10 digital workplace and intranet trends for 2022

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

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

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

  1. Competition will continue to stimulate the intranet software market

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

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

  1. Intranets and digital workplaces will continue to support hybrid working

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

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

  1. External social media and the consumer world will influence the digital workplace

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

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

  1. Microsoft Teams will increasingly become the digital workplace of choice

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

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

  1. Microsoft Viva will enter the equation

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

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

  1. The digital divide for the frontline will continue to narrow

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

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

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

  1. HR and people-centric content and features will influence the intranet

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

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

  1. Citizen developers will become more commonplace

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

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

  1. Learning will continue to come into the heart of the digital workplace

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

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

  1. Intranets will keep on delivering value

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

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

Here’s to a happy and healthy 2022

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

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

Webinar video: Using SharePoint for policy management and compliance

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

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

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

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

25 business processes you can automate using Microsoft 365

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

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

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

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

  1. Updating key business policies

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

Potential tools to use: Xoralia policy management tool, SharePoint, Power Automate.
  1. Monitoring mandatory reads

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

Potential tools to use: Xoralia policy management tool, SharePoint, Power Automate, Power BI, Azure Active Directory
  1. Adding document metadata

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

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

Potential tools to use: Power Automate, SharePoint, SharePoint Syntex
  1. Archiving content and data

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

Potential tools to use: Power Automate, SharePoint
  1. Updating employee profiles

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

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

Potential tools to use: LiveTiles Directory, Delve, Custom-built solution, Active Directory
  1. Requests and approvals

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

Potential tools to use: Microsoft Forms, Power Automate, SharePoint, Power Virtual Agents, Microsoft Teams apps
  1. IT and facilities performance monitoring

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

Potential tools to use: Power BI, LiveTiles Intelligence, SharePoint, Azure application insights
  1. Microsoft 365 adoption reporting

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

Potential tools to use: Power BI, Microsoft 365 out-of-the-box, Viva Insights
  1. Logging support calls

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

Potential tools to use: Microsoft Forms, PowerApps, Power Automate, Power Virtual Agents, Microsoft Teams Apps
  1. Centralising notifications from different systems

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

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

Potential tools to use: Power Automate, PowerApps, Microsoft Teams Apps, SharePoint, LiveTiles Everywhere, Power Virtual Agents
  1. Financial reporting and monitoring

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

Potential tools to use: Power BI, SharePoint
  1. Marketing automation

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

Potential tools to use: PowerApps, Power Automate, Power BI, Microsoft Dynamics, Outlook
  1. Tracking assets

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

Potential tools to use: PowerApps, Power BI, Power Automate, Microsoft Forms, Power Virtual Agents
  1. 360 appraisals

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

Potential tools to use: Microsoft Forms, Power Automate, PowerApps, SharePoint
  1. Document building

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

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

Potential tools to use: PowerApps, SharePoint Workflows, Microsoft Office, Power Virtual Agents
  1. Know Your Client

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

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

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

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

Potential tools to use: Power BI, Microsoft Planner, Power Automate, Microsoft Shifts
  1. Project management

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

Potential tools to use: Microsoft Planner, Power BI, Microsoft Teams, Microsoft Project, SharePoint Online, Outlook
  1. Employee onboarding

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

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

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

Potential tools to use: Power Automate, Microsoft Forms, Power BI
  1. Collecting data from the field

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

Potential tools to use: PowerApps, Microsoft Forms, Teams Apps, Power Virtual Agents, SharePoint, Power BI
  1. Learning and development administration

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

Potential tools to use: LMS365, SharePoint, Power Automate, Power BI, Microsoft Viva Learning, Xoralia policy management tool, Azure Active Directory
  1. Keeping groups and lists up to date

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

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

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

Potential tools to use: Power Automate, Outlook, Microsoft Forms
  1. Knowledge Management

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

Potential tools to use: Microsoft Viva Topics, SharePoint

Microsoft 365 is a productivity and automation platform

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

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