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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!