Covid-19: Six digital workplace challenges and six offers of help

The Coronavirus crisis is having an unprecedented level of impact on all our lives; everybody is affected in some way or other. This includes profound changes to the way we work which many organizations are continuing to find very challenging.

In the last few weeks, the digital workplace has assumed huge importance in two main ways:

  • as a platform to keep employees informed about the latest developments in a rapidly changing and highly stressful situation
  • as a way to enable employees to carry on their work remotely and collaborate at scale.

These two main ways both come with their particular challenges and weve been approached by a number of existing customers and new organizations who need to set things up very quickly. Here are six particular challenges and some suggestions that may help.

Challenge #1: Making sure the entire workforce gets authoritative and timely updates

During a crisis its absolutely critical that everybody gets the right information quickly and from an authoritative and trusted source. In a time of stress and in a rapidly changing and evolving situation like the Coronavirus crisis, misinformation and rumours can spread quickly and cause more stress if all messaging is going through Whats App and other shadow IT tools. Getting timely updates can help everybody work together to navigate this crisis and carry on work as normally as possible.

Generally, most organizations will have an intranet or employee portal where news is delivered, although email may also be used for important updates. To receive important updates quickly, ideally employees should also be able to receive messages via their mobile device. In some organisations where mobile access is limited or where frontline employees who might not have digital identities or a corporate email account, this may not be possible and realistically organisations may need to roll-out a rapid solution.

If you are in this situation then perhaps we can help. We are offering all companies in UK, Europe and US a free 6-month licence of the Condense pocket intranet app, including free implementation and training. Condense can be set up quickly and you will have an official news channel for your employees in a matter of hours. Whilst quick to set up, Condense is a powerful app that allows you to target content to different audiences and it includes comments and likes. Its ideal for the full workforce as it can be used by employees who dont have a digital identity on your corporate network (such as an email or Active Directory account). Note that you do not need to be on Office 365 for Condense to work. If you want Condense free for 6 months, please get in touch.

Challenge #2: Scaling up MS Teams at breakneck speed to facilitate homeworking

One of the biggest challenges facing many organisations is the overnight transition to remote working. With so many organisations working with Office 365, MS Teams is becoming a key application to support distributed collaboration and communication. We know of multiple organisations who have been forced to bring forward or significantly scale-up roll-out plans, and others who are planning from scratch, or who have switched from pilot mode. Microsoft themselves have reported a swelling to 44 million users, and this seems likely to rise.

The very rapid roll-out of MS Teams can cause some significant challenges around governance, site provisioning and training that if addressed properly at the start of your roll-out can help optimise the use of Teams and help make your digital workplace more successful and sustainable through this difficult time. If youd like some advice on MS Teams governance in the context of a very rapid roll-out then please get in touch.

Challenge #3: Configuring MS Teams for crisis communications for all employees

MS Teams is a fantastic tool to use for issuing crisis communications that can be delivered directly into the flow of work. With conditions that are still rapidly evolving its ideal that everybody is going to the same place for updates, but an issue can be that not all employees may be able to access MS Teams. For example, if you have firstline or disconnected employees they may not have access to MS Teams, or the required digital identities. You may also not have the licence to cover all the functionality you need.

Recognising this, firstly Microsoft has extended the use of Teams so basically everyone can access it, even if it previously wasnt covered by your licence. Secondly, Microsoft has issued a very useful free crisis communications solution based on a PowerApp that can be accessed via MS Teams but also via mobile and on the web.

This solution leverages Power Apps, Power Automate, Teams, and SharePoint; Microsoft has temporarily allowed access to Power Apps Push Notifications which is normally a premium feature. The solution aids communications across teams, allows crisis updates via push notifications and allows employees to report their work status. If you need help implementing this app or want us to build something similar for you, please get in touch.

Challenge #4: Getting all employees up to speed on new processes and ways of working

Many employees finding themselves working from home for the very first time will find this challenging for a variety of reasons. It can be stressful and lonely; some employees will be working in cramped conditions or beside the rest of their family. It can also be hard not having your colleagues beside you and you may be using new collaborative tools for the very first time. Organisations may need to deliver training to a large number of staff very quickly to upskill them for the new situation, but the scale and speed of implementation can feel daunting.

