How to migrate from Slack to Microsoft Teams

Over the past three years the growth in adoption of Microsoft Teams has been remarkable. From what originally seemed designed to be a rival to Slack, Teams has gone from strength to strength and is now at the centre of the plans of many digital workplace teams.

When digital workplace teams launch Microsoft Teams through an organisation, it usually replaces a myriad of local collaboration and communication tools and applications that are used within different divisions, department and locations.

Having one enterprise-wide platform drives efficiency, reduces costs, opens up opportunities to introduce further capabilities and ensures everyone can communicate with each other. But old habits die hard and it’s not unusual for some parts of the business to keep on using a different tool. In particular, Slack is frequently used by IT and technology functions as their communication platform of choice.

While Slack can co-exist happily with Teams, it’s less than ideal, and often digital workplace teams find themselves having to plan an additional migration of Slack from Teams. In this post we’re going to explore some of the things you need to think about in planning a Slack to Teams migration.


What is Slack?

Slack is a messaging, communication and collaboration platform that is currently owned by Salesforce. It was launched back in 2013 and has considerable overlap with Teams functionality, including workspaces, discussions in different channels, instant messaging, video calls, document sharing, integrations and more.

In its earlier days, Slack was one of the solutions that seemed to act as a catalyst for Microsoft to develop Microsoft Teams. Although it is still a very popular solution – particularly in technology companies – many suggest that Slack is not as popular as it used to be, as solutions like Teams have taken market share.

Planning a migration from Slack to Microsoft Teams

If you’re planning a Slack to Teams migration project, there are a number of elements to consider.


1. Check out your licensing

Slack is available as a freemium model, but also has licenses in different pricing bands. The licensing arrangements you have with Slack and Teams is an important starting point for planning any migration. While you will need to have any necessary Teams licensing in place, the flexibility that you have when to end your Slack licensing may dictate the timing of your transition.

We’d suggest that its usually important to have sufficient overlap when both Teams and Slack are available to help employees get used to the change, refer to any important content, carry out any regulatory requirements and so on.

If you’re paying for Slack on a monthly basis, this usually provides you with more flexibility around the timing. Note that it is quite possible you have more than one instance of Slack operating through your business.


2. Plan for adoption and change management

From the outset it’s important to view your migration project as being primarily about people rather then technology. Migrating from Slack to Teams is about employees changing their behaviours and you need to consider your approach to change management and adoption, covering the period leading up to the change, the actual launch and then beyond.

At Content Formula we use the ADKAR model which is a comprehensive and popular change management model that helps to capture both hearts and minds, and really embeds behavioural change. Inevitably your change management efforts will need to take in more than just writing a few change communications, and will involve training, support and change champions.


3. Establish your timetable and work with local business leaders

There are multiple aspects that will dictate the timing and approach for your migration, including licensing arrangements, resourcing, change management plans and any other initiatives that are going on at the time.

If you are migrating a particular group within the business then it’s important to consider their needs and get input and buy-in from leaders within that group, who should agree to your approach and timetable. Not only will they be essential for your change management but they may also advise in the timing – planning a migration of a sales function at the peak season of an annual sales cycle would not be optimal, for example…


4. Map your workspaces and channels

Like Teams, Slack has different channels on different themes, which people will be a member of. In the enterprise product there also fully-fledged workspaces with multiple channels within each. In Teams it’s very likely you’ll want to have an approximation of the different channels and reproduce these.

Depending on how it is used and who the members are, an existing Slack workspace may equate to a whole new Teams space, and a Slack channel may equate to to a channel within a Teams space. However, it is also possible that a channel might work better as a whole new Teams space in its own right. There is no right or wrong approach, but for example if an IT function is using Slack and has seven different channels, it might that in Teams there is a new IT function Teams space that repeats the same seven different channels. However, it might be that a channel might be served by an existing Teams that has already been set up.

While you want to try and map your Slack workspaces and channels to Teams and channels to map continuity, your migration is also a great opportunity to streamline and optimise channels. If you have six Slack channels that didn’t really get used, then you may not want to recreate these within Teams. Again, the best approach is to carry out an audit of the workspaces and channels that are being used and then work with local stakeholders to plan how these will look in Teams.


5. Map your documents

Like Teams, Slack may also have some key documents that need to be referred to, some of which will be part of an existing channel. Again, these may need to be taken over into the new environment. This should be reasonably straightforward and can be even be automated if required, although an approach which assesses their value before posting into Teams will help to optimise your migration.


6. Work out if you need any technical migration

A key decision point in your migration from Slack to Teams is to decide whether you need to carry out a technical migration of any previous conversations or documents. The elements that will influence decision are business value, compliance, cost and the ease of carrying it out. For example, do people need to refer to old Slack conversations? Do employees need access to these for compliance purposes?

There are different options for a technical migration, including working with a partner like Content Formula. There are also different export tools available – both paid-for, but also community-driven and available on GitHub, although these always come with a risk. Microsoft Learn has a handy article about migrating from Slack to Teams that lists some of the options, as well a thes in and outs of migrating apps, channels, direct messages, users and workspaces. Generally, it is certainly possible to migrate channel discussions and documents, but there are some dependencies relating to GDPR around migrating direct messages, for example…


7. Work out what you need to keep from a compliance angle

A critical element in offboarding Slack is what data and records you need to keep from a compliance angle. This might not necessarily mean that users have to be able to access previous conversations within Teams l you may just need be carrying out an export of the data for compliance reasons. The article from Microsoft already mentioned contains some information about exports, but again you may need to involve a partner or discuss options with your contact at Slack.


8. Consider any apps and integrations

Like Teams, Slack also has plenty of apps and integrations, available out of the box but also which may be custom made. For some functions, these integrations may have real value; for example, for IT departments an integration with Jira may be essential for relevant discussions.

If functions are particularly dependent on an integration, recreating this within Teams either using existing connectors or creating a custom integration will add value and support adoption. At Content Formula we often help businesses get the best out of Microsoft Teams with specific integrations.


Need advice? Get in touch.

Migrating from Slack to Teams is not always easy and can be a bumpy ride, but with the right planning and approaches it can be highly successful. If you need help planning your Slack to Teams migration, then get in touch!

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What to look for in a good SharePoint Consultancy

SharePoint has been around in one form or another for over two decades so there is a huge amount of collective expertise and experience that has been built up. That’s good news if you are seeking external help and advice for your SharePoint project – there are a wide range of SharePoint consultancies to choose from.

These include everything from huge global consulting firms, smaller boutique specialist consulting firms, to solo consultant and everything in between. But this wide choice can present a problem if you’re looking for a new SharePoint consultancy to work, and it can be hard knowing where to start.

In this post we’re going to explore what to look for in a good SharePoint consultancy. Of course, if you are looking for one, we’d love it to be us, so please do have an explore of our site to learn about our services and experience. But whoever you do choose, it’s important to make sure you pick a good consultancy for your project with an excellent understanding of SharePoint and a solid track record.

Of course, pricing will also be an important factor in determining the right consultancy that fits your needs, but there are also several other important factors to consider. Let’s explore eight key elements to look for in a good SharePoint consultancy.


1. Technical expertise

A great SharePoint consultancy needs to have excellent technical SharePoint knowledge. SharePoint is a complicated platform that is also highly configurable, and where decisions about the set-up and structure can have an impact on the user experience and future roadmap. Excellent technical expertise needs to cover areas such as SharePoint administration, governance, development, customisations, integrations and implementation.

It’s also important for technical expertise to extend to Azure, Microsoft 365 and Active Directory. SharePoint consultants need to be able have an up-to-date understanding of what SharePoint can do out of the box and what it can’t do, as this will often determine where development and customisation are required. Always seek assurances and evidence of technical expertise.


2. Business and strategic expertise

A successful SharePoint consultancy not only has the technical chops to deliver advice and projects, but also must have the relative strategic and business understanding of what SharePoint can achieve. They must know how best to deliver a relative SharePoint project and environment.

SharePoint is a highly flexible platform that you can use successfully to deliver a huge range of outcomes. A good SharePoint consultancy has a strategic lens to be able to determine how SharePoint can achieve aims and objectives around digital transformation, process efficiency, productivity, collaboration, employee engagement, knowledge management, internal communications, automation and more. They also need to understand how to make the project a success, with the right adoption and change management approach.

