16 ways you can integrate Microsoft 365 functionality into your intranet

Updated for 2021

Many businesses have moved to Microsoft 365 (formerly Office 365), but still think of their intranet as something separate that sits alongside it. However, the Microsoft 365 apps can be cleverly integrated and embedded into your intranet (and your LiveTiles intranet), giving you the following benefits:

  • Drive adoption of Microsoft 365 apps and the intranet at the same time
  • Improve efficiency and usability
  • Continually add value as Microsoft rolls out new features and changes

So, how specifically can you integrate Microsoft 365s many apps and capabilities in your intranet?

 

1. Use Delve and Microsoft Graph to give employees a list of their recently accessed documents

List of recent documents with Microsoft graph

Microsoft Graph is the technology that tracks everything you do in Microsoft 365. You might find that scary, but its really useful. It enables Delve to highlight relevant content to you, and if you go to portal.office.com you will see a list of the documents that you recently accessed.

Its pretty easy to then add this feed to your intranet homepage, making it more useful and personally relevant to all your employees. Weve added this as an additional feature in LiveTiles.

 

Get in touch to discuss your project

 

2. Use Yammer for questions and answers (Q&A)

use yammer as a questions and answers feature on your intranet

Yammer is great for conversations around all sorts of topics within a business, but it seems quite separate from SharePoint and the intranet. However, it doesnt have to be this way. Its completely possible to use the powerful Yammer functionality to house discussions within your intranet including asking questions.

When someone posts a question, anyone can answer but the person posing the question or an administrator can then choose the best answer. This means that people looking for the same information in the future can more easily find it.

This is a much better way to answer common questions from your internal customers than a traditional email, because you avoid answering the same question multiple times.

 

3. Add interactive PowerBI dashboards and bring data to life

build power bi dashboards into your sharepoint intranet

PowerBI is a fantastic app that allows you to build dashboards and custom reports which are fed from lots of different data sources financial systems, CRMs, inventory management or Excel spreadsheets. You can build and view the reports within the PowerBI app, but why stop there? There’s a PowerBI webpart for SharePoint Online, allowing you to easily publish reports into your intranet pages. The only catch is that people must have a PowerBI pro licence to view the reports.

 

4. Create a learning & development area using Stream

using microsoft stream as a learning platform

For years and years, video platforms for intranets were really lacking. But, things have changed and I talked about a new hope for intranet video at IntraTeam in Copenhagen.

Its now completely possible to deliver high quality video content to your employees via laptop, tablet or mobile. With Stream (Microsoft 365s video platform) you can do this quickly and easily. The app converts and optimises your videos for you and allows you to arrange them into searchable channels.

But did you know that you can also embed the videos into your intranet pages? Meaning you can embed them within guidelines or policies. You could even create a dedicated training or learning and development site with chaptered video content.

We created an Office 365 learning centre for Johnson Matthey on their intranet all powered by Stream.

Recently Microsoft rolled out new features including the ability to lightly edit videos, and to create videos by recoding your screen. See this page for the latest Stream info including upcoming features.

5. Create a blogging platform using Communication sites

blogging in communication sites in microsoft 365

Unfortunately, Microsoft retired the blogging feature within Delve, but there is still a way to blog in Microsoft 365. You can use a Communication site to build a blog portal where, rather than posting news articles, you use the same features to publish blog posts.

This benefits from 365s modern UI for content publishing which is much easier and more satisfying to use than the traditional SharePoint publishing tools. If you want to take things further, you can even create a blog network using multiple communication sites connected to a hub site.

How to set up a communication site as a blog

 

6. Relay important messages to employees using bots in Teams

relay important intranet messages in teams using a bot

With so many employees now using Microsoft Teams as their primary work and collaboration tool, its a great place to reach them with important announcements that they may have previously seen on the intranet.

Its possible to create a bot for Teams that sends people a message with important updates or actions that they need to take e.g. Compulsory training.

You can connect the bot to Power Automate Flows and write rules that ensure the right people get the messages that are most pertinent to them.

 

7. Manage projects using Office 365 Planner

plan projects in microsoft 365 planner

Some companies use SharePoint team-sites for project management and others use Microsoft Project. However, if you are looking for a middle ground something that is better for tracking tasks than SharePoint, but not as heavy duty as Project then Planner is worth a look.

Microsoft 365 Planner allows you to quickly create projects, organise tasks into buckets and assign them to different team members. It can be used across desktop, tablet and mobile.

You can associate a plan with a Microsoft Team and allow people to track and update tasks there, but also add information on tasks in SharePoint too

Heres a great intro to Planner

 

Get in touch to discuss your project

 

8. Surface your intranet in Teams

surface your intranet in Microsoft Teams

Its been a big year for Teams. The pandemic has meant lots of home working and many companies have gone from experimenting with Teams to fully depending upon it. Employees have also become comfortable with Teams and it has become an app more central to their workday.

All of this means that its a great place to reach people with your intranet content news, policies, how-to guidance etc.

You can do this a few ways: You can add your intranet as a tab within a Team or multiple Teams, you can build a simple app to appear in the left ribbon (or ask us to!), you could buy software like LiveTiles or wait to see what capabilities Microsoft Viva brings in this space.

