10 digital workplace and intranet trends for 2022

2021 was another important year for digital workplaces and intranets. Remote and hybrid working continued to dominate, ensuring business continuity during another year of the pandemic. Technology options also moved forward with the release of the Microsoft Viva suite, for example, and intranet and digital workplace teams worked hard to support employees. Microsoft Teams continued its huge adoption path. Employee experience was high on the agenda for internal communicators and HR functions, while IT teams embraced the need to drive a streamlined experience for employees and simplify the application landscape through a single digital workplace environment.

Here at Content Formula, we remained extremely busy throughout the year, and were proud to continue to deliver successes including the launch of a global intranet at Entain and a mobile intranet app at Yorkshire Tea, among many other projects. We also rolled out and evolved our Xoralia intelligent policy management solution for SharePoint which has been very well-received.

But what about 2022? What will the coming year bring for the intranet and digital workplace world? We think it will be another important year. Here are our thoughts on ten digital workplace and intranet trends to expect in 2022.

1 Competition will continue to stimulate the intranet software market

The intranet in-a-box software market is now relatively mature, with a great deal of choice for teams. Many of these offerings extend beyond just being an intranet, focusing on the wider digital workplace as well as capabilities that cover other areas of employee experience. It’s hard to believe it’s now five years since we announced our partnership with LiveTiles (then Wizdom) – still one of the major intranet and employee experience software providers.

One of the strong characteristics of the market is the competition between providers, ultimately leading to investment in products, feature-rich offerings, better customer service, competitive pricing, innovation and choice. We think this is going to be a prominent theme throughout 2022. Consolidation in the sector will fuel more product development; for example, two major providers – Staffbase and Valo – just announced they are joining forces. Much of this competition comes from Microsoft itself, whose support for intranets using SharePoint out-of-the-box, alongside the growing influence of Microsoft Viva, is forcing tech providers to up their game.

2 Intranets and digital workplaces will continue to support hybrid working

Unfortunately, the pandemic is still ongoing, and remote and hybrid working is the reality for many of us. However, hybrid working is becoming a choice for many organisations who see opportunities to both reduce real estate costs and offer a style of working that is attractive to employees. While many have returned to the office, opinion polls continually show that the majority of employees also want to have opportunities to work from home where they can be more productive and better balance their working and non-working lives.

Hybrid was quite possibly the word of 2021, but we think it’s going to continue into 2022 as intranets and digital workplaces do the heavy lifting to support remote working. Back in September 2021, we produced a checklist for intranet and digital workplace teams with the ways they can support the return to the office and hybrid work, including guidance on social distancing, integrations with various apps such as desk booking and more. We think we’ll see more and more content and capabilities appearing which support hybrid working for the short- and long-term.

3 External social media and the consumer world will influence the digital workplace

External social media channels and the consumer mobile app world have always had an influence on the digital workplace, with popular features and apps eventually appearing in one form or another in digital workplace tools. The adoption of social features in intranets is a key example.

In 2022, we think we’ll again see the influence of the consumer world on intranet features. This is probably most prominent with the advance of podcasts aimed at employees – an increasingly popular content format for internal comms teams. Podcasting looks set to rise in popularity in 2022. We’d be intrigued to see if TikTok somehow finds its way into the enterprise, perhaps through the encouragement of more employee-generated video sharing on intranet, collaboration and video-sharing platforms.

4 Microsoft Teams will increasingly become the digital workplace of choice

Nobody could have predicted the huge impact that Microsoft Teams would have on the working world. It has changed the digital workplace landscape, and Microsoft are not done yet as they continue to invest in this exciting platform. With Teams adoption so high across many organisations, it is becoming the fundamental digital workplace experience for many employees. Subsequently, many are looking to integrate more and more external apps into Teams, as well as existing Microsoft 365 tools including the SharePoint intranet.

We’re starting to see some organisations referring to Microsoft Teams as their digital workplace. Depending on how you define the digital workplace, we can see it becoming a core point of entry into the digital workplace in the same way that the intranet homepage is. In 2022, integrating apps and intranets into the Teams experience will undoubtedly be a major direction of travel.

5 Microsoft Viva will enter the equation

Related to the growth of Teams as the de facto digital workplace entry point is Microsoft Viva – the new employee experience platform launched in early 2021. This includes four apps accessed through Teams (Viva Learning, Viva Connections, Viva Insights and Viva Topics) that deliver a range of capabilities across communications, knowledge management, learning, collaboration and more.

While it’s still relatively early days for Viva, with functionality being released throughout 2021, 2022 looks set to become the year Viva will be adopted at scale, emerging as a staple of the digital workplace. We’re seeing huge interest in its intranet and digital workplace capabilities, and there’s more to come as Microsoft adds features such as support for integrations into Viva Connections. In particular, Viva can complement a SharePoint intranet by bringing content into Teams, as well as surface learning via Viva Learning.

6 The digital divide for the frontline will continue to narrow

Traditionally, frontline employees have tended to lag behind their desk-based colleagues in terms of access to digital services and communications. There are multiple reasons for this, including a lack of digital identities and being less prioritised by organisations.

The good news is that each year, this digital divide has continued to narrow due to the accessibility of some great employee apps such as LiveTiles Reach. Mobile intranets and apps are now far better supported and more commonplace, with some internal communications teams also thinking outside the box. For example, customer experience solutions provider TTEC commissioned us to develop an innovative solution to deliver targeted messages to their frontline call centre staff.

While this is not a new trend, we think that in 2022, the digital gap between knowledge workers and frontline staff will continue to narrow, triggering a positive impact on frontline productivity, engagement and wellbeing.

7 HR and people-centric content and features will influence the intranet

In 2021, we saw increasing numbers of intranet, HR and internal communications teams focus on people-centric features and content, thus supporting a strong employee experience. Learning is one of these themes (and explored in more detail below), as well as employee wellbeing and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I). In fact, some organisations are producing an entire HR intranet that echoes these themes.

We think people-centric intranets will be a significant theme in 2022, with more and more teams creating content and adding relevant capabilities. For example, to support wellbeing, an intranet might include events and activities, wellbeing tips, analytics and community, while also acting to reduce information overload, supporting health & safety and more.

8 Citizen developers will become more commonplace

Last year, one of our digital workplace priorities for 2021 was to nurture your citizen developers. While progress in this area has perhaps been gradual rather than rapid, we are seeing more organisations start to formalise approaches to support power users and citizen developers in leveraging the full power of low-code and no-code solutions, including for intranet development.

The Power Platform on Microsoft 365 (Power BI, PowerApps, Power Automate, Power Virtual Agents) presents exceptional opportunities for non-IT professionals to create simple apps, dashboards, workflows and automation, as well as for established coders to carry out rapid application development. We expect citizen development to evolve this year, with more organisations dipping their toe in the water.

9 Learning will continue to come into the heart of the digital workplace

For years, learning and training were on the periphery of the digital workplace usually stuck in a Learning Management System (LMS) with poor usability and no single sign-on. No wonder adoption and course take-up were either poor or merely viewed as an annoying box-ticking exercise. This has started to change over the past two years, and we see 2022 being the year learning really comes into the heart of the digital workplace.

There are lots of reasons for this a renewed emphasis on e-learning due to the pandemic, the need to upskill employees digitally, an emphasis on employee experience, learning being an obvious area to focus on for maturing digital workplaces but it’s also because of the solutions available. For example, the LMS365 learning platform integrates so seamlessly with Microsoft 365 and Teams that it is easy to access learning through a SharePoint intranet, Microsoft Teams or mobile app. Microsoft Viva Learning is also seen as an opportunity to surface learning content in Teams. We think that in 2022, learning will start to enter the daily flow of work for more and more employees.

10 Intranets will keep on delivering value

We don’t know how many times over the years we’ve read a declaration that intranets are dead. But as we enter 2022, intranets are very much alive. Customers are still asking us for support in creating amazing intranets, and the ones that have launched tell us they are getting great value. Intranets will continue proving valuable in 2022.

The reasons for this are two-fold. Firstly, the fundamental premise behind an intranet a website for employees that helps them get things done, keep up to date, find information they need and connect with colleagues is still a very good one. Secondly, intranets keep on evolving with new features and capabilities. Over 25 years, they have absorbed personalisation, collaboration, social, mobile, transactional, video and some digital workplace capabilities. They are now evolving so they can be accessed from anywhere, including through other applications such as Microsoft Teams. Long live the humble intranet still going strong!

Here’s to a happy and healthy 2022

2022 will be another exciting year for intranets and digital workplaces. If you’d like to discuss any of the trends in this article or your 2022 intranet and digital workplace plans, then get in touch!

We hope you’ve enjoyed the blog over the past twelve months. All of us at Content Formula wish you a very happy and healthy 2022. See you next year!

Webinar video: Using SharePoint for policy management and compliance

Ensuring that employees read policies is an important factor in compliance for all organisations. You may be considering using SharePoint to manage your policies or your organization may be using it now, but in either case you may be asking the question Is SharePoint the best approach?

