Webinar: Reaching a hybrid work force with an employee app

About the webinar:

During this webinar we looked at how to effectively bridge the gap in your companies Microsoft 365 communication system by using an employee app to reach frontline and external users, keeping the entire work force connected, engaged and productive.

Many organisations use communication systems such as Microsoft 365 to reach their employees with important updates. Whilst these platforms are generally successful at connecting with employees, some organisations still face challenges when reaching a full hybrid workforce.

This is typically for one of three reasons:

1.
Not all employees have a Microsoft 365 licence or access to the platform
2.
When an organisation has more than one Microsoft 365 tenant environment (often due to acquisitions or mergers)
3.
Some field-workers struggle to access and use the platforms on mobile devices

In this webinar we explore the solutions to all these problems.

Watch the webinar:

Play Video

What you will learn in this webinar:

In this 60 minute workshop our expert panel provide solutions to all your employee communication issues and cover:

• The different types of employee apps available, and the features and functionality each of them offer.

• How employee apps can help increase employee communication, productivity, company engagement, and improve the overall employee experience within your organisation.

• How to best use employee apps to successfully reach and communicate with all you employees, whether they work in an office, remotely or are field-based.

The panel

Alex Yeoman
Content Formula - Sales Manager

Alex has experience in running and triaging support at Content Formula across multiple clients and solutions such as intranets, learning management systems and custom solutions. He works with new clients, understanding challenges and objectives and recommending solutions

John Scott
Content Formula - UX Director

John has worked across both design and technical disciplines - a rare combination that allow him to build a bridge between the user experience and technical teams. This means that feasibility, usability, delivery and ease of maintenance are baked-into all of our solutions.

Lars Nielsen
Livetiles - Sales Manager

Lars has been working with LiveTiles for the past 6 years and been involved in a large amount of enterprise class digital workplace projects based on M365 SharePoint, MS Teams and the Reach frontline worker app. Prior to joining LiveTiles, lars held corporate management positions in the software industry in the EMEA region and before that also spend years in Silicon Valley (US).

Viva Engage, Viva Goals, Viva Sales: what are the new Microsoft Viva modules?

Since the launch of Microsoft Viva in early 2021, Microsoft has continued to invest in its employee experience platform, by adding new features, connectors and capabilities to the existing four modules – Viva Connections, Viva Learning, Viva Insights and Viva Topics.

But in recent weeks the expansion of the platform and the Microsoft Viva brand has quickened with the announcement of three new modules: Viva Goals, Viva Results and Viva Engage.

In this post we’re going to explore the three new Viva modules, what they do and the value that they could bring to businesses.

What is Microsoft Viva?

Microsoft Viva as an employee experience platform that is delivered through Microsoft Teams. Initially four modules were announced, all of which have since launched. Even though Viva is positioned as a platform, it is arguably a series of separate apps within the Teams platform:

Viva ConnectionsViva Connections: A gateway to internal communications and company resources

Viva InsightsViva Insights: Personalised analytics and related insights for individuals, managers and leaders that support well-being, collaboration, productivity and more

Viva LearningViva Learning: A learning hub that aggregates learning resources from a variety of different systems and sources

Viva TopicsViva Topics: A knowledge discovery platform that uses AI to source resources and experts on different topics.

Microsoft Viva has had huge interest from intranet, digital workplace and Microsoft 365 teams, who are actively deploying one or more of its modules across the digital workplace.

Let’s explore the opportunities the three recently announced modules bring.

Viva Goals

Although Viva Goals was only formally announced in May 2022, it’s been on the roadmap for considerably longer, and is a direct result of Microsoft’s acquisition of Ally.io, a leading provider of Objectives and Key Results (OKR) software. OKR software helps organisations, teams and individuals to set meaningful goals and then record progress towards meeting them; it is a good way to give strategic context to employee’s daily work, for example.

The Viva Goals module brings the core OKR functionality from the Ally.io solution into Microsoft Teams, and presents an interesting option for organisations either using existing OKR software, or wanting to introduce it. Using Viva Goals will bring OKRs more directly into the flow of work in organisations and departments that use Microsoft Teams.

Viva Goals has several different options including:

    • OKRs available at the individual, team and organisational level
    • The ability to align OKRs with projects and tasks, with some integrations with applications like Jira
    • The ability to build custom dashboards to show OKR progress that can then be shared to help discussions, for example about progress of projects
    • Embed OKRs into Teams discussion threads.

Viva Goals will be made fully available in Q3 2022, and will be added as an option for those who have subscribed to the full Viva suite. It will also likely be available on a separate subscription. We can see Viva Goals really adding value in some organisations, and complementing other Viva modules, including Viva Learning

Viva Sales

Viva Sales was announced in June and represents a slight departure from the rest of the suite, in that it is positioned as a “seller experience application” rather than being applicable for all employees.

Viva Sales provides a range of tools to help anyone involved in sales processes. These include using AI to facilitate the capture of client and sales data that might arise from interactions in Teams and Outlook which will automatically be entered into a CRM system, reducing or even eliminating manual entry.

Although this will undoubtedly include Microsoft Dynamics, the use of the generic CRM term in the announcement hints that there may well be connectors to other popular CRM systems.

Although the details are still vague, other features of Viva Sales will include:

  • Surfacing data from an organisation’s CRM system in Outlook and Teams, to provide context to communications and conversations with and about customers and prospects
  • Providing various insight and suggestions using AI, relating to sales conversations, interaction and activity
  • AI-driven analysis of sales calls and meetings providing actions lists, analysis of performance and even sentiment analysis.

Although the full details of Viva Sales have still to come out and the module won’t be released until Q4 2022, we see lots of potential with Viva Sales.

CRM systems often do not get populated as much as they should do and can be disconnected from communication channels; we can see this working particularly well where non-sales staff are responsible for client relationships and even selling, and would benefit in having more visibility of CRM data. The AI-powered insights also sound intriguing.

Viva Engage

The latest module to be announced is Viva Engage, revealed in a recent post on the Microsoft Viva blog and announced at the Microsoft Inspire event. Viva Engage is positioned as being “designed to help people and teams to be their best..[and] give leaders a new way to shape culture at their organization by unlocking communication and engagement opportunities for everyone”.

However, Viva Engage is not actually new and is, to some extent, another re-branding exercise from Microsoft. It’s essentially a newly designed Yammer Communities app for Microsoft Teams that will replace the existing app and adds some new features on top of the existing Yammer platform. This brings the Yammer experience more directly into Teams, and again has real value in organisations where Teams adoption is high.

The key new element is a feature where people can create “storylines” using traditional posts, or photos and videos (now rebranded as “stories”), similar to some consumer social media platforms. Stories will appear in a carousel format at the top of a storylines tab..

Viva Engage will be free for anybody who has an existing license that covers Yammer. The Communities app will be rebranded in late August.

The announcement of Viva Engage has led some to initial confusion. In the threads to the original announcement and articles, some have said that trying to differentiate between Viva Engage and Yammer is confusing to explain to users, essentially as Engage is essentially a Yammer app. Others have asked what it means for the future of Yammer.

Defending the announcement Steve Nguynen confirmed that there is no plan to rebrand Yammer and that the “best way to think about this announcement is that Yammer is going to power the Viva Engage experience…and the beginning of us bringing Yammer more closely to our Viva suite of products.”

While we like the new storylines features, we agree that the positioning of Viva Engage in relation to Yammer is a little confusing as they are essentially the same product. We’d also like to see the Storylines feature added to the general Yammer platform to keep everything in sync.