9. Use chat bots to provide everyone with a personal concierge

integrated chat bot in sharepoint

Chat bots are Artificial Intelligence (AI) powered assistants that you can interact with via a text chat interface. You might ask them to find you a policy, book a meeting room or check the weather forecast.

Chat bots are a hot topic in the intranet world at the moment because they have reached a level of maturity where they can be useful, but also they are much easier to configure. You no longer have to be an AI boffin to train bots and make them more helpful.

Microsofts bot, Luis, can be embedded on your SharePoint intranet via a chat interface. We have rolled out a bot for UK accountancy firm, Haines Watts.

 

10. Work live on intranet information at the same time using Office Online

Office Online integration with SharePoint

Anywhere in Microsoft 365, whenever you click on a Microsoft Office document that document will open in a new browser tab within Office Online. Office Online includes the web app version of Word, PowerPoint and Excel that runs within your web browser.

But, were you aware that you can click the Edit button and make changes to the file directly in the browser? Not only that, but other people can edit the same document at the same time, and you even can see their changes appearing right in front of you.

There are many opportunities to make use of this neat functionality on your intranet. You could use these files to collect information from multiple people at the same time using a shared excel spreadsheet. Or, you could create a knowledge base / wiki which is based on set of word documents. The contents will be indexed by search so people will easily find the content later.

 

11. Create an approval workflow for policies using Power Automate Flows

 

create approval workflows with power automate flow

Building workflows for your SharePoint intranet used to be quite tricky. Power Automate is the Microsoft 365 app that was designed to fix that. Creating workflows – known simply as Flows – in Power Automate is much more straightforward. It offers integrations with other apps outside of SharePoint and even outside of Microsoft 365, like Dropbox for example.

A really common workflow that companies often want to implement is one for approval of content before its published. Check out this video for a step by step tutorial for building an approval workflow in Flow.

 

Get in touch to discuss your project

 

12. Build an app for field workers using Power Apps

build-sharepoint-integrated-apps-for-field-workers-with-powerapps

Many organisations struggle with how to make their intranet relevant and useful to field workers people not based at a desk. This can be factory workers, delivery agents, sales reps and so on. Most of these workers do not have laptops, but many have tablets or mobile devices.

Power Apps is a tool that allows you to build apps for these staff to use on their mobile devices. The apps could allow them to enter information about a customer they just visited, or log maintenance problems with machinery on the production line. Also, that app can be integrated directly with SharePoint to share this information with other people in your business via the intranet.

We ran a webinar about PowerApps and how it could support your business.

In this step-by-step tutorial video, Microsoft show you how to build an app using Power Apps. Their example scenario is a secret shopper app for clothing retail stores.

See whats new in PowerApps in 2021

 

13. Keep in touch with customers using Dynamics 365

Dynamics 365 integration with SharePoint

You may already have a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) suite, but you should really take a look at Dynamics 365.

Dynamics 365 allows you to do all the regular things that youd expect from a CRM: Keep data on customers, integrate with your website etc. However, being based in Microsoft 365 means that it integrates really well with other apps like SharePoint. Dynamics 365 uses SharePoint for storing its documents and can be easily connected to your SharePoint intranet search. This means that your employees wont have to jump between different systems to find the information they need.

Here are 13 reasons why you should use Dynamics 365 as your CRM.

 

14. Run an employee survey using Forms

using microsoft forms for an employee survey

Its often necessary to collect information from your users on your intranet from booking a training course to requesting stationery. You can do this with SharePoint lists, but its a bit difficult to configure and not very easy to use for employees.

Say hello to Forms. Forms allows you to build attractive and usable forms with a simple drag and drop interface.

The forms you create can then be embedded in a range of locations on Microsoft 365, including within your SharePoint intranet pages. You can then use Power Automate Flows to move the captured information through a business process.

Watch this video to get started with Forms.

If Forms is too basic for your needs, then Microsofts upcoming Viva product and its integration with Glint employee survey software will probably be of interest. Using these tools youll be able to get much more detailed insights on your employee experience.

 

15. Craft beautiful sales aids using Sway

creat-beautiful-sales-aids-with-sway-and-sharepoint

Many companies have sales reps out in the field, talking to customers and evangelising products and services. Traditionally they are provided with material to help them explain the products or services to their leads. Sometimes these sales aids are expensive custom apps built for tablet devices, but often they are just a few lacklustre PowerPoint presentations or pamphlets.

Sway is an Microsoft 365 app that allows you to quickly build web app that conveys information using mixed media and a simple interface. Without any need to touch computer code, you can create a set of content that is beautifully structure and presented, but can include written content, images, videos, charts and graphs. With a built in menu system it also allows you to take the customer on a journey through the information that is unique to them, rather than flicking through a generic linear PowerPoint presentation.

You can manage access to all your Sway presentations from your SharePoint intranet.

Get started with Sway using this video tutorial.

 

16. Allow your employees to jump into their Teams from the intranet homepage

Microsoft-Teams-integration-with-SharePoint

Thanks to Microsoft Graph and the Microsoft Teams API – it’s possible to display a list of each employee’s Teams on the SharePoint intranet homepage. This helps to make the intranet more of a personalised and useful daily work tool – presenting the employees with a quick and easy way to access their Teams. This enhancement requires a bit of coding, but it’s something we have added to the capabilities of LiveTiles – as well as a few custom intranets for our customers.