During this webinar, we will show you how to get the most out of SharePoint when managing your policies and help your organisation to stay compliant.

We will explain why SharePoint is the best approach and cover:

  • Common organisational scenarios in policy management
  • How to get the best out of SharePoint
  • Is SharePoint enough?
  • One of our customer case studies

Book a live demo

Find out more about Xoralia policy management software

During the demo, we'll walk you through Xoralia’s various features and functionality, providing plenty of time for you to ask our experts questions along the way.

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25 business processes you can automate using Microsoft 365

Business automation and process improvement are key reasons why organisations launch Microsoft 365 and create intranets. They want to reduce costs, save time, increase productivity, speed up end-to-end processes and remove frustration for users.

Microsoft 365 customers have an incredibly powerful platform from which to start automating business processes, both simple and complex. Using different combinations of features and capabilities, you can make a real difference to your digital workplace, organisational efficiency and employee experience. The opportunity for business automation extends to some of the products that work alongside Microsoft 365, such as LiveTiles intranet, LMS365 or the Xoralia policy management tool, mainly because they are based on 365 technologies like SharePoint and Power Automate.

It’s also worth noting that Microsoft’s continuing investment in the 365 platform and Microsoft Teams means new opportunities for automation are opening up. For example, the Microsoft Viva suite of apps is providing exciting opportunities to increase productivity and improve employee experience, while Power Virtual Agents allows every organisation to leverage the power of bots. In fact, when we first published this post, we included 19 opportunities, but we’ve since expanded this to 25.

Let’s look at some of the processes you can automate, based on what we’ve seen with clients and other organisations. Just to be clear, there is a lot you can potentially do these ideas are just for starters!

1 Updating key business policies

Many intranets have a central library of key business policies. It’s important that these are kept up to date; there may be regular reviews in place to ensure this happens. Automated reminders to content owners based on review dates introduce an automation layer to support an effective central policy library.

Potential tools to use: Xoralia policy management tool, SharePoint, Power Automate.

2 Monitoring mandatory reads

Sometimes, it’s important for employees to read particular content for compliance, regulatory or risk reasons: perhaps a new policy, an important update or a critical communication. Monitoring who has confirmed they have read the content can be a real administrative burden. Automating this process saves vast amounts of time and effort. This can involve sending targeted reminders based on Active Directory (AD) groups to those employees still to confirm the mandatory read, and producing real-time progress reports.

Potential tools to use: Xoralia policy management tool, SharePoint, Power Automate, Power BI, Azure Active Directory

3 Adding document metadata

Having the right metadata for documents helps with findability, but also gives users important information about the content; it may define displays in web environments, and support other outcomes such as targeting. Getting the right metadata on a document is something some organisations struggle with, especially if it all needs to be done manually.

Automation can really help add accurate document metadata. For example, if there is metadata associated with a project and a new document is added to the project workspace, the document may be able to inherit that metadata. There are also opportunities to use AI to suggest the right metadata to add through the SharePoint Syntex service.

Potential tools to use: Power Automate, SharePoint, SharePoint Syntex

4 Archiving content and data

Governance around the archiving and deletion of content and data is critical for keeping your digital workplace tidy, aligning to company retention policies and enhancing findability. Adding some automation to this process really helps so that documents, content and spaces are automatically archived based on different criteria (including review or approval from the content owner).

Potential tools to use: Power Automate, SharePoint

5 Updating employee profiles

The employee directory and profiles are a staple of the intranet environment, but the best ones always represent the one source of truth of HR data so that profiles are always accurate, and employees don’t have to complete information across two systems.

Updates to your HR system containing individual employee data should always be reflected in individual employee profiles. For example, an update to a job title in the HR system should also be displayed on the intranet, ideally in real-time.

Potential tools to use: LiveTiles Directory, Delve, Custom-built solution, Active Directory

6 Requests and approvals

This is perhaps the most common form of process improvement driven by intranets and Microsoft 365, using forms and workflow to deal with requests involving everything from booking travel, to organising annual leave, to requesting stationery, to ordering lunch for a client meeting. Usually, these requests need to go through an approval process. In many organisations, there will still be request and approval processes which are done using email or even paper that are just waiting to be automated. Increasingly, requests and approvals are being dealt with through chatbots that might be accessed through Microsoft Teams, or even through a mobile app for frontline staff.

Potential tools to use: Microsoft Forms, Power Automate, SharePoint, Power Virtual Agents, Microsoft Teams apps

7 IT and facilities performance monitoring

Performance monitoring of different systems is an obvious area to automate, using dashboards to provide reporting and notifications when things don’t look right, based on different rules. We’ve seen many examples of this, including the monitoring of load times on different web channels or servers, or reporting on the temperature of different parts of a building.

Potential tools to use: Power BI, LiveTiles Intelligence, SharePoint, Azure application insights

8 Microsoft 365 adoption reporting

Unsurprisingly, digital workplace teams are always interested in driving adoption of Microsoft 365 and its constituent tools. With so many tools and channels in operation, automated reporting of the use of different applications and channels via a customised dashboard is almost always of interest to teams. Increasingly, some of the behaviours of Microsoft 365 are being rolled into the new Viva Insights tool which focuses on collaboration, productivity and wellbeing, offering some organisation-wide analytics.

Potential tools to use: Power BI, Microsoft 365 out-of-the-box, Viva Insights

9 Logging support calls

There are already systems like ServiceNow which allow users to log issues and automatically raise tickets for IT, HR and other support services. The ability to raise tickets is usually a prerequisite for running any scalable helpdesk or support service, and integrating this automation into your intranet or Microsoft Teams can be helpful. Increasingly, support calls are also being logged through chatbots. More lightweight processes might not always warrant investment in a separate system. In these instances, using your intranet platform or Microsoft365 may make a lot of sense as an affordable system to log support calls, and automation can really add value.

Potential tools to use: Microsoft Forms, PowerApps, Power Automate, Power Virtual Agents, Microsoft Teams Apps

10 Centralising notifications from different systems

Information overload is still a real issue for many users, especially with an overwhelming email in-box. Many users find it hard to keep on top of all the automated notifications, alerts, approvals and actions needed across a number of disparate systems.

Having a focused activity stream, list of notifications or notification dashboard from systems in one place (universal inbox) that can allow users to organise all the things they need to do, and ensure approvals are made more speedily. Here, there are an increasing number of options to deliver this capability within Microsoft Teams, to frontline staff via a mobile app or through a chatbot facility where employees can complete simple transactions.

Potential tools to use: Power Automate, PowerApps, Microsoft Teams Apps, SharePoint, LiveTiles Everywhere, Power Virtual Agents

11 Financial reporting and monitoring

Financial reporting is an obvious use case for a dashboard which can have considerable value for senior management and finance departments, helping to drive accountability and support decision-making. However, dashboards with simplified financial and performance data such as sales can even be presented to users on the intranet homepage as a way of keeping everybody up to date. This form of automation almost always has value.

Potential tools to use: Power BI, SharePoint

12 Marketing automation

Marketing automation is on the wish-list of most marketing functions, but is not always put into operation. Marketing automation can be powerful in saving time and supporting your sales funnel. It can range from the simple (sending out an automatic email based on the completion of a website form) to the sophisticated (sending out a targeted message based on a range of user behaviour). Reporting on the success of your efforts is also automated.

Potential tools to use: PowerApps, Power Automate, Power BI, Microsoft Dynamics, Outlook

13 Tracking assets

IT departments often need to track and manage the assets which are given out to users, including devices, equipment, software licenses and more. It’s incredible how many teams still rely on spreadsheets and email for this exercise, even though there may be some workflow in place to issue devices for new employees. Automating this process allows you to use one source of truth for keeping track of your assets alongside stakeholder and user reporting. You can also potentially integrate this with the process for users requesting new assets, as well as the employee onboarding and offboarding process.

Potential tools to use: PowerApps, Power BI, Power Automate, Microsoft Forms, Power Virtual Agents

13 360 appraisals

360 appraisals tend to be a process-heavy exercise involving data input from different users, reporting, approval workflow, notifications and the need to store all the data in a core system of record. In other words, 360 appraisals are ripe for automation and improvement! Appraisals can be cumbersome and time-consuming, so anything which makes them easier for everybody is welcome.

Potential tools to use: Microsoft Forms, Power Automate, PowerApps, SharePoint

15 Document building

Building model documents based on different criteria is a theme often found in knowledge management. It’s of real interest in certain sectors, especially professional services, but also functions such as in-house legal teams. Being able to build automated documents like contracts and agreements based on different metadata (e.g. client name or document type) can help maintain document standards, as well as save huge amounts of time.

Often, the model document produced is a starting point which must still be completed and checked, but the process automation adds a lot of value.