Frequently they will also be involved in user and stakeholder research in order to deliver the right requirements, as well as elements such as design, information architecture and more.


3. An understanding of the different shades of SharePoint

SharePoint has a long history and comes in several different versions covering classic and modern, online and on-premises and so on. Some complex companies may have multiple versions operating at the same time; there are even some businesses that still have customised SharePoint 2007 intranets running!

If you do have multiple versions of SharePoint running, then make sure your consultancy has a solid understanding and experience of all the different versions, especially working with classic SharePoint. This means that some newer SharePoint consultancies who might be a good fit for your modern SharePoint or SharePoint Online project, may be less experienced in working with classic SharePoint.


4. Understanding Azure and the wider Microsoft 365 ecosystem

SharePoint projects are very rarely just about pure SharePoint. They will involve aspects of Azure, Active Directory and the wider Microsoft 365 ecosystem and very likely involve integration with other Microsoft tools. The Power Platform could be involved to determine workflows and even define custom apps.

Increasingly, Microsoft is also pushing users towards a digital workplace experienced through Microsoft Teams, with heavy investment in Microsoft Viva. A good SharePoint consultancy needs to fully understand the wider Microsoft and Azure ecosystem to be able to get the very best out of SharePoint. They also need to be fully up to speed on Microsoft’s roadmap including Microsoft Viva, as knowledge of the direction of travel can potentially impact the detail of a SharePoint implementation.


5. Solid experience in the employee experience space

If your SharePoint project is aimed at employees – for example such as intranet or as part of your digital workplace – then it’s definitely a plus point if a SharePoint consultancy has solid experience of delivering employee-focused projects and advice. Delivering an intranet or digital workplace project is not like building a website or customer-facing solution – there are lots of different nuances including the need to factor in a wider range of stakeholders and user feedback, the need to take into account a longer-term view of the digital workplace, and also aspects of adoption and change management.

When an inexperienced SharePoint consultancy or agency takes on a project and treats it like an external website build then issues will inevitably occur. Make sure your consultancy understands what is it like to deliver in the employee experience space; here case studies and client testimonials can help validate a consultancy’s track record.


6. They are a Microsoft Partner

If you’re using a digital agency, make sure they’re a Microsoft Partner. This will help verify both their expertise and commitment to SharePoint and the wider Microsoft stack.


7. Range of services

SharePoint consultancies can deliver a wide range of services, solutions and advice. You might be looking for general advice, a custom development, the integration of your SharePoint estate, a SharePoint intranet implementation or something else entirely. Consultancies can usually provide what you need, but to a certain extent you can tell what they specialise in or where their strengths lie in the services they offer. Always have a good browse – is what you are after a standard service they describe?


8. People and culture fit

Any consultancy or digital agency needs to be good fit from a people and culture perspective. Always make sure that you meet with the team and also the actual consultants and developers that you are going to be working with. Some larger consultancies still wheel out their best people for the pitch meetings but are then never seen again once the work actually starts. The chemistry you have with your agency is important and needs to be routed in good communication and a spirit of partnership. This will absolutely lead to better outcomes.


Looking for a great SharePoint consultancy? Get in touch!

If you are looking for a strong SharePoint consultancy that ticks all of the boxes that we’ve covered in this article, then we can think of a certain specialist agency. They happen to be a Microsoft Partner and have an unrivalled record within the UK of delivering SharePoint and Microsoft 365 projects and solutions focused on employee experience and the digital workplace…. If you ‘d like to discuss your SharePoint project or needs, then get in touch!

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7 reasons to use SharePoint for policy management

Pushing out mandatory policies and tracking reads is perhaps the most requested feature in policy management. But before we get into that, let’s look at the other commonly requested features and examine how SharePoint (and Office 365) addresses these.

Having one source of truth for key policies, procedures, forms and other key organisational documents is important. Employees and managers need to regularly access information such as your staff handbook, IT usage policy, holiday request process, social media guideline or supplier due diligence checklist and more and be confident that these are accurate and up to date. In regulated industries such as financial services there can also be strict guidelines for interaction with customers or processes which must be followed to reduce risk.

Most organisations provide access to policies via their intranet but all too often these are:

  • Scattered across different department sites and are hard to find
  • Do not get updated with the very latest version
  • Simply do not get read, even if they are mandatory to read
  • Are not trusted by employees so they request a copy or rely on a version on their own file network or inbox, that may not be up to date.

Policy management is important. Not managing your policies and procedures carefully or making them easily available in one central place leads to risks for organisations and individual employees, as well as inefficiencies. Sometimes it can also be an requirement for industry regulators or other external third parties, and may even be the subject of an external audit.

Policy management software can help with these challenges and can provide a effective solution that enables policy owners and teams to manage their policy and procedure content throughout it’s lifecycle. Ensuring it is accurate, up-to-date and distrubited with users. 

Whilst identifying the need to use policy management software is relatively straightforward, choosing the right software to fit your organisational needs can sometimes require some consideration. Customers often ask us what the key features of policy management software are and want to know how to evaluate the right solution, this is our recommendation…. 


Seven reasons why SharePoint policy management is the best approach

If your organisation is using Microsoft 365 or SharePoint on-premises, then it makes sense to leverage the power of SharePoint to help better manage your policy documents.

1 SharePoint is likely to be your existing and secure document management solution

If you use SharePoint or SharePoint Online, then that is likely to be at the root of how most people manage documents their documents and files in your organisation. Documents can be easily shared, collaborated on and there is also effective version control, meaning that you can avoid issues such as duplication and ensure there is one source of truth; this is a critical factor in manging your policies. Leveraging SharePoint for policy management also means that your existing users will be already familiar with the system in place used for managing documents. Of course, SharePoint will also be fully secure.

2 You can automate lifecycle management processes

Lifecycle management is absolutely key to successful policy management. For example, you need to make sure that policies have owners who regularly review the documents they are responsible for. SharePoint is excellent from this perspective and you can leverage its integration with Active Directory as well as Power Automate (Flow) to create clear ownership, notifications and workflow to ensure polices are kept up to date and also create views that show admins the status of policies.

3 You can get a complete audit trail

As well as lifecycle management you can also get a complete audit trail of updates to your document, showing when and by whom. This transparency is very important for minimising risks, underpinning accountability, and even for external auditing purposes.

4 You can easily provide access to all

It is critical to provide easy access to policies for your employees. As most organisations already use SharePoint for their intranet or for communication sites, it is easy to integrate a policy document library into the channels that employees already have access to.

5 You can integrate it into your search

Policies also need to be findable and discoverable. Again, most organisations are leaning in on SharePoint or Microsoft search options to allow employees to find what they need. Using SharePoint for policy management means that these documents will be included in your main search, perhaps through the intranet.

6 It can integrate with your wider Microsoft 365 ecosystem

If you are on Microsoft 365 you will likely be using a wide variety of different collaboration and communication tools such as Yammer, Microsoft Teams, Outlook and SharePoint team sites. The obvious integration between a SharePoint-based policy library and the rest of the Microsoft 365 platform means its easy to embed and share key policies from the library in the places where every day work happens.

7 You can track usage and get data

Using SharePoint for policy management means it is also possible to track usage and get data on different policies, for example numbers of views or when they were last updated. By leveraging integrations with Active Directory and PowerBI you can also start to create reports and track critical data such as whether a mandatory document is being read and by whom.

Read more  about policy management software and reasons why SharePoint is the best approach  here.

But what about mandatory policies and tracking reads?


policies and procedures

Introducing… Xoralia policy management software for SharePoint

Overall, using SharePoint for policy management is the way to go. Having deployed many policies libraries on SharePoint and intranets over the years, we decided to combine all our knowledge into an app which can help customers fast track to a secure, user-centric and robust policy management library.

Xoralia policy management software is a brand-new app designed, developed, and managed by Content Formula. It provides organisations using Microsoft 365 and SharePoint Online a quick-to-deploy central policy library than can be accessed via a SharePoint-based intranet or SharePoint site. Xoralia Policies can also be installed by on-premises SharePoint customers.

The app is a simple but complete solution that provides:

  • Easy, central access to the latest version of organisational policy and procedure documents for all staff
  • Robust policy management with assigned content owners and regular reviews across different departments and functions
  • The ability to track the progress of mandatory reads for particular documents, as well as other useful analytics
  • All you need for auditing purposes.