Keep on moving forward with Viva

Microsoft keeps on investing in Viva and the three new modules extend the scope of what it can do. We wouldn’t be surprised if more modules were announced through the year.

If you’d like to discuss how you can use Microsoft Viva in your organisation or want to explore the potential of the newly announced modules, then get in touch!

Ten takeaways about Microsoft 365 and SharePoint adoption and change management

Driving adoption and change management (ACM) in Microsoft 365 and related channels such as a SharePoint intranet is a big-ticket item for every intranet and digital workplace team.

Teams want to increase the adoption of the platform and ensure it is being used in ways which deliver sustainable value; an intranet or digital workplace with limited adoption is not successful. But adoption and change management is not always straightforward.

Recently the Content Formula Team – consisting of Alex Yeomans, Manpreet Baghi and John Scott – hosted a webinar titled “Achieving adoption on your Microsoft 365 intranet”.

We were lucky to be joined by Si Steers, Head of Digital Product, Channels & Editorial, Internal Communications at Entain Group. Content Formula worked with Si and his team to help launch a new digital workplace at Entain, a large and growing brand in the gaming sector.

In this post we’re going to explore ten ACM takeaways from the session. You can also watch a recording below.

1. The ADKAR framework is great for embedding and sustaining change

Fundamentally change management is about people and changing behaviours. It’s also a mature discipline with a vast body of knowledge and range of frameworks and methodologies. One of the most popular of these is ADKAR – a robust methodology that Content Formula use and advocate for. One of the strengths of the ADKAR model is that helps to embed but then also sustain change but through a series of different steps.

In the webinar, Manpreet walked us through each step:

  • Awareness – driving awareness about the change and the need to change (“Have you heard of the proposed change”)
  • Desire – focusing and instilling a desire for people to change (“I am excited to get on board”)
  • Knowledge – providing knowledge about the change (“I have attended the training session and feel more confident”)
  • Ability – ensuring people are actually carry out the change required (“I am using the software daily now”)
  • Reinforcement – reinforcing the change for the longer-term (“I am complemented for incorporating this change”).

2. ACM is critical for Microsoft 365

Many organisations are implementing Microsoft 365 across their digital workplace. Here, adoption and change management is integral for success. Achieving ROI on the platform is dependent on adoption at scale but this will involve people using new tools and working in new ways for widespread communication and collaboration; only then can you expected to get the widespread productivity and efficiency gains that Microsoft 365 promises.

Manpreet also explained how Microsoft 365 also enables remote and hybrid working – another area which requires extensive change management. Moreover, when changes in behaviour are truly embedded and users are confident with using new tools, it also means you can start to advance the digital workplace and explore new and more sophisticated ways of using the tools at hand.

3. ACM has some key challenges

ACM is not always straightforward and does come with some common challenges. When teams are aware of these, they can then plan ahead to make sure their ACM efforts have maximum impact. Common challenges cover a number of areas:

  • Change fatigue is a common issue in change management with employees exhausted from a continual series of initiatives, making it harder to embed any further change.
  • Resistance to change is also common and there will always be groups who feel either threatened by the change or refuse to break existing habits.
  • ACM is often about winning both hearts and minds, and frequently employees get how to work with new tools, but don’t get the “why” behind the change, making it harder to change behaviours.
  • Sometimes usage is not advanced enough – for example Teams adoption might be high, but it is not being used in the right way – so the required change has not gone far enough.
  • Microsoft 365 and Office 365 are constantly being updated with new tools and improvements to existing tools within the suite; while this has its benefits, it does mean it can be hard to keep up with all the changes, and therefore manage the change effectively.
  • In digital workplace projects, ACM activity is not always adequately budgeted for; the change management budget can also get eaten into as other priorities or issues emerge.

In the webinar the team explored some of the ways to tackle these challenges such as using personas to help design the change effort and getting the right messaging across in communications.

4. Think about the short, medium and long-term

In the second half of the webinar, we heard from Si Steers at Entain Group. Entain is a diverse company with 25,000 employees spread across different countries, and includes a 14,000-strong frontline workforce based in shops in the UK. Content Formula helped Entain to move to a new Microsoft 365-based digital workplace, introducing Yammer and a new intranet called Entain.Me.

Si explained that when it comes to ACM it is important to think in the short-, medium- and long-term. Over the course of the year-long project to launch Entain’s digital workplace and also after going live, managing change has been baked into everything the core team does; initially getting people excited about the change, making it “sticky” in the medium term, and then refreshing the platform to support the ongoing change.

5. Launch with a splash but support users

In the session, Si talked about some of the activities the team carried out to launch Entain.Me, helping to grab the attention of employees, but also supporting users:

  • The team designed a communication campaign that had the consistent message that Entain.Me was a unique and personalised experience built around every individual user
  • They created a hashtag called #PlayYourWay and other communications that strongly echoed this message.
  • The launched an Entain.Me “Playbook” designed to help users get the most out of the new platform.
  • A classy and well-received launch video was created which was more of a “lifestyle” video than being about technology.
  • They made a quick-fire video series walking users through different platform features.
  • They created a Yammer community where people could ask questions about Entain.Me
  • They held a global “masterclass” event held via Yammer, which was an introduction and walk-through of the new intranet.

6. Support your publishing community

An essential component of any new intranet is also having good content. Content Formula worked with Si’s team to also focus on change management for the content owner community too, ensuring they felt supported. A site for content owners called Entain.Me Guru with a variety of guides and resources was set up. Initial training was also provided with an ongoing set of weekly drop-in content clinics, each one focusing on a separate theme, as well as the ability to ask different questions. This helped content owners migrate and create content in time for the launch of Entain.Me.

7. Leverage champions for long-term success

One successful change management approach that the Entain team has used is to leverage local champions who can embed changes with their peers in meaningful ways that make sense for local teams; this also helps a small central team to drive ACM across a large and diverse workforce.

The “Tecchies” – part of a wider ambassador programme called the Entainers – are acting as change agents on the ground to drive adoption of both Yammer and Entain.Me. They attend team meetings, share updates and help colleagues on the ground. Currently there are about 40 champions, but Si explained that he is keen to expand this to support the wider digital workplace journey.

8. Be mindful of the schedule

One important element in change management is to consider other change initiatives that are landing around the same time, or the order with which initiatives are launched to the business. Si explained that Yammer was launched before Entain.Me for two main reasons; firstly, the team did not want to overwhelm employees with two platforms launching at the same time. Secondly, as many Entain.Me sites had embedded Yammer groups, they wanted to ensure that Yammer was populated with content and discussions before people viewed it on the new intranet, so they didn’t find an “empty room”.

9. Don’t stand still

The need for ACM is always ongoing, even after a site has launched or a digital project has finished. Si advised that it as important not to “stand still”. Entain.Me was almost an MVP when it was launched, but there was always a vision for it evolve into a wider digital workplace with integrations to support a better employee experience.

The team are now working hard to iterate Entain.Me, for example to leverage Viva Connections to deliver more of that digital workplace “dashboard” functionality. Si emphasised that adoption and change management is a “continual journey without a start or end point” and it was essential not to let a site go out of date.

10. The essential ingredients of ACM

Towards the end of the session, Manpreet covered some of the essential ingredients of any successful ACM programme. These includes:

  • always putting employees at the centre of the change
  • ensuring you have a good understanding of any pain points that need addressing
  • establishing the right training and ongoing support
  • putting metrics in place in order to measure the change and track progress
  • having both peer-driven bottom-up communications perhaps though champions, but also top-down messaging to show endorsement from senior leaders
  • having a formal change and communication plan that targets efforts to different groups
  • making sure you have communications and assets that are engaging and stand out.