Potential tools to use: PowerApps, SharePoint Workflows, Microsoft Office, Power Virtual Agents

16 Know Your Client

Know Your Client (KYC) is a standard process carried out by some companies as part of the due diligence and procurement process to onboard new clients, suppliers and vendors, and minimise risks involved. KYC may involve interrogating external databases with company information, and performing credit checks. The extent to which KYC processes can be automated varies, but there is usually scope for speeding up the process, such as using a chatbot to gather initial information or running the process through Teams if that is the system where most work gets done.

Potential tools to use: Virtual Power Agents, PowerApps, Power BI, Microsoft Forms, Power Automate, Microsoft Teams apps

17 Resource planning

Resource planning for projects, teams and initiatives can be challenging, particularly if relevant information is scattered around different systems. For example, you may want to view core information from your HR platform, timecard systems and details of expertise from people profiles to help you assemble the right team and check availability.

Automating reporting with data from various systems to help with resource planning and specific views to aid team selection can be very powerful, helping you to create the best teams while ensuring capacity. This can be extremely valuable for managers and frontline teams where shift work is involved, or for businesses with a lot of seasonal work or intense projects.

Potential tools to use: Power BI, Microsoft Planner, Power Automate, Microsoft Shifts

18 Project management

Project management is a broad activity which is key to the way many companies operate. Microsoft 365 can help with many aspects of project management, including providing the base for some automation. For example, some companies might choose to automatically create a collaboration space whenever a project is set up in their financial management system or equivalent, or choose to integrate real-time budgeting and financial or timecard information within their project space. This helps to embed collaboration and dashboards right into the project management processes, as well as drive efficiencies.

Potential tools to use: Microsoft Planner, Power BI, Microsoft Teams, Microsoft Project, SharePoint Online, Outlook

19 Employee onboarding

Having a formal employee onboarding programme drives efficiencies and make new starters feel welcome, supporting better employee retention. With so many checklists and tasks to complete and information to provide, there are myriad processes which can be automated or semi-automated even before a new hire’s first day. Ensuring that employees fill in the necessary forms before they start and in their first few weeks (and ensuring this information goes to the right people and systems) is a great starting point. They might need to read a policy, take a course, review information on the intranet, complete their contact details, supply particular forms and more. Some organisations particularly with frontline employees choose to invest in a dedicated employee onboarding app for this.

Potential tools to use: PowerApps, LMS365, Xoralia policy management tool, Power Automate, SharePoint Online, LiveTiles content targeting, Power BI

20 Employee offboarding

Employee onboarding gets a lot of attention, but offboarding also involves multiple processes, including ensuring equipment is recovered and sent back, completing any necessary paperwork, making adjustments in different systems, carrying out an exit interview or even issuing an invitation to join the alumni programme. This is another process where automation can streamline interactions, workflows and reporting.

Potential tools to use: Power Automate, Microsoft Forms, Power BI

21 Collecting data from the field

Sometimes, field workers or mobile employees may need to file reports with data collected when they are out and about, such as engineers making site inspections. Ideally, data should be gathered and inputted directly into mobile devices. Automation can make sure this information appears automatically in documents, databases, dashboards and even workspaces.

Potential tools to use: PowerApps, Microsoft Forms, Teams Apps, Power Virtual Agents, SharePoint, Power BI

22 Learning and development administration

Learning and development is a critical part of employee and organisational life. However, it can take a lot of administration effort, particularly when enrolling employees onto mandatory training (which can occur annually), monitoring progress and completions and reporting sometimes even to external bodies – for compliance reasons. Automation makes a lot of sense in enrolment and tracking, especially when targeting different courses to different Microsoft AD groups. Although it’s early days, learning automation might also involve Viva Learning in the future as its capabilities evolve and develop.

Potential tools to use: LMS365, SharePoint, Power Automate, Power BI, Microsoft Viva Learning, Xoralia policy management tool, Azure Active Directory

23 Keeping groups and lists up to date

Group and list management is often a time-consuming activity and can incorporate multiple aspects of your digital workplace, including e-mail distribution, content targeting, personalisation, security and permissions, subscriptions, employee directories and more. Groups can be highly dynamic, based on joiners and leavers, internal moves and individual preferences. Ensuring your Azure Active Directory groups are fully up to date and mirroring your needs is key. Here, automation is a must, including synchronisation with your HR system of record, as well as facilitating elements such as default membership of different communities, enabling topic subscriptions on your intranet and more.

Potential tools to use: Azure Active Directory, Power Automate, SharePoint

24 Meetings

We spend so much of our time in meetings, yet very little automation outside of what happens when you use Outlook tends to be applied to meeting booking, even though this is an area where there are multiple opportunities to improve processes. Automation could be applied to booking equipment, creating a space, sourcing tools such as whiteboards (if for a virtual meeting), diary management, sending out reminders, constructing minutes, determining agendas, regulating the number of people in the office (due to COVID restrictions), gathering pre-meeting data and even organising travel arrangements.

Potential tools to use: Power Automate, Outlook, Microsoft Forms

25 Knowledge Management

Viva Topics is an intriguing new part of the Viva suite of employee experience apps that uses AI to automate the presentation of content and identification of experts on different topics, and presents this information to users. In a way, this represents the partial automation of knowledge management, and is an exciting prospect. However, it comes with a caveat: Viva Topics is not plug-and-play, and requires active and ongoing knowledge curation, plus a necessary level of content, to get value out of the tool.

Potential tools to use: Microsoft Viva Topics, SharePoint

Microsoft 365 is a productivity and automation platform

You can do so much with Microsoft 365, providing a digital workplace where you can drive automation, reporting and more. In fact, there’s so much to automate, it can be hard to know where to start! If you’d like to discuss using Microsoft 365 to automate key business processes across your digital workplace, then get in touch!

7 secrets for a successful mobile intranet

A mobile intranet is a critical part of the digital communications ecosystem of any organisation. It is especially important for any company that has a significant deskless frontline workforce. For employees with no easy access to a computer during the working day, and sometimes no corporate digital identity, a mobile intranet app available on a personal device can become their major channel for digital communication, as well as the most efficient. The mobile intranet connects employees who work in factories, shops and out in the field, or who are on the go with their employers and each other.

Successfully delivering a mobile intranet is not always straightforward, and some organisations end up with low adoption and low value. Many of the necessary prerequisites for the success of a standard browser-based intranet, such as governance and the right operating model, also need to be in place for the mobile equivalent. However, there are specific approaches to consider for a mobile intranet too.

In this post, we’re going to explore seven secrets for a successful mobile intranet implementation and launch.

1 Focus on the right features for a frontline or mobile workforce

Intranets have multiple purposes and support a wide variety of organisational processes. Mature platforms and integrations mean there has been a blurring between intranets, digital workplaces, collaboration platforms and employee experience platforms. Generally, a mobile intranet may feature slimmed down versions of the capabilities of a desktop intranet, although it might include similar access to all the content included.

When you select what to include on your mobile intranet, always ensure tools and content are suited to the needs of your frontline workforce, and capabilities that are useful for work on-the-go are featured. Previously, we looked at eight must-have features of a mobile intranet, all of which are relevant to frontline staff, including:

  • Ability to remove barriers to access for all, including your frontline employees
  • Strong news delivery
  • Social collaboration and community tools
  • Content and reference pages
  • Employee directory
  • Event calendar and registration
  • Integrations that make sense for on-the-go employees or solve frontline use cases
  • Easy administration and robust analytics.

2 Go for a mobile app over responsive design

SharePoint Online and in-a-box intranet software such as LiveTiles are now responsive, ensuring they are optimised for viewing through a mobile device. While this is good news for mobile intranets, it is rarely a good standalone approach. To drive adoption and value, you need to have a mobile intranet app that will:

  • Deliver a controlled user experience for your intranet
  • Make it easier to take advantage of the native features of a mobile device
  • Allow for better governance, and meet security and compliance needs that won’t compromise your user experience.

Most intranet software will have its own dedicated mobile application, such as the SharePoint app. Intranets are increasingly being viewed through Microsoft Teams, and your Teams app could actually become your mobile intranet app too. A mobile intranet that is only delivered through responsive design is unlikely to get good adoption.

3 Make your mobile intranet available on personal devices to reach frontline staff

A major use case for a mobile intranet is to reach your frontline employees. In many companies, frontline employees do not have access to a desk, a corporate owned-device or even a digital identity. To make a mobile intranet work for this population, it must be available on personal devices, both Android and iOS. This is the only way to realistically achieve good adoption with this demographic; kiosks, shared terminals or home access will not work so well.

Some organisations get nervous about doing this due to security concerns, but also because they don’t want to intrude on employees time outside of work. In countries like the US where some sections of the workforce are on the clock employees, and Germany where workers councils are deeply involved in decision-making, there may need to be more careful consideration. However, there are many examples where a mobile intranet available on personal devices has proved valuable and popular with frontline employees, and has been highly successful in delivering organisational benefits.

