6 top features of a great pharmaceutical company intranet

Here at Content Formula, we have a long and successful track record of working with  pharmaceutical companies, helping them implement excellent intranets. Were proud that our clients have included Janssen, Pfizer, Astellas, Novartis and GSK.

Norvatis | Astellas | Janssen | GSK | Pfizer

The pharmaceutical sector has never been more important than it is today, and the incredible work being carried out to develop vaccines to help prevent COVID-19 is exceptional and inspiring.

Pharmaceutical companies are knowledge-intensive organisations with specialist needs in a highly regulated sector. They are also often global companies with complex structures and highly diverse workforces. Smooth communication and strong collaboration are exceptionally important; an intranet and the wider digital workplace can play a significant role in enabling and streamlining key organisational processes.

Although every pharma company is very different, there are some common intranet features that tend to assume great importance due to the specialist needs of the industry. Of course, many intranet features such as an engaging and informative homepage are important for every large organisation, but in this article, were going to explore the intranet and digital workplace capabilities that matter especially to pharma companies.

1 Finding and connecting with Subject Matter Experts

The success of pharmaceutical companies is dependent on highly specialised experts who not only have the scientific know-how to develop medicines, but also to move it through regulatory approval and support extremely complex manufacturing, supply and distribution logistics across global markets.  An intranet helps connect people to Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) and  each other, allowing everybody to work in joined-up ways to ensure successful outcomes.

There are several intranet features that support connecting with SMEs, including:

  • Comprehensive people directories with powerful search capabilities that allow people to locate experts by specialism, market and more
  • Social Q&A facilities that allow employees to pose questions to experts
  • A strong search to establish the findability of highly technical expert content and knowledge, where there is also a related expert owner to contact
  • Providing a central, searchable directory of collaboration spaces, such as listing Yammer communities where experts can be located.

2 Providing access to highly technical and specialist knowledge

Pharmaceuticals is a very fast-moving industry, and an intranet can provide access to the highly technical and specialist knowledge needed across different therapeutic areas. Some of this may be external, for example, providing access to feeds from specialist journals and sources. In other cases, the knowledge might be internally generated and curated.

For example, we have recently worked with a large pharma company to develop spaces on their intranet which can be used by SMEs to curate collections of knowledge that are useful to drive current awareness and provide a highly valuable reference point for other experts to access. Here, a good intranet can make all the difference by making knowledge curation and sharing effortless, thus encouraging SMEs to be proactive in their knowledge-sharing.

Strong findability through search and  good information architecture in an intranet also  makes this knowledge more discoverable, while subscriptions and notification capabilities alert specialists  when new items are added. Sharing knowledge  supports the ability for organisations to repurpose, reuse and learn from translatable experiences and models.

3 Supporting professional Communities of Practice

A cornerstone of supporting specialist knowledge in large companies is through Communities of Practice, where experts, often from different disciplines, can come together to discuss different topics which are often very technical in nature. Communities of Practice play an important role in everything from developing expertise, to supporting knowledge transfer, to developing new ideas. They are crucial for big pharma companies.

A good intranet should support a strong Community of Practice programme. For example, companies using Yammer for Communities of Practice can integrate discussions into a SharePoint intranet with targeted feeds that provide context and discussions on documents. An intranet directory of communities can also encourage people to join different groups and initiate the joining process for new community members.

4 Promoting robust governance to support risk and compliance

Risk and compliance are always important in highly regulated markets, but even more so in pharmaceutical companies. The development, distribution and marketing of medicines is very tightly regulated, with considerable variance across different territories. Therefore, instructional and operational content that lets employees know how to get things done must be strongly controlled to make sure it is always up-to-date and accurate. Here, intranets play a vital role in providing access to such information, as well as supporting the underlying content governance processes that ensure it is up-to-date.