If this is the case, a cloud-based Learning Management System like LMS365 that integrates with Office 365 and Azure Active Directory can be a good way to implement learning very quickly across your existing digital workplace. The easy course creation tools also mean that you can set up a course extremely quickly. As part of any implementation we can also offer you two free courses to that cover best practices on working from home as well as staying safe from the virus. LMS365 is quick to implement get in touch if you want learn more.

Challenge #5: Answering questions and requests from a global workforce

In uncertain times employees are going to have questions for information as well as different requests that can put support functions under enormous pressure. IT and HR support teams and helpdesks can expect to have lots on their plate and may be overwhelmed. They may find themselves unable to meet very sudden demands and this can cause confusion and more stress.

One solution to this is to use chatbots that can help triage employee questions and provide relevant simple information. Automation can also then trigger workflow, for example sending an email, updating information in a system, interrogating a database and retrieving relevant data and even triggering a Teams conversation with an individual. Using a chatbot as the first point step for employee questions and requests can help reduce the demand on IT and HR support teams and resolve issues more quickly.

Microsofts Power Platform provides an excellent platform to enable simple bots that can be programmed by non-IT citizen developers. Using a combination of Virtual Power Agents to programme the bot and Power Automate to define subsequent workflows across different applications, you can create highly effective way to triage employee requests. If youd like more information, then please get in touch.

Challenge #6: inability to target messages to specific audiences

Its becoming clear that the extraordinary working conditions that many of us face may last for a sustained period. During this time, it may become important to start using your intranet to target information to different groups, particularly as the crisis situation can be different from country to country or region to region. Its also important to have a solid employee directory that everyone can access to locate experts and ask questions; this becomes increasingly imperative when everybody is working remotely.

Both content targeting and a strong employee directory are enabled by having accurate Active Directory (AD) data. Most modern intranet solutions such as Wizdom have solid content targeting features, but this has to be enabled by accurate AD data that covers an individuals location, division, role and so on. Similarly, this information also needs to power the employee directory. Unfortunately, too many organizations have considerable gaps or inaccuracies in their AD data to be able to switch on effective content targeting.

To help organisations get more accurate AD data were making the Hyperfish solution available on a sign up now and pay later basis until the end of March. Hyperfish is a fantastic employee directory solution that also uses AI to prompt employees to complete their profiles, both improving individual profiles but also the underlying AD data which can be updated automatically as it is updated. If this sounds of interest to you then please get in touch.

Getting through the crisis

Getting through this crisis isnt going to be easy, but we will get through it together. If there are any aspects of your digital workplace that youd like to discuss then please get in touch and well do our best to help.

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Get a free employee app to help with comms during the Covid crisis


Many countries are in some form of lock down and social distancing to contain the coronavirus and slow down its spread. Organisations that can have introduced work-from-home at large scale to keep their operations going. Some are finding communications with their employees a challenge because they do not have a reliable channel or because some employees do not have a company email or intranet account. If you are in this situation, we can help you with the LiveTiles mobile employee app.

Employee app for remote workers Employee communication app for mobile

Get the LiveTiles app free for your company

What does our offer include?

Thanks to LiveTiles, we can offer you free use of their mobile employee app (a.k.a pocket intranet), including free same-day setup and guidance to get you up and running as well as chat support 24/7.

Where and for how long can I use the platform?

Until 1 July 2020, a fully functional extended trial version of the LiveTiles employee app is offered to all organisations in the United States, Europe and Australia for a duration of 6 months free of charge (starting at the day of activation). This offer might be extended to other geographic areas upon request or as the situation requires and within the limits of available resources.

Get the LiveTiles app free for your company

What does the LiveTiles app do?

The LiveTiles app is our cloud service helping employees to stay connected and informed by enabling organizations to reach and align all staff via a mobile app (on all iOS and Android devices) or a browser, communicate important updates, send out alerts, gather feedback, find and stay in touch with colleagues and share work instructions, knowledge and information. The LiveTiles app does not require any base technology to be in place and works well with both Office 365, Microsoft Teams and Google, or even without any such platform.

Why use the LiveTiles employee app and not Email or WhatsApp?