4 Take advantage of native device features

Mobile devices have a range of native features that we are all accustomed to using when interacting with apps in our non-working lives. A mobile intranet app can take advantage of these features to boost effectivity, including push notifications, the ability to upload photos, voice detection and even GPS detection. In particular, push notifications can prove essential for important alerts, although they should be used sparingly. The ability to submit photos can also be useful for creating specific intranet apps focused either on engagement or transactional processes, such as reporting on-site issues that are best illustrated by a photo. Intranet chatbots also work well on a mobile device.

5 Focus on an easy onboarding and authentication experience

If you are launching a mobile intranet app, you must make it easy for users to load it onto their device and authenticate into it. If this process has numerous difficult steps to go through, it can be a barrier to adoption and a major headache for the intranet team.

For users of corporate mobile devices, this is usually in your control, and there will be a standard way to distribute apps. For employees adding an app to their personal device, it gets more complicated. Most intranet software providers will have convenient ways to do this – often through the Google Play or iOS app store – with a relatively straightforward way to authorise and authenticate the device and person. When launching your mobile app, make sure this process is as smooth and simple as possible.

6 Always get compliance and security teams involved early

Compliance and security constraints can scupper the success of a mobile intranet, negatively impacting the user experience. For example, if a mobile intranet requires VPN access, or a user has to type in a long password each time they enter the intranet, it is going to be difficult to drive adoption. Mobile intranets and apps can make compliance teams and senior executives nervous, particularly when they are accessible on a personal device.

Security, regulatory and compliance needs must be met, and can impact what is on your intranet. By engaging early with compliance and security teams, you can usually achieve the best possible experience for your mobile intranet.

There is actually a lot of middle ground that can allow you to deliver an excellent mobile intranet experience that meets all your regulatory and security requirements with very little compromise on the UX. This is often achieved by removing a small amount of content or a particular feature from your mobile intranet that is difficult from a compliance point of view, leaving the other 95% of your intranet still delivering value. Ensuring MDM approaches and app governance is in place and adding the right Terms & Conditions when employees sign-up can also make a big difference here, ticking the boxes for legal and compliance functions.

7 Consider content and links in the mobile experience

Even if you have a beautiful, responsive mobile app or an adaptive design, the success of your mobile intranet is dependent on having the right content. Most intranet content is not designed to be read on a mobile, resulting in long text and endless scrolling, or the use of imagery which is hard to view or read on a mobile. (There are lots of issues with posting images featuring text on your intranet don’t do it!)

It’s not always easy to achieve, but make sure to consider content from the mobile point of view. Generally, taking a mobile-first approach to content for example, with more concise text broken up into shorter areas with indicative subject headings is actually good for the desktop view too. If you have a policy, for example, a clear, short summary with the salient points will be welcomed both by your mobile intranet users and those with desktop access.

Most intranets now act as a convenient gateway to the wider digital workplace. Providing links to other systems is very useful, but you may need to provide a different view on the mobile intranet as you might need to link to different apps or not link to systems that are unavailable or not optimised for mobile devices.

Making your intranet mobile

Making your intranet mobile is essential, particularly if you have a frontline workforce. Use these tips for a successful implementation. If you want to discuss your mobile intranet, why not get in touch!

3 ways to deliver low code SharePoint intranet development

Low code development can be a great approach to deliver capabilities on a SharePoint intranet, helping to rapidly create a feature-rich environment at relatively low cost. When resources for your SharePoint intranet are tight or you are under pressure to deliver with ambitious deadlines, low code development can help overcome some of these challenges. In this post, we’re going to explore three of the main ways to deliver low code intranet development on your SharePoint intranet.

What is low code development?

Low code and no code solutions are platforms which empower IT developers and non-IT professionals alike to rapidly build apps, dashboards and sites that previously would have required a more traditional software approach. Using a combination of out-of-the-box templates and connectors, as well as intuitive authoring interfaces, these solutions enable development with minimal or no code needing to be written.

Note that there is a distinction between low code and no code in that the latter is designed for use by non-IT professionals, but in reality, this distinction can be a little fuzzy. For example, IT professionals might use a no code solution as part of their development. From here, we are going to refer to low code development to describe no code solutions too.

The attraction of low code solutions is compelling for both IT functions and business teams. By employing a decentralised, citizen-development approach to app design, they allow for the creation of more business-specific apps than would normally be possible with the constraints of current IT resources, and facilitate more rapid development at lower cost. All in all, low code development can play a part in digital transformation, and in enabling automation at scale throughout enterprises.

Microsoft 365 is an excellent platform for low code development, and many of the tools within the 365 suite are designed to be used via a low code approach. An intranet, with its enterprise reach and array of different features and content covering multiple uses, is also a good candidate for low code development. Carrying out low code development for an intranet based on SharePoint or SharePoint Online has real value.

You can carry this out in three main ways:

  1. Using modern SharePoint or SharePoint Online out of the box
  2. Leveraging the Power Platform
  3. Formatting SharePoint lists.

Let’s explore each of these areas in more detail.

1 Using modern SharePoint or SharePoint Online out of the box

SharePoint Online and modern SharePoint straight out of the box is revolutionising the intranet world by providing a viable platform on which to build an enterprise intranet, either straight out of the box or in conjunction with an in-a-box product like LiveTiles. Both approaches allow you to use low code development, leveraging the native features of SharePoint.

Using a communication site, it is very easy to add and rearrange different web parts to a site or individual page simply by selecting the web part of choice, and using drag and drop. These web parts cover both SharePoint features like document libraries, lists, news, calendars, images and content spotlights, and elements from other 365 tools such as Yammer feeds. The range of easy formatting and configuration options for each individual web part allows for huge flexibility. Organisations can also deploy their own custom web parts.

The ability to add and configure so many web parts with ease means central intranet teams, IT functions and decentralised intranet site owners can create and configure sophisticated SharePoint intranet sites and pages at speed, covering the vast majority of information needs without deploying any code.

2 Leveraging the Power Platform

The low code heart of Microsoft 365 is the Power Platform, a suite of four apps that support a low code and even citizen developer approach through libraries of connectors, an intuitive authoring canvas and the ability to reuse what has previously been created. Because of the seamless integration between different tools within the 365 suite, each of the four apps provide opportunities for low code development with a SharePoint intranet:


PowerApps allows you to create specific apps that can be available as mobile apps, or be integrated into your intranet, such as an employee onboarding app to display tasks for new hires that could be embedded into the new hires section of your intranet.

Power BI

Power BI enables powerful data visualisations, dashboards and reports that can integrate with your intranet to dynamically present organisational data, such as sales figures or health and safety reporting, and can also be used to manage and present intranet and engagement metrics.

Power Automate

Power Automate provides the ability to create automation and workflows between multiple systems that can power many capabilities across your intranet, including the ability to trigger any necessary workflows from forms that employees submit via the intranet, or present automatically updated information within pages, perhaps from another system.

Power Virtual Agents

Power Virtual Agents chatbots can be launched to integrate into the fabric of your SharePoint intranet, providing information to employees or delivering simple transactions.

3 Formatting SharePoint lists

Here at Content Formula, we’re long-term fans of SharePoint lists. Lists are one of the most powerful and flexible features of SharePoint, and are an excellent vehicle for storing and maintaining structured information that you might want to publish somewhere on your intranet, such as a directory of offices, an inventory of equipment or a list of relevant first aiders across each office.

Up to now, SharePoint lists have been quite basic in their look and feel, resembling online spreadsheets. But in the past few months, Microsoft have opened up options to format SharePoint lists, introducing attractive views for information presentation. Perhaps most excitingly, there is a growing library of pre-formatted SharePoint lists, some of which are offered out-of-the-box in SharePoint and include an asset tracker, an issue tracker and a travel request log.

Elsewhere, there is a substantial collection of list formats created by the developer community, which are available in GitHub with JSON code ready to copy and deploy. These cover use cases from budget trackers to London Underground train timetables, and are free and ready to use. Formats can also be tweaked right down to the column level to make any required changes.

We think list formats present an exciting and currently under-utilised opportunity for low code SharePoint intranet development. You can deploy these formats easily and quickly within SharePoint pages, saving hours of coding and creating a range of attractive and compelling information resources. When some of these lists are combined with flows from Power Automate, they are akin to intranet apps.

By creating and saving these list formats, you can start to create an organisation-specific marketplace of attractive, custom formatted list templates that your intranet publishing community can deploy directly onto pages. Alternatively, they might be saved as web parts and then deployed to different sites.

Go low code!

Low code intranet development is possible with SharePoint, with a variety of different options. It can help reduce costs, dramatically reduce the time to market and increase the business value of your intranet. It also engages owners of different parts of your intranet who can configure their sites to better serve user needs.

If you’d like to discuss low code intranet development, then get in touch!

