11 elements to include in your digital workplace strategy

Having a well-thought-through and comprehensive digital workplace strategy and roadmap is now a must-have. If you want to develop a coherent and consistent digital workplace experience that will help both employees in their everyday work and also achieve organisational goals, then you need to have some kind of plan in place.

Without a strategy it is very difficult to work out the best way forward in deploying Microsoft 365 tools, in achieving digital transformation, or even how you can use your digital workplace to best support employees through the ongoing challenges caused by the pandemic.

We often get asked by customers what should be included in a digital workplace strategy. While there are no set rules for this and certainly no set format, we consistently see a number of elements within a strategy that always prove to be useful.

At this point it is worth saying that strategies come in all shapes and sizes. We have seen documents that vary between two and a hundred pages. A strategy may be a PowerPoint deck;  weve even seen one in a video format! The format of your strategy is up to you and may be dictated by standard formats you use in your organization, department or team.

A strategy also has some overlap with a business case, although we regard them as separate. A strategy usually precedes a business case, with the latter making the case for investment to help execute the strategy. However, some organisations will blend the two.

Here is our view of eleven essential elements to include in a digital workplace strategy.

1. A vision for the future digital workplace

It really helps to have a clear vision for your digital workplace and what you want it to look like in a few years. This can be quite aspirational but can also be very specific and should not only include the what but also the why detailing some of the envisaged benefits. A future vision helps to make abstract concepts more tangible and can engage your stakeholders to drive buy-in.

It also really helps to know where you are heading to, meaning you can design the steps that you need to get there. Accompanying a future vision, may need to be an assessment of where you are today. (See user research below.) A future vision for your digital workplace should be a key part of your strategy.

2. A mission statement or strapline

Having a mission statement or even a strapline as part of your strategy supports buy-in and drives awareness; it can help you to spread the word and even get people excited about your plans. A strapline needs to be engaging and encapsulate the value and direction of your future workplace in a sentence or two. Although a mission statement is always an over-simplification of your strategy, in our experience it has real value.

3. Alignment to other strategies

Because the digital workplace strategy positively impacts your whole organisation and overlaps with the aims of various different support functions, a good digital workplace strategy needs to have close alignment with your overall organisational strategy and other relevant sub-strategies and roadmaps. It is also very likely there will be several dependencies to be identified from these sub-strategies.

If your CEO is committed to digital transformation, then this needs to be referenced in your digital workplace strategy. Similarly, it will be difficult to fully execute a digital workplace strategy and get the necessary buy-in if it does not align to your overall IT and digital strategy or your people and HR strategy. It helps if your strategy also aligns to other important initiatives like your values.

Generally, we have found that the more explicit and obvious the alignment the better, showing that the strategy is highly relevant to overall organisational objectives and goals.

4. Key organisational agenda items

Any digital workplace strategy needs to address key organisational areas where the digital workplace makes an important contribution. Currently, some of these are likely to be in reference to the present challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Key areas include supporting remote teams, new ways of working, plans for the physical office, business continuity and the digital employee experience.

5. Scope

A digital workplace and its related experience have the potential to be all-encompassing. It is good to be ambitious, but a strategy also needs to be achievable.  A strategy must address the scope of what you are trying to achieve. What applications and channels does it cover? What is the extent to which it envisages controlling the experience?  Does it impact all employees? Without some kind of clarity on scope it becomes very difficult to plan and implement the roadmap for your strategy.

6. User research and data

Intranet and digital workplace strategies need to be based on a thorough understanding of user needs, usually derived from user research. This is an essential precursor to any strategy. Without this a strategy may be based on assumptions that will make it less successful; the subsequent business case may also struggle to get buy-in. Any strategy should include reference to the findings form user research, for example the pain points and issues that the new digital workplace strategy will address.

7. Guiding principles or pillars

It really helps to have some central guiding principles or pillars of your digital workplace strategy. These might be between three and eight main ingredients, elements or founding principles of that reflect your main priorities but also hint at the benefits. For example, a guiding principle might be to Transform digital collaboration across our locations through a new collaboration and social networking platform.  Sometimes these principles may align with the major workstreams on your eventual project plan.

8. Change management

A digital workplace strategy is effectively a business change strategy. You will need to consider change management plans in order to deliver on the strategy. Change management can take many forms from communication through to training to using champions to targeting use cases to ongoing support to fully blown digital literacy programmes. Change management takes in both adoption and the best use of tools to increase the knowledge and confidence of users in relation to digital workplace tools.