On a pharma intranet, it is absolutely essential that employees trust content and have complete certainty that it is up-to-date. An intranet can do this in various ways, including:

  • Providing owner and last-updated information on every page that encourages accountability
  • Providing a specialist central policy library facility with in-built version control
  • Providing appropriate workflow and approval publishing processes to ensure SMEs review items
  • Automating content reviews so that authors are forced to review content on a regular basis for accuracy
  • Providing good content owner dashboards showing which content needs to be reviewed and more.

5 Facilitating personalisation and localisation for global markets

Many pharmaceutical companies have global concerns and operate across a number of markets. Here, the capabilities of global intranets that provide access to location-specific information through personalisation based on role and geography, as well as multi-language content, can assume greater importance.

For example, critical operational information around marketing medicines that must be adhered to may  differ across varying markets. Strong intranet personalisation that provides access to the right content as well as different translations is key.

6 Supporting external collaboration

The complex operations of pharmaceutical companies mean there can be a strong need to collaborate externally with suppliers, regulators, and even other pharmaceutical companies. Increasingly, this is being done via Microsoft Teams, but also through specialist extranets and supplier portals.

A good intranet is always a window to the wider digital workplace, and for pharma companies may provide an opportunity to integrate feeds or provide easier access to external collaboration channels, such as through a directory on Microsoft Teams. Here, an intranet integrates external collaboration more into the daily flow of work.

Need help with your pharma intranet? Get in touch!

Were proud of our past and ongoing work with the pharmaceutical industry. If you need help with your pharma intranet, get in touch!

What is Digital Employee Experience? Seven definitions

Employee experience and digital employee experience are terms that are being used increasingly commonly across the digital workplace industry by people including:

  • Practitioners who are finding the term useful to describe their activities
  • Industry thought-leaders like James Robertson, Sam Marshall and Josh Bersin
  • Tech providers who are launching employee experience platforms.

Generally, digital employee experience is a useful term and concept that:

  • Helps illustrate the value of digital workplace tools
  • Considers technology from the employee standpoint
  • Can be used in conversations with stakeholders
  • Ties the experience of the digital workplace to wider strategic goals.

What is digital employee experience?

Just like the term digital workplace, there is no consensus about the exact definition of digital employee experience (DEX). Although there are different interpretations of the term, there is broad agreement that it concerns the way employees experience workplace technology, and that it takes in a more a holistic and strategic way of thinking about the role of technology at work.

Weve identified seven overlapping but distinct definitions of digital employee experience, all of which are explored below.

1 A counterpoint to digital customer experience (DCX)

One way to define digital employee experience is as an inward-facing equivalent to the outward-facing digital customer experience. Customer experience is often portrayed as covering all the touchpoints a brand has with its customers, with digital customer experience covering those touchpoints which occur digitally. This covers media such as emails, apps, websites, surveys, e-commerce and more, even encompassing digital experiences in retail outlets.

With customer experience being a well-recognised term and concept used by senior stakeholders, they are quick to understand that DEX is the employee equivalent of DCX, and that both hold great value. Interestingly, there are strong arguments to show that good employee experience leads to better customer experience, and stakeholders are receptive to this.

2 One of three components of employee experience

Employee experience is a concept that has a lot of traction with HR functions. Positioning digital employee experience as a major component within the overall employee experience helps to emphasise the importance of the contribution of digital tools and channels to wider strategic objectives.

Sometimes, digital employee experience can be seen as one of three components of employee experience, with the second being the physical workplace and the third being organisational culture, incorporating policies, processes, leadership, values and more.

3 An outcome of the digital workplace

Some people tend to use digital employee experience and digital workplace interchangeably. However, in our view, they are quite different terms.

If youre already using the term digital workplace, one way to contemplate digital employee experience is as the way in which employees experience the digital workplace. We agree with Sam Marshall when he argues that DEX is an outcome of the digital workplace, saying: We shouldnt conflate DEX with digital workplace. The experience is an important outcome of the DW design, but things like productivity, security, and continuity are also important elements of a DW but may be neutral in terms of the employee experience.