10 main features of an HR intranet

HR intranets or similar people-related portals are excellent ways to support the strategic objectives of the HR function. Here at Content Formula, we’ve worked with numerous HR teams who have invested in an intranet which has gone on to make a tangible contribution in supporting their organisation’s HR or people strategy.

An HR intranet might be a completely dedicated intranet focused on HR and people-related content and features, or a similar HR hub within a wider intranet. In this post, we’re going to explore the main objectives of an HR intranet, and run through the typical features and content that support them.

What are the main objectives of an HR intranet?

At a very high level, most HR intranets are specifically designed to:

  • Support employee self-service and related manager self-service, allowing employees to get things done on a self-serve basis without having to ask HR, relieving pressure on busy HR support teams
  • Improve HR and people-related processes by making them more efficient, increasing take-up, standardising them across the enterprise and minimising risk
  • Support important HR policies and initiatives including learning, wellbeing, Diversity & Inclusion and flexible working
  • Drive a strong employee experience to make the organisation a great place to work, supporting talent retention and attraction.

Let’s explore the features and content that help deliver these four main aims.

1 Access to HR policies and procedures

HR functions will have numerous HR policies and procedures that employees and managers will need to refer to from time to time when they need to complete tasks, make decisions and carry out HR processes. An HR intranet provides an opportunity to create a single source of truth for all your HR-related content that employees will trust is always up-to-date. It’s the place to access the staff handbook, find out what needs to be done to register for maternity or paternity leave or explore the company’s bonus scheme.

HR intranets deliver this through various features including content pages grouped into relevant HR themes, as well as an authoritative central policy library with all the latest policies and how to content and documents. A decent search and intuitive information architecture are also important to ensure employees find the HR content they need.

2 Personalisation to ensure relevant HR content

A core capability of modern intranets based on SharePoint is the ability to support personalisation and target content to employees based on their Active Directory profile. This means employees see the content that is relevant to their role, location, division, department or similar attribute. Personalisation is really important in HR intranets, especially in larger global companies where HR procedures, policies and systems can vary from country to country. Managers also need to be able to access HR information relating to managing their team. It is imperative that employees only see the HR information that is meant for them and their location; personalisation is a must-have intranet capability that delivers this, although there is a dependency on having complete and accurate AD profiles.

3 Integrations to support employee self-service

HR and people-related systems are numerous, and can include a core HR system like SAP or Workday, a time-recording and expenses system, a benefits portal, a learning management system, a system to log a ticket with HR support desk, an appraisal and performance review application, a wellbeing app and many more. One of the most valuable elements of an HR intranet is delivered by integrating some of these applications with the intranet, meaning employees can access personal HR information and complete simple transactions without even having to visit these disparate applications and systems.

For example, the intranet might not only act as the front door to reach these systems, but also display information through integrations, such as how much annual leave a person has, the benefits choices they have made or the status of an HR helpdesk ticket. They may also be able to actually book their annual leave, log a helpdesk ticket or make their benefits choices, all from within the intranet. Increasingly, these transactions are being delivered by chat bots.

Some HR intranets also include an inbox which displays automated notifications and reminders from different systems, including the ability for managers or HR staff to approve requests as part of their workflow. Overall, these integrations help support employee self-service, drive efficiency, initiate quicker approval processes and result in less frustration for employees who no longer have to log in to multiple systems and rely on email.

4 Support learning and training

HR intranets themselves don’t tend to directly deliver learning and training, but can play an important role in making it easier for employees to access learning resources. For example, we often implement LMS365, a learning platform that integrates seamlessly with Microsoft 365. This integration means that you can create pages on an HR intranet based on SharePoint that act as an informative and attractive front end to LMS365 and encourage more adoption; employees may not even realise they have left the intranet and entered into the learning platform. You can also integrate LMS365 courses and assets into an intranet search. An events calendar on your HR intranet can display learning events and encourage people to register.

5 HR communications and updates

A good HR intranet should provide communications and updates relating to HR through news and reminders about core processes such as annual appraisals, the employee engagement survey and more.

6 Support employee onboarding

HR intranets tend to focus on moments that matter throughout the employee lifecycle, including when a person first joins a company. Employee onboarding is a core HR process that supports better employee retention. New hires are more likely to stay if they have a strong onboarding experience, and an HR intranet can help by gathering the resources new starters need to refer to all in one place, making the process of joining less overwhelming and more welcoming.

An area of an HR intranet targeted to new joiners can include a schedule of onboarding tasks they need to complete and when, links to all the information about the company, lists of contacts and even a welcome message from the CEO. The ability to target notifications and reminders in your HR intranet and integrations can also cover specific tasks and activities for new hires, such as completing relevant learning.

7 Ensure health and wellbeing

Health and wellbeing have been priority areas for HR functions for a long time now, but the pandemic has placed even more focus on them Some teams are including a specific wellbeing hub on their HR intranet which brings together wellbeing-related content, resources and features onto one specific page or microsite. Typically, this will include:

  • Information on health-related benefits
  • Wellbeing related content, including tips and tricks, often produced by third parties
  • An opportunity to book wellbeing events and activities such as online mindfulness sessions
  • Access to a wellbeing community for discussions
  • Health and safety policies and procedures.

8 Employee resource groups to support Diversity & Inclusion

Diversity & Inclusion is a crucial priority for organisations. An HR intranet can support D&I by providing information about initiatives and policies, as well as specifically supporting spaces for Employee Resource Groups (ERGs). ERGs are groups of employees that join together based on shared characteristics to support each other and positively promote D&I policies. Common ERG demographics include women, LGBTQ+ people, ethnic groups, military veterans and more. An HR intranet can provide information and resources about establishing ERGs, but also support discussion groups, usually through social collaboration features including integration with a platform like Yammer.

9 Create dialogue to check the employee pulse

Increasingly leaders are realising the importance of listening to employees and establishing dialogue in order to engage employees and help inform decisions, but also spot problems and issues that need fixing. Intranets are an excellent channel for HR functions to get a sense of employee sentiment and understand issues that are impacting staff. There are a variety of different intranet features that can help get a pulse check on how employees are feeling, including:

  • Discussion feeds and communities, such as those powered by Yammer
  • Quick polls and more in-depth surveys
  • Commenting on blogs and news articles
  • Overall analytics to see what content staff is engaging with.

10 Nurturing organisational culture to drive employee experience

HR functions want to create a great place to work in order to retain and attract talent, and intranets can help nurture organisational culture that contributes to this. Internal communications an integral part of any intranet play a part here, alongside the ability for employees to post updates from across the organisation, celebrate successes and thank their peers. Information about company purpose and values, as well as updates on CSR activities, can also play a part.

Need to discuss your HR intranet? Get in touch!

An HR intranet can provide real strategic value for HR functions and organisations through a combination of features and content. If you’d like to discuss your HR intranet or how an intranet can help your HR department, then get in touch!

How to use Office 365 for policy management

office 365 for policy management

A key requirement for the digital workplace is for employees to be able to find the trusted, authoritative information and documents they need in order to complete tasks and fulfil their role.

This includes policies and procedural information covering everything from the staff handbook, to Health and Safety procedures, to travel expenses, to rules about how to use social media channels. Policies can also cover areas relating to professional development, as well as required reading for new joiners as part of an onboarding process.

Managing your policies in the digital workplace is very important, albeit not particularly glamorous! It requires attention to four different but overlapping areas:

  • Dissemination and storage: Ensuring everybody can access and consume policies and procedures easily.
  • Findability and discoverability: Allowing employees to find the right policy at the time of need.
  • Governance and workflows: Creating clear ownership and authoring processes so that policies are always up-to-date and employees trust the policies they access.
  • Reporting and tracking: Tracking policy authoring and consumption, including covering mandatory reading of policies.

This type of policy lifecycle management enables users to efficiently and effectively manage and streamline their entire policy lifecycle, from policy upload, reviews and approval, through to assignment, attestation and tracking.

If you do not employ effective policy management, you can run into both inefficiencies and risks, with people using out-of-date policies and not carrying out tasks correctly. The consequences of this can be anything from relatively unimportant to severe for example, health and safety policies, procedures and related information must be up-to-date so it’s critical to spend time perfecting policy management across your digital workplace.

Using Office 365 for policy management

The backbone of most organisational digital workplaces is Office 365 / Microsoft 365, so it’s unsurprising that we’ve recently been asked about the best way to deliver effective policy management within the Office 365 environment. Thankfully, there are a variety of different 365 tools that can support all four elements of policy management already detailed, and in this article, we explore your options.

Note that we’ve used many of these technologies (and relative approaches) in developing our Xoralia policy management sofiware – an easy option for organisations who want an off-the-shelf product that can fit effortlessly into their 365 digital workplace (including SharePoint and Microsoft Teams), and support best practices in managing policies across the digital workplace.

Let’s explore each of the four elements of policy management.


