6 leading Office 365 intranet examples with screenshots

At Content Formula we work extensively with clients who have Office 365, delivering intranets that are based on Office 365 technologies, and leverage its many features. These intranets both improve processes but also help employees to take advantage of the extensive Office 365 toolset, increasing adoption and value.  Through our work weve built up a strong library of Office 365 intranet examples that illustrate some the key good practices and approaches to consider when implementing an Office 365-based intranet.

Clients frequently ask us for compelling Office 365 intranet examples and to see screenshots. Here are five of our favourite examples with the relative key takeaway. You can also see some of our best SharePoint intranet examples too in a companion article.

1. Entain – a modern digital workplace hub in Microsoft 365 and Microsoft Teams

Entain Microsoft Office 365 intranet homepage
Entain’s Microsoft Office 365 intranet homepage

Entain needed a hub for their digital workplace serving 25,000 employees worldwide – including 15,000 retail workers. We designed and built a modern intranet that could be accessed from any device.

With the widespread adoption of Microsoft Teams across the business in the last year, we capitalised on this by delivering the intranet to people within the Teams app – also on mobile as well as the desktop app.

Entain Microsoft Office 365 intranet in Microsoft Teams including mobile
Entain’s Microsoft Office 365 intranet in Microsoft Teams including mobile

Delivering intranet content and features in Microsoft Teams means that the experience is more naturally integrated with the work day of the each employee. This has also provided us with an opportunity to connect with other systems – including Service Now and Oracle HR. The overall digital employee experience is vastly simplified versus the old, rather fragmented, approach.

 

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2. Boehringer Ingelheim – an Office 365 intranet that aligns to the wider digital workplace

Boehringer Ingelheim office 365 intranet example

Over the last three or four years the digital workplace concept has grown increasingly popular, particularly with the exponential growth of Office 365. The idea of a designed, coherent and consistent user experience across different workplace tools is an attractive one, and can help drive efficiency, employee engagement and the adoption of different tools.

The digital workplace has also had a significant influence on the evolution of intranets; modern intranets are ideally placed to be an attractive entry point (front door or launchpad) into the wider portfolio of applications across the digital workplace. An intranet strategy should therefore address the intranets relationship with the digital workplace.

When we were asked by global pharmaceutical company Boehringer Ingelheim (BI) to undertake user and stakeholder research and craft a new intranet strategy, it soon became clear that the intranet had a critical role to play in the companys digital workplace and Office 365 journey. The intranet team loved our suggestion that MyBI be positioned as a virtual assistant to help employees understand and navigate the companys new Office 365-powered digital workplace.

We also advised on design and technical matters, focusing on a new persistent, personalised intranet toolbar that helps employees navigate the digital workplace. This personalised My Tools menu is an essential speed dial to different apps and Office 365 tools, and also features access to personal Teams spaces. The new improved intranet is now ideally placed at the centre of the BI digital workplace, helping employees navigate the new array of tools at their fingertips.

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3. Xcapital – an Office 365 intranet that delivers critical business process

Xcapital Office 365 intranet that delivers critical business process

Office 365 brings many opportunities to improve critical business processes using the variety of different tools available, sometimes in combination with each other. An intranet based on SharePoint Online that can integrate with Office 365 tools such as Teams can also play its part. This means that the intranet can help to deliver an important business process;  driving efficiency, increasing the value and adoption of the intranet and leveraging your investment in Office 365 all at once!

XCapital is  a UK-based private equity house that provides funding options for ambitious businesses. A core activity for the company is a research and due diligence process that identifies and assesses new businesses to invest in.  In order to streamline and standardise a process that was primarily carried out by email and was highly inefficient, we were asked to create a digital workplace application that would automate the eight steps of the process and ensure staff follow correct procedures.

We used Microsoft Teams to create a place for templates, information and documents relating to each step, with automation ensuring each stage has been completed. The intranet also plays a key role. A custom SharePoint Online page displays key data about each target acquisition, including the stage at which the opportunity is at, and provides access to the relevant Teams space. This seamlessly integrates the due diligence process into the intranet, with users viewing key information and feeling they are accessing one system.

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Find out about our Microsoft Teams app development services and our out-of-the-box Sharepoint intranet development service.

4. ?WhatIf! – an Office 365 intranet that enables Knowledge Management

Office 365 intranet that enables Knowledge Management

Knowledge Management (KM) has been around for nearly twenty years but many organisations still have not quite nailed down a successful way to find, capture and re-use valuable knowledge that is generated through everyday work, collaboration and projects. Intranets are often a part of the solution, and regarded as a key channel in knowledge-sharing.

?What If! helps organisations to innovate new products, services and ways to operate. The team engaged us to deliver a new modern intranet that would integrate with Office 365, but they also wanted to solve the conundrum of how to manage the knowledge that emerges from projects. With Microsoft Teams being used for project collaboration, we built a compelling new intranet based on Wizdom intranet-in-a-box that also incorporated a simple but highly effective KM solution. In a special folder in Microsoft Teams, project teams can add valuable knowledge documents that can still be accessed once a Teams space has been archived.