Problem The LiveTiles Solution
Not all employees have a corporate email account The LiveTiles employee app does not require corporate user accounts but accepts any email account (incl. Gmail, Outlook, others).
WhatsApp does not provide good user and group management features
Maintaining mailing lists or WhatsApp groups is cumbersome and error-prone.
The LiveTiles employee app provides powerful user and group management and comes with integrated Azure AD and an Azure AD B2C user directory.
Neither email nor WhatsApp are suited to distribute information in structured way (e.g. policies, work instructions, emergency plans that always need to be up to date and found and accessed quickly over a longer time) The LiveTiles employee app supports various content types such as structured pages, documents, news, alerts, social posts and events and allows to push update notifications to users if required.
Content in mailboxes and WhatsApp groups is often lost in information overload or spam The LiveTiles employee app is a dedicated mobile communication channel in a separate app controlled by the organisation

What’s in it for us?

We hope that you’ll like the app so much that you’ll continue using it long after the Covid-19 crisis is over and will therefore pay an annual subscription. As the UK partners of LiveTiles we earn a commission on any subscription fees.

Get the LiveTiles app free for your company

4 common mistakes with Office 365 and SharePoint Online intranet rollout

Many organisations are currently undergoing an Office 365 programme; this can be a complex multi-year programme involving multiple projects and workstreams, different phases, a wide number of teams, various moving parts and some real challenges. Its a major change for most organizations it takes a lot of planning!

We can guarantee that virtually every project team will make mistakes along the way. Implementing Office 365 is absolutely a learning curve and some setbacks and blockages go with the territory; they are inevitable in the path towards success. Usually these issues tend to mean a delay to your plans., although at their worst an Office 365 roll-out can feel like an epic failure.

Over the years weve seen some common pitfalls that Office 365 and digital workplace teams fall into when rolling out Office 365 and its constituent tools. Of course, hindsight is a wonderful thing, and some of these mistakes can be avoided. Here are four common mistakes weve observed with clients and what you can do to avoid them!

Mistake #1
Migrating all the content over from your legacy intranet

The problem:

Many Office 365 implementations involve creating a new SharePoint Online intranet, not only transforming internal communications but also acting as a front door to the new Office 365-powered digital workplace. Often much time is spent on getting the intranet to look great and integrating powerful capabilities; however, many teams fail to address the quality of the content on the new intranet.

One of the reasons for this is they just migrate the content over from the legacy intranet, even though poor content on the old intranet was one of the reasons for building a new one! Usually an intranet that is being replaced may have poor governance and become bloated with out of date, irrelevant and poorly written pages.

Migrating this content over may seem like the easiest starting point to get a new intranet project off the ground quickly, especially as preparing high quality content can be time-consuming. However, the net result can be a disappointment for users expecting a new platform with relevant and engaging content and the easy ability to find items. Frustrating your users who already dont trust the content on your old intranet is the worst possible start for a new SharePoint Online intranet.

The solution:

When you first launch an Office 365 intranet make sure all content is relevant, has a purpose, is accurate, well-written and conforms to defined publishing standards. Avoid simply migrating your legacy content over. Instead work with content owners to review all content and only migrate over what is necessary; many successful intranet projects end up deleting most legacy content. Some teams also consider hiring copywriters or content specialists to help content owners rework pages.

Once your new SharePoint Online intranet is launched then establish governance measures and processes to keep content high quality! This will help drive findabiity and effective search, as well as increasing trust, engagement and adoption.

Mistake #2
Underestimating the change management effort

The problem:

A key mistake some organisations make is to neglect the change management aspects of Office 365, particularly if the full range of tools are exposed to users without explanation, for example via the waffle menu. Office 365 has the potential to transform organisations with new ways of working, but the tools can be confusing. When employees arent properly prepared for Office 365 the result can be a lack of adoption, less than successful use or even misuse of different tools and general confusion. Users then tend to fall back on systems and tools they are more comfortable with, particularly email.

Many project teams underestimate the change management effort that needs to happen around launch, as well as afterwards in the business as usual phase. Operationally a project team may find themselves simultaneously focusing on the next wave of tools to be rolled out and trying to support new users on the tool they have just launched. This can be caused by not enough budget being allocated to change management, as well as an over ambitious launch schedule.

Overall, inadequate change management can be a significant issue that impacts user and stakeholder confidence in Office 365 and dampens the success of your roll-out both for the short, medium and even the long term.