Dissemination and storage

Disseminating policies to employees is best done via a central policy library that can be accessed through a central channel that every employee can easily reach, such as a corporate intranet, Microsoft Teams or a mobile app. The best option for creating this library is through SharePoint, which can be integrated seamlessly with your other 365 channels. For example, LiveTiles intranet software comes with its own policy library feature based on SharePoint, while our Xoralia solution can integrate with a SharePoint intranet and Teams. If you have a frontline workforce, there is also the potential to use the intranet app or build a dedicated Power App so policies are available through mobile devices.

Because of SharePoint’s flexibility, you can disseminate policies as pages, documents or both; for example, you could present the essential points of a policy on a page for readability, along with the ability to download the document from the page to access more detail. SharePoint’s in-built version control for both pages and documents helps ensure users are viewing the very latest version of a policy.

Another essential strength of SharePoint is the ability to target policies to particular audiences based on Active Directory profiles. Just as you want to ensure internal communications are relevant to locations, divisions, roles, levels of seniority and language, policies must be targeted for relevancy. For example, in global companies that have been built up through acquisition, HR policies will often differ from country to country, and it is critical that employees see only the policies which apply to them.

Findability and discoverability

Strong findability is a foundational principle for both a successful digital workplace and a reliable central policy library. Employees must be able to find the right policy at the time of need. Here, you can use Microsoft Search to ensure your policy content appears in your intranet or SharePoint search; applying the right metadata will allow your users to filter and refine the search.

A central policy library should promote good findability, with a dedicated contextual search for the policy library with appropriate metadata and filters, as well as the right categories and labels. Applying targeting through AD profiles to personalise the search for different groups can also improve findability here.

When we came to build the Xoralia policy management tool, feedback from clients continually stressed the importance of robust findability and discoverability. Bearing this in mind, we included the ability to:

  • Filter results by different tags defined for the organisation, including subject categories, departmental owners or intended audience
  • Filter by contact name, such as the owner of a policy
  • Browse through policies alphabetically
  • Assign appropriate views for policies that must be read or need to be reviewed by a policy owner
  • Access a Teams app where policies can be searched for and appear as cards.

Governance and workflows

Any good policy management solution needs to have robust governance, principally around the authoring and content management processes. Here, you can use both SharePoint and Power Automate to ensure that policies are always up-to-date by applying the right permissions, and introduce workflows to make it easier for policy owners and authors to remain on top of this task.

Establishing clear ownership of a policy to drive accountability is dependent on supporting governance; the permissions that can be applied in SharePoint at the page and document level mean that only defined owners have the rights to update the policies they are responsible for. A good approach here is to display the name of a policy owner or appropriate contact on the policy itself, as this supports accountability, transparency and trust. In our Xoralia solution, there is a clear contact displayed not only on the policy itself, but also in the policy listing view.

You can use Power Automate to define appropriate workflows and automated reminders around the authoring process. This includes approval workflows where review and approval are required before a policy can go live, as well as expiry workflows which send automated reminders for policy owners based on defined review dates. These are all features we chose to build into Xoralia, as well as the views for policy owners to see all the policies they own and those that are approaching review. To further underpin governance, Xoralia also displays when a policy has expired because the policy owner has failed to check it by the review date.

Power Automate can further be used to support repeatable dissemination workflows. For example, perhaps you want to push out a particular policy to a specific audience that for compliance reasons you require to be read at a set time each year, or whenever it goes through a substantial update. You could use Power Automate to trigger this process every time the policy goes through an appropriate update or on a particular date.

Reporting and tracking

Reporting on your policy library and tracking its usage is beneficial in ensuring that employees are using it, but it becomes particularly important when you need to ensure there is a mandatory read of a policy. This could be for compliance reasons from a regulatory body, or for internal purposes such as when you need everybody to urgently read the new flexible working policy introduced to support hybrid working. Mandatory reads usually work by presenting a user with the policies they must read, and then requiring them to complete a declaration that they have read each one.

The reporting becomes important to:

  • Track who has read a policy so you can carry out interventions to make sure everyone has done so
  • Provide updates on progress to senior stakeholders
  • Use reporting to show external parties read rates for compliance purposes.

As you might expect, in Microsoft 365, the versatility of Power BI allows for the required tracking and reporting, enabling filtering by location and department and allowing administrators to filter based on group, specific policy or group of policies. Strong reporting is at the heart of Xoralia, with quick views for policy owners to get the headline statistics to track the progress of mandatory reads, and support the flexible reporting you need. Users also see the policies they must read.

Automating this tracking and reporting is excellent news for anyone who has had to use a combination of email and spreadsheets to keep on top of who has read a policy – a thankless and highly inefficient activity.

Going further

The beauty of Microsoft 365 is you can also integrate your policies into other areas where relevant, such as:

  • Creating an employee onboarding app using PowerApps that includes mandatory reads of policies
  • Creating a chatbot using Power Virtual Agents that references your policies
  • Providing access to your policies within Teams channels
  • And more!

If you’d like to discuss our Xoralia policy management software or managing policies across your Office 365 digital workplace, then get in touch!


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10 essential features of a SharePoint intranet for schools

Secondary schools are complicated organisations that usually have an equally complicated digital landscape, with a wide portfolio of disparate systems, apps, tools and channels being used every day by staff and pupils. The complexity of this digital workplace increases sharply when you have a chain of schools such as an Academy Trust or schools group who share resources across multiple locations. How do you ensure the right communications and information can be accessed by everybody? How do you make sure that staff who are already incredibly busy can easily and effortlessly find the content, news, documents, processes, tools and apps they need every day?

Here, a good Office 365 intranet can make a huge difference, doing some of the heavy lifting in helping both teaching and non-teaching staff find what they need for their working day, as well as providing a robust platform for essential communication and collaboration across multiple locations. An Office 365 intranet likely to be based on SharePoint Online, so we use the terms interchangeably can also leverage the investment schools have already made in Microsoft 365, and prove to be highly cost-effective for an Academy Trust operating across a number of schools.

But what features and capabilities should an Office 365 intranet for schools include? Here at Content Formula, we’re currently working with two Academy Trusts to improve their 365-powered digital workplaces. Here are our thoughts on what a school intranet needs to include.

1 Personalisation and audience targeting

Modern Office 365 and SharePoint intranets support personalisation and audience targeting, allowing content and experiences to be targeted to each user based on their Active Directory (AD) profile. This means you can ensure the intranet is made relevant based on attributes such as a user’s location, role, level of seniority, whether they have recently joined and so on. For complex organisations with highly diverse workforces, personalisation underpins intranet adoption and value, and without it, an intranet will be less successful.

For an Academy Trust intranet, personalisation is a must-have feature. When you have multiple locations with different schools and highly diverse roles (for example, leaders, teachers, teachers assistants and non-teaching staff) with different information needs, personalisation means your intranet will be more relevant for each employee in providing access to the right content and resources. At some stage, you may also want to open up some access to students or even parents; personalisation is a dependency for this option.

2 Integrations and access to apps

In most schools, staff and pupils need to access a vast array of different systems, tools and apps in order to carry out their work and get things done. Some of these are common to all organisations, such as an HR system, a financial system, IT ticketing support and more. A school that has Office 365 will also be using some of the suite of 365 tools such as Yammer and particularly Microsoft Teams, which has proved to be essential for supporting online lessons during the coronavirus pandemic.

Within schools, there may be a School Management System, a Student Information System, different apps relating to specific educational use cases, an array of educational resources, a Learning Management System, an analytics and reporting suite (perhaps Power BI), a portal for parents, social media channels and more.

Accessing so many different apps and systems with varying credentials and inconsistent interfaces can be time-consuming and confusing. An intranet can play an important role in providing an easy and convenient gateway to the wider digital workplace through a directory of apps and the ability to configure personalised links to commonly used tools. Integrations with the intranet allowing for simple transactions to be completed or information to be viewed can also save time; for example, an integration with your HR system that allows staff to view how many days annual leave they have and then book a holiday all from within the intranet means they don’t have to visit your HR system separately.

An Office 365 intranet based on SharePoint Online will also allow you to integrate 365 tools, including embedding Yammer conversations and potentially allowing staff to view a list of different Teams spaces that they are enrolled in. This is covered in more detail below.

3 News and internal communications

A staple of any organisational intranet is support of internal communications. A school or chain of schools is no different, and an SharePoint intranet should support news publishing – not only organisation-wide internal communications, but also local news and updates at the individual school or department level – reflecting the hive of activity across the entire school network.

A good Office 365 intranet will allow for both; for example, the LiveTiles intranet solution has tightly controlled news that appears on a homepage with approval workflow, as well as a stream of noticeboard local news that appears on different sites but is aggregated on the homepage. This supports both official internal communications and more informal updates; it also allows for audience targeting so news is displayed to particular groups or schools. Added to this, LiveTiles is also available on mobile devices, a key requirement for a school intranet.

4 Robust findability

Helping staff find what they need in their everyday work is part of the job of an intranet. Sturdy findability to connect people to the right information, content, documents and apps is a central feature of a good Office 365 intranet.