Need help with Office 365 or SharePoint adoption and change management?

ACM is critically important for Microsoft 365, SharePoint, Microsoft Viva and more. If you’d like to discuss your ACM strategy and approach for your digital workplace, then get in touch!

Five Microsoft collaboration tools every business should be using

Supporting collaboration is one of the main objectives for any digital workplace, helping to drive a range of benefits from increased productivity to inspiring innovation, supporting the hybrid workplace to better customer service. Collaboration is very important as a source of competitive advantage, and is often reflected in digital transformation strategies, company values and more.

In this post, we’re going to explore the world of collaboration tools and why Microsoft 365 is a strong collaborative platform. We’ll also explore the different Microsoft tools which support collaboration in more detail.

Collaboration tools and the digital workplace

Enabling collaboration is high on the agenda for any digital workplace team. The good news is that there is an enormous range of different digital workplace tools out there to enable collaboration.

One of the reasons that there are so many is that  multiple types of collaboration  occur every day in organisations: collaboration across teams and projects, wider collaboration across communities, document collaboration, online meetings, user workshops, synchronous and asynchronous collaboration, brainstorming, ideation – the list goes on. In practice, different tools are needed to best support these different forms of collaboration.

Microsoft and collaboration software

Because of the wide variety of tools needed to fully support collaboration, many organisations choose to deploy Microsoft 365, which provides an excellent collaboration platform for several reasons:

  • There are multiple tools suited to different types of collaboration, covering the majority of most companies’ needs
  • Microsoft is continually investing in the collaboration capabilities of the suite, so you’re future-proofed
  • The tools integrate together seamlessly to support more advanced collaboration and related use cases
  • The quality of the tools is high, with well-designed interfaces, useful features and ready-to-go support resources
  • Considering the breadth of features you get, the cost per user is reasonable
  • Many organisations already have Office 365 or Microsoft 365, so many employees will have experience with the tools within them.
  • There are multiple other reasons why companies choose to go down the 365 path, so the decision almost becomes a no-brainer.

Having said this, the collaboration tools within Microsoft 365 tools are not perfect, and there is room for improvement. There is also some overlap between capabilities which can cause confusion.

Let’s look at some of the key Microsoft 365 collaboration tools that businesses should be using.

1 Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams

When most people consider “collaboration” and Microsoft, they usually think of Teams. Teams is a unified communication and collaboration platform encompassing multiple capabilities that can be used for collaboration, including:

  • Online video meetings
  • Hybrid video meetings enabled through an ecosystem of Teams-friendly audio and visual equipment
  • Group audio calls
  • Group discussions and messaging for both real-time and asynchronous collaboration
  • Wider community collaboration using discussions or embedding Yammer feeds
  • More advanced collaboration tools, such as whiteboarding
  • Embedding other forms of collaboration, including documents that people can work on simultaneously
  • Additional Teams apps that connect to non-Microsoft tools can also support collaboration.

One of the most powerful aspects of Teams is its sheer ability to cover so many collaboration and related communication scenarios all from one place, with seamless alternation between the two and the ability to work in parallel. An online video meeting, for example, can  incorporate a discussion thread to help the flow of collaboration.

Teams is also set for the future of collaboration, with support for Mesh – Microsoft’s mixed reality platform that may see collaboration increasingly using augmented and virtual reality.

2 Yammer

Yammer

Yammer is usually regarded as a social collaboration platform or even a social network that is bundled into most Microsoft 365 and Office 365 licences. It is now relatively mature and provides a good tool to support more enterprise-wide or community-wide collaboration through Communities of Practice, Communities of Interest and Employee Resource Groups, for example.  You can add documents into Yammer, but its main function is to facilitate discussion threads, with the ability to do @mentions and #hashtags.

Some internal communicators use Yammer more as an engagement and communication channel than a collaboration platform, and the truth is, it can be  a good tool for discussion-based collaboration for working teams and project groups, as well as more of an engagement channel for wider communities. There are also tools within Yammer that support scenarios like embedding polls and giving praise (engagement), or marking best answers (collaboration and knowledge sharing). Another powerful feature of Yammer is the straightforward ability to embed feeds into SharePoint pages and Teams tabs.

3 SharePoint

SharePoint

Before Microsoft Teams, the main engines for collaboration were SharePoint team sites, which were often used by project teams and other working groups for  everyday collaboration. Team sites are still used today through SharePoint modern, and provide a good way for teams to connect with each other and share documents through a document library, supply news updates, share discussions via threads and keep on track through the task management feature.

SharePoint further supports collaboration in a number of ways:

  • Providing opportunities to gather feedback and input from wider groups through commenting, allowing for more community-led or even enterprise-wide collaboration
  • Embedding content and information that supports collaboration best practices or helps people connect to different collaboration spaces and communities
  • Embedding Yammer feeds that support more community-led collaboration
  • More specific collaboration processes that might utilise SharePoint features like lists.

We explore all of the above and more in a post dedicated to how to use SharePoint to support collaboration.

4 OneDrive and document collaboration

One Drive

Collaborating on documents is a common, and thus critical, activity for most organisations, and Microsoft 365 provides lots of opportunities for multiple people to work on the same document simultaneously. It’s hard to argue  which specific Microsoft tool facilitates document collaboration. OneDrive provides an opportunity for individuals to share a document with others, while  Microsoft Office apps like Word allow online access to the actual file. Features such as commenting and track changes also support such collaboration.

Sometimes, collaborative documents are also stored in SharePoint libraries that are  accessed through Microsoft Teams. Although collaboration might happen in real-time on the same version of a document, document versioning within a SharePoint document library also supports collaboration.

5 Microsoft Viva

Microsoft Viva

Microsoft Viva is an employee experience platform rather than a collaboration platform, but there are elements of it that support collaboration. Viva Connections surfaces posts from Yammer groups, while Viva Topics can encourage people to connect with subject matter experts. Viva Learning facilitates seamless access to Microsoft Learn resources that provide tips on how to use collaboration tools. Meanwhile, Viva Insights supplies analytics and insights into meetings that will suggest better practices.

Microsoft collaboration tools

Microsoft 365 has a great set of tools to support different kinds of collaboration. Within these are specific features that will meet most use cases. If you’d like to discuss how Microsoft 365 and the Microsoft stack can support your collaboration strategy, then get in touch.

How to use SharePoint communication sites

Sharepoint’s communication sites are one of the platform’s most-used templates, and have become a key part of the digital communications landscape in many organisations. It’s not uncommon for there to be hundreds of communication sites across any SharePoint tenant. An intranet may also lean heavily on communication sites, and Microsoft Viva Connections will allow communication sites to be surfaced through Microsoft Teams.

In this post, we’re going to explore SharePoint communication sites in more detail, along with their key features, the benefits you can generate from using them and more.

What is a SharePoint communication site?

A communication site is a modern SharePoint template that is designed to help people communicate to wider groups about their project, group, team or topic. Microsoft themselves say a communication site is there to “inform readers – primarily for them to read, not create”.

What are the main features of a communication site?

A communication site is made up of a main home page and a number of different pages branching off from it, as well as potential additional elements like a document library. Each page is made up of web parts, all of which are effectively different features that you can arrange on the page.

A default communication site home page has a number of standard web parts, but you can easily add new ones – the communication site template is just the starting point for whatever you want to build. There is a huge variety of different web parts available straight out of the box, so your site can be highly versatile.