On the intranet each project has its own page; these are automatically created with key data and have all the valuable knowledge documents accessible, all tagged with the correct project metadata. A custom search also helps employees find project files based on different criteria, increasing knowledge flow and exploiting the link between a SharePoint Online intranet and Microsoft Teams.

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Find out about our Wizdom SharePoint intranet-in-a-box offering

5. Haines Watts – an Office 365 intranet with onboarding workflows and bots

Office 365 intranet with onboarding workflows and bots

Office 365 provides organisations with a flexible and ever-expanding get of tools and services that help build up digital workplaces over time, for example increasing collaboration or using workflow to digitise simple processes. A SharePoint Online intranet that sits alongside Office 365 can also take a similar approach, using the easy ability to integrate with Office 365 tools and other elements of the Microsoft stack to keep on extending the power of the intranet.

At UK accountancy firm Haines Watts we had already deployed an Office 365-based intranet that was full of useful features, but we continued to add new functionality. One of these was the introduction of a simple workflow tool that leverages Office 365 and can be used by non-technical staff to create workflows to help improve processes. For example, employee onboarding is made easier by using forms, documents and data capture across seven steps to manage and automate the onboarding process for a new starter and notify all the various parties that need to complete actions. This framework can be repeated for other types of processes such as ordering a company credit card, with the client able to create the workflow themselves.

Further extending intranet capability, we also deployed a chatbot to help employees ask questions. Named after Haines Watts founder, Cyril is accessible from every page through a chat facility and uses Microsofts natural language framework LUIS to help employees find what they need. We designed and helped train the bot. Cyril has become more sophisticated over time through machine learning and added capabilities, again turning the intranet into a versatile platform to drive information flow and process efficiency.

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6. Moving Made Easy – an Office 365 intranet that powers core operational processes

Office 365 intranet that powers core operational processes - example

Sometimes your Office 365 intranet can actually be your digital workplace, with the ability to carry out all your core processes and activities without entering another system. This can be the case where you have unique needs to meet and where a customised intranet and digital workplace completely configured around the way you work makes sense. Although this approach will not be applicable to all companies, it can deliver significant efficiencies and support digital transformation.

Moving Made Easy help house builders sell their homes by assisting customers with the sale of their existing homes. We helped them replace their ageing property management system with a new highly efficient intranet and digital workplace based on Office 365 where employees can carry out all the major activities associated with selling a house. Taking an end-to-end approach for the process for each individual sale,  integration with external systems and automation has helped to increase productivity.  Dashboards and reporting through Power BI has also given management a powerful overview of data, and even created different views for customers to check the status of their sale. Weve also continued to work with the client to expand and improve the digital workplace, providing a system which has had a major impact on the daily work.

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Need other Office 365 intranet examples with screenshots?

Case studies and screenshots can provide a good reference point for what is possible with a modern intranet on Office 365, as well as revealing good practices and impactful approaches. If you need other examples of great intranets why not check out our full list of case studies.  Alternatively you can also get in touch.

8 great examples of intranet homepage design

8 great examples of intranet homepage design One question we get asked frequently is how should I design my intranet homepage or what should be on it?  Invariably our answer is it depends, as there are a lot of variables to consider. One of the reasons for this is that the intranet homepage fulfils a number of different roles including a place to drive internal communications, the starting point for finding information and launching apps, a reflection of organisational culture, a place to stay on top of collaborative activities and tasks, and more.

No two intranet homepages are the same

Also, no two intranet homepages are the same. Sure, there are similarities, but intranets come in different forms; the design, layout, capabilities and scope are heavily influenced by the organisation they serve and the objectives of the intranet. This is usually evident from the intranet homepage and its design. For example, in an organisation with a more laid-back culture or where the primary aim of the intranet is to engage and connect employees, you may have more social features on the homepage in prominent positions. If an intranet is serving a traditional law firm, perhaps there might be more of an emphasis on formal, corporate communications.

The importance of the intranet homepage

Intranet homepages are important. They are usually the place employees pass through to other pages or apps and also where news is consumed. They can also make or break your adoption; have a really confusing or ugly intranet homepage and employees are far less likely to want to go and use the rest of it. Basically, you need to your intranet homepage design right. Of course, the technology platform you are using will also heavily influence and dictate your homepage design but most intranet software (and also SharePoint Online) will give you some flexibility to configure your intranet homepage in the way that will work best for you. Below are seven eight great intranet designs that we hope will get you inspired. Weve selected each of these as they have a different emphasis or flavour. Which one would best meet the needs of your organisation?

