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!

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