There are too many web parts to describe them all in detail here, but there are some common parts and components which are usually found on communication sites.

News

Communication sites are about communication! At the centre of this is the News web part, keeping your audience up to speed with what is going on. The News web part is attractive and easy for publishers to use, so can help support a decentralised publishing model.

Hero area

The Hero web part sits at the top of a communication site, providing focus and some visual interest to the page. Typically, this features five tiles of attractive images (which can be added by the site owner), with each tile linking to pages, documents, news items and more.

Pages

A communication site will consist of a number of different pages with varying purposes, including conveying reference information or engaging your audience, among others. Each page can contain further web parts.

Document library

Many use SharePoint for its document libraries, and your site will likely include a library of any documents that need to be shared for reference. You can use different web parts such as Highlighted Content to link to and highlight documents, and even embed a document using the File Viewer web part so it can be viewed within a page. The Recent documents web part can also display recently added documents.

SharePoint list

SharePoint lists are one of the most powerful elements of SharePoint, and are an excellent way to store information and data which is often referred to but frequently changes; the list provides one source of truth. SharePoint lists can be formatted in different ways and even be involved in workflow. You can embed a List web part in your communication site that could display reference information like a list of first aiders, approved suppliers or office locations, for example.

Quick links

Linking to essential sites, documents, apps and websites is always very useful, and the Quick links web part allows you to add frequently-used links to your communication site.

People

The People web part means you can display a summary of key contacts, and links to their profiles. It can be used to introduce a team, display a page contact, show who the leaders of a function are and more.

Events and group calendar

You can use the Events web site to promote upcoming events, while a Group calendar does just what it sounds like – displays events, milestones and other dates such as upcoming national holidays.

Deploying a different communication site template

When you create a communication site, you can choose from a number of communication site templates geared towards different use cases. Each have slightly varying designs and default web parts. At the time of writing, the following templates are available:

  • Topic (the default communication site template)
  • Crisis management
  • Department
  • Leadership connection
  • Learning central
  • New employee onboarding
  • Volunteer centre
  • Showcase
  • Blank (a blank site with no web parts).

Additionally, you can see a number of different designs for your communication site through Microsoft’s SharePoint look book where you can get inspiration for multiple use cases, and then actually deploy the template that catches your eye.

What can I use a communication site for?

A communication site has lots of use cases for businesses – here are some of the most typical ones.

Digital employee communication from a function, division, location or team

Communication sites are a great way to distribute news and provide updates to the rest of the organisation from individual divisions, teams, functions or other groups. This facilitates a flow of “local” employee communications throughout an organisation without necessarily involving the busy internal communications team who might prefer to focus on messaging from the centre.

Information on a topic

Communication sites provide a great opportunity to disseminate comprehensive information and resources on specific topics. This “information hub” or “one stop shop” approach could cover a topic such as wellbeing, a client team, a project or a process.

A portal for a particular group

A communication site can also be a great information resource aimed at a particular group of employees. For example, it could provide a hub for new starters, with information, checklists and even welcome videos to help them settle into their new role.

Acting as a hub for senior leaders

The “Leadership connection” communication site templates created by Microsoft acts as a place for leaders to interact with employees. This is a good use case for a communication site, fostering transparency and dialogue, providing opportunities for leaders to be more visible and collating feedback directly from employees. There is also the potential to embed a Yammer community for further conversations.

Learning resource

A communication site is also a good place to collect learning resources, such as advice on how to use Microsoft 365 or guides to help your intranet publishers.

Intranet building blocks

A SharePoint intranet, either using SharePoint straight out of the box or in conjunction with an “in a box” product like LiveTiles, can act as the foundation of your intranet, with each communication site consolidating “microsites” relating to different regions, functions, departments and even topics like wellbeing.

SharePoint home site

A communication site can be turned into your SharePoint home site, which might equate to your intranet home page (and could actually be that) and will act as employees’ default starting point, as well as defining some of the default settings for other communication sites. It can also power Viva Connections, which requires a home site to be enabled. Note that currently, only one home site can be declared per SharePoint tenant.

SharePoint communication site or SharePoint Team site?

A question we’re often asked is whether it’s best to use a SharePoint communication site or team site. This rather depends on what you are going to use the individual site for, but as a rule, communication sites are better for when you are communicating with a larger audience – potentially the entire organisation – while a team site is designed to serve the needs of a particular team or group who are working together.

For example, let’s say I’m the finance department in a company. We might set up a communication site to provide information about what we do and keep employees up to date about finance topics and related financial procedures. But we’d use a team site just for the people in the finance department to help track and co-ordinate our work, share documents and so on.

A similar argument applies if you are using a Microsoft Teams space rather than a SharePoint team site; unlike a SharePoint communication site, Microsoft Teams is utilised more for internal team collaboration and communication across a distinct group. In an old analogy often cited in the intranet world, a communication site is used for your shop window content, while your SharePoint team site or Microsoft Teams space is more like the stock room or staff room.

Need advice on using SharePoint communication sites? Get in touch!

SharePoint communication sites are highly versatile, and can be used for a variety of communication needs. They are an important part of any SharePoint or Microsoft 365 digital workplace. Need help or advice on getting the best out of your SharePoint communication sites? Then get in touch!

What is business process automation and how can it benefit my business?

Automation is an attractive option for businesses which want to drive efficiency and improve their processes. It can even be a focus for digital transformation. But what exactly is business process automation, and what benefits can it bring? Furthermore, which business processes can actually be automated?

In this article, we’re going to take a deep dive into business process automation and answer some of the key questions that often arise.

What is business process automation?

Business process automation can be defined as using technology to automate one or more steps within a process that previously had to be done manually or were reliant on human intervention. This automation leads to greater efficiency and scalability. Business process automation can be applied to very simple processes with limited steps, as well as far more complex, multi-step processes.

A common theme in simpler business process automation is “robot process automation (RPA)” – automation of very simple, repetitive tasks and workflows. Platforms like Microsoft 365 and Nintex help to introduce RPA at scale. Meanwhile, at the other end of the scale, intelligent process automation might use artificial intelligence (AI) or machine learning (ML) to automate more complex processes.


How can business process automation benefit my business?

Business process automation can have a significant positive impact. Let’s explore some of the key benefits.

Increase productivity

Business process automation ultimately helps to drive productivity by reducing the time employees need to spend on simple, repetitive tasks. This time can then be redirected to more meaningful and value-added activities, supporting an increase in productivity and helping everyone optimise their time.

Reduce costs

Automation can also reduce the resourcing required to carry out unnecessary manual tasks, supporting a reduction in costs.

Increase speed of process completion

When you automate simple tasks within a process, you reduce the potential for bottlenecks and delays in that process. For example, you no longer have to wait for people to manually complete a step. This often leads to quicker process and task completion. For example, if a request to unlock a company mobile phone is either partly or wholly automated, an employee doesn’t have to wait for the help desk to complete the request.

Reduce employee frustration

Having to complete mindless, repetitive tasks can be frustrating for employees who would rather be getting on with more interesting things. Automation can help reduce this frustration, improving employee experience in the process.

Support customer service

Automating business processes that involve customers usually means they are carried out faster, helping promote better customer service. For example, a customer requesting documentation on products and services can have them automatically sent out.

Support data accuracy and reduce risks

Automation can often involve adding or updating data automatically across multiple systems, supporting better data accuracy and reducing the risk of mistakes occurring. Manual data entry inevitably leads to errors and missed steps, while automation greatly reduces inaccuracies and supports better overall data integrity.