4 The total of all digital interactions including peers and beyond

James Robertson has helped to popularise the DEX term across the global intranet and digital workplace community with the following definition:

Digital employee experience (DEX) is the sum total of digital interactions within the work environment (v2)

Whilst this mirrors the idea of the total touchpoints in customer experience, Robertsons definition is useful because it considers the wider reality of the everyday digital employee experience beyond just the experience of core digital workplace tools.

His definition also covers the wider digital interactions which colleagues experience using social and collaboration tools. Many employees digital interactions may involve use of unauthorised applications (shadow IT), and the experience of these can be covered in this this definition.

5 Employee experience platforms

Digital employee experience can be viewed from a technology or a tool angle. Recently, there has been growth in the number of applications that are being marketed as Employee Experience Platforms (EXP), mirroring a rising trend for Digital Experience Platforms (DXP) which are usually focused on external customers.

The positioning of the new Microsoft Viva tool as an EXP is a notable example. Generally, the hijacking of a term like digital workplace or employee experience by software vendors is not helpful, as it can distort the valuable ideas behind the concepts and terms.

6 The HR lifecycle

Another very useful angle is to look at digital employee experience through the lens of the employee lifecycle, covering the time from when a person is recruited to a company to when they leave, with an emphasis on ensuring there is a strong experience for all the moments that matter during that time. This is a popular angle with HR functions, and means that digital employee experience covers areas such as employee onboarding, career development, employee feedback, learning and even employee offboarding.

The brand-new Microsoft Viva solution certainly takes this approach, with much greater emphasis on bringing learning into the digital workplace. Widely respected HR tech and employee experience guru Josh Bersin has argued: Employee Experience is a Journey, not a Solution. This could easily be interpreted in two ways, covering both the concept of the employee lifecycle and an iterative approach to supporting an employee experience that continuously improves over time.

7 The experience of remote or distributed work

With the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is still a huge focus on remote and distributed work. We see potentially some commentators using the term digital employee experience as a way to describe how employee experience remote work away from the physical workplace.

Still confused? Get in touch!

When it comes to defining digital employee experience, it is quite easy to get lost in a semantic maze! If youd like to discuss which definition works best for your needs or want some input into your DEX approach and strategy, then get in touch!

What is Microsoft Viva and how will it help my business?

The announcement of Microsoft Viva, a new Employee Experience Platform (EXP) from Microsoft, looks set to be another exciting development in the digital workplace.

As with the evolution of the Microsoft 365 platform, the launch of Microsoft Teams and the move to modern SharePoint, we think this has the potential to be a gamechanger in the way organisations create experiences for their employees. Many organisations now have a digital workplace based on Microsoft 365, an intranet based on SharePoint and use Teams for real-time communication and collaboration. Microsoft Viva will be a popular addition to add to that channel mix.

Obviously, its still very early days, with the (digital) ink hardly dry on the press release. However, even from the light details we have, this feels significant.

In this post were going to explain what Microsoft Viva is and some of our initial thoughts on why this looks exciting.

What is Microsoft Viva?

Microsoft Viva is a bundling together of new and existing Microsoft 365 capabilities that support employee experience. It will appeal to HR functions and Internal Communications and addresses a number of  organisational priorities around people, defined by Microsoft as:

  • Engagement
  • Learning
  • Well-being
  • Knowledge

Viva is experienced through Microsoft Teams, although there are also references to elements of it being experienced through Outlook.

Initially, Microsoft Viva is presented as four different apps:

Viva Connections

Viva Connections: A gateway to internal communications and company resources, including policies and HR information, as well as the ability to participate in different social communities.

Viva Insights

Viva Insights: Personalized analytics and related insights for individuals, managers and leaders that support well-being, collaboration, productivity and more, with additional analytics at the organisational level for example from LinkedIn Glint, an employee feedback mechanism. Here data privacy is protected, with also the ability to plug-in data from popular HR platforms like SAP Success Factors.

Viva Learning

Viva Learning: A learning hub that aggregates learning resources from a variety of different resources including LinkedIn Learning, Microsoft Learn, popular third-party providers and a companys own learning content. Our own partner, LMS365 is also looking to integrate with this.