Findability is usually delivered through both search and a user-centred intranet navigation. Successful Office 365 intranets support good findability using the Microsoft Search which continues to improve, as well as user-centred intranet navigation using a mega-menu with links into different sites and pages. Of course, each organisation defines its own information architecture, so defining good navigation is a dependency here. An intranet also supports strong findability with central collections of high-value resources such as policy libraries a feature which we explore below.

5 Policy management

Being able to access and reference school policies, procedures and standards is critical in a school environment. Across a chain of schools in an Academy Trust, it is also likely that common policies will need to apply across all locations.

Policy management is an important element for an Office 365 intranet, providing a central policy library where documents are easily discoverable and staff have absolute confidence that they are accessing the very latest, up-to-date versions of policies. A policy library also needs to have content governance built-in with the right ownership, approval workflows and review periods to ensure policies are kept up-to-date.

Thankfully, SharePoint libraries provide a strong base for policy management with elements such version-control and the right permissions, but additional features are usually required to make policy management more robust. Intranet software like LiveTiles has an in-built policy library feature which is good, but some Academy Trusts might need a dedicated SharePoint policy management solution like Xoralia that will tightly integrate with your Office 365 intranet and provide robust policy managenent.

6 Flexibility and scalability

It’s essential for a school intranet to be both flexible and scalable when responding to organisational changes. For example, an Academy Trust might acquire a new school. Being able to add a new school to an intranet and onboard all the staff quickly can support the merger process, and provide access to important information to help standardise approaches where appropriate. It is also good to have the flexibility to extend access if you wish, such as in adding students and even parents to your intranet ecosystem, as well as implementing new integrations and features to meet staff needs. A truly flexible and scalable intranet is future-proofed, meaning it will remain fully fit-for-purpose.

Flexibility must extend to methods of access too. An Office 365 intranet should be available to view on mobile devices and even potentially through Microsoft Teams – both inherent capabilities in the LiveTiles intranet software.

7 Governance and content lifecycle management

An Office 365 intranet needs robust governance to ensure it is successful and sustainable. Governance takes on many forms, including ensuring security and data privacy – particularly important for a school intranet – which can be done by leveraging the enterprise-grade security of the 365 platform.

Governance around the content lifecycle is also key to ensuring content is accurate, up-to-date and of high quality. This is not always easy to achieve, as your intranet publishing model will be decentralised with a community of content owners and publishers spread across your schools, most of whom are going to be incredibly busy, so updating the intranet is not going to be their priority. Content governance features such as page-level ownership, automated reminders for reviewing content and approval workflows can do some of the heavy lifting here, as well as having an easy-to-use interface, making life easier for content owners and having a direct impact on the success of your intranet.

8 Social and collaboration features

One of the strengths of an Office 365 intranet is the ability to support enterprise-wide collaboration and strengthen a sense of community right across an organisation, seamlessly integrating the different social and collaboration tools that are available within the 365 suite. For Academy Trusts, this means staff can collaborate and connect across different schools.

An intranet can include social tools that are used for wide, open discussions as well as engagement, including the ability to comment on and rate news, add blogs and use polls and surveys. Perhaps the most important feature is the ability to embed Yammer feeds right within an intranet page, adding context to both content and conversations. An intranet can also potentially aggregate a list of Microsoft Teams spaces that employees belong to or may want to join, helping facilitate collaboration.

9 Automation and workflow

One of the main aims of Office 365 and Office 365 intranets is to drive efficiency and improve processes. Across the 365 environment, there are many opportunities to increase efficiency by deploying workflows and automation using tools like Microsoft Forms, Power Automate (workflow) and Power Apps (app creation). These can be integrated with your 365 intranet, reducing and eliminating the need to rely on paper forms, email trails and spreadsheets to complete processes. For example, requests for new equipment that might previously have been carried out by email or even through a paper form can be recrafted as online forms available through the intranet that then go through the right approval workflow defined in Power Automate. When you start to automate multiple processes like this, it has a real-world impact, saving time, reducing costs and making life easier for everybody.

10 Learning management

Learning might be at the centre of a school culture, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that staff have access to a learning management system. A good learning platform can help support IT training, introduce staff to new processes, complete onboarding for new starters, deliver professional training, offer courses on softer skills and much more. For the admin team, it can also help to track the progress of mandatory training and provide valuable analytics on staff training and learning.

Bringing learning into the heart of your Office 365 intranet can make it far easier to access and support adoption. At Content Formula, we implement LMS365 – a dedicated learning platform that is based on SharePoint – that can integrate so seamlessly with your intranet that users are not always aware that they have entered a different system.

School intranets for Academy Trusts

An Office 365 intranet can make a huge difference to the life of a school, an Academy Trust or a schools organisation. If you’d like to discuss your intranet needs for your school, get in touch!

How to communicate with employees without email

Email is still the most prevalent digital communication method in the workplace, but it remains an inefficient and unpopular medium. Have you ever heard anyone say they really love their inbox? Employees can be overwhelmed by the sheer volume of emails they need to respond to, not to mention the time they need to spend doing it. Then, when they actually get to their inbox, not all of the messages in there are relevant. For example, all staff emails get sent out too frequently, many of which are not even intended for different groups. The result of this is that email communications end up being routinely ignored and missed.

Another key issue with email is that it is not always a fully inclusive method for workplace communication. Not all members of the workforce will necessarily have corporate email addresses; this is particularly true for frontline employees who may work in retail outlets, call centres, manufacturing plants, distribution centres and more. In recent years, some organisations have bridged the gap and given all their frontline employees email addresses, but this can prove expensive, particularly due to licensing costs. In organisations where an email address is also tied to a Microsoft 365 license, corporate email identities for frontline staff are often not enabled because of the costs involved.

Clients frequently ask us how they can communicate more effectively without relying on email. In this post, we’re going to explore eight approaches that can actively help in both reducing email and finding alternative methods of communication in order to:

  • Open up digital communications to those who don’t have or use email – mainly frontline staff
  • Reduce the amount of time employees spend on email to improve efficiency and raise productivity
  • Reduce the amount of data generated from email
  • Make employee inboxes less overwhelming to support wellbeing
  • Improve the quality of conversations and interactions
  • Make communications more impactful and ensure important messages don’t get missed.

We’re also going to place particular focus on some of the challenges associated with communicating with frontline or remote employees who may not have or actively use email.

1 Understand your workforce and communication needs

Any attempt to improve communications and reduce emails has to start with a good understanding of how and why your workforce use email. What are the main types of emails they send? What are their business objectives in sending them? What are the alternative channels they might use? What are their communication and information needs?

Undertaking a research and discovery process that involves speaking to stakeholders and employees, and that audits the use of email, is essential. From here, you can start to plan an employee-centric strategy that builds better alternatives to email.

2 Control all staff emails

An obvious but essential step in communicating to employees without email is to shut off some of the options. Often, one of the best approaches is to strictly control the sending out of all staff emails, limiting the use of this option to only when it absolutely needs to be used, such as for key updates from the CEO. This forces the use of better alternative channels for company-wide or wide circulation communications.

3 Pursue an omni-channel strategy for communications

Many IT functions and digital workplace teams have actively been trying to reduce their collective reliance on email. The principal way of doing this is to provide and promote the adoption of more efficient alternative solutions. These include:

  • Messaging and chat for one-to-one messaging
  • Social and collaborative solutions for communications involving more than two people
  • Intranet and portals for top-down corporate communication
  • Workflow and transactional systems to replace system notifications and / or workflow updates
  • Employee apps available on personal mobile devices for frontline communications.

These messaging, social and collaborative tools are now well-established and well-adopted across the enterprise. Anecdotally, we have heard that the use of a tool like Microsoft Teams has also been effective in reducing email consumption across some teams, so similar tools can work too.

Most organisations operate in this omni-channel world it’s unavoidable. But not everyone brings a strategic view of communications to it, and thus some fail to deliberately target the use of channels based on the purpose of communication, the audience, the message being delivered and other factors. Particularly for internal communications, having a more co-ordinated omni-channel strategy that takes into account the strengths and weaknesses of each channel can start to reduce the use of email, at least for internal communications.

For example, you may start to use an employee app like LiveTiles Reach to drive communications with a remote frontline workforce who predominantly use personal mobile devices for communication.

4 Bring communications and messaging to the daily flow of work

To encourage good adoption of email alternatives, they need to be brought into the daily flow of work. For example, many knowledge workers are spending their day in Microsoft Teams, and it therefore makes sense for employees to access internal communications and the intranet from there.

This can be more challenging for frontline employees as they are far less likely to be spending all day in a digital system. Sometimes, you need to think of creative ways to communicate with remote employees.

Recently, we completed a project with TTEC where we brought messaging into the daily flow of work through the creation of an innovative messaging system, hard-baked into the intranet experience.