9. Tactics

Depending on how detailed you want to be, your strategy may also want to list some of the tactics and approaches that you intend to employ to carry out to execute the strategy. This may also include details about governance, for example the creation of steering and operational bodies to help guide and implement the strategy.

It may not be necessary to go into too much detail here but listing some of the specifics can make a strategy more credible by allowing stakeholders to clearly see how you plan to get from A to B.

10. A high-level roadmap

You will absolutely need a high-level roadmap to include in your strategy that will feed into a project plan. This may be as simple as three phases each with a year attached to it. At this stage, a roadmap can also be highly aspirational. It can also help to keep this vague as to not to set an unrealistic timetable on a strategy that still needs far more detail to commit to a timeline.

11. Criteria for success

Many teams do not include criteria for success in their initial digital workplace strategy but establishing these from the outset helps to keep projects focused on strategic outcomes, and also helps plan for more detailed measurement. All too often metrics and success factors can become divorced from the original strategy; setting these up at the beginning helps teams to stay aligned to their original aims.


Need help with your digital workplace strategy?

We hope you have found these tips on what to include in your digital workplace strategy useful! If you need with your digital workplace strategy or would like to discuss any aspect of it then please get in touch!

Who are the main competitors to Unily?

Over the past three years, the intranet in a box market has matured, bringing a variety of strong options for internal communications and digital workplace teams who want to deploy a ready-to-go intranet with rich functionality, templates, configuration and governance already hard-baked into a product. Many of the best offerings sit on top of SharePoint Online (with on-premises options too) and means organizations of all sizes can leverage their investment in Microsoft 365 to launch an excellent intranet in a quick and relatively cost-effective way.

Unily competitors

One of the most popular options is Unily. However, we often get asked by clients who are the main Unily competitors? If you are looking for an intranet in a box product it is important to research your options; products have their different strengths and you need to find the right fit for your needs and budget. Obviously as a Wizdom partner we are going to recommend Wizdom, a mature intranet and digital workplace product, but there are a range of strong options available. You will generally find that there are a number of more mature products on the market that tend to offer the widest range of functionality that can be considered to be the closest Unily competitors. These include Wizdom, Akumina, Beezy and Powell 365. As a digital workplace professional, you have choice.

Researching the market

The best way to research the market is to use the ClearBox SharePoint intranets in-a-box report. Now in its fifth year, the guide is the authoritative buyers guide to the SharePoint intranet-in-a-box market, and consists of independent reviews written by a team of internationally recognised intranet and digital workplace experts led by ClearBox Consultings Sam Marshall. The latest version details over 50 options, with 31 in-depth reviews and 23 shorter write-ups. If youre researching Unily competitors, then the guide will save you vast amounts of time and give you a completely vendor-neutral opinion. Throughout the five years of the guide, Wizdom has consistently received good ratings from the ClearBox team, along with other mature offerings such as Unily.

Common features of leading in-a-box products

Products like Wizdom and Unily have some features in common, some of which are shared by other in-a-box products:
  • Owned by larger, financially independent vendors
  • A product that has been driven by continual improvement and investment over the last five years
  • Works alongside SharePoint Online and SharePoint 2019, and can incorporate SharePoint modern and its features such as communication sites (it also works with SharePoint 2013 and 2016)
  • Produces an attractive intranet with strong, well-designed interfaces
  • Has a rich set of templates to support internal communications and messaging delivered through the intranet
  • Supports highly granular content targeting and personalization based on AD profiles and Office 365 Groups
  • Can integrate social and collaboration features into the intranet with additional capabilities and templates above and beyond SharePoint
  • Can deliver an intranet that is the entry point into the wider digital workplace through integrations, a directory of apps and more
  • Comes packed with a variety of extra capabilities out of the box
  • Can support forms and workflow capabilities to help drive process improvement
  • Comes with a strong mobile app for access on all devices.

Five ways Wizdom is different to Unily

Of course, every product has its own particular features and there are several ways in which Wizdom is different to Unily and indeed some of its competitors.

