9 must have features for employee engagement app

Employee engagement remains a key objective for organisations. Fostering a happier and engaged workforce has a range of  benefits that ultimately impact the bottom line: better productivity, lower employee turnover and more focused customer service are just some of the potential outcomes that flow from a  satisfied and motivated workforce. For HR and internal communications professionals, engagement is also often a core aim of what they do.

Technology can play a part in creating the digital channels which  support employee engagement. Of course, this ultimately depends on what you do with the technology, but having strong digital communications that can be delivered to all your employees is a cornerstone of many organisations efforts to drive a more engaged workforce. Here, a mobile employee engagement app that includes communication and engagement features is a definite plus, particularly in companies where there are a high proportion of firstline, mobile and deskless workers.

We recently covered the eight essential features that every mobile intranet app or mobile employee communication app should have.  In this post, were going to look in more detail at nine features in an enterprise app that help improve employee engagement, and how they are delivered. We have seen some of these features  working well in LiveTiles employee engagement app Reach, a mobile app that we work with  which is making a real difference in supporting employee engagement across organisations, especially in these challenging times.

Heres our view of nine enterprise app features that improve employee engagement.

1 Social and collaborative features that give employees a voice

A good employee app includes social and collaboration features such as the ability to post updates, comment on news and even create blogs. For example, LiveTiles Reach enables bottom-up and peer-to-peer communication, as well as facilitating two-way communication and dialogue. The app gives all employees a voice and cuts through layers of hierarchy, meaning the CEO and the trainee shop assistant can have a direct conversation. This sends an important message that employees are trusted and their opinions matter; providing this kind of level playing field shifts an organisational culture in a way that supports strong foundations to build better engagement. It also has a striking impact where deskless workers have previously had no access to digital communications.

2 News to keep everybody informed and engaged

News updates and stories are an important part of any employee app, keeping everybody informed while also driving better engagement. These communications not only support a healthy culture of transparency, but can also prompt messaging that helps employees see how their contribution fits into the bigger picture, as well as highlight organisational purpose and values.

3 Authentic leadership communications with video

A common observation is that the pandemic has changed the way leaders communicate, supporting more authentic and personal communications and often featuring video. It has also led to more dialogue, with leaders asking for feedback and input from employees to get insights on ideas and listen to issues. This trend has many positives – engaged employees have more respect for their leaders; an employee app that delivers messages on video and allows for commenting and rating helps all staff get to know the real person behind the CEO job title.

4 Polls, surveys and other analytics

Polls and surveys are a good engagement feature of an employee app and reinforce the message that employees are being listened to. More importantly, polls allow IC and HR teams to check the pulse on employee opinion and wellbeing, as well as get a sense of any issues that are impacting them; this gives rapid insights for management so they can act quickly to support engagement. Similarly, a good engagement app  has strong analytics into user interaction with content; for example, LiveTiles Reach has robust analytics that gives IC teams insight into the performance of individual communications.

5 Learning

Personal development and growth are also an essential part of employee engagement. Opportunities to learn are key, especially when learning is placed in the hands of the employee. A good mobile enterprise engagement app should offer opportunities to learn, like providing training videos and other course content. Providing access to learning through a mobile device  allows employees to decide when they learn, such as in down time when it is more convenient and without the need to travel, again putting learning in their hands and supporting better engagement.

6 Events

Events are usually a core part of a good engagement and communication strategy; these can be everything from town halls , to  fun initiatives, to events that focus on health and wellbeing. A traditional problem with corporate events is that they  tend to be focused on knowledge workers at HQ, but a mobile app gives the potential for everybody to participate in an event, including those on the frontline. The LiveTiles Reach app has a good events capability, covering everything from registration, to information about the event, to gathering post-event feedback.

7 Shout outs

The social and collaboration tools on an employee engagement app allow for shout outs that can celebrate the success of individuals and teams, highlight actions that demonstrate company values and provide thanks. These updates –  which can be provided both by management and peers – can be highly motivating, resulting in an engaging stream of content that reflects and celebrates what is best about a companys culture.

8 Social communities

One of the most valuable social tools on a mobile employee app are those that support communities for employees with common interests, relating to both work and non-work. These features can play a surprisingly important role in aspects of engagement. A group that covers hobbies and interests such as sport, photography, books or recipes is a great way to drive community, connection and even add a little levity to the day. And yes, they can be used for cat videos! Community functionality calls also support Employee Resource Groups that play an important role in advancing Diversity & Inclusion in many organisations. LiveTiles Reach has strong community features that can support a range of interests and bring employees closer to each other.