The solution:

Make sure you plan properly for change management using a range of targeted interventions and communications. Users need to understand how to use tools but also why they would benefit from using them.

Approaches and tactics that have proved useful for companies include:

  • using networks of champions to promote the tools in ways that make more sense to local teams
  • providing learning resources, including videos
  • having an expert community on hand to answer questions
  • traditional comms
  • training modules and e-learning
  • using senior leaders to set an example
  • establishing aids to show which tool to use in which scenario.

Additionally, having good governance and realistic budgeting for your change programme, as well as a realistic launch schedule. are also important.

Mistake #3
Establish OneDrive governance and ensure people know what they are posting

The problem:

One of the most powerful elements of your Office 365 environment will be the ability to search for documents that previously have been hidden and effectively lost in your file shares. All of a sudden, tools like Delve and Microsoft Graph-powered search will be suggesting content and surfacing those documents that individuals may have previously submitted to a Teams space, SharePoint library or may be sharing via One Drive for the first time.

This has lots of benefits, but it does come with a risk. If you dont have any governance in place for OneDrive and other document libraries, the new search capabilities can suddenly expose sensitive, private or restricted documents that dont have the necessary permissions on them. You dont want employees to accidentally stumble on a spreadsheet with everybodys salary details or find your CEOs highly sensitive restructuring plans.

Not putting the right permissions on a document may be a common practice if previously placing items on the network share made them effectively undiscoverable because nobody could usually find the document. Similarly, when employees share a document (or their desktop too) via OneDrive they may not realise that is discoverable by everybody. Your new Office 365 environment may no longer be a black hole but actually a highly effective way to discover and find files, including ones that employees shouldnt see.

The risks involved can be high, with a range of unfortunate outcomes. It may also result in nervous stakeholders who could halt or even pull the plug entirely on your roll-out.

The solution:

Before you proceed with rolling out Delve, Graph search or indeed any Office 365 rollout, make sure that you have governance in place around document sharing to avoid unfortunate slip-ups. There are usually three conditions that need to be satisfied:

  • Documents exposed have the necessary restrictions on them
  • Risks associated with sharing documents are minimized through policies and rules
  • Users understand when they submit or share a document who can potentially see it.

Only the necessary content audit and clean-up exercise, definition and execution of polices and related communication and training can achieve this. This may sound onerous, but a package of governance measures is the only way to minimise the risk of something happening.

Mistake #4
Make sure you AD data is in shape

The problem:

When many organisations introduce Office 365 and also start to implement a powerful intranet like Wizdom they are attracted by the idea of being able to use personalization to target relevant content and experiences to different groups, for example based on their location, function and role. For internal comms functions and HR departments this is one of the most exciting reasons for deploying a modern communication platform like Wizdom.

However, companies can make the mistake of not preparing their Active Directory (AD) data so that is complete and up to date. Personalization and targeting are based on AD profiles but if this data is in poor shape, then it may not be possible to fully leverage the personalization capabilities of your intranet product right from the get-go; this will be disappointing for the communications team and result in a less relevant intranet and digital workplace.

The solution:

Complete and reliable AD data is a prerequisite for a successful Office 365 and SharePoint Online intranet. Content targeting and personalization needs to be both robust and granular, and its not unusual for Active Directory to have large gaps that are not exposed until you come to launch your intranet. To circumvent problems run a thorough clean up AD exercise to get rid of inaccuracies and fill the gaps. When you do have cleaner data, setting governance processes or even using AI tools can really improve your AD data and also keep it clean.

Learning from mistakes

Making mistakes and then learning from these is a common experience of rolling out Office 365. In this post weve explored some common issues that are avoidable we dont want you to repeat them!

If you need help with your Office 365 roll-out, your SharePoint Online intranet launch or everything just feels like an epic fail, then dont panic! Get in touch with us to discuss your options.

10 advantages of LMS365, Office 365 integration

One of the advantages that LMS365 has over other Learning Management Systems is that it can integrate seamlessly with Office 365. As an increasing number of organisations implement a digital workplace environment based around the 365 suite of tools including Microsoft Teams, using LMS365 means you can bring Learning and Development right into the heart of the digital workplace.