 

Get in touch to discuss your project

 

Announcing Microsoft Teams (and the end of Yammer?)

Microsoft has just announced a major addition to the Office 365 digital workplace. Its called Microsoft Teams. In a nutshell it provides a single place where teams can connect, chat, share and collaborate. Single place is the operative phrase here because to date team collaboration has often meant clicking from one tool to another in the Office 365 ecosystem. For example, your teams conversation might be scattered across Outlook, Yammer and Skype whilst your files and calendar are held in a teamsite. Teams brings everything together in once place. Except for, ahem, Yammer. Once again, ominous by its absence. The rumours of Yammer’s demise will continue.

Yammer is dead! Long live Yammer!

Microsoft have not explicitly said that Yammer is going. But this is yet another signal that Yammer, acquired in 2012 for $1.2bn, is being sidelined. It has proven extremely difficult to drive serious adoption of Yammer as an ESN. Some companies seem to take to it like a duck to water and use it as a key way of team working and get great productivity benefits from it. But most struggle to get any serious usage bar one or two teams who use it religiously. However, there are a lot of companies out there who use Yammer for CEO and leadership comms. And I think this is how Microsoft is now positioning Yammer: it is for your broader, company-wide informal comms and YamJams. So no, I dont think Yammer is going to get killed off. Just repositioned somewhat. And people like me will probably now stop asking the awkward question, when is Microsoft going to integrate Yammer into the rest of Office 365?

But lets not focus on the bad news for Yammer. Microsoft Teams looks seriously cool. Here are some of the headlines:

Chat is a core feature

Within the Team workspace the core feature is persistent chat – a Yammer-like conversation that is searchable and means that new team members and people returning from holiday can catch up easily. It should help reduce email. Chats are threaded and can also be organised into channels. This means a team can have different topics of conversations – a channel is like a topic. You can see from the screenshot below that channels are clicked from the left hand nav.

Microsoft Teams - main chat interface

To make chats more fun and more like the real world outside the workspace, chatters can add Emojis, GIFs and memes to their conversations. For companies that consider themselves too grown up and serious for this there is the possibility to switch this off.

Microsoft Teams - tool for choosing an emoji

Bring in any content, data or tools with Tabs

Another core feature is the tabs that run across the top of the workspace. A tab can contain all sorts of different things. For example, as a team you might have an excel spreadsheet that is core to tracking your activity. You can set up this spreadsheet as a tab so you can all access it super-quick without having to leave the team workspace and faff around looking for the document, open it etc. As well as a specific Office document a tab could contain a calendar, a PowerBI dashboard, OneNote, a document library and more. Microsoft is also allowing you to create a tab that contains a view of data from a third-party tool (via an API connector). It probably get a little technical here but provided the connector exists (or you build it) you could for example show your sales pipeline from your CRM.

Microsoft Teams - adding a new tab to a workspace

Teams also integrates seamlessly with Skype. If you want to set up a video call with your team you can do it quickly and easily without leaving the workspace.

Another feature I really like is the ability to have chat running alongside a document. This is a great way of collaborating on the creation of a document without the need to plaster it with comments and marked-up changes. Having said that, Microsoft have some serious work to do on real-time editing of a document. Team members need to be able to edit documents concurrently in real time from anywhere the world whilst seeing changes from other members appear instantly. If youve ever tried to use the browser-based view of a document in Office 365 youll know that its a pretty crappy experience and that Google Docs is way ahead on this. Come on Microsoft!

Microsoft Teams -  Word doc with chat thread on the right

Integration with Groups

Membership of Teams is managed through Groups – what is now becoming the backbone of the Office 365 collaboration suite. Anyone can set up a group by simply going to the People directory in Office 365 (on the waffle menu). If you have a group, you can have a Team workspace.

The window for setting up a new Group in Office 365

Data security

Its good to see that Microsoft has thought carefully about security and compliance when creating this new tool set. Data security on Office 365 is a major concern for companies. Microsoft Teams complies with all sorts of global and regional standards on data security.

When is Teams going live?

Microsoft Teams is available now to companies that have opted to preview new Office 365 tools and updates before their official release. Your Office 365 Admin can switch on Teams in the Office 365 admin centre > Settings > Services & Add Ins > Microsoft Teams. Otherwise it will be available to the rest of the world in Q1 2017. Once your admin has enabled Teams on your Office 365 tenant just point your browser to http://teams.microsoft.com. It will ‘connect’ with your O365 profile in the background. There are comprehensive training videos for admins and digital workplace professionals in the Microsoft Virtual Academy.

In conclusion

Whilst I kicked off this piece by talking about the demise of Yammer as a result of Microsoft Teams I think perhaps the real victim of all this could be Teamsites (which have themselves only recently been revamped). Its hard to see why youd opt for a Teamsite over a Team. But this raises another point. Whilst I love Teams I cant help feeling that things on Office 365 are starting to get really bloated, messy and complicated. There are so many moving parts, so many overlaps in functionality. Your average user is going to be hard pushed to know which tool to use when, where to find stuff and where to put stuff. Companies need to think hard about what features and tools to implement in their digital workplace so that tools designed for productivity dont end up having the exact opposite effect: at best people are going to be completely confused and frustrated about where stuff is or at worst they will reject these tools completely and fall back on good old email. That wouldnt be productive at all. IT will need to do their homework when it comes to adoption planning for Microsoft Teams. And migration. Ouch!