9 Access for all

An underlying principle for good engagement is making sure everybody has access to information and feels connected. A good engagement app, therefore, must provide access to all your employees. For example, LiveTiles Reach can be made available on all devices, both corporate and employee-owned, iOS or Apple, and regardless of whether an employee has a corporate email address or is on the Active Directory. Engagement must be for all staff, including frontline, deskless and previously disconnected employees.

 

Need more information? Get in touch!

An employee mobile app can be used to help engage your employees, particularly your frontline workforce. There are a variety of features which enable engagement that we have covered in this article. If youd like to discuss a mobile app, your employee engagement strategy or would like to arrange a demo of the LiveTiles Reach app, then get in touch!

15 essential features of a modern company intranet

What is a modern company intranet and what features does one typically include? Clients regularly ask us this question, particularly when they are considering a new intranet project. In this article, were going to explore the essential features that should be part of a modern company intranet.

The evolution of the intranet

Intranets have been evolving for the past twenty-five years, adding new features, shifting in design and incorporating the influence of external social media. They have transformed from being largely static repositories of content to  dynamic front doors into the wider digital workplace,  incorporating social and collaborative elements, personalisation, integrations with other applications and more.

This ability to absorb new capabilities and evolve to meet employee needs is one of the reasons intranets are still around today. Occasionally, we read about someone declaring that intranets are dead; this obviously isnt true, as many companies are still choosing to invest in intranets and most  have one. What these commentators actually mean is that the old-style intranet solely centred around content is no longer relevant; in fact, they may not class a modern intranet with all its integrations as an intranet at all, but perhaps instead as a digital workplace.

In a sense, it doesnt really matter whether you call an intranet an intranet or not, as long as it delivers value and is well-adopted. In some organisations, branding a new intranet as a digital workplace can help differentiate it from previous intranets and better convey its value; although, in our experience, when many employees  see an intranet homepage they will consider it the intranet, however you position it.

Defining the modern company intranet

It can be helpful to define a modern company intranet. Just like the term digital workplace, there is no consensus on an exact definition, but there is a broad understanding of what an intranet is. Company intranet is a private website that helps employees get things done and stay informed. This is quite a high-level definition, but its a suitable umbrella to incorporate the range of features you are likely to find in a modern intranet.

Defining an intranet can be fuzzy in what is technically part of an intranet and what isnt, particularly with the different integrations involved. Naturally, most employees dont realise or even care where an intranet starts and ends, just as long as it is part of the intranet experience.  The definition of intranet,  then, is more a question for the teams that look after it and  carve out responsibilities and governance, although a joined-up approach is always best.

With this in mind, lets look at our view of fifteen essential features you find in a modern intranet. Of course, this doesnt cover everything you might find, but a good intranet should include almost all of the below.

1 A homepage that serves as the entry point to the intranet and wider digital workplace

Intranet homepages play a uniquely important role in the intranet, as they are usually the entry point into intranet content and sometimes the wider digital workplace. A homepage, therefore, needs to aggregate communications, provide links and  navigation to the content and systems employees need, and also look engaging and attractive to drive and sustain adoption.

2 Operational, departmental and reference content

In terms of an intranet, content is absolutely king. A good intranet contains operational, departmental and reference material from across the enterprise that helps employees get things done. This evergreen content is often the bedrock of intranet success and does not always get the attention it deserves.

3 A central library of policies, procedures and forms

Another valuable source of essential reference material is usually some kind of central repository or library of policies, procedures and forms that employees can refer to when needed. A central library will have the necessary document management processes to ensure that employees trust they have the very latest version of the policies and forms they need.

4 News and updates

A successful intranet keeps employees informed and engaged. Internal communications is one of the most important elements of an intranet homepage, with personalised news and updates from both central internal comms and  across the wider enterprise. For example, in a LiveTiles intranet, a noticeboard feature aggregates news updates from divisional and departmental sites  right across the intranet. News and updates keep employees on top of everything they need to know or that may be of interest, from major strategic and operational updates to more engaging and people-focused stories.