Viva Topics

Viva Topics: A knowledge discovery platform that uses AI to source resources and experts on different topics from Microsoft 365 tools as well as knowledgebases from platforms such as ServiceNow and Salesforce. These are presented in different topic cards which include documents, discussion threads, videos and people.

The roadmaps for these four apps are at slightly different stages of release during 2021. For example, Viva Learning and Viva Insights are now available for private preview, while Viva Topics is already available via some commercial plans. Viva Connections will be released in the first half of the year, with an app to follow later.

The commercials around licensing are also unclear at the moment.

Eight initial thoughts about Microsoft Viva

Microsoft Viva sees Microsofts direct entry into the XP market, a significant event in itself, and opens up more capabilities to smaller and medium-sized companies that will have been harder to implement in the past. However, we still havent seen details of the associated costs.

Here are eight of our initial thoughts about Microsoft Viva.

1 Viva is partly a branding exercise

The level of investment in Microsoft 365 and also Microsoft Teams and its continual evolution with new apps, features and capabilities always impresses. These four new apps are being brought together under the Microsoft Viva brand, signifying that they are focused on employee experience, but without the Viva umbrella they could have easily been released as separate apps within Microsoft 365. It seems very likely that other employee experience and HR-focused apps will be released under the Viva brand going forward.

2 Viva is aimed at the HR market

Microsoft Viva unambiguously focuses itself on employee experience and is designed to appeal to HR functions. References to the HR agenda are all over the marketing material, from the inclusion of Wellbeing and Learning as key pillars, to the calling out of the involvement of key HR platforms and providers. It also mentions the employee lifecycle in passing, and we can see there being new apps here to address areas such as employee onboarding.

Appealing to the HR market can only be a good thing, helping to sell the power of the 365 platform to a critical stakeholder group who do not always partner up with IT as closely as they could do.

3 Viva looks towards the hybrid workplace

Inevitably any EXP is going to be suited for remote and distributed working; one launched during a pandemic even more so. Microsoft Viva has its eyes on future patterns of hybrid working; tellingly, one of the promotional videos shows the delivery of an important remote presentation to a boardroom from home, while another positions Viva addressing some of the challenges of hybrid work. The areas Viva focuses on learning, knowledge, wellbeing and communications all have specific challenges with remote working. The emphasis on analytics is also shifting and it will be interesting to see how Viva Insights evolves.

4 Viva Topics is an output from Project Cortex

Viva Topics is clearly another long-awaited output from Microsofts Project Cortex, using AI and automation to support knowledge management (KM) and related activities. We think this is exciting, making KM more achievable for smaller organisations that dont have KM resources to manually organise information. The question here will be the extent to which it works and is actually useful – we think this is going to be very interesting to watch. There could be a challenge to match high customer expectations, however we can expect significant improvements over the next few months as the platform matures and organisations get to grips with how best to deploy it. We cant help thinking that a hybrid approach would be a good thing some features that allows organisations to benefit from AI gathered knowledge whilst also allowing them to curate knowledge manually.

5 The inclusion of learning is significant

In the past two years weve seen increasing interest in how to bring learning and development into the heart of the digital workplace, in particular with seamless integration with Microsoft 365. Many customers have been asking us about LMS365, the Learning Platform that slots in effortlessly into the 365 toolset.

Its great to see Microsoft directly addressing training and development needs with Viva Learning, and also recognising the trend towards social and blended learning with the ability to combine both internal and external content. Ultimately this will help put training in the hands of learners and reinforce it as an activity that employees want to do rather than have to do. We can also see how Viva Learning and LMS365 could be an extremely powerful combination to drive a learning culture in any organisation.

6 Wellbeing runs as a thread throughout Microsoft Viva

Health and wellbeing were already high on the corporate agenda, but theyve come into even greater focus due to the impact of coronavirus and the newly discovered pressures of home working. There are some interesting elements to watch including wellbeing analytics and the ability to integrate Headspace, the mindfulness and meditation app. Concerns around data privacy also appear to be met.