TTEC provides outsourced customer experience solutions, including by providing call-centre staff for global brands. Employees actually already had email, but it was seldom used, and the TTEC team were seeking an alternative solution. An existing intranet was well-adopted, so we created a brand-new system for internal communicators and managers to send targeted messages to employees, all accessible from within a lively intranet. Frontline employees can also access these communications on their personal mobile devices via an intranet app.

This has had an excellent response from both communicators and employees, and we’re already working on the next phase of the release. In this case, bringing communication into a place where employees are more likely to be working has proved far more effective than email.

5 Ensure relevance by supporting targeted communications

Communications must be relevant to each employee for them to be read and resonate with the individual. If you bombard employees with messages that don’t apply to them, they will simply stop reading them. Here, targeting communications to employees based on their AD profile covering aspects such as location, division and role is key; any effective alternative to email must support targeting.

When we built our messaging system for TTEC, we included hyper-targeting capabilities with the ability for communicators and managers to select multiple attributes to pinpoint message recipients down to the individual employee level. Dynamic filters allow groups to be defined by country, location, department, level of seniority, type of employee, client team, team supervisor and more. Internal communicators love the ability to have such targeted messaging capabilities, while managers and supervisors can also use it to communicate with their teams. Note that having reasonably complete and accurate AD profile data is a pre-requisite for successful targeting.

6 Simplify the ecosystem and support digital employee experience

Whatever messaging system is in place, it needs to support a good digital employee experience. One way to do this is to help simplify the communication ecosystem in place, and reduce the number of channels that your employees have to access on a daily basis. For example, our solution at TTEC brought messaging into the intranet, reducing the need to access email as well. Attractive and intuitive interfaces have also contributed to the solution being well-received by frontline workers.

7 Drive self-service to reduce email

Self-service approaches can be highly effective in reducing the email traffic that is sent to IT and HR helpdesks relating to questions and issues. Here, a range of tactics can help, including:

  • Supplying content that provides answers to key questions
  • Encouraging interaction in online support communities using tools like Yammer
  • Using a chatbot to get answers
  • Encouraging users to submit and track tickets using a system like ServiceNow, integrating these with other key channels.

8 Focus on tools and tactics to engage remote employees

Engagement needs to be part of any internal communications strategy that reduces email, particularly to engage remote frontline employees who may feel less connected to an organisation than knowledge workers. Here, tools like polls and employee recognition channels, as well as tactics such as posting videos, can make all the difference compared to formal and often dreary formal corporate communications.

Communicating without email

Email has its place, but it’s simply not the best method for internal communications and communicating with frontline staff. A range of other approaches, tactics and tools can help find an effective alternative. If you’d like to discuss how to communicate without email, or find out more about solutions similar to the one implemented at TTEC, then get in touch!

ServiceNow and MS Office 365 integration

ServiceNow is an increasingly popular employee service platform that helps drive HR and IT self-service through automation and content. As a core part of the digital workplace, many organisations want to integrate ServiceNow into their core Microsoft 365 experience in order to deliver a more unified digital employee experience, as well as to deliver automation and workflow across different platforms. Although ServiceNow is not produced by Microsoft, there are multiple ways to integrate it into a 365-powered digital workplace. In this post, we’re going to explore some of the different options.

What is ServiceNow?

ServiceNow is a platform that many organisations are using as an employee service portal, delivering IT and HR support as well as other employee services. ServiceNow acts as a place for users to:

  • Access a knowledge base of authoritative, service-related content
  • Raise tickets with the helpdesk and view progress
  • Ask questions and get answers
  • Make requests and trigger appropriate workflows
  • Access a chatbot and live chat
  • View other service-orientated communications and updates.

ServiceNow is one of the most popular non-Microsoft platforms being used by larger enterprises today. When introduced successfully, it can significantly relieve the pressure on busy HR and IT helpdesks, help employees resolve issues more quickly through a self-serve approach and streamline support processes.

One of the best things about ServiceNow is that it allows teams to present content in a user-centred way more akin to an intranet experience through creating pages and defining a global navigation, for example. In some service-orientated portals and HR platforms, content publishing capabilities are an afterthought, but in ServiceNow, content can be presented in high-quality ways to drive effective self-service.

Integrating ServiceNow with Microsoft 365

Because ServiceNow is often used as the one source of truth for service-oriented content either for HR or IT support, or both – it needs to be easily accessible for employees. Integrating ServiceNow with Microsoft 365 has real value, helping to create a seamless experience that is more efficient and drives a less fragmented digital employee experience. It also helps to drive adoption of ServiceNow, and encourages the employee self-service that is often the ROI sought when acquiring the platform.

When we consider integration, it is usually about surfacing ServiceNow content and providing routes to ServiceNow across key Microsoft 365 channels such as a SharePoint intranet, Microsoft Teams or a user support Yammer community. However, it’s also possible that you may want to access elements of Microsoft 365 within ServiceNow too, even if this just entails introducing links to take you back to your SharePoint intranet.

It’s also worth noting that ServiceNow and Microsoft 365 have some overlapping features; it’s quite likely that a digital workplace team may not be using all the capabilities within ServiceNow because they are already using Microsoft 365.


Microsoft 365 and the individual tools within the platform support out-of-the-box integrations with an ever-increasing number of other digital workplace platforms. Because ServiceNow is now a popular enterprise application, there are connectors which appear in different 365 stores and connector libraries, such as:

On the other hand, there are also connectors to Microsoft 365 within ServiceNow, with further work on these in the pipeline.

These connectors mean that integrations are much more straightforward than they used to be, and are now geared towards the most popular use cases such as searching for ServiceNow content. Of course, the ability to use APIs to establish custom integrations is available as well.

Seven high value integrations with ServiceNow

There are several different popular integrations and links between ServiceNow and Microsoft 365 that deliver value. Let’s explore seven of these in more depth.

1 Single sign-on and Azure AD integration

Without doubt the most important integration that you can carry out with ServiceNow is with Azure Active Directory. This will enable single sign-on for your users, as well as automate the starters and leavers process governing access to ServiceNow. You can also leverage different AD groups to target ServiceNow content and establish workflows, such as for new hires.

2 Add favourite links

Most SharePoint intranets allow employees to access favourite links to popular tools, usually from within the homepage but also from a toolbar. For example, in the LiveTiles intranet product, the LiveTiles Everywhere toolbar allows employees to access key links to other platforms and tools. ServiceNow is a core system that employees use on a daily basis, so including a link to it by default on your intranet increases convenience and supports adoption efforts.

3 Search for knowledge base content in the intranet search

ServiceNow provides authoritative content on IT and HR services and processes through its knowledge base capabilities. Often, employees want to be able to access this know-how content within the intranet experience, and it make sense to be able to search for this content within the intranet or Microsoft search. Here, integration delivers a lot of value, so employees have just one search box and place to go to find the HR or IT content they are looking for with no duplication of content between systems.

4 Use the global navigation to navigate between channels

Increasingly, digital workplace teams are looking to provide a global navigation that spans across different digital workplace tools, establishing a way for employees to travel between platforms and applications in as frictionless a way as possible. Here, the global navigation of an intranet can support deeper links into different screens within ServiceNow, but can also work the other way round with links back to the intranet within the ServiceNow navigation. The LiveTiles Everywhere toolbar can potentially be accessed across different tools too.

5 View tickets in progress and submit tickets

A high value integration provides employees with the ability to view the status and information about ServiceNow tickets-in-progress and let them know if action is required. It can also be useful to have a call-to-action to submit a new ticket within ServiceNow, sometimes without having to even leave the system (such as a SharePoint intranet) that the person is in. For example, in our recent work for Entain Group, we delivered an integration with ServiceNow through the LiveTiles Everywhere toolbar that means employees can view the status of their ServiceNow tickets and receive related alerts within their core intranet experience. Further integrations with Workday mean that the toolbar is an essential part of the digital employee experience at Entain.

6 Support workflows and automation

ServiceNow supports automation and workflows related to employee services, and it makes sense to link these up with other workflows across Microsoft 365 tools. For example, you could update a SharePoint list, send out a specific type email via Outlook or add a piece of information to Microsoft Dyanmics based on an action within ServiceNow. Here, you can use Power Automate to link up workflows with ServiceNow. Other areas of the Power Platform, including PowerApps and Power Virtual Agents, can also involve integration with ServiceNow.

7 Interact through chatbots

ServiceNow comes with its own intelligent chatbot, but employees can find it hugely convenient to interact with bots outside ServiceNow, helping them perform simple tasks such as submitting a ticket in ServiceNow or searching the knowledge base. This has real value in Microsoft Teams where employees can perform actions without having to enter ServiceNow, bringing employee self-service right into the heart of the daily flow of work.

Want to know more? Get in touch!

Integrating ServiceNow into your core Microsoft 365 digital workplace has real value for employees and support functions. If you’d like to discuss integrating ServiceNow and Microsoft 365, then get in touch!

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