1. The intranet homepage that is “everywhere”

Gone are the days when employees would have to open their web browser to get to the intranet. In the modern digital workplace, it’s important to be where the employees are – surface your news, guidance and search to people in the apps they spend most of their workday. For desk-based information workers, Microsoft Teams is quickly replacing email as a primary location to get work done, so why not serve your intranet content there? The intranet below is available within Microsoft Teams on desktop and mobile, but also in the Yammer app too. Even if you are not on Microsoft platforms, the aim should be to reach your internal customers where they most often reside. Entain Microsoft Office 365 intranet in Microsoft Teams including mobile

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2. The personalised intranet homepage

Personalisation allows for an intranet that is truly relevant to an individual and the way they work. Leveraging profile data via Active Directory data, permissions and site memberships, preferences and subscriptions, means that a person can have a homepage that is full of content that is truly relevant. This is very important in large and complex organisations with a very diverse workforce, where there is also  content that is targeted to their role, division,  location and native language. It may also be relevant where there is potential information overload and employees have a lot of tasks, or collaboration sites to keep on top of. For example, in the homepage below:
  • There is a news feed with targeted content based on different criteria that could match to a user profile; the keyword for each is displayed
  • To the right there is a large personalised area that helps employees keep on top of what they need to do, including:
    • Updating their profile (with progress bar)
    • Mandatory reads
    • Favourite collaboration sites they are a member of
    • Recent documents worked upon.
Personalised intranet homepage example

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3. The operational intranet homepage

Intranets can contribute to the smooth day to day running of operations within your company. By keeping employees informed about critical updates and of any required actions from right across your company, as well as giving them an overview of the status of different types of operation, the intranet plays an important role in daily work. This design contains a number of useful features that can help employees keep on top of operations, including:
  • A noticeboard feature that includes a roll-up of updates from different functions and sites right across the organisation
  • A data dashboard that could display real-time data, for example on sales, health and safety record, percentage of issues met or something completely different
  • A Red Amber Green system status board, for example that could cover the status of IT or other operational systems.
  • An embedded social media feed that can show conversations and posts with customers, again in real time.
Operational intranet homepage example

4. The engaging internal communications intranet homepage

If your primary aim is to drive engagement through internal communications, then a more news-focused intranet homepage is likely. However, if this is too text heavy it can look vey drab. Having a high number of photos or images as well as colour blocks can really help your intranet homepage look far more appealing and also often drive the number of visits to particular items.  The example below is a good example of presenting multiple stories in an attractive way. Engaging internal communications intranet homepage example

5. The findability-focused intranet homepage

Findability is a key task for intranets, helping employees find information to carry out their daily role and get things done. The homepage design shown below is very different and encourages employees to find what they need with a large search box dominating the page, as well as a series of icons that could lead to either apps or critical areas of the intranet. In this case the search is geared towards finding files from projects and research. Additionally there is a shortcut to upload content in the top-right – making the process of sharing information as straightforward as possible. Vibe Library Intranet Homepage blog

6. The balanced intranet homepage

Sometimes intranet teams find they have a high number of use cases for the intranet homepage or a large number of stakeholders with conflicting views on what the intranet homepage should look like. In these cases it can be good to sometimes go for a more balanced homepage that gives equity to a number of different elements. For example, in the screenshot below there is a nice balance between internal communications, evergreen task-orientated content, social updates and even external news with:
  • A prominent hero area with news items and also a separate web part with events details
  • A feed of all the latest employee blogs, with user-generated content balancing corporate communications
  • A How do I section offering information on how to complete tasks, with operatioinal information balancing more corporate updates
  • A list of external website updates, again with an external focus balancing the internal focus of the news
Balanced intranet homepage example

7. The uncluttered intranet homepage

Because intranet homepages carry out so many different functions, sometimes there is the temptation to pack a lot of information into a homepage. This can result in a cluttered and even overwhelming user experience that can be off-putting. Some teams, often influenced by the user experience on a mobile device, choose to create a less cluttered user experience, for example in the design below. Uncluttered intranet homepage example

8. The Office 365 front door intranet homepage

Many of todays leading intranets are based on SharePoint Online. One of the advantages of these intranets is that they can easily integrate with Office 365 and its constituent tools which can then be displayed as web parts on the homepage. This has some real advantages in that it can help drive the adoption of Office 365 tools; for example, you might want to put a list of MS Teams spaces or team sites that a person is s member of. Embedding a Yammer feed on the homepage is also popular. In this way the intranet homepage acts a front door for Office 365 tools, both by surfacing and aggregating activity but also enabling employees to easily reach different parts of their Office 365 digital workplace. For example, in the screenshot below:
  • There is a people search that could uncover Delve profiles
  • There is a personalized list of My Workspaces that could be team sites or MS Teams
  • There is a Yammer feed where people can also post
  • There is even a promotional item for Office 365 training.
Office 365 front door intranet homepage example

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What intranet design works best for you?

Hopefully, weve given you some ideas for intranet designs and some of the factors to consider when designing your homepage. What one works best for you? If youd like to talk to us about intranet homepages and intranet design, then why not get in touch?