1. Wizdom is a SharePoint native application

One notable difference between Unily and Wizdom is that Unily is not actually built using SharePoint, it is a separate application that simply uses SharePoint to store data. Unily leverages a third-party CMS technology called Umbraco. Conversely, Wizdoms base technology is SharePoint itself and it works within SharePoint. This may seem very technical but Wizdoms native approach brings a number of benefits that are very tangible both to the intranet manager and the end-user:
  • Wizdoms close alignment with SharePoint and Office 365 means that many Office 365 features are available right within Wizdom. For example, when you want to build a page or news article with Wizdom you have access to all the SharePoint widgets (known as webparts), the Office 365 widgets and of course the Wizdom ones. This gives you a lot of power. Want to build a page with a left-hand nav, FAQs, video, social feed and org chart? No problem!
  • As a general rule, when Microsoft brings out a new integration between SharePoint and Office 365 that integration is immediately available with Wizdom. This is unlikely to be the case with Unily and you will have to wait for Unily to build the integration into their platform.
  • Wizdom leverages SharePoint Moderns editing interface. This is a pleasure to use. Its fast, intuitive and carefully thought through unlike the old SharePoint Classic editor experience which can be pretty clunky.
  • If you want to build intelligence into your pages, such as workflows or automation you will find it much easier with Wizdom because of its SharePoint native architecture.
  • Extending Wizdom is also a lot easier. You wont have to go to the Wizdom vendor or partner to do this. You could get your own developers to do it. This is because effectively you just have to extend SharePoint. This is one of the key things that SharePoint was built to do.

2. Wizdoms Power Panel

Wizdoms Power Panel is consistently singled out by digital workplace teams (but also users!) as one of the stand-out features of the platform. It is a unique, configurable personalized toolbar that can link through to different applications, create content, display data and even expand to a dashboard, that can also follow you application to application. This means you have a true gateway to the entire digital workplace, from wherever you are.

3. Collaboration governance

Wizdom has industry-leading collaboration governance hard-baked into the product that means you can control your collaboration platform to avoid site sprawl, drive adoption and provide best-in-class collaboration templates to use for different scenarios. Wizdoms powerful collaboration provisioning engine is super-flexible, allowing you to create custom workflow and approval for site creation, enforce polices such as naming conventions, establish central directories of sites, allow different tools (MS Teams, Yammer groups, Wizdom communities etc. ) with different templates to be set up for different users and more. If for example youre rolling out MS Teams, Wizdoms features helps make your platform easier to manage and more sustainable going forward.

4. Integration with Teams

The world seems to be leaning on MS Teams right now and in some organisations that is where the work really happens. Wizdom for Teams is an app that installs inside Teams and brings the core elements of your intranet into the Teams environment. This means you get access to your powerpanel of tools and links and things like news, all targeted and personalised to the user. This all means employees have less places to go to access all the information they need. If sections of your workforce are spending all their time in Teams then this is an essential capability to help drive intranet adoption.

5. Unique employee directory software

When Wizdom was acquired by LiveTiles it opened up additional functionality to Wizdom customers. One of the most unique is the AI-driven employee directory software that identifies where there are gaps in your employee directory and AD data, and then uses bot technology to ask individuals to fill in the gaps. This unique approach is extremely effective, driving richer and more complete employee profiles and also better content targeting on your intranet. You can expect to see more LiveTiles products come on board that operate seamlessly with Wizdom.

What does Wizdom look like?

Wizdom is an attractive, well-designed and easy to use product. Here is a selection of screenshots below and you can see more on our SharePoint intranet examples page.

Need more information? Book a demo!

If you are looking for a competitor to Unily or are on the lookout for a new intranet and digital workplace, then Wizdom should be on your list. If you need more information why not get in touch or even book a Wizdom demo.

Ten ways your digital workplace strategy is impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic

At the moment most business decisions are being made with reference to the current pandemic; its impact on the way we work now and in the near future is profound.

This is particularly true when it comes to digital workplace strategy. For many organisations the digital workplace has proved to be essential during lockdown; the successful scaling-up of remote working and collaboration and communication tools like Microsoft Teams, SharePoint Online and Zoom has ensured that businesses can continue with some of their operations. Now things have normalized a little, many businesses are now considering the next steps for their digital workplace strategy.

There is still the need for flexibility and adaptability; we dont know quite how long the pandemic will go on for. There may need to be the re-introduction of lockdown measures and the global economy is extremely fragile.

However it is important that organisations consider their digital workplace strategy not just for the shorter term, but also in the longer term too;  most observers think that the pandemic will have a long lasting impact on the digital workplace, acting as a catalyst for trends relating to flexible working, online collaboration and digital employee experience that were already happening.

The pandemic impacts multiple areas of your digital workplace strategy. Heres our view of ten of the most important areas to consider.