7 Viva Connections could bring an intranet experience into Teams

Weve seen many customers interested in bringing the ability to view intranet content within Teams, for example through the ability to view a LiveTiles intranet within Teams. Viva Connections looks like it could bring an intranet-like experience into Teams pulling in communications, social feeds and providing access to central documents. We think this could likely complement and enhance an intranet rather than necessarily replace it.

8 Microsoft continues to view Teams as the centre of the digital workplace

Viva is a set of experiences that are primarily delivered through Teams, at least for knowledge workers. This confirms that Microsoft continues to view Teams as the centre of the digital workplace and the place where work happens. On more than one occasion in the promotional material refers to Viva being accessed in the flow of work. This link with Teams is a good idea though there are still questions about the suitability of Teams as a tool for frontline workers. Perhaps Microsoft has plans in this area an integration with Kaizala perhaps?

Want more information? Get in touch!

Microsoft Viva is an exciting development for every organisation with a Microsoft 365 digital workplace. If you want to discuss Microsoft Viva, then get in touch!

Should I take a Teams-first approach to my mobile intranet?

As the Microsoft Teams app continues to gain adoption and deliver a broad range of capabilities and features, some clients are asking us whether they can deliver a mobile intranet or employee communications app via the Microsoft Teams app. In this article, we explore the question in detail.

Can Teams deliver you intranet?

Build Teams Intranet

For some organisations and their employees, Microsoft Teams has become the focal point for their working day. With the possible exception of Outlook, it is the place where they spend the most time, consuming and accessing most of the information they need through shared documents, updates from other applications and even news.

The ability to integrate other applications into Teams, as well as its high adoption rate, had led some organisations to consider whether Microsoft Teams can deliver their intranet or equivalent capabilities too. Its a question that clients keep asking us, and one weve explored in detail. The answer is not a simple yes or no, as it depends on various factors, but the ability to view an intranet like LiveTiles through Teams certainly increases your options in this area.

Can the Microsoft Teams app deliver my mobile intranet?

Clients are asking whether the Microsoft Teams app can deliver their mobile intranet, employee communications app experience or equivalent capabilities. Again, the answer here is yes and no, depending on the functionality you want in scope and the kind of experience you wish to deliver to employees.

If you are implementing a mobile intranet app, the Microsoft Teams app is definitely an option you should consider. Here at Content Formula, we are currently working with a major client for whom the Microsoft Teams app will be their primary mobile app, delivering employee communications to a diverse workforce that includes global locations and frontline workers. It will be enabled on both corporate and employee-owned devices. With the app, employees will be accessing Teams functionality, but because they can view their new LiveTiles intranet through Teams, they can also view content through the Teams app.

Can Teams deliver the functionality that I need?

Mobile Intranet App

We recently looked at the eight essential ingredients of a mobile intranet app. These included capabilities around strong news delivery, social collaboration and community, access to the employee directory, access to an event calendar, reference content pages, integrations from other applications and more. The question of whether the Microsoft Teams app can tick all these boxes for your organisation or not relies on both the native functionality of Teams and the integrations that you choose to deliver through it.

Social collaboration and community elements of a mobile intranet might be met by the Teams app and other elements such as profiles, events, reference content and internal communications which are all potentially viewable through Teams, but may be dependent on integrations. Integrations with other applications can also be delivered through chatbots that deliver mobile-friendly experiences. a question to consider here is whether the Teams app will deliver the kind of engagement-led or custom experience that you may want to deliver to employees.

Should I take a Teams-first approach to mobile?

Taking a Teams-first approach to mobile and delivering digital communications and services through the Teams app has some advantages and disadvantages. Lets explore the upsides first.

Teams adoption is high

At the moment, the adoption of Teams is very high across many organisations due to the pandemic increasing the need to work remotely; many employees are now comfortable working with Teams due to this new requirement. IT functions will relish the opportunity to extend Teams capabilities, building on the work they have already done to increase adoption.