7 ways an internal communications app can benefit your company

The COVID-19 crisis has made it clear how important it is to connect remote employees and make sure they are well-informed through reliable and trusted digital communications channels. Business continuity, employee engagement and wellbeing are just some of the benefits that we have seen digital channels provide; of course, these elements have always been important, and will continue to be so when the pandemic is under control.

Weve written frequently about the contribution an employee mobile app with a focus on internal communications can make in connecting staff, particularly those on the frontline. Weve explored the reasons for deploying an app, such as its convenience and focus, as well as the essential features of a good mobile intranet app. This time around, were going to explore the deeper business benefits that can be achieved by deploying an internal comms app like LiveTiles Reach which is available to all employees.

Here are seven ways an internal communications app can contribute to the transformation of your business.

  1. Enabling digital transformation by connecting all employees

In the past, there have been many challenges when creating a digital workplace and related digital communications channels that all employees can access. Having all employees accessing your digital workplace is usually a prerequisite for true digital transformation, ensuring:

  • You are a truly connected company
  • There is a level playing field in terms of access to information
  • Everyone has a voice
  • All employees can experience productivity gains and contribute to innovation.

Traditionally, it has been difficult to connect frontline employees to corporate intranets and channels which are predominantly aimed at knowledge workers. This is not only due to poor mobile experiences or a lack of access to corporate devices, but also because frontline employees sometimes do not have the Microsoft licenses or digital identities to access the intranet. There are also examples of other groups of employees who are disconnected, including outsourced workers or new acquisitions of companies where it takes time to arrange access for newly onboarded employees.

An internal comms and digital workplace mobile app that is available on both employee-owned and corporate devices is simply the quickest and most cost-efficient way to connect all your employees, bypassing many of the logistical barriers around identities, devices and access to the digital workplace during the working day. This means an app can be the springboard for digital transformation, unlocking new ways of working and providing opportunities for collaboration, innovation and more.

  1. Improving every individuals digital employee experience

Employee experience is now a common area of focus for HR teams and senior leaders, helping drive a more joined-up and strategic approach to how employees experience their work with multiple benefits that flow. The digital element of this is important.

An internal communications app that also has some integrated elements of the digital workplace can support a better digital employee experience for each individual, particularly if personalisation makes sure the experience is relevant for that person. For example, an app might help a person stay up-to-date with changes, drive efficiencies through easier task completion and just make their working day a little easier. Achieving this across your entire workforce can be transformational, with significant collective benefits around engagement and productivity.

  1. Supporting your employment value proposition

Having a strong value proposition as an employer and a reputation for being a great place to work is essential in attracting the best talent and reducing employee turnover – both common strategic aims for HR functions. An internal communications app can play a role in supporting your employment value proposition by:

  • Helping to encourage transparency
  • Giving everyone a voice to support engagement
  • Supporting Diversity and Inclusion, with all representatives of your workforce contributing to the digital workplace
  • Helping employees feel better informed about and connected to your organisations purpose and values, amplifying whats best about your organisational culture (this is explored further below)
  • Boosting confidence in senior leaders through internal communications
  • Providing access to learning assets, encouraging personal and career development
  • Supplying access to health and wellbeing initiatives
  • Supporting better connection between colleagues
  • Providing a better digital employee experience, as already stated
  • Specifically supporting employee advocacy initiatives, encouraging employees to share stories on their own social media channels and spreading awareness of a strong employee value proposition.
  1. Driving process improvement

Digital transformation is often about improving and changing multiple processes across the enterprise; for example, many organisations have already gone through a process of digitisation by moving paper processes online, and are now looking at further aspects of automation, advanced workflow and self-service to improve productivity. Other process improvements could mean replacing email communication with more efficient methods of exchanging information, particularly if it means eliminating unnecessary steps and approvals. This is particularly true regarding processes where people are on-the-go or out in the field, and mobile access for viewing or submitting information makes a difference.

An internal communications app can play its part here, not only by ensuring all staff can access the information they need for improved processes, but also by driving better dialogue across the business and information flow. When multiple processes start to change, especially those involving frontline or mobile staff, an app can make a significant contribution to overall organisational efficiency.

  1. Supporting business continuity

In a volatile and unpredictable world, business continuity has never been more important. Clear and trusted communications delivered in real-time are a critical part of executing business continuity, while ongoing two-way communication supports ongoing operations.

The digital workplace and its constituent communications and collaboration tools and channels have proved to be utterly essential during the COVID-19 pandemic. Here, an employee app that all employees have access to can really support business continuity, helping deliver messages and ongoing dialogue which allows organisations, teams and individual employees to adapt rapidly to new situations and realities. If you remember the days when business continuity relied solely on cascading messages through managers phoning their team members at home, then youll know the difference a mobile internal comms app makes.

  1. Driving agility and innovation

In a highly competitive world, the ability to be agile and respond quickly to the market is essential. Innovation is also important – being able to deliver news products and services, especially in difficult economic conditions.