1. The next stage of maturity

The digital workplace has matured considerably in the past three months; it is now scaled-up, with cutting edge collaboration tools rolled-out. Previously the focus for the strategy was on rolling out the tools and driving higher usage but this has now been achieved.  Therefore, any strategy needs to address the question what is the next stage of maturity on our overall digital workplace journey? Opportunities and choices that were not available previously are now available for many organisations.

2. Business continuity

The pandemic has completely changed business continuity with scaled-up remote working and a robust digital workplace now at the centre of any plans. With the pandemic still unpredictable and with no end in sight, this capability needs to remain in place while lockdowns are still likely.

Going forward it seems likely that business continuity will continue to focus on this, considering the chances of future health crises and extreme weather events. Naturally, any digital workplace strategy needs to consider all the elements required for robust digital continuity such as infrastructure, connectivity, bandwidth, security, collaboration tools and so on, ensuring that the majority of employees can switch to working remotely with very short notice.

3. Offices and the physical workplace

The pandemic has changed the game in terms of the physical workplace; not only do premises need to be safe through social distancing but may also need to be reduced in size to reflect more home and remote working. In the longer term, Real Estate functions may also change their strategy to focus more on local or flexible spaces. Your digital workplace strategy will need to align with your physical workplace plans to ensure staff are supported by technology when working in physical locations.

4. Adoption, digital literacy and support

In the past, efforts to increase the adoption of digital workplace tools has all too often focused on increasing the number of people using the tools. The pandemic has, more or less, meant the numbers of employees using Zoom or Teams is now much higher than it was before.

A digital workplace strategy needs to cover where to focus efforts on adoption through digital literacy initiatives, training and support processes. Rather than concentrating on increasing the number of daily active users, it may have more value to look at how to get the best value out of tools through optimum usage. Some observers have suggested that some employees have simply swapped ways of working in the office and replicated them online; they are missing out on better ways of working such as asynchronous collaboration. This is a key area to cover in a digital workplace strategy.

5. Costs and productivity

Unfortunately, the pandemic has led to an extremely fragile global economy for the foreseeable future. Any digital workplace strategy is likely to need to navigate severe budgetary constraints or focus investment in areas that help drive efficiency and productivity, while also reducing costs.

6. Governance

Some level of digital workplace governance is usually required to deliver a sustainable and successful digital workplace. However, inevitably, when IT teams scrambled to scale up remote working in days or rolled-out Teams in record time, a few shortcuts, temporary measures, and workarounds had to be followed. Expediency tends to be the enemy of longer-term focused governance measures.

However, now that perhaps the dust has settled a little, it is quite possible that digital workplace teams can start to be introduce some level of process and governance that got missed in the earlier days of the pandemic, such as putting in some steps around site provisioning for collaboration tools. Governance measures will give a longer-term focus for your digital workplace strategy.

7. Digital engagement and communication

The pandemic has brought many challenges for employees and managers around digital communication and engagement. This is particularly true for teams that previously only worked together in the same physical location. While many teams have adjusted well, the realities of working through the pandemic requires that the right digital engagement and communication tools are in place to support employees, teams and managers.

8. More apps and tools for virtual teams

As teams start to gel and get more comfortable working together virtually, it might be the time to start to introduce new apps and tools that support more sophisticated online collaboration such as whiteboards. More specifically, there may be apps that are required by different functions. Any digital workplace strategy is likely to need to cover the new apps and tools required that can help virtual teams get their work done.

9. Measurement and analytics

Measurement and analytics tend to be one of the problem areas of the digital workplace; here  practices are less mature and tend to take a tool by tool view rather than looking holistically across the whole ecosystem. However, interest in some areas such as workforce and people analytics is growing.

The new scaled-up remote working requires a review of analytics. Not only do the increase in digital workplace interactions provide new opportunities to derive new insights, the change in working methods may also require a rethink of how performance is measured. Overall, any digital workplace strategy needs to look at metrics with fresh eyes and consider new approaches.

10. Supporting innovation

In a difficult economic climate, innovation becomes increasingly important. Innovation through the creation of new products and services, or new processes to drive efficiency, or delivery methods that take into account the post-pandemic world, can help businesses through challenging times. Invariably, innovation is facilitated by digital workplace tools that support collaboration but also help to gather ideas; any strategy may need to explicitly address how the digital workplace will support innovation going forward.
A digital workplace strategy the pandemic and post-pandemic world

The COVID-19 crisis has impacted the way we do business and the way we work. Digital workplace strategies need to consider the challenges and even some  of the opportunities that are happening in the shift in working patterns and priorities. If youd like to discuss your digital workplace strategy in the light of the pandemic, then get in touch.

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