How it works

In a nutshell, Xoralia policy management software works in the following six simple steps. Find out more about each step and Xoralia policy lifecycle management here.

Policy management software - SharePoint, Office 365 & MS Teams


Xoralia policy management software
Find out more about Xoralia policy software


Main features

1 An attractive, central policy library

Xoralia Policies acts as a central policy and procedure library that can be reached via a SharePoint-based intranet or via a SharePoint site, such as a communication site. When accessing Xoralia Policies users are presented with an attractive and intuitive interface that has been designed to help employees find that they need.

Each policy is listed with salient details including the title, the owner, the document format, the date it was last updated and any related instructions, such as whether it must be read. These instructions are personalised to the user. A handy summary at the top of the page also lets a user the number of policies that they have to read.

2 Complete auditability

Organisations may need to demonstrate to regulators or other external bodies that they both have robust processes in place to manage their policies but also that all employees have read policies that are considered to be mandatory. Xoralia Policies leverages the power of SharePoint to provide a complete audit trail of document changes, and also shows clear review policies in place with the ability to track these. This should satisfy both your own internal and external auditing requirements.

Xoralia Policies also has the ability to ensure employees are carrying out mandatory reads. If a policy is mandatory to read, employees can access the document within the app and then make a simple declaration confirming once it has been read. In-built analytics show policy owners and admins the percentage of those who have read the policy.

3 Robust policy management with automated notifications

At the heart of Xoralia Policies are robust policy management features to ensure that documents are kept up to date and your library remains the one source of truth for policies. Each policy has an identified owner and a defined regular review period.

Notifications ensure that owners are reminded to review the policies they own; Xoralia Policies also has a simple dashboard that shows a policy owner their policies that are due for review or have expired. Transparent ownership and review information displayed on each policy also encourages accountability.

4 Analytics for mandatory reads and more

Xoralia Policies also comes with powerful analytics. Xoralia Policies shows policy owners the percentage of users that have read a policy, while administrators can access a more detailed analytics dashboard showing the status of all mandatory reads as well as other salient analytics relating to document status, for example. There are options to use Power BI for more detailed and custom reporting.

These analytics can help teams to prepare for audits, making interventions where necessary, but also get a better understanding to building engagement with employees.

5 Strong findability

Findability is critical. Employees want to be able to find the right policy quickly and effortlessly. The app includes a strong search facility where an employee can enter keywords to find the policy they are looking for. Additionally, employees can filter by different categories including mandatory and non-mandatory reads, the function who owns the policy (IT, HR, Legal etc.) as well as custom tags defined by you.

6 Easy set-up and deployment

The app is quick and straightforward to implement. Because Xoralia Policies can be applied to an existing SharePoint library it means you can convert an existing policy library to the app. It can also be deployed from within any SharePoint intranet or other SharePoint site.

Simplified Policies takes a few days to implement. Content Formula can handle the whole implementation or work in partnership with your IT function to deploy the app.

7 Options for customisation

If you have special requirements around managing and presenting your policies, there are options for customisation. Call us to discuss.


Customer case study

Policy management software example


Gama Aviation provides global business aviation services and support to individuals, corporations and government agencies. The global workforce require access to one source of truth for technical documents, polices and procedures. Building on the Wizdom intranet already introduced by Content Formula, Gama Aviation chose to upgrade their existing policy library to Xoralia Policies to take advantage of the improved UI, mandatory reads capability and decentralised policy management.

Content Formula worked closely with Gama Aviation’s IT function to enable them to carry out most of the implementation themselves. The new policy library is now accessed through the Wizdom intranet and is already getting good feedback and frequent visits.

Policy management software example


SharePoint is made for policy management

When it comes to managing your policies and ensuring your employees can find and access them, SharePoint is a strong option.

If you’d like more information about using SharePoint for policy management or about Xoralia policy management software, and would like a product demo then get in touch!

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Yammer is rebranding to Viva Engage: what does this mean for digital workplace teams?

On February 13th Microsoft announced that Yammer was rebranding to Viva Engage, and would now be part of the Microsoft Viva employee experience platform.. This follows last year’s announcement and launch oo the Viva Engage app that was effectively a rebranding of the Yammer Communities app for Microsoft Teams. At the time this caused some confusion in the marketplace, and some speculated that a rebrand of the whole of Yammer was on the cards. That day has now come and the recent announcement is not a massive surprise. In this post we’re going to look at what the rebranding means and also some of the other things in store for Viva Engage.

What did the announcement say?

Yammer has been a core part of Microsoft 365 and the M365 digital workplace for quite a long time now. Originally founded in 2008, the solution was acquired by Microsoft in 2012 for $1.2 billion USD and has subsequently been adopted in many organisations. For some, this adoption has been patchy, but for others it’s been a significant success, helping drive communities, engagement and knowledge-sharing.

One of the strengths of Yammer is the easy ability to embed it in a SharePoint intranet via a couple of web parts straight out of the box, and it’s a still a great choice for managing communities across the enterprise. It frequently does the job better than Microsoft Teams, which is better suited to project- and team-level collaboration.

The actual announcement from Microsoft is keen to stress that this is very much a rebrand. The Yammer platform is not going away, it’s just changing its name, and Microsoft confirms that  “outside of branding changes, there are no changes to the features, capabilities and investments for Microsoft 365 customers” and that customers will “continue to experience and benefit from the power of Viva Engage, just as you did with Yammer, with no loss of continuity.” Microsoft is also stressing some new features that will be launching soon, to show that it is continuing to invest in the platform.

What does the rebrand mean?

Although Microsoft stresses continuity, this still represents a significant evolution of Yammer and a major step in the Yammer and Microsoft Viva story. Let’s explore what the rebrand means both in wider terms but also specifically for digital workplace teams.

  1. It reduces confusion

When the Yammer Communities app was rebranded to Viva Engage, it effectively meant that there was dual branding of essentially the same product, a move which left many scratching their heads, and also a job for digital workplace teams trying to explain the logic behind the move to stakeholders and end users. At least with the whole of Yammer rebranding, it effectively reduces some of the confusion in the marketplace, and is an easier message to convey internally.

Microsoft acknowledge that the dual brand has caused some complications, saying that “we’ve heard your feedback that having two apps surfacing similar experiences and the same services and content has introduced confusion and made it challenging to drive adoption and create clarity for end users.”

  1. It elevates the Microsoft Viva brand

Microsoft Viva was launched in early 2021 and although it is now two years old, it is still not necessarily a prevalent brand within the digital workplace. Although end users will be aware of Viva due the to the email summaries they receive, to date much of Viva adoption has been around Viva Connections with some organisations choosing not to adopt the “paid for” apps. We think that the rebranding of Yammer to Viva Engage will make the Viva brand much more visible to end users and to stakeholders. It also brings Microsoft Viva out of just being experienced through Microsoft Teams, where to date most of the Viva experiences have been delivered as Teams apps.

  1. It helps highlight recent changes including Storylines and Stories

When there is a rebrand, it often necessitates communications out to stakeholders and users, but also focuses fresh attention on the features in a platform.  Yammer / Viva Engage has actually had some investment recently with some new features that make the platform much more of a social network akin to Workplace from Meta, for example. We think the rebrand is a good opportunity to draw attention to these new elements.  

Storylines and Stories were introduced in late 2022. Storylines allow individuals to post as an individual with people following them, a model that works well for senior leaders and management. This fundamentally moves Viva Engage away from being just centred around groups and communities, to also one centred around the individual. Meanwhile Stories are short videos or photos which are added to a person’s Storyline and take some inspiration from Instagram and TikTok. The rebrand will help highlight these new useful features.  

  1. Teams will need to notify users

Inevitably there will need to be some kind of change management or communication effort to explain the rebrand to end users. For busy digital workplace teams, this may be an unwelcome additional task, although it is an opportunity to reiterate the value of the features within Viva Engage. Microsoft has provided a useful timetable of when the main changes to the various apps and overall platform are taking place, and is also providing in-app or in-platform messages to inform end users about the rebrand.

  1. Say hello to premium experiences

Yammer was previously bundled into Microsoft 365 subscriptions, and that’s also the case with Viva Engage. However, the rebrand is also an opportunity to introduce a range of premium features within Viva Engage that are on their way in 2023 and help with a range of different areas including leadership communications; arguably these paid-for features are easier to position under the Viva brand where there is already a contrast between what is available within a Microsoft 365 license, and what comes at an additional price as part of a general Viva subscription.