5 A global navigation and search

One of the main jobs of an intranet is to help employees find the information they need quickly and effortlessly. Generally, an intranet has two main findability features a search capability and a global navigation. An intranet search may cover just the intranet, but ideally incorporates a wider set of digital channels such as Microsoft 365 applications and even other integrations. There may also be different searches throughout an intranet like a simple search which is available in the header on every page, a more advanced search and perhaps dedicated searches for people and policies.

The global navigation may be delivered through a megamenu or something similar, and there might be a secondary navigation for different areas of an intranet. Findability features in an intranet dont stop here, though there is also potential to browse a people directory or a central directory of apps, both of which are covered below.

6 Personalisation

A key challenge for intranets is ensuring that experiences and content are relevant for every individual. Across a global diverse workforce, this is easier said than done. Personalisation based on employee profiles that targets content based on role, location, region, division, interest and language is a pre-requisite for intranet success. Effective personalisation is dependent on having the right employee profile data, usually delivered through Active Directory.

7 A persistent, personalised toolbar

A growing trend in leading-edge intranets it to have some kind of personalised toolbar that brings together multiple useful elements like aggregated notifications from different systems, critical and favourite links, lists of spaces a person is a member of and updates from collaboration spaces. Often, this toolbar is persistent, so  is available from every intranet page; it can also be integrated with the wider digital workplace. One of the best toolbars around is LiveTiles Everywhere, as it is not only experienced though a LiveTiles intranet, but also Teams and other applications across the digital workplace.

8 Integrations and an apps directory

Modern intranets provide a front door into the wider digital workplace. They achieve this in different ways, including direct integrations with other applications such as allowing employees to request annual leave, book a meeting room or log a ticket in ServiceNow. When using SharePoint, there is probably also  seamless integration with other Microsoft 365 applications including Yammer and Teams.

Another increasingly popular modern intranet feature is a central directory of enterprise applications that can be posted as shortcuts on the homepage or via a toolbar. This makes the intranet  a useful entry point into all the apps employees need to use during the working week.

9 Employee self-service with forms and workflow

Employee self-service means employees can complete simple transactions and tasks themselves, thus saving time for busy support functions such as IT and HR. Intranets enable employees to get things done by supporting self-service in three different ways:

  • Integrations that allow for the completion of simple transactions such as booking a holiday
  • Forms and workflows that allow employees to submit common requests such as asking for a new laptop
  • Finding content that answers common questions.

A successful intranet supports extensive employee self-service, driving efficiency and boosting productivity.

10 Social and community features

Social and community features revolutionised intranets a decade or so ago, and are now a given. Intranets should be dynamic communication platforms, not static one-way content repositories. Employees must be able to comment on and like  posts, deliver blogs and updates, contribute to discussions and be part of professional and non-professional communities. Whether these capabilities are built-in to your core intranet or delivered through something like Yammer integration, social features are a must-have intranet feature.

11 Collaboration hub

Collaboration is thriving in most organisations right now, notably through conference software such as Microsoft Teams. Leading intranets usually have some kind of collaboration hub that acts as a central directory of collaboration spaces and provides resources to support collaborative practices. Here, the intranet plays a direct role in driving collaborative adoption and behaviours.

12 Employee directory

Every intranet needs an employee directory that includes profiles of every employee in the organisation, giving contact and role details ideally accompanied by a photo, as well as wider LinkedIn-style information about expertise, interests and more. People search is always one of the most used features of any intranet, and supports good communication, collaboration, and community.

13 Admin interfaces, content templates and analytics

All too often, the experience for content owners and intranet teams gets bypassed;  intuitive interfaces and capabilities that support efficient intranet administration and content management are very important features of a modern intranet. When these features work well, they can support the central ownership and devolved publishing model that most modern intranets run on a small team running the intranet from the centre with a wider community of publishers responsible for the majority of intranet content. Important features of this include:

  • Administration controls to manage the core elements of the homepage
  • Site and content templates which help site owners and content publishers
  • Robust intranet analytics dashboards that underpin improvement.

14 Single sign-on

The single biggest  barrier to intranet adoption is the requirement for a user  to authenticate into an intranet every morning or at each point of need. Single sign-on is an absolutely essential feature of a modern intranet in order to make it effortless for all employees to access the information they need quickly and efficiently. Thankfully, single sign-on through Active Directory or a comparable equivalent is now a feature of the large majority of intranets.