Trigger process redesign

When you automate steps in a business process, it often increases the possibilities around what you can do to improve that process, or stimulates ideas for redesigning it altogether. Process owners can see new ways of doing things, allowing business process automation to inspire wider and more far-reaching process design. For example, automation processes which were previously completely internal could now directly involve customers.

Scale processes

Automation means it is far easier to scale a process that previously required greater human intervention.

Standardisation of processes

Businesses usually want to standardise processes to drive efficiency, support compliance and ensure standards are met. Business process automation can help ensure a process is standardised across the enterprise, being applied across all locations and regions in a large global company, for example.

Better compliance

The digital steps carried out in an automated process can all be instantly recorded, thus ensuring you have data to show compliance. This can help with your compliance reporting.

Support digital transformation and innovation

Delivering business process automation at scale is a game changer, the effects of which can be felt at an organisational level. When delivered across a swathe of both simple and complex business processes, automation can help support overall digital transformation not only by digitising particular processes, but also by illustrating the potential for automation, which is then applied to a wider set of activities. Automation tends to stimulate more automation as employees see what is possible, and can even drive innovation with new products and services.


Automation in the workplace: which business processes can I automate?

There is a wide variety of business processes which can be automated. Previously, we covered 25 business processes that can be automated using Microsoft 365 and the LiveTiles intranet platform, although it’s possible to use other solutions like Nintex too. Let’s look at some of the major areas where business process automation can add value.

1 Employee onboarding

Employee onboarding often encompasses a complex set of processes that involve setting up a new person in a variety of different systems and asking the employee to complete a stack of paperwork. Invariably, there are a lot of moving parts involving workflows across multiple functions with tight deadlines. Employee onboarding is a great use case for business automation, ensuring the new starter has a smooth experience, and that everything works in a streamlined and seamless way.

2 Marketing automation

Marketing automation is a good use case for business process automation, and can help support a great customer experience when you have a small, time-pressured marketing team. For example, marketing automation might automatically send a follow-up communication to someone who has interacted with your website showing responsiveness, or send tailored messages to support the sales funnel.

3 Basic IT and HR processes

Business process automation can support some basic IT and HR processes, such as ensuring a change in the HR system is triggered across different systems, addressing basic IT processes like requests for access to different systems or provisioning new collaboration sites. This automation helps support busy IT and HR helpdesk teams who can then focus on resolving more complex issues.

4 Content management

Content management involves multiple processes which are ripe for business process automation, including automated content reviews and relative workflow, archiving and deletion, the application of metadata to different content and documents and more.

5 Reminders and notifications

Reminders, notifications and approval workflow requests can happen across multiple systems. Keeping on top of these can be overwhelming, and doing so via email is often very inefficient with items getting missed. Business process automation to consolidate these into one aggregated experience can help users keep on top of their tasks and improve overall efficiency.

6 Functional and Line of Business processes

Different functions, teams and lines of business throughout your organisation will have a plethora of individual and specific business processes that they carry out. For example, in-house legal teams might be creating contracts at scale, engineers will be carrying out site inspections and sales and business development teams are building proposals for new prospects. All these processes may entail opportunities for automation that could instigate significant improvement.

7 Procurement

Procurement processes can be quite complex, frequently involving a variety of steps and a wide number of stakeholders to review potentially areas of risk. Consider a typical RFP process or performing due diligence on a new supplier, and the quantity of people and systems usually involved. Business process automation can help do some of the heavy lifting here, ultimately completing the processes more quickly and efficiently.


How Content Formula can help with business process automation

We often find business process automation to be a component of our digital projects which helps to bring rapid and tangible value for businesses. Generally, we help businesses in three ways.

Ascertaining what to automate

Stakeholders within your business often have a long list of what they would like to potentially automate, but teams don’t always know where to start, or can’t see where there are opportunities for automation. We help identify what you can automate and suggest priority areas, often through a discovery process.

Working out the technology solution for automation

We help to identify the best underlying solution to support your business process automation. Often, this is Microsoft 365 and the Power Platform, but we also work with Nintex.

Helping you implement automation

Finally, we help you implement automation, often on an ongoing basis to support continuous improvement. Our role can differ, either completing the technical configuration and development, or working with your IT function as technical advisors.

Need help with Business Process Automation? Get in touch! Business Process Automation is an exciting area that can bring real value to your business. Need any help or support with your automation programme? Then talk to us.

How to make Microsoft Viva the centre of your digital workplace

Microsoft Viva – the employee experience platform launched by Microsoft in 2021 – has been receiving huge levels of interest from intranet, digital workplace and internal comms teams since its release. As adoption continues to rise, we decided to hold a webinar about placing Microsoft Viva at the centre of your digital workplace to deliver a more seamless digital employee experience.

In the session, which you can watch in full below, Content Formula’s Alex Yeomans, John Scott and Joe Perry explored issues including:

  • What Microsoft Viva does
  • The ins and outs of the Viva apps
  • How to use Viva Connections to integrate with other systems
  • What else you should consider when implementing Viva.

In this post, we’re going to explore some of the key takeaways from what proved to be a highly valuable deep dive into Microsoft Viva.

What is Microsoft Viva?

Microsoft Viva is a collection of apps that are generally viewed through Microsoft Teams, although some features of Viva Connections can be embedded as web parts into SharePoint. The apps focus on four different areas of employee experience:

  • Viva Connections: A gateway to internal communications and company resources
  • Viva Insights: Personalised analytics and related insights for individuals, managers and leaders that support well-being, collaboration, productivity and more
  • Viva Learning: A learning hub that aggregates learning resources from a variety of different systems and sources
  • Viva Topics: A knowledge discovery platform that uses AI to source resources and experts on different topics.

Here, we share some of the insights from the webinar.

1 Most people are in the early stages of their Viva journey

At the beginning of the webinar, the panel emphasised that Microsoft Viva is very new. Unsurprisingly, a quick poll of the participants revealed that most people are at a very early stage of their Viva journey, either experimenting or still investigating how it can be used. Even though Viva has been around for over a year, it is still evolving, and has only evolved to deliver value relatively recently as more integrations have emerged. The team expects this to accelerate as more and more organisations adopt Microsoft Viva this year and in future, and as Microsoft continues to invest in the platform.

2 Viva Learning helps to deliver learning in the flow of work… but it’s not an LMS

All too often, learning content is hidden away in different systems and repositories, such as a Learning Management System (LMS), a SharePoint library or a third-party solution. This means valuable content is often missed, and learning systems are poorly adopted. Viva Learning helps remedy this by delivering a discovery platform for learning content, surfacing resources from multiple places including your LMS, SharePoint and more right into Microsoft Teams, where people often spend their working day.

The solution leverages AI to recommend relevant course content to users based on the Office Graph, and managers can assign learning and colleagues recommend courses while a personalised dashboard facilitates easier access. Learning content also appears in Microsoft Search.

It is worth noting that Viva Learning is not an LMS; there isn’t any core functionality that you might find in a system like LMS365 such as e-learning, certification, employee attestation, learning journeys and sophisticated reporting. Organisations will need to have an LMS like LMS365 and subscriptions with learning providers to get the best out of the app, with Viva Learning principally acting as an aggregator.

3 Viva Topics is supporting knowledge management

Viva Topics is another app which helps to support knowledge management, using AI to bring together wiki-like pages on different topics and surfacing relevant resources, including SharePoint files and lists of recognised experts. For example, Content Formula is working with a house-building firm on implementing Viva Topics, and they have a topic page dedicated to loft installations, with a list of valuable AI-driven resources that can also be curated by a subject matter expert approving the AI suggestions. New relevant topic pages are suggested by AI, but can also be created manually to cover things like clients, projects, services and places.