Among the new features available within Viva Engage but only for Viva subscriptions are:

  • Leadership Corner for employees: a place for leaders to engage with employees through discussions and content.
  • Ask Me Anything (AMA) Events: a template for running an AMA event with a leader or senior manager via Viva Engage.
  • Social Media campaigns: support for internal communicators to run campaigns that interface with Leadership Corner and use Viva Engages
  • Advanced analytics: a series of dashboards that provide more detailed Viva Engage analytics covering campaigns, audience engagement and more.
  • Answers in Viva: a social Q&A feature that is also integrated with Viva Topics.


  1. Expect more integration between different Viva apps

One direction of travel for the Microsoft Viva platform is to that it will start to become more integrated as different Viva apps work together, including Viva Engage. In particular the new premium features in Viva Engage that are available to general Viva license holders are also becoming more intertwined with other Viva offerings; for example, Answers in Viva is available as part of Viva Topics and Viva Engage. Some of the new features are also likely to overlap with parts of Viva Amplify, a new Viva app to be launched later in 2023 aimed at internal communicators.

  1. Viva Engage is here to stay

Over the years there has always been a little bit of a question about Yammer which seemed to lack active investment from Microsoft, although this has changed in the past two years. However, the rebrand to Viva Engage and the new features show that Viva Engage is very much part of Microsoft’s long-term plans, something which is to be welcomed.

Goodbye Yammer, hello Viva Engage

Yammer is being rebranded to Viva Engage and it’s a good opportunity to remind users about the features within the platform and how it can be used. We expect Viva Engage to add value across the digital workplace for the foreseeable future.

If you’d to discuss the rebrand or how your digital workplace can benefit from Microsoft Viva and Viva Engage, then get in touch!


SharePoint lists: The Beginner’s Guide

SharePoint lists are one of the most useful features in SharePoint and the wider Microsoft 365 digital workplace.  They are a highly flexible and convenient way to store and display data and content, with a variety of different options relating to formatting, access and workflows; they’re also super-easy to use.

At Content Formula we are long term fans of lists and over the years we’ve used them many times across our projects. If you have a SharePoint intranet or environment, it’s extremely likely that you will use a SharePoint list somewhere along the way.

If you’re relatively new to SharePoint lists or don’t use them as much as you could do, this beginners guide to SharePoint lists is for you. In this long read we cover:


What are SharePoint lists?

SharePoint lists have been a core feature of SharePoint for many years. Lists are essentially a way of storing and displaying data and content within SharePoint in a set of rows and columns, similar to a table or a spreadsheet. A list is a highly flexible way to both manage but also display structured information and content within SharePoint, with a variety of options relating to formatting, access rights and different types of content. You can also apply rules and workflow.


What’s the difference between Microsoft lists and SharePoint Lists?

At the moment there are two separately branded lists from Microsoft – Microsoft lists and SharePoint lists; this can cause some confusion in the marketplace. Actually, these have the same features and user interface and can be considered the same – the only difference is that SharePoint lists sit within a SharePoint site while Microsoft Lists sit within a personal site, similar to OneDrive.

Microsoft introduced the “Microsoft lists” branding when it upgraded the list features in 2020 and wanted to emphasise that lists can also be deployed directly into Teams and be used standalone. However, since then the features within SharePoint lists and Microsoft lists are synchronised. Microsoft lists have their own dedicated web and mobile app. For a deeper dive on this topic, please read our article about the difference between Microsoft lists and SharePoint lists.


What are the benefits of a SharePoint and Microsoft lists?

Lists are an excellent way to store and manage data in SharePoint, Teams and Microsoft 365 and have several benefits:

Highly flexible and scalable

Lists are highly flexible and scalable. They can be very small or very large with thousands of items. They can accommodate different types of content including text, images, videos, audio, documents, formulae and metadata. They can also have a wide variety of different formatting. You can also apply workflow to lists and control the access. This flexibility means that a SharePoint list can meet a wide variety of use cases and scenarios – it’s one of the key reasons SharePoint lists are so useful.

Granular levels of control

One of the most powerful elements of lists is the high level of granular control that you have over lists down to the row, column and even cell level, for example relating to both formatting but also access control. For example, you might have a number of people who are updating a list of first aiders throughout your organisation that is displayed on your intranet, but you want to ensure they can only update one column within the list. The granularity of control means you can protect the rest of the list and ensure other information doesn’t get overwritten, for example.

Easy to create and manage

Another major advantage of lists is that they’re super easy to create and manage; working with lists is not dissimilar to working with spreadsheets. Because of Microsoft’s generally “no code low code” approach to modern SharePoint, you do not need to involve the IT function. Lists are open to use by non-IT professionals, such as the intranet team or even local site owners.

One source of truth for data and content

When organisations use SharePoint for their intranet or as a trusted repository of information, they are often trying to ensure there is one source of truth for data. SharePoint lists support one source of truth by having various features to support the governance of data, including granular access control and integration with Power Automate to ensure information kept in a SharePoint list is updated in other systems, and vice-versa. Because the list can also be surfaced across different Microsoft 365 tools it also means that there only needs to be one instance of the list, again supporting one source of truth.

Ready-made templates and formatting

Lists come with a set of ready-made templates with nice formatting to cover different types of lists such as asset managers, content schedulers, budget trackers, issue trackers and many more. Many of these are provided by Microsoft, but there are also many others available on GitHub from the Microsoft community.

Deep integration with other Microsoft 365 tools

One of the reasons that lists are so powerful is their deep integration with other Microsoft 365 tools. You can use lists within Teams, for example. Integration with Microsoft Forms is also particularly useful as you can easily create a Form for people to add information too and then instantly populate a SharePoint list; this can be very handy when you want to guide users to enter certain types of information, with a Form doing the heavy lifting on the data entry.

Integration with Power Automate, Power Apps and the other tools within the Power Platform is also key meaning that workflows can be triggered when information is changed or added, and then be updated in another system, and vice-versa. For example, if somebody changed their name in the HR system of record, this could then be updated in a SharePoint list of first aiders that was kept on the intranet.

Often better than an Excel spreadsheet

Many teams use Excel to store and manage structured information, but actually a SharePoint list is usually a superior tool for managing information. Reasons that lists are frequently better than Excel spreadsheets include the ability to maintain control over certain areas of the list, better data integrity and deeper integration with Microsoft 365.

Microsoft keeps on investing

Like most of the tools across the Microsoft 365 suite, Microsoft keeps on investing in lists and making improvements. For example, there was a major “upgrade” in 2020. Lists is also a heavily utilised feature in SharePoint and will almost certainly be around for a long time yet, so you are effectively future-proofed using lists.


What are the different features of a SharePoint list?

Three are a number of key features of SharePoint lists.

Cells, columns and rows

A SharePoint list is fundamentally a table that includes different cells set out in a rows and columns format. However, within a list the rows are known as list items. Within the columns you can define required different data types such as text, number, date / time and so on. A column can also define a look-up list of values; for example, all the locations within an organisation or the list of products your company offers to clients.

List views and formatting

It's possible to set different views to filter your list and use different formatting. This is now highly flexible so that you can create a range of formats to suit different use cases, reorder columns and even do things like pin items to the top of the list. There is even conditional formatting so that a list could change in appearance based on the item added, for example a status could be displayed as Red, Amber or Green depending on information being added.


As already noted, Microsoft has created a set of different templates which include asset manager, content scheduler, employee on-boarding, event itinerary, issues tracker, recruitment tracker, travel requests and work progress tracker. There are also community-driven templates available via GitHub.

Rules and workflows

You can also add various rules and workflows to your list, some of them through the integration with Power Automate. You can also control access to read and edit different areas of the list. The integration with a Microsoft Forms front end can also help to enforce different rules for content entry.


What are some of the use cases for a SharePoint list?

There are many different use cases for a SharePoint list, many of which are reflected in the templates available. SharePoint lists are excellent for scenarios where:

  • Information is often changed on a regular basis
  • Where a wider number of people may be inputting data
  • Where a wide number of people need to regularly refer to the data
  • Where the data needs to be displayed in more than one place
  • Where the data needs to be updated across different systems.