15 Chatbots

Chatbots are not currently a feature in every modern intranet, but we think they are on their way to becoming an essential everyday  feature. Conversational interfaces which help employees  find information and perform simple transactions are proving their value by supporting self-service, and are thus becoming normalised. They are usually accessible from a personalised toolbar, but also from a page header or footer.

 

Considering a modern intranet? Get in touch!

We hope you found our list of modern intranet features useful. If you are considering a new intranet and want to discuss any aspects of it, then get in touch!

9 SharePoint integrations that deliver business value

For anyone using SharePoint as the base technology for their intranet or digital workplace, integrating different tools, applications and platforms into SharePoint is a must. Integrations can bring value to your SharePoint sites or intranet in various ways, including by:

  • Helping employees to get tasks done, including completing simple transactions without even having to visit some of the applications in question
  • Making it easier for employees to reach core applications across the enterprise, with SharePoint acting as the point of entry to different tools and applications
  • Helping employees find important information that might be hidden, lost or siloed within different applications, including when not all staff have licenses
  • Supporting process improvement and workflow that involves more than one application, driving efficiency and productivity gains
  • Supporting adoption and use of individual tools.

Integrations have moved from difficult to doable

Over the past year, we have seen more and more customers come to us with questions and requests relating to SharePoint integrations. This is partly because many digital workplace teams are realising the value of integrations as a key part of digital employee experience, particularly with the increase in remote and hybrid working due to the Covid-19 pandemic. However, its also because integrating applications within SharePoint is now easier, faster and cheaper, thanks to:

  • The effortless integrations between Microsoft 365 tools that already take place, often with SharePoint or Microsoft Teams as the centre of the digital workplace experience
  • Microsofts support for an extensive library of connectors out-of-the-box for popular enterprise applications such as Salesforce and ServiceNow
  • Better APIs and support for Single Sign-On via AAD as a prerequisite across different products
  • Some integrations now being achievable through configuration rather than customisation, supported by Microsoft.

This has effectively flipped the notion of SharePoint integrations from being  an expensive process prone to errors in which highly specialised developers have to do all the heavy lifting, to one in which highly effective integrations are now a core objective of good SharePoint implementation. While it is still important to involve experienced people for an enterprise-wide integration, views have shifted from SharePoint integrations being complicated and difficult, to being far more accessible.

Nine popular SharePoint integrations

There are a number of common integrations with SharePoint that deliver value for both employees and organisations. Here are nine key ones to consider.

1 Microsoft Teams

The explosion into heavy usage of Microsoft Teams across many enterprises in recent months continues to be quite remarkable. In terms of SharePoint and Teams integration, as both applications are core pillars of Microsoft 365, the two are already integrated in some respects a Team will have a SharePoint library, for example.

In terms of a SharePoint intranet or communication or hub site, a very useful Teams integration to consider is to provide a central directory of Teams spaces which users can browse through, find spaces of value and then apply to join them, using workflow to notify the administrator of  particular Teams. This also brings visibility to Teams spaces and supports governance in areas such as  reducing duplication of sites.

Another valuable SharePoint integration is providing a personalised list of Teams which an individual person is a member of with links to each space; this is very effective for those users who are not in Teams everyday and dont have the application open by default, so might not be able to find the link to the space they need immediately.

2 Yammer

Yammer is perhaps the most extensive integration with SharePoint to date, providing activity feeds and powering conversations within SharePoint sites and intranets. With Yammer being the key tool to drive social collaboration, professional communities and enterprise-wide conversations, the benefits of Yammer integration with SharePoint to bring content, discussions and collaboration together are pretty clear.

Typical SharePoint integrations involving Yammer include:

  • Using Yammer as the commenting engine for news and updates
  • Giving users oversight on Yammer discussions through an embedded feed on a SharePoint intranet homepage
  • Inviting discussions on broader topics where content and conversations provide important context for each other
  • Creating support pages for services or applications where an embedded Yammer community allows users to direct questions to specialists.

3 Dynamics and Salesforce: CRM and marketing platforms

Salesforce and Dynamics tend to be the core Customer Relationship Management platforms used by organisations to both store customer data and drive sales and marketing processes. This information is not only critical for sales and marketing staff, but is also likely to be used by any customer-facing staff; therefore, integration with a wider SharePoint environment such as an intranet can be extremely useful. Although Dynamics may be more closely integrated because it is a Microsoft product, Salesforce integrations with SharePoint are increasingly common.