Viva Topics pages are represented by cards that can be referenced in a Teams discussion and also appear in search.

4 Viva Insights delivers personal analytics and insights while acting like a virtual assistant

Viva Insights provides a personal dashboard of analytics about work habits, shining a light on wellbeing, productivity and collaboration. These are derived from Microsoft Graph and your interactions with Office 365, revealing things such as your overall working hours, time spent in meetings, focus time and more.

Viva Insights also uses AI to monitor your interactions across Teams, Yammer and Outlook and make suggestions about the need to follow up on meetings and emails, for example. This is already delivered in the Viva-branded emails that most of us receive, and is like a “virtual assistant” nudging you to follow up on actions. If you pay for an upgrade, managers can see analytics and insights based on their team’s actions, such as their overall time spent in meetings.

5 Viva Connections brings your intranet into Teams

Microsoft 365 is a complex and broad platform that contains multiple tools and channels. Viva Connections is a connector that consolidates content and information from some of these sources and displays them in Teams, although it can also be surfaced in SharePoint.

One way Viva Connections is commonly used is as a way to effectively view your SharePoint intranet through Teams, meaning users don’t have to leave the Teams environment to see intranet communications and content. In the webinar, we saw an example of how Entain’s intranet is viewed through Viva Connections; in organisations where Teams has high usage, this is a great way to facilitate easier intranet access.

6 The Viva Connections dashboard helps users complete tasks across the digital workplace

One of the most valuable features in the entire Viva platform is the Viva Connections Dashboard. This helps you create a dashboard of personalised cards from other Microsoft tools, non-Microsoft apps and third-party websites to provide information, updates and nudges which help users complete tasks and keep on top of their work. It can be viewed through Microsoft Teams or within a SharePoint page – usually the intranet homepage or equivalent. This can help make Connections and your intranet not just a communications hub, but a comprehensive digital workplace tool too.

In the webinar, there was a demo of the dashboard that showed the kind of information it can display, including:

  • How much annual leave remains
  • The current valuation of a pension
  • Live data from share prices
  • The travel status of buses or trains
  • A map of how to get somewhere
  • A view of upcoming meetings
  • A display of praise received through Yammer.

The dashboard can also provide access to tasks including check-ins for office visits and manager approvals for travel expenses.

Joe explained that each card is personalised, and can be targeted to different groups. One of the great things about the dashboard is that it leverages a low-code, no-code approach, making it easy for administrators to create and preview new cards. They can also utilise out-of-the-box integrations with enterprise systems like Workday and ServiceNow to deliver cards for high-value use cases like requesting time off or raising helpdesk tickets.

7 There are several elements to consider when deploying Microsoft Viva Connections

Finally, the team ran through some of the key factors that digital workplace teams need to consider before deploying Viva Connections:

  • A SharePoint home site and SharePoint global navigation are required to launch Viva Connections
  • Third-party integrations add value, and Microsoft has more coming soon
  • Multi-lingual dashboards have been released – attractive for larger, global organisations
  • If you’re launching Viva Connections, you can now add a custom name and logo in the navigation to align with your intranet branding
  • Viva Connections is free, but the full functionality of the other apps comes at an additional cost.

Want to know more about Microsoft Viva? Get in touch!

We’re working with several clients on Viva-related projects. If you’re considering deploying Microsoft Viva and have any questions, then get in touch!

The best MS Teams apps: leveraging Microsoft’s in-built Teams apps

Microsoft Teams is increasingly becoming the heart of the digital workplace for many organisations – a single environment where users can digest content, view data and perform transactions from right across the digital workplace without having to visit multiple disparate applications. The introduction of Microsoft Viva is driving this trend further, supporting a better employee experience.

In organisations where Teams use is very high and some employees are spending their day in and out of Teams, it makes sense to give employees the power to access more information and complete tasks directly in their flow of work, helping drive productivity and reducing information and app overload. One of the elements powering this is the ability to deliver a library of Teams apps across companies; digital workplace teams now need to consider their Teams apps strategy in order to support the best possible employee experience.

Apps, apps and more apps

One of the issues here is that there is a growing number of apps available, and more than one option to deliver required capabilities. Options include:

  • Leveraging Microsoft’s in-built Teams apps
  • Adding apps from other Microsoft 365 applications
  • Adding third-party Teams apps and connectors from an ever-expanding library
  • Using community-driven apps available on GitHub
  • Creating custom apps to meet your organisation’s specific needs
  • Using Microsoft Viva Connections (currently for the mobile experience)
  • Delivering integrations via bots
  • Providing access to “micro-apps” built into SharePoint, and delivering them via Teams
  • And more.

As you can see, accessing apps through Teams is an exciting and evolving area. In this post, we are going to look at some of the out-of-the-box apps which are built into the fabric of Teams.

Microsoft’s in-built Teams apps

Microsoft’s in-built Teams apps come out of the box within Teams (they may not be available for all Microsoft licenses, so it is important to check the small print and make sure an app is available to you). There are a multitude of options, including bookings, lists and shifts, that can meet a number of use cases. Below, we look at the different in-built Microsoft Teams apps that are currently available, what they do and the value they bring.

Bookings

The Teams Bookings app allows for the scheduling of appointments, either in-person or virtual (via Teams) and for both internal and external audiences. While this is useful for arranging meetings with colleagues, it can also be used by people managing diaries to co-ordinate touchpoints with customers and third parties. Multiple diaries can be involved, so this is very useful for co-ordinating meetings and appointments across a busy team or department where scheduling can be extremely complex. The app is especially useful if you are predominantly running virtual meetings in Teams itself. Naturally, everything is synced with Outlook.

Screenshot of the queue view in the Bookings app in Teams

Lists

At Content Formula, we’ve had a long-time crush on SharePoint Lists. It is one of the most powerful and underused elements of SharePoint; recognising this, Microsoft has made Lists available as a separate app. The Lists app for Teams brings the power of Lists to the Teams experience, establishing a great place to keep track of things like assets, inventories, supplier lists, locations and more.

Lists can also be a smart way to store information that is used in other workflows and automation, acting as the source of truth for information that is updated within other systems, for example. The app allows users to create new lists (using templates or even an expert from Excel) or access existing ones (even from different SharePoint sites), all from within Teams.

Tasks

Task management is a key element in project management and driving personal productivity. The Teams Tasks app helps both teams and individuals manage their tasks. Currently, tasks can be set and managed using both Microsoft Planner and Microsoft To Do – the Teams App brings tasks from both into one place, within the Teams environment.

The app can help employees prioritise tasks, view deadlines and drill down into the details. The app delineates between tasks for individuals (My Tasks) and for the team (Shared Tasks), with the latter showing who the task has been assigned to, supporting transparency and accountability. Anything that helps employees keep on top of their busy schedule and stay co-ordinated will drive value, so this app can prove popular with both employees and managers.

Praise

Employee experience is a currently a major focus for the digital workplace, and the Praise app is a nice way to support this. It facilitates a way for employees to show their appreciation for their peers by offering praise to a named colleague or colleagues, as well as providing a range of badges from “Achiever” through to “Thank You”. Note that these badges are set – it’s not possible to set-up custom badges, although this was available in the past.

These shout-outs are a good way to celebrate success and promote a positive organisational culture. The Praise app is available within Microsoft Viva Insights, while a stripped down “praise” feature is also available in Yammer. Although we like it, the Praise app is not always suitable for every function or department, so it is possible for central admins to enable its use for specific groups and not for others.