What are the big intranet trends?

Sometimes customers ask simple but great questions: “What are the big intranet trends I need to be aware of as I consider rebuilding our corporate intranet?. As intranet and sharepoint consultants its very easy to become immersed in detail and forget the bigger picture. Whilst I hadnt thought of this obvious question myself I certainly had lots of opinions in answering it. I thought Id share them in a blog post. Some of these trends have been around for a long time but are gathering momentum and importance. Others are new but clearly more than just fads. If you have any to add please send me an email and I will add them to the post. For context, the person who posed this question works as a comms professional in a multi-national with 100,000 employees. Shes working on a project to build an enterprise-wide site serving all employees. Having said that, most of these trends are relevant for small companies too.

Consolidation, harmonisation & decomplexity

We are seeing a lot of large companies looking to consolidate their intranet. Many enterprise intranets have grown organically and in a decentralised manner. Rather than a single company intranet it is in fact a collection of many – sometimes dozens of intranets owned by business units, brands, regions and countries, and departments. Large companies have come to the realisation that the employees user experience is very poor on these sites. Theres no consistency of structure and design across sites. Theres not consistency of standards. And a large, sprawling collection of sites is near impossible to govern if you want to address this consistency not to mention the resource requirement to run them professionally. It makes sense to have a clear out and harmonise the user experience – create like information architectures across like entities (e.g. countries, departments etc.).

Grown up intranet governance

Intranet governance is all about defining the rules, processes and people involved with managing and improving the intranet, and ensuring it supports business goals.
Governance has always been a buzz word when talking about intranets. But the reality is that its often been non-existent. Or rather, it starts off with good intentions but rapidly falls away to nothing. Lack of governance causes many of the problems that lead to the sprawl and complexity mentioned above. Many companies are starting to grab the governance bull by the horns and look to not only develop sensible and realistic governance frameworks but are really making this a core part of their intranet operations. Theres a mature realisation that intranets do not run themselves and are not successful just because of superior technology and good design. Theres clearly more resource going into building proper intranet teams to manage the day-to-day processes to keep an intranet healthy and we are even meeting people with job titles like intranet governance manager.

Intranet user adoption

This intranet trend is very much part of intranet governance but is worthy as a standalone due to its importance. There are graveyards littered with intranets that died because they had too few users. Intranet user adoption is all about putting in place plans and tactics to not only drive usage of new intranets but to do it on an ongoing basis. Its not just about promotion. Why should I (an employee of XYZ Corp) use the intranet? How will it make my working life better, easier, quicker etc.? If you can answer that question in a compelling way then you are on your way to cracking user adoption for your intranet. Companies with successful intranets have recognised that user adoption needs serious thought and its built into intranet project objectives and is a key component of intranet governance frameworks.

The intranet in the cloud

“The Cloud” has become such a buzzword that it risks sounding like a massive fad. However, when an intranet is built into the cloud all sorts of benefits and efficiencies come to the fore. The major one is ease-of-access. Employees can access their intranet on any device from anywhere in the world. They no longer need to be connected to the corporate network or VPN. Thats excellent for adoption. Another major benefit of a cloud intranet is ease of collaboration. People can work on documents simultaneously. No more version control issues caused by email. Sure, there are security implications with the cloud intranet but there are many clever ways that security risks can be mitigated and reduced. Even the most conservative companies are moving their intranets to the cloud. If there is some data that they just dont want to trust to the likes of Microsofts Office 365 datacenters then they can host this data themselves and have a hybrid intranet setup with non-sensitive data in the cloud and sensitive data on-premise.

Employee centricity

Many intranets reflect organisational structures. Employees looks for information and tools according to the silos in which they belong. For example, youll find the expenses form in the finance department pages and the leave request form in HR. However, for some time now weve seen this organisational centric view of the world shift towards one which is more employee centric. Information is structured in a way which is far more intuitive for an individual. All policies & procedures are to be found in a single searchable library. All forms and commons processes are found in a single place, irrespective of who their owner is. This approach makes life easier for employees as they are able to find information and tools faster. This is good for user adoption. It goes without saying that productivity wins like this are good for companies too.

Business Process Automation (BPM)

We hear a lot about intranets being used to drive soft benefits like communications and employee engagement. I strongly believe that intranets are entering a second age whereby they will also drive hard productivity and efficiency benefits. This will happen through business process automation, online forms and transactions. This is another intranet trend that has been with us for some time. However, improvements in cloud technologies – especially the ease with which business processes can be brought online – is accelerating this curve. BPM is now much more mainstream even for smaller companies. Common business processes like onboarding, appraisals, booking leave etc. will all be managed online. Smarter companies are using the same tools to automate complex operational processes.