The kind of SharePoint integrations that make sense can be:

  • Allowing all users to search for customer data or sales collateral within the core intranet or enterprise search
  • Providing one source of truth for any information that relies on showing customer data, for example, generating a list of clients available on the intranet that might link to other project data
  • Providing updates that alert staff, such as new opportunities that are logged on Salesforce or Dynamics and need to be reviewed for conflicts of interest
  • Triggering workflows that might involve SharePoint and Salesforce, for example, automatically creating a SharePoint page for information about a client or project, or creating a form on SharePoint that updates information on Salesforce.

4 Workday, SAP and Oracle: HR and ERP systems

A staple integration on SharePoint sites and intranets is that of HR and ERP systems that drive employee self-service, easing the pressure on busy HR teams, and saving time for employees and their managers. SharePoint is often the most convenient platform for employees to carry out simple transactions and view data in a way that means they dont have to visit the core system in question; it can also provide a better user interface. Here, synchronisation between HR data on a system like Workday or SAP and Active Directory is important to underpin these integrations.

Typical integrations with HR and ERP systems such as Workday, SAP and Oracle (as well as other HR-related technology solutions) include the ability for employees and managers to:

  • View and book annual leave
  • Approve annual leave
  • View a payslip
  • Update core HR and personal information
  • View and amend benefits information
  • Carry out performance review related tasks.

5 ServiceNow, Jira or Zendesk: IT and HR support

Just as HR system integrations with SharePoint relieve pressure on busy HR professionals by supporting employee self-service, SharePoint integrations with ticketing and support platforms like ServiceNow, Jira and Zendesk also aid helpdesk teams in IT and HR through self-serve approaches. Here, an integration with ServiceNow or Zendesk can drive access to content and allow users to carry out tasks through:

  • Viewing FAQs and Knowledge Base data to answer queries
  • Logging support tickets, saving time for both employee and support teams with pre-populated information on forms or guiding users to give the right information
  • Allowing users to track progress on support tickets without having to contact the helpdesk.

6 Condeco and other meeting room booking systems

Another core integration with a SharePoint environment that delivers value is with meeting room booking systems such as Condeco; these can also provide wider desk-booking systems. Here, a SharePoint integration can allow users to view and book a meeting room or desk through a central SharePoint site or intranet; we see this becoming more important in the new era of hybrid working that is likely to develop in the aftermath of the pandemic.

7 PowerApps and the Power Platform

The Microsoft 365 Power Platform (PowerApps, Power Automate, Power BI, Virtual Power Agents) is already driving the creation of powerful business apps, workflows and data visualisations that help to improve a range of different business processes. Integrations between SharePoint and Power Platform tools can be hugely valuable and are used frequently, either to power some of the content and data behind the process through a SharePoint list, or to provide a user interface for accessing or submitting information.

If you are creating a Power App, embedding it into SharePoint is often the best way to create a desktop view or interface for the app, helping to drive adoption and use. If you are using Power BI, embedding reporting into SharePoint can also open it up for everybody, for example, in surfacing important sales data or enterprise KPIs in real time on an intranet homepage.

8 Bots

Chatbots and conversational user interfaces are increasingly common across the digital workplace landscape, helping users to find information and complete tasks. Bots are often  accessed through Microsoft Teams, but it also make sense for them to be accessed within SharePoint as users are often logged on there to find information and complete tasks. Any team deploying a chatbot should consider a SharePoint integration.

9 LMSs and Learning Platforms

An area where we are seeing significant levels of interest is SharePoint integrations with Learning Platforms or Learning Management Systems. This brings learning into the heart of the digital workplace by:

  • Providing more visibility of courses and course material
  • Allowing users to carry out mandatory training and keep track of what needs to be completed
  • Allowing users and managers to view their training records
  • Supporting employee onboarding processes involving training.

For example, we are seeing a lot of interest in LMS365, which can be seamlessly integrated with SharePoint straight out-of-the-box.

 

We love SharePoint integrations!

Here at Content Formula, we love SharePoint integrations because we know the value they bring to our clients. If youd like to discuss your integration strategy, what to integrate into your SharePoint intranet or have any general questions, then get in touch!