Here, an internal communications app can make a surprising difference, for example, through:

  • The ability to get rapid feedback and input on new initiatives from all employees , helping with speed to market
  • Receiving messages in real-time in order to launch new offerings quickly and smoothly
  • Receiving real-time feedback from customer-facing staff on how customers are feeling or behaving, delivering insights which can improve products and services
  • Gathering ideas from all staff, including those who deal directly with customers, to feed innovation
  • Driving a culture of agility and innovation, as employees see the positive results from giving input and feedback.
  1. Supporting a unified and positive culture

Senior leaders often want to drive a more unified culture for their organisation, particularly after mergers and acquisitions. They also want a positive and perhaps less hierarchical culture that reflects company values, celebrates successes, emphasises areas such as good customer service and makes people feel more connected to organisational purpose.

An internal comms app can really help shift and nurture company culture through access to leadership communications, messaging campaigns, peer-to-peer shout-outs and feel-good success stories, leading to the establishment of a strong sense of community.

Deploying an internal communications app? Get in touch!

We think an internal communications app or something similar can make a huge positive contribution to every business. If you want to discuss your options around launching an app, or the business benefits of doing so, then get in touch!

10 benefits of an Azure cloud migration

Many organisations and IT functions have chosen to migrate to the cloud, forming a backbone of IT strategy, business continuity, digital workplace and even digital transformation plans. There are myriad reasons to move over to the cloud, including reduced costs, increased flexibility, ease of management and the sheer power it can give even small organisations to produce game-changing solutions and exceptional digital workplaces.

Although there are different providers to consider when planning out a cloud migration, many organisations choose an Azure-based migration. For many of the customers we work with here at Content Formula, going down the Azure migration route is a no-brainer.

In this article, were going to explore ten key benefits of an Azure migration. Some of these relate to the general advantages of moving to the cloud, but most are specific to why we believe Azure is the best option for almost every organisation.

1 Azure is best-in-class

Make no mistake, Azure is a best-in-class option for cloud migrations. Microsoft has invested heavily in ensuring that Azure is leading-edge  relating to both Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) and Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), providing excellent scalability, performance, controls and services for global enterprises and small companies alike. IT functions also have confidence and certainty that they are investing in a platform that will continue to be industry-leading.

2 Its a Microsoft platform

Whilst Microsoft as an organisation can provoke strong reactions in people, its undeniable that the company has played a major role in supporting the evolution of the cloud and the digital workplace. Many organisations and IT functions are attracted to Azure because it is a Microsoft platform and aligns with technology roadmaps and digital workplaces strategies that are already based on the Microsoft stack.

Microsoft also drives confidence among IT professionals who are already comfortable working with Microsoft technologies but also want to get solid experience of working with Azure; working on an Azure migration is transferable experience that supports career progression.

3 Business continuity

Business continuity has always been a key reason for migrating to the cloud. Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic has proved just how critical this is, ensuring that businesses were able to implement remote working at scale and speed through access to the right tools and cloud-based files. Of course, business continuity also covers elements such as extreme weather events, ransomware attacks and issues with on-premises installations. Here, Azure migrations have proved to be a successful pillar of thousands of business continuity strategies.

4 Digital workplace and digital employee experience strategy

Having a successful digital workplace and accompanying digital employee experience strategy is now a given for most organisations. Here, Microsoft 365 and Azure are at the centre of most organisations digital workplace strategies, providing world-class opportunities for communication, collaboration and digital transformation. As a key enabler of a successful Microsoft-driven digital workplace and digital employee experience strategy and roadmap, Azure migration is an option which opens up multiple possibilities to develop a digital workplace.

Theres also a future-proofing element here, as you can be confident that Microsoft will continue to improve and extend the power of Azure to meet future digital workplace needs.

5 Scalability

The scalability of Azure is an obvious area of strength. Both a small organisation with fewer than 50 people and a global mega-corporation with a six or even seven-figure workforce can scale-up and scale-down very quickly with the Azure platform.  This scalability also ensures IT teams can plan and tightly control their migration with confidence.

Scalability is important. As the pandemic has shown, the world is highly unpredictable, and Azure can more than meet unexpected requirements as well as deal with more planned business restructures.  Azure also has robust autoscaling capabilities that reflect daily changes in use which can occur, particularly in global organisations.

6 Costs

Costs are going to be a major driver for any cloud migration. With an Azure migration, there is the potential to massively reduce infrastructure costs for larger enterprises. At the same time, smaller enterprises get access to a platform and its related services, analytics and more at a fraction of the cost that would have previously been possible.

7 Security and compliance

Microsoft has invested heavily in security and compliance features to ensure that organisational data on Azure has robust, enterprise-grade security in place and that most of the complex compliance, legal and regulatory needs of global organisations can be met. This is reflected in everything from increasing flexibility in the territories in which data is technically stored, to good administration controls for Azure Active Directory (AAD), to tools to help you find personally identifiable information (PII) for GDPR-related compliance.  There are also some industry-specific solutions, such as those relating to government institutions. Choosing Azure as your migration platform will give you access to the best security available as well as a strong ability to meet compliance needs.