One app for everything

Information and application overload are common employee pain points and lead to inefficiency, confusion, frustration and a poor digital employee experience. Employees simply dont want to have to deal with too many applications when viewing all the information they need or trying to get things done. A mobile Teams app provides a single, convenient place to meet many everyday information and communication needs, and reduces the number of apps employees need to have on their device.

Employee choice

One of the advantages of the Microsoft Teams app is that it doesnt stop employees using other dedicated apps for the various applications and capabilities that are integrated into Microsoft Teams. For example, even if employees are accessing Yammer conversations through the Microsoft Teams mobile app, there is nothing stopping them using the Yammer app too if you allow its use. It is possible that these dedicated apps offer deeper capabilities and richer experiences that employees prefer but only need from time to time, or are a must-have for particular groups. The good news is that the Teams app can leave employees with a choice.

Leveraging Microsoft investment in the Teams app

Microsoft Teams has been a huge success and adoption is still growing, thus Microsoft will continue to invest in Teams and the dedicated mobile app. The advantage of this is that Microsoft will almost certainly ensure that it keeps on improving and working across all devices and operating systems; it is also distributed through the iOS app store and Google Play. This means you can be very confident that the app will continue to work effectively across all devices now and in the future; this is not always the case with some enterprise mobile apps.

Taking advantage of bot capabilities

One of the real advantages of the Teams app is that it can leverage bot capabilities with a mature conversational UI that works very well on a mobile device and takes advantage of native device capabilities, such as sending urgent messages to your lock screen or leveraging a devices voice activation to interact with the bot. This means the Teams app can work effectively to deliver urgent communications, updates and reminders from multiple integrated applications, and even perform simple transactions – an approach particularly useful for frontline employees. This positions Teams as a simple digital assistant that can really make a difference to the employee experience.

Aggregating apps going forward

Microsoft will keep on investing in the mobile Teams app, and new capabilities that are added to Microsoft 365 will likely also be available within Teams. Moreover, many other tech providers will build versions of their applications that are designed to be consumed in Teams as well as the corresponding app. In this way, the Teams app can be a useful resource through which digital workplace teams can integrate applications into Teams and make information available to employees on mobile devices quickly; they dont necessarily have to manage and launch a new dedicated app. The Teams app acts as an aggregator of information and communication that can evolve with future needs.

Teams Intranet


There are, however, some potential disadvantages to taking a Teams-first approach to your mobile intranet experience.

Licensing and cost

The most critical issue is whether your Microsoft licensing agreement gives access to all employees who would need to use the app. For example, not all frontline employees may have the necessary access or even Microsoft IDs and Active Directory profiles, and costs may be prohibitive. In these cases, you might need to look to an alternative mobile intranet app such as LiveTiles Reach.

Customised experiences

Sometimes organisations are looking to deliver more customised and branded experiences, particularly when the main aim of an app is to engage employees. The Teams app experience may not necessarily tick all your boxes.

Deeper app capabilities

You can do a lot in Teams and the related app, but employees might not be able to do everything they need. Sometimes, a dedicated mobile app for a different application may need to be delivered with richer and broader features available.

You need to be on top of Teams

Teams has a rich set of capabilities, not all of which can be turned off. If you are considering rolling out the Microsoft Teams app across all your employees, you will need to consider how it is going to be used and the related governance and support measures you may have to put in place.

Other dependencies

For some of the intranet capabilities you want Microsoft Teams to deliver, there may be other dependencies you need such as good Active Directory data and an additional audience targeting engine to deliver intranet personalisation. Before you go ahead and take a Teams-first approach to mobile, you need to ensure everything you need is in place.

Taking a Team-first approach to mobile

Launching the Teams app to deliver intranet-style functionality has enormous potential value, but there are advantages and disadvantages. It is undoubtably an approach to consider. If youd like to discuss the Microsoft Teams app or your mobile intranet strategy, then get in touch!

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