Here are a few popular use cases, but there are many others:

  • Using it as an events calendar to store on your intranet covering key dates and milestones, including holidays in different countries
  • An inventory list covering office equipment or technical equipment
  • Maintaining lists of people relating to roles such as fire wardens, mental first aiders, HR contacts for each location and so on
  • Maintaining a list of locations with related information about each office, such as address, opening hours, main contact etc.
  • Tracking a list of issues and their related status for a project
  • Maintaining a backlog of changes for a product or application – even your intranet!
  • Logging requests and feedback on a product or application and tracking their status
  • Keeping a log of different requests such as for a new phone and then allowing people to view the status for their request
  • A list of subscribers to different journals and information feeds
  • Maintaining a list of the required steps for a new starter during the employee on-boarding process
  • Providing the latest version of a user manual or documentation across a portfolio of products
  • Keeping a directory of apps in use throughout the enterprise
  • And many more!

How do I create a list in SharePoint Online?

1.  Navigate to the SharePoint site where you want to create the list.
2.  Click on the gear icon in the top right corner of the page and select "Site contents" from the menu.
3.  Click on the "+New" button and select "List" from the options.
4.  Enter a name for the list and a description (optional) and click on the "Create" button.
Once the list is created, you can add columns and items to it by clicking on the "Add column" or "New" button.


How do I delete a list in SharePoint Online?

1.  Navigate to the SharePoint site where the list is located.
2.  Click on the gear icon in the top right corner of the page and select "Site contents" from the menu.

3.  Locate the list you want to delete and hover over its name.

4.  Click on the ellipsis (...) that appears and select "Delete" from the options.
5.  Confirm the deletion by clicking "Delete" in the pop-up window. Note: Be careful when deleting list, it will be permanently deleted and cannot be restored.


How do I import a SharePoint list from Excel?

1.  Select the gear icon and choose "Add an App"
2.  On the next screen, give your new app/list a name, then choose an Excel file. Click Import.
3.  You will now notice an Excel file open up with a pop-up window where you need to select a range of cells to import. Once you choose the range of cells in the pop-up, click Import.
The table will now be imported to SharePoint. It will go ahead and create a custom list with proper column headers and values.  

Need help with SharePoint list or Microsoft lists? Get in touch!

We hope this beginner’s guide has given you an overview of SharePoint lists, how they can be used and answered some key questions. We’ve been using SharePoint lists for years, so if you need any help then get in touch!

Find out more about using SharePoint lists for your organisation...

Request a call back with one of our SharePoint experts, for a free consultation about your business.

Get in touch to discuss your project

What is the difference between SharePoint Lists and Microsoft Lists?

Lists are one of the most longstanding and useful elements of SharePoint and the now the wider Microsoft 365 environment. Lists have multiple uses, are extremely flexible and are an easy way to store and manage controlled data and content that is frequently updated and needs to be displayed to many people, for example through an intranet or on Microsoft Teams. Here at Content Formula we’re long-time fans of lists and we regularly use them in projects for our clients.

In recent years, Microsoft has given lists some love and invested in new capabilities, effectively giving hem a bit of an upgrade. This attention has been welcome, but it has resulted in what appears to be two version of lists – SharePoint lists and Microsoft lists. From time to time we get asked what the difference between the two is. Are they the same thing? And if not, what are the differences between them? In this post we’re going to explore the differences between SharePoint lists and Microsoft lists.

What is a SharePoint list?

Our comprehensive beginner’s guide to SharePoint lists takes a deep dive into SharePoint lists where we cover what they are, the main benefits, popular use cases, different elements and characteristics of a SharePoint list and how to carry out some of the basics, such as creating and deleting Lists. In the guide we define a SharePoint List as:

“a way of storing and displaying data and content within SharePoint in a set of rows and columns, similar to a table or a spreadsheet. A list is a highly flexible way to both manage but also display structured information and content within SharePoint, with a variety of options relating to formatting, access rights and different types of content.”

What is a Microsoft List?

Microsoft themselves define a Microsoft List as a “smart tracking app in Microsoft 365” that allows you to “work with anyone, anywhere” and where lists can be configured to “better organise events, issues, assets and more.” In this way Microsoft lists are strongly identified as part of Microsoft 365 rather than as part of SharePoint.

However, a Microsoft list is essentially the same piece of functionality as a SharePoint List. It has more or less exactly the same capabilities and user interface but is delivered and packaged as a standalone app while a SharePoint list is directly part of SharePoint.

SharePoint Lists vs Microsoft Lists

While this separate branding might be a bit confusing, there is some logic behind it. In 2020 Microsoft added some key functionality to lists, including the ability to integrate some social features, extending formatting options and creating a number of very useful templates. They also wanted to emphasize that lists can be deployed within Microsoft Teams and were not just confined to being deployed within SharePoint sites. This new version of lists was branded as Microsoft lists to differentiate it. However, since then, the functionality of SharePoint lists and Microsoft lists has been synchronised, so they now share the same features.

If they are the same thing, why are they different?

Not everybody uses SharePoint but lists are highly versatile and can be used in their own right, particularly within Microsoft Teams and in integrations with PowerApps and the Power Platform.

The differentiation in branding does help to emphasise their independent use outside SharePoint but also some of the new formatting and power that has been brought to lists.

When Microsoft lists were initially launched, they had more features than SharePoint lists, but they now share the same feature set. However, there are some differences in where lists are stored. Microsoft lists are stored in the same place as OneDrive files – on a personal site – while a SharePoint List will be on the individual SharePoint site that its kept on.


What does the list app do?

Another major difference is that Microsoft Lists has its own dedicated web app and mobile app, that is available via Google Play and the iOS app store. The app can present an aggregated view of lists and help you to manage them. Can you move SharePoint lists to Microsoft Lists and vice versa?

There is a facility to copy lists from one place to another that would allow a list in a SharePoint site to be created as a Microsoft lists, and vice versa. There is also a workaround in copying SharePoint list into Excel and then copying that back a Microsoft list – a process that also works the other way around. However, there have been some reports that formatting can get lost when carrying out both these processes.

Still confused about lists? Get in touch!

Microsoft branding can be a bit confusing at times with so many different apps and services, and even different names for what is essentially the same functionality. The good news is that the feature set in Microsoft lists and SharePoint Lists are essentially the same, meaning that you can deploy a list with confidence in a SharePoint site or within Teams, or use lists effectively as a standalone app. You can also integrate with PowerApps and Power Automate and also leverage a library of helpful templates for key use cases, helping lists to become a highly useful feature within the wider Microsoft 365 digital workplace.

As we’ve often said, at Content Formula we love lists! If you’re still confused about the difference between SharePoint lists and Microsoft lists, or want to know how you can better use lists in your intranet or digital workplace, then get in touch!

Find out more about using SharePoint lists for your organisation...

Request a call back with one of our SharePoint experts, for a free consultation about your business.

Get in touch to discuss your project

Should I synchronise SharePoint lists with SQL server database?

SharePoint lists and Microsoft lists are a wonderful way to manage and display information, for example in your intranet or within Microsoft Teams. Organisations that are keen to ensure there is one source of truth for their data and information can use lists together with Power Automate to help maintain the integrity of their data, so that when there is a change to one piece of data this is also reflected elsewhere.

Some organisations that use SQL Server to store and query their data, and also use SharePoint for communication and their intranet, are often keen to ensure that the data that is stored in SQL can also be surfaced in SharePoint lists.

A question that we occasionally get asked is what the best way to synchronise a SharePoint lists with SQL Server database, so information is updated in both systems. Other related questions include:

  • How do I import or export data from SQL Server to a SharePoint list?
  • Can I connect a SQL server to a SharePoint list?

While synchronisation and data import / exports are technically possible, these approaches have several disadvantages, and is a practice we do not recommend to our clients. In this post we’re going to explore the topic in more detail and suggest why there are better approaches.

What are SharePoint lists?

A SharePoint list (or Microsoft list) is a format for storing and displaying data and content within SharePoint in a set of rows and columns, similar to a table or a spreadsheet. Lists are a highly flexible way to both manage but also display structured information and content within SharePoint, as well as Teams and other part of Microsoft 365. For more detail on see our SharePoint Lists beginner’s guide.

What is SQL Server database?

SQL Server is a relational database management system that is frequently used by organisations to store, manage and query data used in core systems, reporting and business intelligence. It has been around for many years and is still a popular way of storing data in organisations, with SQL skills commonplace among IT professionals.