Nine critical digital workplace priorities for 2021

2020 was a pivotal year for the digital workplace. Communication and collaboration tools provided the backbone of business continuity for many organisations navigating the challenges of the pandemic. By dramatically scaling up remote working, COVID-19 acted as a catalyst in accelerating digital workplace trends that were already in motion. Our recent survey on digital workplace strategy reveals the true extent of the impact of COVID-19, indicating a strong influence on strategy, adoption levels, digital workplace maturity and even organisational culture.

As we welcome a new year, many digital workplace teams are considering their plans for 2021. The continuing threat and impact of COVID-19, the associated fragile global economy and the increase in digital workplace maturity we saw in 2020 will all strongly influence plans for the new year.

Heres our view of some of the key priorities that digital workplace and intranet teams should consider for 2021.

Priorities for 2021

1 Optimise the digital workplace for hybrid working patterns

Our recent survey on digital workplace strategy shows that the pandemic has changed  digital workplace plans for 64% of organisations, mostly around enabling greater support for the remote working required during lockdown. This was reflected in other survey results such as the 61% of organisations who reported a significant increase in the adoption of real-time communication and collaboration tools such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams.

A common observation is that going forward, higher levels of remote work will continue and workforces which are predominantly office-based will now fall into a pattern of hybrid work with most employees working both remotely and in an office. A 2021 priority for digital workplace teams is therefore to optimise the digital workplace for hybrid work, with not only a short- to medium-term view, but also one for the longer term.

Above and beyond the scaling-up of remote work that was  characteristic of 2020, we see 2021 bringing  opportunities to better support hybrid work through a process of optimisation employing various approaches including:

  • Aligning digital workplace practices with new HR policies on remote working
  • Adding a layer of governance to collaboration platforms to ensure better usage and findability
  • Adding more advanced online collaboration capabilities, such as whiteboarding
  • Harmonising digital and physical workplaces
  • Implementing targeted training and support to drive more sophisticated usage and substantiate specific business processes.

2 Make it as safe as possible to return to the physical office

Most of us are glad to see the back of 2020, and while the situation with the pandemic remains fraught, volatile and highly challenging, we hope that a vaccination programme  will spell a partial return to some kind of normality in the latter half of the year.

If and when this happens, we think digital workplace teams can play a significant role in helping employees make a safe return to the physical office using a variety of tools, channels and approaches. When we say a safe return, we envisage there still being the need for some forms of social distancing, probably with fewer people coming into an office at any one time to reflect ongoing hybrid working patterns.

Digital workplace teams can play a significant role in helping employees return safely and confidently to the office by:

  • Providing reliable and up-to-date safety and procedural information about returning to the office through digital communication channels
  • Providing access to desk-booking and scheduling systems to allow people to book coordinate their visits with  colleagues
  • Providing check-in and check-out services to help any track-and-trace practices
  • Supporting online collaboration and communication tools so employees in the office can work seamlessly with colleagues who are working at home
  • Working with Real Estate functions to optimise buildings with more touchless solutions where possible.

3 Build on new styles of empathetic communications and dialogue

Our recent survey shows that COVID-19 has changed organisational culture, with 64% telling us their organisation has become more empathetic and human-centred as a result of the years challenges. Over the past few months, we have observed this cultural shift reflected in internal communications, content and practices. Leadership communications now tend to be more informal, personal and less corporate; communication formats also include an emphasis on dialogue and listening, taking on board employee feedback and  using it to influence decision-making.

In 2021, we believe there is a real opportunity for digital comms professionals to build upon this culture shift and strengthen digital capabilities and communication channels that make it easier for leaders to communicate informally, enable dialogue and feedback loops, open up communication to a wider audience and present more compelling and impactful messaging. Intranets, live events, video platforms, social networks and mobile apps all have the potential to be optimised to better reflect a more empathetic culture.

4 Get better ROI with Microsoft 365 by exploring further capabilities

COVID-19 has hit businesses hard – in our recent survey, nearly half (47%) of all respondents reported a negative impact on business. Although other responses show that many digital workplace teams have not been impacted as much as may have been thought in terms of budget and headcount, when respondents were asked to choose their top three biggest challenges for 2021, the top answer (51%) was constrained budgets.