 

employee centricity and an intranet trend - screengrab of common tasks toolbox for emploiyees
Example of an employee centric common tasks toolbox with automated processes workflows and forms

The intranet as a collection of apps

In intranet circles its fashionable to talk about the digital workplace. Modern cloud intranets – especially those built on SharePoint – come as part of a suite of tools that make up the digital workplace. A company on Office 365 will have tools like Skype for Business, One Drive, Yammer etc. running alongside their SharePoint intranet. Were seeing a trend to integrate these tools closely into the intranet so that for example a user can find a colleague on their intranet and start a web chat with them there and then, right off the page. Similarly other cloud-based third party apps designed to address particular business challenges are becoming part of the intranet. If for example your company has a need to gather digital signatures from employees as part of a business process, theres an app for that. As more apps come onto the market businesses can pick and choose those they want integrated into their intranet.

Enterprise social networks (ESNs)

Personal social media tools like Facebook and Twitter now have their workplace equivalents. Enterprise Social Network (ESN) tools like Yammer, Chatter and Jive are bringing some companies valuable productivity and engagement benefits. ESNs make it easier for employees to collaborate and share efficiently without email. Famously in 2011, Atos, a large global technology firm, announced it would ban internal email and replace it with an ESN. Interestingly, in 2013 as the email ban was gathering pace, Atoss operating margin increased from 6.5% to 7.5%. Earnings per share rose by more than 50%, and administrative costs fell from 13% to 10%. Employees also reported that they had more focus time and were happier without the constant interruption of email at work and at home. This is a great case study but must be viewed alongside those where companies have tried and failed to build successful social networks. Once again, the technology is not the only thing you have to get right. Those that succeed do so because they pay attention to a whole host of factors when introducing ESNs. Most importantly they focus on implementing ESNs in those parts of their operations where there is a clear and specific reason to use social. We want to be more collaborative is not such a use case. As ESNs grow in popularity we are seeing them being integrated deeply into the intranet so that social conversations can happen alongside the tools, pages and documents that make up the intranet.

The smart intranet

Not being able to find anything on the intranet is perhaps the commonest complaint we hear from end users. Its likely to become one we hear less and less as modern intranets become more intelligent. Search engines on intranets are improving dramatically both in terms of the relevance of search results that they present to end users and also in terms of the way they can be fine-tuned and tweaked by intranet administrators.

simple representation of a social graph in the workplace
A simple representation of a social graph in the workplace

 

But on modern intranets intelligence goes much further than search. For example, theres ‘Information discovery’ whereby the intranet suggests relevant content to you based on what your colleagues are looking at, whats being discussed and whats being presented at meetings. In simple terms the modern intranet has a brain (called a social graph) which knows which of your colleagues you work closely with. It analyses their online actions around document creation, viewing, sharing etc. Based on these connections the intranet can suggest content that is relevant to you right now. This could be as simple as a personalised list of trending documents on the homepage. Or it could be something more sophisticated such as search results which are not only based on the keyword you used but also what your close colleagues are finding relevant. Artificial intelligence and personal assistants like Siri will find their way onto intranets too.

Mobile

This last one really goes without saying. If you want to reach sales reps, factory floor workers, field workers and other employees who are not desk-bound you have to be available on mobile. This means not only having an intranet which can be accessed from a mobile phone but one that has been optimised so that the user experience is adapted for mobile. This means a big, thumb-friendly navigation, swipe gestures, fast loading etc. Whilst this is a really obvious and growing trend there are still many, many intranets out there that are not mobile accessible.

Conclusion: productivity is the major intranet trend

As mentioned, many of these trends have been gathering pace for some time but others are new and upcoming. Hopefully youll also have noticed that many of them overlap and build on one another. This makes them all the more likely to last. This overlap in trends is also going to lead to much more integration between the tools that make up the digital workplace and the intranet. This will drive adoption, usage and ultimately productivity. Take a step backwards and look at the economic climate that were in. Developed economies are maturing, growth is slowing and consumers are stretched. If companies want to deliver shareholder value they’ll need to focus on productivity. Rising trends in intranets and the digital workplace chime well with this drive for productivity in the workplace.

Microsoft buys Linkedin: 14 SharePoint and Office 365 integrations

Following today’s surprising but exciting announcement that Microsoft is planning to buy Linkedin for $26bn here’s a list of things they could do integrate the service with their own tools. However, before getting into the list it’s worth looking at the bigger picture. This acquisition puts Microsoft in a unique position as a supplier of digital workplace tools. Artificial Intelligence (AI) will undoubtedly become more prevalent in the workplace in the coming years. With its access to the Linkedin database of people profiles Microsoft will be able to leverage data from both outside and inside the organisation in order to power its AI algorithms that drive tools like Delve and Office Graph. Owning this broader set of data versus its digital workplace competitors will allow Microsoft to make ever more relevant suggestions when it comes to content discovery, contact discovery and company discovery. Many of the items on our list below focus on the AI capabilities enabled by this acquisition.

1) Merge your Office 365 profile with your Linkedin profile. One less place to maintain a profile.

2) Suggest external Yammer groups that your Linkedin connections belong to.

3) Youre working on a project and Delve picks up on this due to the documents you are working on in SharePoint and suggests that you might want to talk to one of your Linkedin connections. Perhaps theyve got some valuable experience you could learn from or perhaps you could even hire them to work with you?

4) On a similar tip, Delve might suggest a supplier to help you with you project based on the reputations of its employees and the connections you have who are connected to some of those employees.