Compared to an LMS that doesn’t integrate so well with Office 365, LMS365 drives better learning adoption, easier course creation and far easier administration . Ultimately this drives better learning outcomes, greater efficiency and a strong digital employee experience.

The Content Formula team recently ran a webinar that explored how LMS365s integration with Office 365 delivers better outcomes. 

Here are ten of the advantages that LMS365 has because of that integration.

1. Single Sign-On

There is perhaps no greater barrier to using an LMS than having to find an obscure log-in and password, or even having to go through a painful password reset process. One of the great things about LMS365 as that is uses your AD credentials to ensure there is Single Sign-On into the LMS and all the related courses and learning content. This removes a fundamental barrier to learning that can hamper adoption.

2. Integration with search

One of the most common problems with LMS content is that it is not included in your enterprise search. This not only means that users may find it harder to find the courses they need, but they might be unaware of some important course content that might be highly relevant when they are doing a topic-based search.

LMS365s Office 365 integration means that your learning material is included in your Office 365-powered enterprise search, for example delivered through your intranet. This ensures that learning content is easy to find and discoverable, again helping to drive awareness and adoption.

3. Intranet integration

Because LMS365 can so easily be integrated with SharePoint and SharePoint Online it means you can easily thread learning through your intranet. You can even create more or less seamless experiences, so the user considers them as one environment. The advantage of this is that the intranet tends to be main channel to go to get information and find items; therefore, you can easily promote learning more readily particularly to different target groups. You can also embed learning into relevant pages, and even create additional pages that add context to course material.

4. Consistent look and feel

Linked to the advantages of intranet integration is LMS365s look and feel which is very much aligned to Office 365 and SharePoint Modern interfaces. Ultimately this means you can create a consistent look and feel for your learning material that is familiar and intuitive to users, who will feel more confident and engaged than an LMS that looks outdated and clunky. It also means you can create one digital employee experience for employees to seamlessly and naturally move through.

5. Adding content from across Office 365

One of LMS365s great features are the tools that help non-IT and L&D professionals create course content, opening up the LMS for greater use. Here the easy ability to embed content from right across the Office 365 landscape is a real advantage so you can easily link to or embed pages from your intranet, documents in different formats and even videos from Stream.

Because you link to these assets rather than adding them to your LMS it also means that you keep on top of version control. For example, your SharePoint Online intranet might have a policies and procedures library which contains a policy document you want to refer to in a course. As this document will be always kept up to date within your intranet it means it will also be up to date in LMS365; there is no potential for version control issues as there is only one source of truth as the document doesnt live within the LMS.

6. Integration with Microsoft Teams

MS Teams has exploded in use and in some organisations, employees even spend much of their working day in application. As far as we know, LMS365 offers the most complete integration with MS Teams of any LMS, bringing learning right into the daily flow of work for employees. This can be very powerful for adoption and relevance. You can create a tab with a course catalogue, refer to a course within a thread, use learning bots, make recommendations and more. Microsoft Teams is becoming the default digital workplace application for many, and learning should be part of it.

7. Integration with PowerAutomate

LMS365 already delivers multiple efficiencies for L&D teams by automating the painful parts of administrating courses, for example allowing auto-enrolment on different courses. You can take advantage of LMS365s integration with PowerAutomate (formerly Flow) to also initiate custom tasks and workflow related to learning that save you considerable time. For example, if a person completed a course relating to a particular competency you could set up an automated task to update their record in an HR system such as Workday.

8. Integration with AAD and Office 365 groups

One of the strongest advantages of LMS 65 is the tight integration with AAD or AD and Office 365 groups. What this means it that you can very easily target training to different group such as all managers or a particular location. As long as there is data in AAD or an Office 365 group you can target them. This makes it easier to deliver mandatory training to different groups (e.g. all managers) but also ensure training is more relevant for different divisions, functions and roles. It also helps to target multi-lingual content to the right language group too. The overall benefits are more relevant training for everyone and a reduced administrative overhead for the training team.

9. Taking advantage of engagement features

LMS365 comes with some useful engagement feature to help people discover learning and also encourage adoption. For example, there is a Learning Bot that comes out of the box and which users can access through Teams. Separately there is also in-built gamification with employees picking up points for completing different courses. Being able to integrate with SharePoint means it is far easier to expose these points to help drive engagement, for example with leader boards, or badges displayed in employee profiles.