8 Analytics

Another benefit from Azure is that it comes with some strong analytical and reporting features that can help with  delivering insights, but also in monitoring the platform.  For example, there are dashboards which can reveal insights from big data, give recommendations relating to security and also  help with the general management of the platform. As hybrid patterns of work continue with increased use of the digital workplace, we think Azure-driven data insights will continue to grow in importance.

9 Services

Azure comes with some advanced services and frameworks that organisations can tap into to deliver a variety of digital workplace capabilities, including AI-driven solutions. These continue to grow in sophistication and include translation services, cognitive services with natural language understanding, big data processing and even facial recognition. Developers and increasingly low-code or no-code solutions can easily make instant API calls to these services to deliver sophisticated apps.

10 Integrations

The creation of apps is also supported by a library of out-of-the-box integrations in Azure. These cover both widely-used Microsoft tools and popular non-Microsoft applications like ServiceNow. To take full advantage of these integrations, developers can use Azure Logic Apps to build sophisticated workflows that work at scale and lightning speed, and again deliver strong digital workplace solutions. The library connectors also enable rapid development, shaving development time where in the past integrations were much harder and took longer to develop.

 

The power of Azure

Cloud migration is definitely the direction of travel for most organisations and IT functions. Azure cloud migration is, in our opinion, the best choice due to a wide variety of benefits. If youd like to discuss migrating to Azure, then get in touch!

Ten reasons why a SharePoint intranet is your best option

We are often asked by intranet teams and IT functions what the best base technology option for an intranet is. Without much hesitation we reply SharePoint or SharePoint Online. In our view, it offers the most flexible option for an intranet and the most value, particularly if you are using other Microsoft tools like Yammer or Teams that can be integrated into it. If youre on Office 365 then a SharePoint Online intranet is pretty much a no-brainer as the licence is included.

Of course, every organisation is different and that means what your intranet needs to deliver is different. Budgetary factors and the composition of your digital workplace can also be factors in working out what the best technology option for your intranet is. The great news is that there are plenty of technology options to consider, although invariably we find when organisations go through an evaluation exercise, SharePoint often emerges as the preferred choice.

SharePoint still provokes negative reactions in some people. More often than not this is because of experiences with older versions of SharePoint, where customisation was necessary for most intranet projects, and where implementations could drag on for months and months. SharePoint has changed dramatically since then (it’s now called SharePoint Modern) and is now much better, with a much slicker user interface, better performance and it’s much less reliant on developers. So, if you have had bad experiences with SharePoint then please put those aside and keep an open mind. Things have changed.

Here’s our view of the main reasons why a SharePoint or SharePoint Online intranet is likely to be your best intranet option. (Note that below when we’re talking about SharePoint, we’re also referring to SharePoint Online too.)

 

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1. SharePoint is now the world’s most popular choice for intranets

SharePoint is the world’s most popular base technology for intranets. This is repeatedly reflected in various digital workplace and intranet surveys. While this is not a reason to go with SharePoint per se it does provide some confidence that organisations are successfully using SharePoint and SharePoint Online to deliver great intranets.

The various intranet awards like Nielsen Norman Group’s annual top ten intranets and the Step Two Intranet & Digital Workplace Awards also regularly feature SharePoint intranets as the winners, demonstrating the art of the possible.

Nielsen Norman GroupSTEP TWO - Intranet & Digital Workplace Awards

2. There are a great many SharePoint intranet-in-a-box options

One of the great advantages of using SharePoint (and particularly SharePoint Online) is that it opens up a huge variety of options for your intranet. Although you can now deliver an intranet out of the box (i.e. using just pure SharePoint), there is a now very mature market of SharePoint intranet-in-a-box products that work alongside SharePoint to provide additional site templates, page layouts, ready built web parts, stronger governance and additional capabilities, allowing you to deliver exceptional intranets within weeks. These turnkey intranet products are highly effective, good value and fully leverage the power of SharePoint to deliver the kind of modern intranet that complex enterprises demand.

Because the market is so competitive it means that many of the offerings are now of a very high standard; we implement LiveTiles Intranet (formerly known as Wizdom Intranet), in our view the best product on the market and one that is highly regarded. But the good news for intranet teams is they have a great number of choices.

LiveTiles intranet screenshot
An example of a LiveTiles intranet

3. Integration with Office 365 and other Microsoft tools

A major draw of SharePoint is the ability to integrate with other Microsoft tools, increasingly without any help from developers. Integrating Yammer feeds, lists of Teams spaces and OneDrive documents is straightforward and can often be done by content editors without needing to fall back on developers. There are also exciting opportunities to weave process improvement (using Power Automate, for example) and reporting (Power BI) into your intranet too. It also works the other way too so you can integrate the intranet experience, for example into Teams.