Approvals

Many organisations still rely on emails for approvals of a variety of different processes: ordering a laptop, submitting a budget request, approving a training course and so on. Using email is inefficient as it wastes time, is difficult to track and is not able to apply any multi-step approvals. Digital workplace tools that use workflow provide an alternative to email that is far more efficient, ensures requests don’t get lost and aggregates everything in one place.

The Teams approval app brings simple approvals into Teams, allowing administrators to set up a range of approval types and associated workflows, and approvers to be notified of requests, then view and act upon them Aggregating and streamlining approvals is always a good use case, and it makes sense to do this in Teams as it is one of a number of options to create approval workflows across Microsoft 365. Note that to use the Approvals app, your organisation will require a Power Automate license which is used as the workflow engine for the app.

Shifts

Shifts is an app designed to co-ordinate rostering and shifts for frontline employees, such as those working in customer service, call centres, retail operations or in manufacturing plants. It’s primarily designed to be available on a mobile device. Team leaders can create rosters, message employees and share news and documents, while frontline staff can view their schedule and request to change or swap shifts.

Currently, Shifts can only be used by staff (rather than guests), and everyone needs to have Microsoft digital identities which isn’t always the case with frontline staff. Overall, shifts and rostering is a great digital workplace use case for frontline employees, so used in the right way, this app can drive real value and adoption for Teams across this group.

Using Microsoft Teams apps

We think using apps within Microsoft Teams is only going to grow, and Teams app strategy and selection will become one of the key considerations for digital workplace teams. The Microsoft in-built apps described in this article all provide value. If you’d like to discuss options for Teams apps in your digital workplace, your overall Teams apps strategy or a specific app, then get in touch!

7 top tips to improve Office 365 adoption and change management

Adoption and change management (ACM) is an essential activity in ensuring that your Office 365 implementation is successful and delivers the enterprise-wide benefits and ROI expected by your senior stakeholders. Office 365 opens many opportunities to raise productivity, drive innovation and transform collaboration, but this often requires users to learn how and when to use new tools, adopt new behaviours and gain confidence across the digital workplace.

Successfully changing user behaviour is never a given and is rarely mandated; employees are also usually very busy, frequently overworked, and already bombarded with messaging relating to other change initiatives. Digital workplace teams need to work hard to gain the attention of employees, win over hearts and minds, and continually reiterate messaging to truly embed behaviours.

Here at Content Formula, we’ve implemented hundreds of Office 365 / Microsoft 365 projects, often supporting the ACM work stream with launch, support and training activities. In this post we’re going to explore seven tactics that we’ve seen often work.

1 Involve and train your champions

In our recent post about how to drive Office 365 adoption and change management, one of our eight essential elements  was “top-down and bottom-up communications”. While you must show a tool has the support of senior leaders, bottom-up messaging from peers also helps to drive adoption. Involving a network of local champions and ambassadors who can frame their messages using scenarios, use cases and terminology that makes sense to different locations, functions and teams, will make change communications far more relevant across a diverse workforce.

Hearing a recommendation from a peer also can also give s a message more authenticity, while champions can also provide some local support by answering questions and even performing some training. We’ve seen many times how a a network of enthusiastic champions makes a real difference in an Office 365 roll-out and helps small central digital workplace teams achieve more.

Successful champions tend to be recruited on a voluntary basis rather than being “conscripted”, and central teams are often surprised about how enthusiastic and energetic they can be. Training and engaging them through formal and top-up virtual sessions, assets such as slide decks, maintaining a support community, and recognising the contribution of individuals, are all tactics that can help.

2 Focus on real use cases rather than concepts

All too often Office 365 change management campaigns centre on higher level concepts such as “increasing collaboration” and “working smarter” and “increasing our productivity”. These messages are all benefits of the platform, but they need to be communicated in conjunction with specific use cases that resonate with employees and illustrate the tangible benefits of the 365 platform. In this way, users can more easily see “what’s in it for me” and how Microsoft 365 and its tools will impact everyday working practices.

For example, your new digital workplace might help users to see all their notifications in one place, find the contact details of a colleague, ask a question to an expert, see the latest news, support a professional community, make it easier to manage a project, or use a whiteboard in a virtual meeting. All these are real world use cases that illustrate the benefits of a platform and support adoption efforts.

3 Creating engaging campaign assets

Creating engaging campaign assets to increase awareness of the launch of Office 365 or some of its constituent tools such as a SharePoint intranet or Yammer can support adoption and change management efforts. Eye-catching images, imaginative concepts, relevant and relatable messaging and consistent themes across multiple formats can all help to drive curiosity, spread information and even create a “buzz”.

There are a number of different types of assets that can be created, including:

  • Page tours that walk users through new features on first logging into a site, for example an intranet
  • Promotional banners that can appear across your digital channels
  • A training centre with self-serve resources – see below for more details
  • “How to” videos that are instructional, but also might explain the “why” and the related benefits of a tool
  • Tailored training to special groups including digital champions, content publishers or managers
  • Lock screen graphics to reiterate messaging across the office
  • Even a Q&A chatbot that can answer questions about Microsoft 365 or tools within it.

We’ve produced all of the above for different clients, and each has proved to be successful. We can help produce these for you as part of our new Office 365 ACM service.

4 Plan out your reinforcement activities

When we support our clients with Office 365 ACM we follow the ADKAR framework – a leading change management model based around five stages (Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability, Reinforcement). This last “reinforcement” stage is very important as it truly embeds changes in user behaviour for the longer term; without it, any initially promising adoption levels from your first launch efforts can start to wither.

From the outset, always plan some reinforcement activities that follow your initial launch period to remind users of your core messaging on an ongoing basis, building on your earlier efforts. These activities could include:

  • recognising adoption efforts such as highlighting teams who have used the platform successfully
  • leading engagement-led activities that encourage people to use tools such as a mini-campaign to get people to complete their profile
  • providing ongoing support, for example through an online Yammer community.

5 Plan self-serve resources

Self-serve resources can support adoption for users, as well as special groups like content owners and publishers, by providing information on how to use Office 365 tools, which tools to use for what purpose, and the benefits of each. Creating a self-service SharePoint site or intranet site aimed at your users, with an additional site for your content publishers, can prove to be a valuable resource that IT support helpdesks and digital workplace teams can point people towards. These resources are not only useful in your initial launch, but also an ongoing basis.

For example, when we helped Entain Group launch their Entain.Me digital workplace, we created a site for content publishers called “Entain.Me Guru” with how to guides, help videos, recordings of publisher training sessions and an embedded Yammer feed from a publisher support community. The site was created in the run up to launch but has remained live as an ongoing reference point.

6 Use Office 365 to drive usage of Office 365

The Office 365 platform itself can actually support some of your Office 365 ACM activities. For example, Yammer groups make excellent user or community support groups, while a SharePoint site is the obvious choice for a learning or knowledge-focused resources site. Taking an “eat your own dog food approach” and using the very tools that you are trying to promote to drive your ACM efforts sends the right message to both users and stakeholders, and can even get employees used to using the relevant tools.

7 Ring fence your ACM budget

As a rule, adoption and change management activities relating to Office 365 are sometimes not adequately budgeted for. The extent of ACM effort needed tends to be either underestimated or does not extend for a long enough period. Another danger is that there are other unexpected costs aspects of the project that emerge which were not budgeted for; these then end up eating into the ACM budget, which tends to be regarded as expendable, compared to other workstreams within your project. If you do have an ACM budget, ring fence it to ensure that it doesn’t get spent on other project aspects and that the spend is dedicated to critical ACM activities.