10. PowerBI integration

Many digital workplace teams are using PowerBI for their reporting across a variety of different use cases. Although the out of the box reporting that comes with LMS365 is already very good , the easy ability to integrate learning reporting into PowerBI means you can easily create your bespoke reports but also add learning and development reporting into other reports. For example, a quarterly report about a function or division could include numbers covering different activities, including learning undertaken.

LMS365 is unique

In our view LMS365 is unique in the LMS marketplace, and one of its key strengths is the ability to be tightly intertwined with Office 365, helping to create seamless learning experiences for employees and deliver greater efficiencies for learning teams. Were very excited about the potential for the product and the benefits it can deliver. If you’d like to find out more or to arrange a demo we’d be delighted to hear from you!

Find out more about LMS365...

Request a call back with one of our experts, for a free consultation about how LMS365 can benefit your business.

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

  • 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

PowerApps and COVID-19: Microsoft’s Crisis Communication template to help customers coordinate information

With news of the further spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) globally, Microsoft this week have announced a solution that is available to customers of Office 365 and PowerApps to help coordinate their own information sharing and team collaboration.

App in Teams

The solution combines capabilities of Power Apps, Power Automate, Teams, and SharePoint. It can be used on the web, mobile or in Teams.

Key features include:

  • Employees can report their work status (e.g., working from home) and make requests. This helps managers coordinate across their teams and helps central response teams track status across an organisation.
  • Admins can use the app to push news, updates, and content specific to their organisation, and can provide emergency contacts specific to different locations.
  • The app includes the ability to add RSS feeds of up-to-date information from reputable sources such as WHO, CDC, or a local authority.

Use the Power Apps template for Crisis Communications to share information and report work status

As part of this effort, Microsoft are also giving all Power Apps users temporary access to a premium feature, Power Apps Push Notifications, so you wont need any premium licenses to use Power Apps to push information to users. They have also reclassified Push Notifications as a standard connector for the duration of the COVID-19 crisis.

The solution also comes with PowerBI reports that will allow you to track the current presence status across locations of employees who have updated their status within the PowerApp.

Edit Query

If you’d like any more information on PowerApps and how you can roll out this solution, or any other solutions to employees in your organisation, then get in touch with us.

Source: Crisis Communication: a Power Platform template


Did you miss our ‘3 great PowerApps examples that can enhance your digital workplace’ webinar? Watch the video…

Can I use SharePoint home sites to launch a SharePoint intranet out of the box?

Over the past couple of years Microsoft has continued to release different functionality and features across Office 365 and, more specifically, modern SharePoint Online that intranet teams can use out of the box to enhance digital communications.

Communication sites, for example, have been a great way to deliver relatively simple updates with a nice user experience that is also easy to administer. There has also been a range of other measures such as hub sites and support for mega-menus that bring an intranet type structure and experience to SharePoint Online.

An intranet out of the box?

Of course, using SharePoint Online straight out of the box for an intranet is potentially a mouth-watering prospect particularly for IT functions who can see potentially huge savings with no need for a separate intranet product or CMS.

Internal communications functions and intranet teams may not be so keen as the publishing features such as content targeting, publishing workflow attractive templates and governance controls are usually not sophisticated enough to support the communications needs of large, medium and complex companies. These teams will still need to invest in a modern intranet platform like Wizdom to deliver the kind of intranet and digital workplace experience employees expect.

However, every time that Microsoft release a new intranet-ready feature in SharePoint it does offer teams more options. The latest of these is home sites, which should now be fully rolled out globally.

What are home sites?

Home sites were originally announced back in May 2019 and were described by Microsoft as the landing sites for your organization that bring together news, events, content, conversations and video to deliver an engaging experience that reflects your voice, your priorities, and your brand. Indeed, Wizdom was also announced as one of the partners working with Microsoft on home sites.

Essentially a home site is designed to replicate a corporate intranet homepage; potentially it is a structured entry point into a SharePoint ecosystem that could involve multiple communication sites and hub sites, and provides some kind of global navigation and search, as well as being the official home of enterprise-wide communications. Although this sounds complex, a home site is actually built on the same template as a communication site; in fact, you could consider it as a communication site with unique powers that:

  • Allow for the site to be configured with organisation-wide news (that can be labelled as such with a special power block)
  • Automatically sets the search scope to be tenant-wide not to just that SharePoint site itself (which is the usual default setting)
  • Has some integration with the SharePoint start page that starts to deliver a more consistent intranet experience.