5) Again on a project tip, Delve might point you towards some news on Linkedin or content on Slideshare (part of Linkedin) that is related to your project.

6) Delve knows which of your external connections you have most contact with. When Delve notices a change in their profile on Linkedin it could alert you so you can congratulate them.

7) If you are losing touch with one of your Linkedin connections Delve notices this and prompts you to do something about it.

8) Compare your calendar appointments with the events and places that your connections are talking about on Linkedin. If theres a match you get alerted. Always useful to know someone you know is going to the same city as you.

9) Merge your contacts with your connections data found on Linkedin ensuring it is kept up to date.

10) Merge your company news feed on SharePoint with top items from your Linkedin newsfeed making it more personal

11) Bring Skype for Business presence into Linkedin with ability to call or chat to people right off the Linkedin page. Youd probably need to ask users permission to share their presence outside their own organisations.

12) Based on positive internal interactions suggest colleagues you should connect to on Linkedin

13) By identifying positive sentiment in your interactions with internal contacts who are also connections, suggest to them that they might want to give you a recommendation on Linkedin, and vice versa of course.

14) Allow you to put a block on calls and emails from certain categories of people (e.g. recruitment agencies).

The Future of SharePoint (London Sessions)

Dan Hawtrey, MD of Content Formula a SharePoint consultancy in LondonI just got back from a session hosted at Microsofts offices in Paddington and attended by a bunch of SharePoint consultancies. The session was hosted by Jeff Teper, Corporate Vice President of SharePoint and OneDrive and Dan Holme, Director of Product Marketing – essentially, the team responsible for the new direction and vision of SharePoint and OneDrive for Business.

This event was the London follow-up of the Future of SharePoint webinar held on the 4th May. In a nutshell and in case you missed it, the 4th May webinar revealed a host of exciting changes to SharePoint:

– Simple and powerful file sharing and integration with the various OneDrive apps
– Mobile and intelligent intranet, especially via the new SharePoint app available on Windows, iOS and Android.
– Open and connected platform, enabling developers to extend and hook deep into SharePoint without needing to be a DotNet expert
– Security, privacy and compliance enhancements

You can get a more detailed run down of the new SharePoint 2016 features and some interesting videos on the MS Office blogs.

Whilst there was some repetition of the key points from the 4th May, we learned a few new things.

A 7-point framework for employee engagement in the digital workplace

Modern organisations are using a number of clever techniques to accelerate internal change and make it stick. This free e-book puts forward a simple and effective 7-point framework to use to deliver change campaigns and programmes.





Jeff Teper underlined the importance of the Microsoft Cloud first, mobile first’ strategy by saying that these days the starting point on any enhancement is, what’s it going to look like on a mobile phone? The team lived up to this and we spent quite some time demoing apps on an iPhone 6 (yes!) projected onto the wall.

They revealed that Delve – one of the most innovative tools on Office 365 – will increasingly focus on people. The file discovery experience will be ported over to OneDrive and SP. This makes sense as its not good or intuitive to ask users to jump from one tool for file discovery onto another for file browsing.

Office Graph will become even more important and we can expect lots of innovation here. Well see it extending beyond the Office 365 file universe with Bing and Cortana feeding into Graphs clever AI algorithms. Could this be the start of a serious threat to Googles dominance in search? Perhaps Bing is positioning itself as a business search engine what youd use at work?

Apparently, Delve is increasingly seen by the product teams at MS as a place to test out new innovations in AI and Office Graph. If and when these catch on the product teams will look at ways to bring them into the mainstream 365 tools like SP and OneDrive.

There was a lot of discussion about groups and teamsites. Microsoft held up their hand here and said that they had messed up by going in two different directions when it came to team collaboration. They acknowledge that it had become confusing and customers were unsure about whether to opt for a teamsite or a group when wanting to collaborate. Thankfully, the vision for the future is much simpler. Think of it like this: a group is essentially a list of people. The site is where that group goes to get stuff done and to share. However, there wont always be a group associated with each SP site. For example, if you have a site related to online training a group doesnt really apply as everyone would need to access it.

The SharePoint team have been using the word intranet a lot in their recent communications. This has never happened before and signals that Microsoft is moving into this space and offering an out-of-the-box intranet. And they are open about this. It is not going to be massively complex or feature rich but were told we can expect it to do the basics well. SharePoint consultancies like ourselves will add value by customising this around specific business needs and lines of business. And theyve provided the tools for us to hook into SharePoints functionalities quickly and efficiently. For us this is in fact great news. It means we can focus on delivering ROI through automation and productivity tools that are tailored to specific business needs rather than re-inventing the wheel.

There was a bit of an elephant in the room and I was struck that no one spoke about Yammer. I went and spoke to Dan Holme at the end. Yammer is currently being re-egineered at the back end so that it integrates better with Office 365 and can actually be hosted in the various data centres around the world. Dan assured me that its definitely not being killed off and that MS is investing in it. Whilst there are some overlaps with groups, Yammer definitely has a place in organisations and a lot of MS customers are seriously invested in it. Once the back end work and some UI enhancements are made we can expect to see Yammer take more of a front seat when it comes to SharePoint and OneDrive integration. We can expect to see simple things like share on Yammer buttons next to files. That will be cool but long overdue.