Need help with your Office 365 change and adoption? Get in touch!

We know how important adoption and change management is to the success of Office 365; this is why we’ve created a new Office 365 ACM service that assists with everything from planning your strategy to creating engaging campaign assets to providing ongoing support. If you’d like to discuss this or any aspect of growing your Office 365 adoption, then get in touch!

13 essential elements of SharePoint intranet governance

SharePoint intranet governance covers three of our favourite topics: SharePoint, intranets and governance! Governance is one of the key elements for the success of any SharePoint intranet – it covers the policies, processes and roles that ensure your intranet works optimally, keeps its strategic value and contains great content.

In the past, we’ve written extensively about the elements you need to include in your intranet governance framework, as well as governance for other 365 tools such as Microsoft Teams. In this post, we’re going to explore some of the primary elements you need for SharePoint intranet governance, although there may be additional elements needed depending on what you use your SharePoint intranet for.

1. Strategic bodies and cross-functional groups

A SharePoint intranet is a strategic, enterprise-wide investment that has both direct and indirect stakeholders. When driving buy-in across the organisation and ensuring alignment with corporate strategy and other initiatives and roadmaps, involving cross-functional groups in your SharePoint intranet governance has real value. Typically, this might include members of Comms, HR, IT, Knowledge and other support functions.

Depending on your size, culture and needs, as well as the maturity of your intranet, there could be two groups: a higher level steering group that discusses strategy and meets, say, quarterly, and an operation-focused working group that meets more regularly. There is likely to be information flows and escalation of different issues and decisions concerning the intranet between the two.

2. Information architecture, site scope and hierarchy

Information architecture is always a critical part of any intranet, for example, in defining the navigation. It’s also very important in determining the different SharePoint sites that comprise your intranet, and, if you are using SharePoint Online out of the box, the hierarchy of hub sites and ultimately the home site that can define your SharePoint homepage.

You may also need to decide on the scope of the intranet if you have existing SharePoint sites that sit outside the intranet estate. Card sorting exercises and further testing are a good way to ensure that your information architecture is user-centric. For your SharePoint site hierarchy, how you want internal comms news to roll up to different hub sites within your intranet can also have an influence.

3. Search and taxonomy

SharePoint search is increasingly being used for your intranet search, and it definitely needs governance to scope its limits as SharePoint search can extend right across your 365 tenant. Sometimes, this can lead to issues if files on SharePoint sites outside the intranet aren’t security-trimmed with the right permissions, as they can be suddenly exposed via search.

You may have some taxonomy items that are controlled via the SharePoint Term Store that contribute to findability; the definition and management of these terms will also need to be part of your SharePoint intranet governance framework.

4. Relation to other M365 channels

Office 365 and Microsoft 365 tools are increasingly integrated, and have some overlapping capabilities. In terms of governance, it helps to map out the relationship between SharePoint and other tools and channels in terms of integrations, user experience and which tools gets used for what content and communications. For example, you may want to delineate between when Teams gets used for more local, team-focused content and when your SharePoint intranet gets used for content that is of wider interest.

You may want to clarify the relationship between Yammer and SharePoint – when do you use SharePoint commenting, and when do you use Yammer? How are Yammer sites integrated? The future relationship between your intranet and Viva Connections may also need to be decided, as well as how you evaluate and introduce future additional tools and features to the 365 suite.

5. Personalisation and targeting

A successful SharePoint intranet will rely on personalisation and audience targeting to deliver a relevant experience with related content. The approach to personalisation and ensuring the integrity of your data needs to fall under your governance framework in terms of which groups to target, how this relates to other Office 365 groups, how the right metadata and tagging is added to content and how your Active Directory data is kept up to date, for example, by synchronising with your HR system of record. The tagging you use will also need to be aligned with your information architecture; this falls under how you control your taxonomy.

6. Approach to customisation, plug-ins and integrations

Many intranet teams are now choosing to use SharePoint Online straight out of the box, although others will use an additional “in-a-box” product like LiveTiles. In both these scenarios, some limited customisation might be in place to enhance design or add new features. Plug-ins might be utilised, and most intranets will also introduce some integrations.

In order to ensure there is tight management of the platform’s upgrades, as well as to ensure a good user experience, there needs to be governance in terms of control over what level of customisation is allowed, which plug-ins are in use and the integrations that are employed

7. Roles and responsibilities

A central part of any SharePoint intranet governance framework is working out all the different roles and responsibilities, relating to both central team and distributed roles. This needs to cover the management, content and technical aspects of all your intranet operations. Having clarity here means everybody is far more likely to meet expectations and carry out the tasks they have agreed to do, helping the intranet to run optimally. A RACI matrix (Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed) is a good way to establish the different roles and responsibilities your framework should cover at a high level, including:

  • Strategy
  • Day-to-day management
  • Managing the intranet homepage
  • Central communications and content
  • Technical support
  • Development and integrations
  • Adoption and engagement
  • Design and branding
  • SharePoint administration
  • Search and taxonomy
  • And more!

There are many other important roles related to content governance which are also included below, and which support decentralised publishing on your SharePoint intranet.

8. Content strategy

At the root of intranet governance is a detailed content strategy that establishes what you want your intranet content to do, the benefits it will deliver, how you intend to deliver that content and how you will keep it up to date. This can cover elements such as the role of news and communications, different content types and buckets, the utilisation of imagery, how metadata is being used and even how you intend to measure success. You content strategy will be closely aligned with your digital communications strategy and your intranet strategy. From here, you can then define other content-related elements of your SharePoint intranet governance.

9. Publishing standards

Although there are many aspects of SharePoint intranet governance, ensuring the quality of your content is essential. An intranet with poor content is an unsuccessful intranet. Defining and documenting publishing standards will help ensure your intranet content is engaging, well-written, timely, up-to-date, accurate, purposeful and on-brand. Intranet teams who work with a decentralised publishing community should have detailed published guidelines available, as well as a more succinct summary of the main points to help content publishers maintain good content.

10. Content roles and responsibilities

Another key element of SharePoint intranet governance is the associated content roles and responsibilities. This might include establishing who is responsible for central content areas like your homepage, news centre and lists of apps and tools, as well as detailing the responsibilities and tasks of local publishers and individual page owners at a site or section level. Part of establishing content roles is ensuring there is clear and visible ownership of every page, driving accountability for your content.

11. Content lifecycle management processes and approvals

There should be several content processes within your governance, including any necessary approval workflows, author reviews of content, translations of content, action on user feedback about content and more. These should cover the entire content lifecycle, including archiving and deletion.

12. Terms of usage and other policies

Any SharePoint intranet governance framework is likely to need a terms of use policy for users about what they can and cannot post. This might cover acceptable usage, GDPR and privacy elements, posting copyrighted materials and also what happens if employees do not follow the terms of use. There are likely to be further related policies and processes, such as what happens when a person reports a piece of content or when content is archived.

13. Templates and webparts

You might establish site and page templates to help your publishers maintain their sites and drive consistency throughout your intranet. You may also want to restrict the use of particular web parts, although this is not always easy to do with SharePoint Online out of the box.

SharePoint intranet governance

SharePoint intranet governance can help create a successful and sustainable intranet that supports employees, drives value and provides great content. We’ve outlined some of the main elements in this post, but there will likely be other processes and policies to consider. If you’d like to discuss SharePoint intranet governance, then get in touch!

We use cookies to give you the best experience on our site. By continuing to use our website, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. To find more about the cookies, please see our Privacy Policy