Having a close relationship between your intranet and your 365 suite of tools allows you to create a great digital workplace experience, while also using your intranet to drive adoption of Office 365 and establish some governance. The Microsoft Power Apps now also give us the ability to rapidly build custom apps that can integrate easily with your intranet – great for automation, advanced workflow, connecting to other company applications and more…

4. Flexible, scalable, customisable

One of the most powerful capabilities of SharePoint is its flexibility and scalability. It’s used for intranets both by companies with 100 employees and 100,000 employees and supports a range of capabilities including internal communication, content services, collaboration, search & findability and more. Flexibility and scalability come into their own as organisations restructure and as strategic priorities change over time. SharePoint is also customisable, so it is perfectly possible to craft an intranet (or even an entire digital workplace) truly wrapped around the way you work. Many IT functions want to avoid customisation if they can, but it remains an option for particular use cases., and we’ve worked on many SharePoint intranets that have some customisation.

5. SharePoint supports most content publishing needs

Fundamentally intranets are about content, and you can fully utilise SharePoint for sophisticated content publishing and management to meet most of your needs around internal communications and where content needs to be carefully managed. Although communication sites have helped to bring more publishing capabilities to SharePoint, actually more sophisticated content publishing features like approval workflow, news templates, editorial calendars, automated content reviews and more tend to be included in in-a-box products.

6. Integrating collaboration into the intranet

Traditionally SharePoint has always been a strong collaboration platform, mainly through team sites. While perhaps Microsoft Teams has perhaps now taken over the crown as the flagship collaboration tool, a SharePoint intranet can still bring collaboration into the heart of the intranet experience and the daily flow of work. Team sites are still available, but easy integration of Microsoft Teams and Yammer means that the collaboration continues to be part of a SharePoint intranet.

7. Document sharing and management

Many organisations information distribution, collaboration, knowledge assets and project output remain resolutely document-centric. While that is perhaps not always ideal, it’s a fact. SharePoint’s relatively robust document library capabilities therefore have always been a valuable part of SharePoint, allowing for document sharing and distribution, knowledge management, collaboration and more. The easy integration of SharePoint libraries into your SharePoint intranet has always been a strong capability that is not always acknowledged.

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8. Supporting personalisation and content targeting

Most modern intranets include personalisation capabilities, so that content can be targeted to different groups  such as all employees at one location, or in one division or function, or based on their seniority. This means that differently themed content can appear seamlessly together, targeted for each individual employee. Additionally, some intranets allow users to subscribe to different topics of interest.  SharePoint and SharePoint Online intranets can very effectively support personalisation and content targeting, leveraging easy integration with Active Directory profiles to deliver truly relevant intranets. It’s another reason why SharePoint is an excellent base technology for your intranet.

9. The modern experience

The development of SharePoint modern experiences with attractive designs, far easier publishing interfaces, better performance, some very useful site templates and a whole host of other improvements has been at the centre of SharePoint improvement over the past two years. This is very different from classic SharePoint it produces a far better intranet but also allows the intranet team to be far less reliant on the IT function, something which has been frustrating for many teams in the past. The modern experience is one of the things we love about SharePoint both as geeky developers and as SharePoint consultants too, helping clients implementing fantastic intranets.

10. Microsoft keep on investing in SharePoint

Over the past few years Microsoft has been very active in investing in SharePoint and SharePoint Online with the development of modern experiences and further out of the box capabilities that support the development of intelligent intranets. This is set to continue. The roadmap for SharePoint looks very healthy and we keep seeing new announcements. Most recently we heard about Viva coming onto the scene. You can be confident that investing in SharePoint means an intranet that is future-proof in the true sense of the word and can evolve and improve with extra features and capabilities.

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If you’re considering creating a new SharePoint or SharePoint Online intranet, want to return to SharePoint, or need any advice in this area then get in touch! We’d love to hear from you.

 

Yammer versus Teams: which tool should I use?

Microsoft 365 offers a suite of tools that gives digital workplace teams an enormous range of options with which to deliver world-class communication and collaboration platforms. The sheer flexibility, scalability and breadth of features is empowering, but having too much choice can be overwhelming; you can achieve excellent results using different tools, yet some capabilities overlap. Which tool to use when is not only a question that employees frequently ask, but also one that teams need to consider as they implement the Microsoft 365 platform.

Yammer vs Teams?

We are often asked when should we use Yammer and when should we use Teams?. At first glance, this seems quite a straightforward question, but the answer is not always so clear cut, and it may differ from organisation to organisation.

In this article, were going to explore when its best to use Yammer and when its best to use Teams, as well as the cases in which the answer is not necessarily so straightforward.

The inner loop and the outer loop

In the past, Microsoft has used a model involving inner loops and outer loops to explain the fundamental differences between using Yammer and Teams. This entails imagining the people you need to collaborate and communicate with as a series of loops. The inner loop is defined as people you work with regularly on core projects: this may be your immediate teams and colleagues, people on projects and others you work with closely. Microsoft recommends using Teams spaces to collaborate and communicate with the people within your inner loop.