In summary I was impressed with what the team had to say. Jeff Teper is clearly passionate, knows his stuff and has an answer to almost every question thrown at him. If he doesnt have a solid answer he thinks out loud in response. Hes also not scared to acknowledge mistakes which is refreshing. We can expect to see lots of innovation from the SharePoint and OneDrive team.

AIA insurance saves money and time with Yammer

How to measure Yammer ROI – AIA Insurance from Business Goes Social

Too many people still think ‘social’ means chatting, when in fact social communication simply means talking with colleagues across the organisation in order to get things done.

The technology used to support social networking and collaboration is important insofar as you want your internal social network to be easy to use, but it’s the use that you put it to that’s vital.

At AIA (very large life insurance company across Asia-Pacific region) they found that help desk requests were flooding in at an unmanageable rate. This meant that actuaries were delayed in doing their actuarial work. But you know how people are; if we can ask a colleague and get instant help, we can get more done, faster.

But when someone becomes known for being helpful, they can spend their time replying to the same sort of ‘help’ emails day after day. There’s a better way, and Virpi Oinonen has sketched the journey that AIA, under Bob Crozier, took to create a community of users – sharing the load and helping each other. Take a look at the presentation.

The lesson is that a focused purpose for your community or enterprise social network is the key to driving adoption and getting a return on your investment. If we can help you integrate Yammer into your intranet, and daily practices, drop us a mail. Take a look at our Yammer and SharePoint work for Johnson Matthey.

A 7-point framework for employee engagement in the digital workplace

Modern organisations are using a number of clever techniques to accelerate internal change and make it stick. This free e-book puts forward a simple and effective 7-point framework to use to deliver change campaigns and programmes.





Yammer and gamification

Notes from our webinar, led by guest expert, Scott Ward. Play the video to watch or listen to the conversation.

Gamification products / services: Badgeville; RedCritter; Big Door; Bunchball. But theres a lot you can do with just Yammer.

Were talking about behaviour here, but Scott says that Gamification is really about data, and storytelling with data.

The gamification products you can buy and use can be quite expensive, it can be more practical to build your own gamification elements.

ROI can be in the millions when you decrease collaboration costs and communication delays, and increase sales.

Gamification incentives:

    • Status awards and visibility
    • Access to senior management or other perks
    • Power enable autonomy
    • Stuff prizes.

Weather map dashboard

Scott has used a stock market report to show which departments and teams are making the best use of the tools. Weve used a weather analogy to display stats encouraging people to reduce rain clouds and increase the sunshine. Visual representation is clear and fun.

Scotts used animated green and red fish on digital displays around the organisation. Staff knew that they wanted to see more green fish while visitors dont know what the digital fish indicated!

Theres always a sense of pride around the number of followers you have.

Quests are a good way to encourage behaviour.

One idea convert praise into beans that you can use with the coffee shop downstairs for coffee.

Green fish indicate 'on target'For an external example of leader boards, take a look at rise.global now.

(The conversation gets derailed as we discuss Nerf guns and the foam ammo.)

Weve found that leaders can get really enthusiastic about the stats and leader boards. Theyve driven engagement.

Further, weve found that key motivators are status and praise. Specifically, weve asked employees to nominate colleagues who have done something brilliant that exemplifies the company values. The kudos of making the nomination, and receiving nominations, was highly valued.

Different people, different cultures, like different incentives. Designers like badges, while IT people like levels levelling up the leader board.

But all this is just to express the user-journey the work and mastery of the employee.

Badgeville's motivation modelSee Badgevilles motivation model (blue and green boxes).

But you should also consider Daniel Pinks motivation theory (autonomy, mastery, purpose).

When to use extrinsic motivation and real incentives? When the process youre rewarding is dull or unpopular. But youll need to improve the reward over time, as prize value erodes for these unpopular tasks.

To disincentives behaviour, take away their SAPS reduce their status, take away their red-carpet access, disempower them, and take away their stuff. The carrot and stick debate rages on   disincentivising is a contentious matter, and may come across as punishment rather than discipline.

(Imagine the serious side compliance matters. Disincentivising dangerous or financially risky behaviour may well be appropriate.)

People learn how to game the game. So you have to find the goal that cant be gamed.

A 7-point framework for employee engagement in the digital workplace

Modern organisations are using a number of clever techniques to accelerate internal change and make it stick. This free e-book puts forward a simple and effective 7-point framework to use to deliver change campaigns and programmes.




Scott says he’s had complaints from people about the gamification criteria, and sometimes the complaints have been valid, and things have needed to be tweaked, but often the complaints come from people who need to improve their behaviour if theyre to match company standards.
I am Ethicon awards

[Read more about our ‘I am Ethicon’ awards and gamification.]

You must take a look at BJ Foggs models he says you need a motivator, the ability to act, and a trigger to start you off. If youre gamification can provide the motivators and triggers, then all you need to ensure is that people have the access, skills, training, and general ability to perform.

Trigger? Think notifications, alerts, and internal communications. A trigger might only encourage a small behaviour further triggers are needed to continue the journey towards the strategic goal.

Scott Ward: Building competitions

Id like to ask you how people might feel if they are a bit late to the party and cant catch up to those employees high up on the leader boards or those who have thousands of followers and get loads of praise. How can we best manage the risk of disengaging people who dont prioritise following quests? What do you think?