Why do organisations want to keep the data in lists and SQL synchronised?

It’s not surprising that organisations want to keep their data synchronised between SSL and SharePoint lists. Having one source of truth ensures that data is consistent wherever it appears, across core systems, dashboards, reports and communication channels like the intranet. Bringing data together from different sources is essential for decision making, management and leadership, as well as compliance, risk management and more.

It is essential that the integrity of data is maintained, and querying data dynamically has value. Commonly, digital workplace teams want to surface data and display information that managers and employees need to refer to, in popular channels like Teams, a SharePoint intranet or in SharePoint communication sites. Lists is a very useful format for visualising and displaying data.

Lists are also used to manage and update information too, and teams want to ensure that any information changed in a list is also updated in SQL too. With two-way synchronisation, teams can ensure there is one source of truth.


What are the challenges of synchronising lists and SQL Server?

If you are planning to go ahead and synchronise SharePoint lists and SQL Server, there are various pitfalls to be wary of.

1. You’re going to need to get IT involved

Synchronising lists and SQL is essentially a custom development and will come at a cost, as well as create technical debt which causes various problems down the line. There are connectors on the market, but these will need to be tested and again come with some risk. However you approach it, you will need to get a development resource involved in the synchronisation. If you haven’t got the expertise in-house, you’ll likely have to go external.

2. It needs ongoing maintenance and monitoring

Connectors and / or custom code will require ongoing maintenance and monitoring to make sure the synchronisation is taking place, and then to make any necessary fixes if a problem arises. Again, this results in ongoing costs and reliance on development resources.

3. You risk the integrity of your data

Perhaps the most significant issue with synchronising SharePoint lists and SQLs is that you are actually setting up two places for data to be stored. If the synchronisation fails, it means that you are risking the integrity of your data with two different versions.

If there is an issue and doesn’t get noticed straight away, it might take a lot of unpicking and effort to restore all the data to its correct state, There may also be potential consequence if employees are relying on out of date or incorrect data for decision-making and key processes.

4. SQL and lists are not the same thing

SQL is a relational database, but a SharePoint list is not a relational database. This can limit some of the information you can synchronise; if you are trying to synchronise you really do need to know what you’re doing or further risk your data integrity.

What are the alternatives?

In our view synchronising SQL and lists comes with associated risks, costs and ongoing effort. There are better alternatives.

Using Power BI

Sometimes teams want to visualise their data and content using a SharePoint list, because its an easy and flexible format. However, Power BI offers an alternative (and often superior) option for data visualisation and comes with a ready-made connector for SQL. Here, you can then set up your dashboard and report without undermining the “one source of truth” caused by syncing with lists, and also avoid the costs associated with a custom approach.

Using the Dataverse

The Dataverse is Microsoft’s solution for data storage that’s utilised across Microsoft 365 and the Power Platform. It’s an Azure-based relational database for storing data which can then be surfaced, updated and queried across different Microsoft applications, as well as non-Microsoft applications if required. It is bundled in with Power Apps subscriptions.

Using the Dataverse means your SharePoint list can easily utilise the data contained within it in a more effective and cheaper way thanks to seamless integration which means:

  • You don’t have actually have to involve developers; this can be carried out by Power Users all within a low code no code interface
  • No customisation and associated costs are required with everything covered in your PowerApps subscription
  • You don’t need ongoing maintenance and effort
  • You avoid the risk of creating conflicting data.

Overall, using the Dataverse rather than trying to sync a SharePoint list and SQL means lower risk, lower costs, less effort and avoids various other pitfalls.

Need advice on lists, SQL and the Dataverse? Get in touch!

Synchronising SharePoint lists or Microsoft lists and SQL Server has various pitfalls, and in our view there are better alternatives.

If you’d like to discuss lists, SQL, the Dataverse or how you manage and store your data across the digital workplace, then get in touch!

Find out more about using SharePoint lists for your organisation...

Request a call back with one of our SharePoint experts, for a free consultation about your business.

Get in touch to discuss your project

15 digital workplace statistics you need to know for 2023

The digital workplace continues to evolve and play a major role in employee experience and organisational life; over the past few years it has moved forward enormously.  There are various statistics which reflect and demonstrate just how far the digital workplace has come, but also show that there is still a lot of work to do.

These statistics are useful in helping organisations think about where they are in their own digital workplace journey, as well as conversation starters to talk to business stakeholders. They can also be a useful reference point in any business case.

In this post we’re going to explore fifteen key digital workplace statistics for 2023 that you need to know. These are all from authoritative sources, can be used in a presentation or business case, and cover different aspects of the digital workplace from technology adoption to employee engagement to intranet team size!


1. The digital workplace is very important for over 70% of organisations

Over the years, the digital workplace has been growing in importance and priority for organisations. According to the annual State of the Digital Workplace Report from SMG, 72% regard the digital workplace as an “extremely important” or “very important” priority. Only 8% regard it as “slightly important” or “not important”.


2. Only 26% of organisations regard their digital workplace as mature

Even though the digital workplace is regarded as a priority by the majority of organisations, many feel that there is room for improvement and evolution. According to the same SMG survey, only 26% regard their digital workplace as “mature” with a further 45% regarding it as “about mid-way”.


3. Only 21% of employees are engaged at work

Employee engagement continues to be an important dynamic in the workplace, but surveys continue to show that only a minority of employees feel genuine engaged. According to the authoritative 2022 State of the Workplace Report from Gallup, only 21% of employees are engaged.


4. Companies with strong employee experience are 25% more profitable

Having a strong employee experience drives a range of strategic benefits. Research led by Kristine Dery at MIT has shown companies with strong employee experience (top quartile) are 25% more profitable than those with a weak employee experience (lowest quartile). Similarly, they are also like to have twice the level of innovation and double the customer satisfaction (NPS scores).


5. The average team size of an award-winning intranet is 17

The intranet is still a major channel within the wider digital workplace. Each year the Nielsen Norman Group runs a competition to determine the top ten intranets of the year, and they also run some interesting statistics. Although relating to generally larger enterprises, according to Nielsen Norman the average intranet team size is 17 FTE, based on winners between 2015 and 2022.


6. Larger companies deploy an average of 187 apps

A major issue impacting employee experience is the sheer number of different apps that are in use within any one organisation and in practice many efforts to improve employee experience try to simplify the app landscape. According to Otka’s annual “Business at Work” report, in 2021 on average a company with more than 2,000 employees had 187 apps across the enterprise.


7. 67% of employees say their digital experience outside work is better than inside work

An ongoing theme in the digital workplace is the superiority of the technology experience in the consumer space compared to that of work. A 2022 survey of IT decision-makers and knowledge workers in the US and UK found that 67% of them had a better digital experience outside work than inside work. Only 8% said their digital workplace experience was better than their experience as consumers.


8. Employees who feel cared for by an employer are 3.7 times more likely to recommend working there

Supporting wellbeing has been rising on the agenda for HR and is increasingly seen as a component of employee experience. This appears to have an impact on employee perceptions of their employer; a LinkedIn Learning report using information from the Glint engagement tool suggests that an employee who feels “cared about at work” is 3.7 times more likely to recommend working for that company.


9. Social tools can increase the productivity of knowledge workers by up to 25%

The value of social and collaboration tools in raising the productivity of knowledge workers is now widely accepted. One of the most (over) quoted statistics in the digital workplace space is from a McKinsey Global Institute article from way back in 2012 that suggests using social technologies to improve collaboration and communication can raise productivity between 20% and 25%.


10. Employee onboarding increases employee retention by over 80%

Teams focusing on employee experience frequently look to improve the employee onboarding experience for new hires. This makes good business sense as research from Brandon Hall (from back in 2015) suggests that a good onboarding programme can increase employee retention by as much as 82%.


11. 58% of executives report improvements to individual productivity from hybrid work

The scaling up of remote and hybrid work is still contentious in some organisations, with some senior executives demanding a return to the office. However, omany people report increased productivity from hybrid work. A McKinsey survey of executives found that 58% reported an increase in individual productivity, with 49% also reporting an increase in team productivity from remote work brought on by the pandemic.


12. There are 270,000 million Microsoft Teams users

Over the past few years Microsoft Teams has seen a meteoric rise in usage, with the pandemic also acting as a catalyst for the platform’s dramatic growth. Microsoft now continues to expand and is a major component of many digital workplaces. According to useful statistics website Statista, in 2022 Teams reached an estimated 270,000 million users, almost double the number in 2021.