Meanwhile, the outer loop is defined as the broader audience you might want to inform and engage with. This could be people more on the periphery of your network, members of a community you only have irregular contact with, or even people you dont know within your company. Microsoft recommends using Yammer with this circle.

The inner and outer loop model is still useful in illustrating the main difference between Yammer and Teams and their respective strengths; however, the increasing growth of Microsoft Teams as the entry and aggregation point for the wider digital workplace and as the centre of unified communications makes the loop model less clear. For example, you may now use Teams to call someone very much in the outer loop and even to engage in external collaboration.


When to use Yammer

Yammer is essentially a social networking platform that facilitates open and less formal discussion across larger numbers of employees, perhaps across a whole department, a particular community or even an entire organisation.

Its the place where conversations and discussions happen in which anybody is invited and encouraged to contribute, get involved or ask questions. Because the groups and conversations in Yammer tend to be open by default, its also a good tool to use when you have an ongoing group dedicated to a particular topic which you want people to discover and then join.

Its an ideal place for less formal and more social communication such as shout-outs and non-working groups, but internal communicators can also use it as a platform to boost more formal internal communications or remind people about events and things they need to do.

Use cases for Yammer include:

  • Getting wider feedback and opinions from people across the business on different initiatives
  • Establishing Professional Communities of Practice or Communities of Interest around different topics, from engineering to wellbeing
  • Setting up Employee Resource Groups (ERG) for discussions and support that help promote diversity and inclusion
  • Encouraging questions from people across the business and providing answers from experts
  • Implementing user support communities for different technologies where both IT teams and super-users can provide answers to questions
  • Creating non-work groups such as sports clubs or spaces for people with particular hobbies
  • Providing a place for people to share links and photos
  • Sharing employee shout-outs and thank-yous across a wide group of people
  • Spreading quick updates and informal reminders for a particular department or location.


When to use Teams

Teams is a real-time messaging, communication and collaboration platform ideally designed for smaller, closed teams with high volumes of communication. Teams is a fantastic platform that works best for teams of, say, less than 20 people who are all working closely together day-to-day on a particular project or as a working group with a specific aim. The focus here is on everyday work, sharing documents and messaging with people you probably already know using a far more efficient option than email.

Generally, a Teams space and its content will be restricted to only members of that space. It is not designed for those broader, community-based conversations that sit better in Yammer. It is also the place where you carry out messaging, audio calls and video meetings with individuals, smaller groups and even external collaborators.

A Teams space can include document libraries, discussions and additional functionality such as Planner tasks, bots and integrations with a range of other Microsoft 365 and non-Microsoft 365 tools.

With Teams proving to be so popular in recent month, with many people spending their working day constantly in and out of it, Microsoft and other technical providers are pushing more and more capabilities through Teams. For example, you can now organise online events through Teams, and the recently announced Microsoft Viva will be delivered through the platform too. You can even access a LiveTiles intranet through Teams.

Use cases for Teams can accommodate:

  • Smaller project teams and working groups
  • Close-knit and immediate teams working within specific functions for everyday document sharing and communication
  • Teams who work together to deliver a specific, repeatable process
  • A group whose work is often confidential and who require a space for private discussions and files, for example, a leadership team
  • A group who wants to exploit integrations, bots and other capabilities readily available within Teams.

When to use other tools

If you are considering when to use Yammer and when to use Teams, it is also worth defining when to use your other major digital communication and collaboration tools as well. This will give your employees and other communicators a more complete view of their digital workplace options. Here, a common tool is SharePoint and a SharePoint-based intranet. This is likely to be the platform to use for formal news and internal communications. You may also want to consider the role of Outlook, employee apps, digital signage, your HR portal and platforms like ServiceNow and Confluence.

When it gets blurry

We think the distinction between Teams and Yammer and their ideal uses is relatively clear. However, there are times when the decision between the two is not going to be clear cut. Here, some flexibility is usually sensible, allowing the site manager to make the choice or basing the decision on the preferences of the members.

These kinds of borderline cases typically include:

  • Where smaller, closed groups are engaging in a lot of ongoing discussions which might be better displayed in Yammer than in Teams
  • Where you are introducing Teams, but discussions are ongoing in Yammer and the existing platform is already working well (and vice versa)
  • Where a manager of a site has a strong personal preference.

The fact that you can view and interact with Yammer through Teams is an additional complicating factor. This may entail a harder position in deciding when to use Teams or Yammer in your messaging to employees.

When adoption of Teams is very high and people are spending much of their working day with it open, it can be tempting to push more usage of Teams because its what people are already using, even though a Yammer community might better suit some use cases. Again, there is not necessarily a right or wrong answer here, and taking a pragmatic view is the best option.

 

Yammer or Teams?

Yammer and Teams are both excellent tools with individual strengths. Whilst the distinction is broadly clear, there is always going to be overlap. If youd like to discuss either your Yammer or Teams strategy, then get in touch!

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