Inevitably, difficult market conditions will have an impact on the scope of digital workplace projects in 2021. However, the good news is that organisations which have already invested in Microsoft 365 have enormous potential to explore the capabilities within the platform they are paying for, arguably achieving better ROI and delivering solutions with a relatively modest outlay.

Our survey indicates that there are a variety of capabilities such as video (Stream), automation (Power Platform) and data visualisation (Power BI) where adoption and maturity still have room to grow. If investment opportunities are limited,  exploring and leveraging the powerful capabilities of the full range of Microsoft 365 tools can achieve significant results without breaking the bank.

5 Move forward with Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Robot Process Automation

Sometimes, the hype that comes with Artificial Intelligence (AI) and its reputation as a technology of the future can act as a distraction to its real value; actually, Artificial Intelligence and Robot Process Automation are technologies that can deliver results today. In 2021, digital workplace teams should consider how they can use and support AI and automation to deliver apps, solutions and bots that will drive real value.

Many digital workplace teams agree with us. Our survey suggests that Digitisation and automation is regarded as the second most important digital workplace priority for 2021, with 60% considering it  Very Important.

Microsoft Power Platform

We think the Microsoft 365 Power Platform, which is currently under-used, presents exceptional potential to improve efficiencies and drive innovation in organisations, both of which would be  welcome in the post-pandemic climate. In particular, Power Virtual Agents significantly lowers the barriers for organisations to create, launch and manage enterprise-level chatbots, and may help 2021  be the year AI and automation truly go mainstream.

6 Nurture your citizen developers

Increasingly, AI and automation are being delivered by no-code and low-code solutions, including Power Virtual Agents and Power Automate within Microsoft 365. This is now providing previously unattainable opportunities for citizen developers and power-uses across different enterprise functions to build specific solutions, apps and workflows that can transform and automate local process and tasks with less involvement from IT professionals.

As part of an effort to move forward with AI and automation, IT and digital workplace teams should seize the opportunity to nurture this potential army of citizen developers by providing some structure and cohesion to their activity, offering training, support,  governance and community management to seize these opportunities and, to a lesser extent, minimise some of the risks associated with citizen developers.

7 Extend the digital employee experience of deskless and frontline workers

One of the significant leaps forward during 2020 was the extension of the digital workplace and digital communication channels to deskless and frontline workers primarily through mobile-friendly apps, sometimes for the very first time. This was a welcome step given that the digital workplace experience of frontline workers formerly tended to lag behind that of knowledge workers.

We see a digital workplace priority for 2021 being to  build on this and extend the value of these apps and channels, primarily by increasing capabilities.  Here, there are many options such as enabling HR self-service, providing access to more operational information, supporting health and wellbeing, providing mobile-friendly learning and  extending collaboration tools.

8 Ensure learning is at the centre of the digital workplace

Learning and development is a key part of employee experience, yet it has not always been at the centre of the digital workplace experience. Too many organisations have a Learning Management System (LMS) that has a poor or dated user experience, is not available through Single Sign-On and sits outside the main flow of work. This has impacted adoption and undermines a good digital employee experience.

In the past eighteen months, weve seen a flood of organisations interested in bringing learning right into the heart of the digital workplace. There are a number of reasons for this: as more organisations develop a Microsoft 365 digital workplace, integrating learning into it makes  sense, and there are now Learning Platforms such as LMS365 that provide that seamless integration.

LMS365

The pandemic has  heightened the need for learning how to adopt new ways of working. The subsequent increased access to digital services for the whole workforce  creates the potential to provide access to learning for all.  In 2021, we think a key priority for digital workplace teams will be to bring learning into the centre of the digital workplace.

9 Support innovation for business survival

We think that innovation will be a significant theme for 2021. The pandemic has seen many organisations show great adaptability, flexibility and imagination in pivoting to new digital service delivery models.  The continuing emphasis on new ways of working, economic pressure, and a more adaptable mindset makes the conditions right for organisations to innovate.

Digital workplace teams can play their part, supporting teams with  digital workplace tools that can be used to carry out processes in more productive ways and drive new solutions. More specifically, collaboration, ideation and social tools can help everybody contribute great ideas, while digital workplace teams can set an example by innovating themselves.

 

Heres to 2021

2021 isnt going to be easy, but were sure we can get through the difficult times ahead and make it a better year than the last one. We think digital workplace teams have  a significant role to play yet again.  If youd like to discuss digital workplace plans and strategies for 2021, then get in touch!

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