13. The value of the digital workplace market is set to surpass $75 bn by 2027

As the digital workplace has grown in importance, the related technology solutions and services that enable the digital workplace have also evolved. In fact analyst firm Market Research Future (MFPR) estimates that the digital workplace “market” will be worth $USD 76.6 billion by 2027, representing a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 21.8% from 2021 to 2027.


14. 50% of organisations have embedded AI in least one function, more than doubling over 5 years

AI is steadily growing in influence within organisations and across the digital workplace. According to McKinsey’s annual State of AI report released in late 2022, 50% of all organisations have adopted AI in at least one function, a level which was only 20% in 2017.


15. 39% of organisations who are leveraging AI are using it for Robotic Process Automation

The same McKinsey survey asked organisations who have adopted AI in products or processes within one function how they are using it. The most popular answer has proved to be Robotic Process Automation (RPA) mentioned by 39% of respondents. This tallies with our experience at Content Formula that many organisations are using the AI of the Power Platform to automate simple and repetitive tasks, releasing time for employees to carry out more valuable activities.


Helping your digital workplace journey

We hope you found these digital workplace statistics helpful! If you’re starting out on your own digital workplace journey, planning your roadmap for the new year, making a business case for investment, or want help with a particular digital workplace project, we’re here to help!

You might be working with Microsoft 365, Microsoft Teams, SharePoint or Microsoft Viva, or are looking to integrate other technologies. We have decades of experience working with intranets, collaboration and the wider digital workplace and have a range of services running from strategy formation to technical development to adoption and change management support.

Discuss any aspect of your digital workplace by getting in touch.

What is the digital workplace?

What is the digital workplace?

The digital workplace is a term that is commonly used in conjunction with Microsoft 365 projects, intranets, collaboration platforms and other similar enterprise solutions that support collaboration, communication and engagement.

But what actually is the digital workplace? While most of us have an idea of what it generally refers to – perhaps a digital environment accessed for work or the systems we spend our working day in –  many teams don’t have an exact definition of what the digital workplace actually is. In this post we’re going explore what the digital workplace is, and some of the different definitions that have been made.

There is no consensus on the digital workplace, but it matters

First of all, it’s important to state that actually there is no industry-wide standard consensus on what the digital workplace is. It can relate to both a specific technology environment, but also as a wider term that implies a strategic approach to designing and managing it.

A related question is whether this actually matters and whether you need to have a definition of what the digital workplace is. Our view is that if you are using the term “digital workplace” to describe your project or environment then it is good to have a set definition of what it is. This helps you to engage stakeholders and users who might be less familiar with the term, ensuring that everybody is working from the same page, and also to reduce misunderstandings.

How long has the term been in use?

The digital workplace as a term and concept has been around for nearly 15 years and was originally used by pioneers in the intranet and workplace technology space including Paul Miller from the Digital Workplace Group (DWG) and Jane McConnell.

While the term remained quite niche, it started to become more mainstream as it became increasingly used by technology analysts like Gartner and some other software vendors. Now it is a commonly used term by agencies, consultants, vendors and major players like Microsoft. Here at Content Formula, we’ve been using the term for a number of years.

What are some definitions of the digital workplace?

There are some different interpretations of exactly how to define the digital workplace. In a way, these are all correct and we’ve incorporated different nuances around the definition depending on the clients we’ve worked with.  Let’s look at some of the main ones.

The digital workplace as all digital tools

At the highest level, the digital workplace can refer to the technology we use every day at work, covering all the enterprise applications in use. This is actually the definition that DWG use, describing the digital workplace as:

“the collection of all the digital tools provided by an organization to allow its employees to do their jobs.” .

This means that all organisations have some sort of digital workplace, stretching from extremely basic to highly sophisticated.

The digital workplace as a planned ecosystem

Others when defining the digital workplace refer to a more planned, controlled, coherent and designed approach to workplace technology.  In these cases, the digital workplace is a deliberate, managed and optimised ecosystem that delivers distinct benefits.

For example, Gartner refers to the digital workplace as something that “enables new, more effective ways of working; raises employee engagement and agility; and exploits consumer-oriented styles and technologies.”

Typically, the kind of benefits envisaged include:

  • Greater productivity and efficiency
  • Process improvement
  • Enhanced employee engagement
  • Stronger collaboration
  • Better communication
  • A better employee experience
  • Enabling automation and workflow
  • Driving innovation.

The digital workplace as the counterpart to the physical workplace

A variation of the definition of a planned ecosystem, is when the digital workplace is presented as a digital counterpart to the physical workplace, a virtual equivalent. For example, Sam Marshall at ClearBox has used the metaphor of a town to illustrate the concept and scope of the digital workplace. This can be a useful definition, particularly when trying to explain the concept to stakeholders who are unfamiliar with the term.

The digital workplace as a distinct environment

A digital workplace is also sometimes described as a specific integrated environment that has a set number of tools within it rather than the entire set of enterprise applications. For example, a digital workplace might consist of a number of Microsoft 365 tools. Another digital workplace might be the tools that are specifically supported by the IT function.

This tends to be a definition that is found inside organisations. An IT team might refer to their Microsoft 365 environment with SharePoint, Microsoft Teams, Yammer, Microsoft Viva, Outlook, OneDrive and other more niche 365 solutions as a “digital workplace”.

The digital workplace as the front door to the wider environment

Some organisations have also used the term “digital workplace” to describe what is effectively actually an intranet or portal but which links through to other applications, has single sign-on and also might include some integrations with other key corporate systems like ServiceNow. Effectively the intranet or portal is a “front door” or single-entry point to the wider workplace technology environment.

In some cases the term  “digital workplace” is sometimes being used interchangeably to describe both this “front door” and the wider digital environment that people can access. In our view an intranet is an intranet; it’s not a digital workplace but is often a very important channel within the wider digital workplace. However, the term can be useful in positioning the intranet to users and stakeholders, as a gateway to other services.

Digital employee experience vs Digital workplace

Another term that is frequently used in this space is “digital employee experience (DEX)”. We tried to define this in a previous post and found seven different definition. DEX is distinct from the digital workplace – it’s an outcome of it and its design, not an environment in itself. Going wider, employee experience itself takes in many different factors, including experience of digital technology.

Which digital workplace definition works best for you?

There are multiple definitions of the digital workplace, most of which are overlapping. None of them are incorrect and used in the right way, they all have value. However, we do believe it helps to decide what the term means to your organisation and then to use it consistently in your projects. You will achieve a common understanding by considering and defining the scope and value of your digital workplace.

If you’re still confused about what the digital workplace is and want to discuss it with us, or if you’ve got a completely different definition to any of the above, then get in touch!

Ten digital workplace and Microsoft 365 trends for 2023

It’s that time of year when many of us start to look ahead to the coming months and plan out our programme of work. It’s also a time when the blogosphere is full of predictions posts about the trends we’ll see in 2023. Personally, I don’t think that’s a bad thing; considering the trends can help start conversations and be a useful reference point for the planning process.

Last year I looked at the intranet and digital workplace trends that I thought we’d see in 2022. Reviewing the list makes me think that we certainly saw some of those happening, although perhaps not always to the extent that was envisaged. This time around I’m going to look at ten digital workplace and Microsoft 365 trends for 2023. So, having given my crystal ball a good polish, here’s what I think we’ll see next year across the digital workplace and Microsoft 365.

1. Microsoft Viva picks up momentum across the digital workplace

Microsoft Viva has now been around for almost two years, prompting a lot of interest from digital workplace teams, as well as HR and internal comms functions. So far, actual implementations that we’ve seen are mainly focused on Viva Connections and other free elements of the suite. As more features and apps have been added to Viva, including Viva Engage (a rebranded and enhanced version of the Yammer community app in Teams), interest has continued to grow.

In 2023 we can expect Viva to really start to pick up momentum as another round of apps including Viva Pulse and Viva Amplify (aimed at communicators) become live. Overall, what started off as four apps in 2021 will have expanded to nine, and will also include a number of capabilities that are available across more than one Viva app. 2023 looks set to be the year Viva has more of a visible presence in the digital workplace and will also start to feel more like an integrated employee experience platform.