Renowned SharePoint and intranet expert Susan Hanley has written a very useful article that expands on how home sites integrate with the SharePoint start page in three ways:

  • Via a link on the home site that automatically takes a user to their personalised SharePoint start page
  • By automatically replicating the default mega-menu you have on your home site on the SharePoint start page, meaning this navigation can be more easily recached from any SharePoint site
  • By automatically replicating the branding on your home site to the SharePoint start page.


Can I use home sites to create an intranet?

The potential for home sites is exciting, and IT functions and digital workplace teams will be asking themselves if they can now use a home site as the enterprise homepage for an intranet thats completely or more or less out the box.

If youre a smaller organisation with straightforward needs the answer could well be yes but before you plunge straight in, there are some questions to consider.

1. Will using SharePoint out of the box deliver the intranet we need?

Before you decide that a home site is going to be your de facto intranet homepage and youre going to rely on out-of-the-box SharePoint for your intranet environment, make sure you go on with your eyes open. Is it really going go meet the needs of your internal communicators and the expectations of your users?

If you are a smaller organisation with straightforward communication needs, then a home site could really make an out-of-the-box SharePoint intranet viable at last. However, if your communication needs and user expectations are more sophisticated, or you want your intranet to be more of a front door to the wider digital workplace, a home site may not quite cut the mustard. As with any major technology deployment, make sure you have fully worked out hour requirements before making the leap.

2. Are we ready for a home site?

If you havent had a proper intranet or a home site before and the intranet is more like a disparate collection of different modern team sites, communication sites and some hub sites, the temptation might be to get a home site up and running as quickly as possible. But you may not necessarily be ready.

A home site suddenly places the need for some order and governance on what may have been a much looser environment. Intranets bring structure and governance to your environment and a home site can throw up various questions such as:

  • Who owns the home site?
  • What do other site owners think?
  • Who has the final say on what the navigation will be?

Its also worth considering whether the tenant-enabled search featured on a home site by default will highlight documents that previously have been hard to find but may now potentially be surfaced. Have sensitive documents got the right permission on them? Implementing a home site may throw up some content, search and governance issues that you previously hadnt thought about.

3. Will we need to implement any other out-of-the-box features with my home site?

To get the most out of home sites and to create a convincing out-of-the-box intranet you will need to combine a home site with other out-of-the-box intranet innovations introduced by Microsoft such as support for mega-menus and content targeting. Make sure you introduce all the necessary features that will make your sites a true intranet.

4. Do we have the skills in-house to set up and configure home sites?

The advances Microsoft, SharePoint modern and other Office 365 tools have made in allowing non-IT professionals to configure and administer tools is considerable. The over-reliance on IT functions for everyday changes from the days of SharePoint classic are truly gone; however its still worth remembering that SharePoint is still a highly sophisticated and complex tool, that is even more powerful when you combine It with other tools like Teams of Power Automate (Flow).

To get the best out of SharePoint Online you need to have some experience and know what you are doing. While adding individual widgets to configure a homepage looks super easy, information and data architecture is considerably more complex. Having experience of the platform will also allow you to integrate with other elements of the 365 platform in the best way possible. While its good to experiment, we often get called by teams either frustrated with their SharePoint configuration or who have got themselves into problems because of relative inexperience with the platform.

5. Should we wait to implement a home site?

Home sites have only just been rolled out globally and there arent many examples out there of home sites use. Other features that make out of the box intranets more viable will also inevitably on Microsofts road map. If youre not particularly in a hurry, there may be a case for waiting to see how home sites evolve and also seeing If some of your peers have successfully implemented one.


Need advice on an out-of-the-box SharePoint Online intranet? Get in touch!

Were working with more and more clients who are excited about the potential for an out-of-the-box SharePoint intranet but arent quite sure where to start or need an expert eye to guide them through the optimal set-up for their needs. If you need advice on setting up an out-of-the-box SharePoint Online intranet or arent quite sure if its a viable option for you, then get in touch!

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