features and new capabilities that will keep your developers busy through Phase 2, Phase 3 and probably way beyond that.

7. Making the business case

If youre trying to make a business case, you need credible data that has emerged from proper user research. Not only does this support a good business case but it can also influence hearts as well as minds. Weve often found presenting a direct quote from a user that expresses the pain of using an existing solution or retelling a success story from an early adopter of another technology is a powerful way to make the case. These usually emerge from user research.

8. Getting buy-in and starting change management

Change management is critical for any digital workplace or intranet project to drive adoption and usage. But change management isnt just about post-launch support and perhaps a teaser campaign; there are real opportunities to start your change management from day one through your user research.  If users know they are being listened to, they are far more likely to take an interest in the end product. Sometimes those involved in user research may also end up becoming champions and advocates, ending up playing a critical part of your wider change efforts.

9. Setting up iteration, testing and improvement

User research often reveals those individuals and groups who may be willing to contribute further with feedback. There is often a continuity between groups involved in initial user research who then give ongoing feedback to be able to iterate and test an intranet or application before launch, and then even improve it afterwards.

Our approach

Because of the importance of user research, weve made it central to our approach to intranet and digital workplace projects. For the great majority of our engagements we will carry out a discovery phase based on user research. The scale of this will vary depending on the nature of the project and whether a client has already undertaken some research, but this generally consists of:

  • A number of workshops with users representing different sections of the workforce
  • A number of individual interviews, again representing a cross-representation of users
  • A workshop and interviews with key stakeholders, to understand their views too
  • Sometimes we may undertake a wider survey asking additional questions

Interviews and workshops and cover a consistent set of questions and topics, covering elements such as:

  • User frustrations
  • Information needs
  • How they use current applications
  • What a typical day looks like
  • Ideas and preferences

From our workshop and interview notes, well then carry out our analysis, identifying themes, finding patterns and making recommendations. These are then summarised and collated in a Discovery Report.

Whats in a typical Discovery Report?

Of course, no two Discovery Reports are the same! However, typically we cover the following areas usually in a presentation to key stakeholders and team members:

  • Overview of the discovery process
  • User frustrations and pain points, often illustrated by real quotes
  • Other insights from interviews and workshops
  • Feedback and ideas from employees and stakeholders
  • Overall emergent themes
  • Recommendations suggested by the research for intranets, digital workplace, governance and more
  • Any other detail associated with the recommendations such as a suggestion for an information architecture for the intranet.

Examples of our work

Most of our work involves a discovery phase involving detailed user and stakeholder research.

Legal & General

Legal and General engaged Content Formula to carry our detailed user research to develop a strategy and roadmap to transform the digital employee experience; we undertook numerous workshops and interviews, as well as involving senior stakeholders. The research and related discovery output that also built on previous information helped form the basis for an ambitious roadmap that is still being followed today.

SharePoint Modern case study

When TTEC engaged us to deliver a new Office 365 intranet for a workforce with complex needs, we needed to completely understand the nuances of how employees worked as well as stakeholder priorities. The on-site workshops we held at TTECs campus HQ in the USA as well as the remote interviews we carried out proved essential for the successful roll-out of a strong Office 365 intranet that meets TTECs unique needs.

Find out more

We know the difference solid research and discovery makes to an intranet and digital workplace project. We also know the danger of not carrying out research, and designing a digital workplace based on hunches and assumptions. Thats why we invest time in our discovery process and why clients keep on telling us they value our Discovery Report and the insights it delivers. If youd like to discuss our approach to user research then get in touch.

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