2. Hybrid working starts to get into more of a rhythm

Hybrid working has emerged as the dominant working pattern for knowledge workers in 2022, with a full return to office simply not happening across multiple organisations. While a relatively easy adaptation to remote and hybrid working has occurred for many teams, it’s easy to miss that there are also some challenges, particularly around engagement and culture, and onboarding new employees. Within individual teams, the pattern and cadence of going into the office is still emerging. Some leadership teams also have a problem with hybrid working, and there can be tension and flashpoints with employees in some organisations.

Of course, the digital workplace plays a critical role in supporting engagement, team dynamics, leadership and more in the new hybrid workplace. New capabilities and offerings are emerging such as Microsoft’s Places product that helps coordinate activities such as when teams are coming into the office, as well as features within Microsoft Teams to support more equitable meeting experiences. I think as we go through 2023, we’ll see hybrid working normalising, and getting into a rhythm, with more and more of the challenges starting to iron themselves out. And behind the scenes, some of this will be down to the efforts of digital workplace teams.

3. Digital workplace teams start their early thinking about Mesh and the Metaverse

The media loves cover the technology of the not-too-distant future and often this focuses on the use of Virtual, Augmented or Mixed Reality, as well as immersive virtual worlds populated by avatars. Up to now, the use of VR / AR in the digital workplace has tended to be relatively niche and restricted to learning, health and safety and industrial use cases, with some additional engagement-led online events.

In 2023 the media attention won’t relent, and in particular it will likely focus on the promise of the “metaverse” and perhaps the use of Mesh, Microsoft’s own VR / AR platform. Some events like the launch of Apple’s own VR / AR headset and operating system xrOS will also get a lot of interest. All this attention is likely to mean that more digital workplace teams will start their early stage thinking on the topic, even if they still largely choose to adopt a “wait and see” stance. When that will translate into articulated strategies and roadmaps around the use of the metaverse is hard to predict, but more teams having conversations about the near-future digital workplace is a good direction of travel.

4. Knowledge management and findability advance in the M365 digital workplace

The need for robust knowledge management in industry sectors such as professional services, and the desire for strong findability across the digital workplace have never really gone away. But I think we’ll see a renewed emphasis on both knowledge management and findability in 2023, particularly in organisations with a Microsoft 365 digital workplace.

Part of the reason for this is that as digital workplaces have evolved beyond the basics, teams are now starting to concentrate on more advanced capabilities such as KM and effective search. But it’s also due to Microsoft’s investment in specific elements such as Syntex, Viva Topics and the Microsoft Graph which is enabling organisations to make advances in areas where it has previously been difficult to achieve success.

5. More power users from outside IT start to use the Power Platform

“Low code no code” is now becoming the default design for enterprise software, meaning that power users from the business can achieve more without having to involve their colleagues from the IT function. This is even manifesting itself in fully blown “citizen development” programmes where non-IT professionals are producing simple apps, workflows, visualisations, automation and even bots, within a supported framework.

We’re really starting to see more and more power users take advantages of the Power Platform, Microsoft’s suite of automation, workflow and data visualization tools that has been built along “low code no code” lines. In 2023 we think this trend will continue, with more and more teams across the business producing custom apps, workflows, dashboards, sites and chatbots, taking the pressure of busy central software development teams. We also think we will see advances in power user adoption of Syntex to build intelligent document management approaches, and even the use of the Dataverse to support a consistent data management approach. This is down to combination of all these tools’ ease of use and high productivity pay backs.

6. Savvy teams focus on ACM to achieve agility in the digital workplace

The world has proved to be a pretty volatile place in the past few years, and digital workplaces need to be flexible to meet ever evolving needs. Many digital workplace teams realise the importance of agility, being able to respond promptly to the demands of employees, teams and organisations. Agility is achieved in several different ways including following (or borrowing from) Agile methodologies for delivery, setting up mechanisms to test tools with users, leveraging the scalability of cloud platforms like Microsoft 365 and so on.

But achieving agility is also dependent on having highly effective approaches to Adoption and Change Management (ACM), and being able to launch and support tools quickly to encourage their best use. In 2023 with an increasingly complex digital workplace and where Microsoft continues to launch feature after feature, those teams with effective approaches to ACM are going to be the ones who can achieve the desired agility across the digital workplace. The relentless pace of change in the digital workplace seems likely to be a trend for 2023; organisations who can navigate this are the going to be those who can successfully apply ACM.

7. The lines between SharePoint, Teams and other 365 tools starts to blur

As internal communicators, intranet professionals or digital workplace teams, we tend to think in terms of separate channels, products, tools and applications, and the processes that go into managing each. Of course for end users, the distinction between them all is far less clear and is arguably getting fuzzier due to integrations between applications; where an intranet starts and ends, for example, is not something that end users think about.

As Microsoft continues to make it easier to embed different elements of the 365 platform with each other, the lines between different applications are becoming even fuzzier. In particular, Microsoft Viva Connections is allowing SharePoint content to be viewed within Teams, but it’s also allowing elements of Viva Connections to be viewed in SharePoint. Similarly, Viva Engage means Yammer is now being accessed through Teams. Moreover, the evolution of a series of Teams apps means other system content is being viewed and interacted with through Teams.

Overall, the lines between all these systems are blurring. Teams, SharePoint and even Outlook are all arguably windows into an integrated digital ecosystem – and in 2023 we can expect these lines to get even fuzzier, as content and features from one 365 tool appears in or is accessed through another.

8. AI starts to move into the DWP with content generation

On the wider internet, AI services that produce content based on simple instructions have started to proliferate and are becoming increasingly sophisticated. You can create images, rewrite paragraphs, write whole articles (with varying degrees of success) and now even produce videos with very lifelike avatars reading out the text submitted. This content that is being created outside the digital workplace has obvious uses within it, for example avatars reading text could be used to support digital learning.

In 2023 we think AI-powered content creation might start to move in the digital workplace. Content creation is often time-consuming for local content owners and not always within their skillset or comfort zone, and these tools are an attractive option, particularly for image and video creation. However, we think there needs to be strict governance in place to determine usage and in particular, using AI to generate text (outside translation) is a difficult area that may internal communicators will object to. In the longer term, it will also be interesting to see how AI-powered content generation influences the evolution of digital workplace tools. We’re already seeing tools auto-tagging content, and making editorial suggestions; using AI to actually write content does not feel so far away.

9. Intranet teams move away from full in-a-box solutions

SharePoint Online, Microsoft Teams and Microsoft Viva have all been rapidly evolving to support intranet and “intranet-like” capabilities, straight out of the box. This is empowering more teams to produce complex enterprise intranets and employee portals, using mainly their Microsoft 365 subscription, something that would have been very difficult to achieve even a couple of years back. However, even with this approach, there are still some gaps to fill.

In 2022 we saw more teams swing away from purchasing “intranet-in-a-box” software to plug the gaps in intranet functionality inherent in SharePoint out of the box. Instead, they are taking a more granular approach, and focusing more on purchasing specific apps and web parts, or carrying out limited customisation to build a single web part.

We think this trend will become even more prevalent in 2023 and there will be more providers focusing on solutions that support this more targeted and granular approach, creating a full-featured SharePoint intranet without the need to buy a whole additional platform. For example, our Lightspeed product provides all the additional web parts you need to achieve an enterprise SharePoint intranet, plugging the main gaps in just using native SharePoint, and providing a more cost-effective approach to building an intranet. This is not to say that purchasing an in-a-box product like LiveTiles intranet can still sometimes be the best option, depending on your needs.

10. Digital workplace teams make all the difference

With hybrid and remote working now normalised, the digital workplace team has never been more important. Digital workplace, intranet and Microsoft 365 professionals don’t always get the credit they deserve, although they work incredibly hard behind the scenes and contribute hugely to the success of every employee’s working day.

2023 will be another year when digital workplace teams make all the difference. The combination of skills, experience, dexterity and passion means high performing teams can achieve incredible things with tangible results. Here at Content Formula, we love working with our great set of clients, and we’re looking forward to more projects in 2023.

Happy new year

That’s our round-up of the trends we think we’ll see in 2023. Do you agree with us? Is there anything we’ve missed out? If you’d like to discuss your digital workplace or Microsoft 365 strategy and roadmap for 2023, or a specific project, then get in touch. And of course, we wish you all a healthy and happy new year.

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