Take a look at how we’ve helped clients with Yammer and SharePoint.

Establishing an ESN

Sharon O’Dea, of Standard Charter and 300 Seconds, tackles the different needs of networks and communities, and how you can better roll-out and support your enterprise social network.


RipplesEnterprise Social Networks (ESNs) are typically established in one of two ways: top-down and bottom-up. Top-down networks are conceived and rolled out with senior management support; they typically have strong governance, rules and formal community management from the start and so exhibit more gesselschaft-type features. This contrasts with the bottom-up approach used by freemium ESN products, where networks can be created by groups of employees themselves, existing as gemeinschaft-type groups before being adopted and scaled by management, where governance, roles and rules are imposed.

The latter approach has for good reason fallen out of favour in the digital workplace world, replaced by models which focus on identifying and delivering replicable use cases for social and collaboration. But thats been at the cost of the strength of group identity and purpose, leading to a failure to realise wider engagement benefits.

Successful social networks outside of the firewall have long since recognised the need to cater for both weak and strong social ties and groupings. Facebook, for example, allows you to restore gemeinshaft by delineating between friends and acquaintances, or by creating your own closed and secret communities which can turn a blind eye to their terms of service.

For global organisations in particular, collaboration and communication tools are fast becoming essential.They enable communication to scale, and for big companies to feel smaller and more personal. But enterprises succeed when they foster and deepen personal, collaborative relationships albeit ones which operate and speed and scale, across distance, thanks to technology to create a common sense of identity and purpose. In other words, they thrive when they function as both networks and collections of functioning communities.

A shift in approach

To drive greater value from an ESNs, companies need to take a similar approach to Facebook and create the conditions for more gemeinshaft-type communities to exist, characterised by close social ties and shared purpose, within the wider network.

This approach requires a shift in mindset in the use case approach to ESN rollout. Here are three ways in which standard adoption models could be adapted to allow for more grassroots growth, in order to create groups with stronger social bonds and shared purpose:

1. Find existing strong communities and give them the tools to deepen those bonds

When rolling out any tool, the temptation is to focus on fixing problems in collaboration between existing (dis)functional teams. By shifting this focus to groups who are already working and collaborating successfully and allowing them to build on that success, we can create advocates for the network and identify ways in which it can add value.

This contrasts with one of the stated aims of social within the enterprise that of breaking down silos. But such as approach presupposes that silos are entirely bad; in many instances what can be seen as a silo is in fact a well-functioning group. The aim should instead be to grow or replicate the success of that group rather than destroying it.

A 7-point framework for employee engagement in the digital workplace

Modern organisations are using a number of clever techniques to accelerate internal change and make it stick. This free e-book puts forward a simple and effective 7-point framework to use to deliver change campaigns and programmes.





2. Create a beachhead

In Crossing the Chasm, Geoff Moore recommends establishing a small, narrow beachhead to scale up from early adopters and cross the chasm to the mass market. This beachhead is a small slice of the mass market a gemeinshaft community. By identifying and taking over this thin edge of the wedge, you establish a basis on which to grow adoption and use.

This approach forms part of the recommended use case-focused ESN rollout plan recommended by many vendors but taken alone providing cookie cutter models of group types, that can be deployed multiple times across the organisation, can add to feelings that the ESN seeks to reduce people to interchangeable resources. The beachhead strategy could reduce those feelings of atomisation.

3. Let communities grow from the bottom up

Finally, there is a need to recognise the value of groups that emerge from a companys grassroots. These often have stronger group bonds and a clearer sense of purpose than models imposed from the centre. In this qualitative study of one large organisation [PDF; 400KB], employees saw the ESN as a tool full of possibilities.

But its only when users begin to understand and use a tool or information system that they begin to place it in the context of their own work and understand how they might use it within their own group context what the researchers called interpretive flexibility. That is, for systems to be adopted, people need to begin to use them, interpret them, and finally place them in their own context, tweaking as necessary.

Adoption of Enterprise Social Collaboration, the paper notes, benefits from users finding their own affordances for the tool in the context of their own work and relationships, which helps to build networks effects (what wed call viral take-up).

Affordances depend not just on what a person perceives they can do with an object or system, but all of their goals, plans, values, beliefs and past experiences (what sociologists called sociomateriality). People look at systems or objects and think of their uses in the context of other tools theyre familiar with in the case of an ESN, they might think about its potential by considering what they do with networks such as LinkedIn, and sites on the external web, but also their experiences with self-service HR systems.

To allow people to understand the possibilities and affordances the ESN provides, we need to give people the space to experiment, and in doing so enable them to understand the potential uses and affordances, and to contextualise them.

This requires taking a different approach to rules and governance an acceptance, for example, that a grassroots-up community has very different ideas about brand guidelines than those at the corporate centre but creates the conditions for groups that have a strong sense of purpose and engagement to emerge and thrive.

 

By taking a different approach to establishing and rolling out an ESN that allows for and builds upon the existence of strong social groups and ties, we can allow them to function as both networks and successful communities, enabling our organisations gain greater value from their investment in social tools.

Sharon O'DeaSharon O’Dea

Sharon is Head of Digital Communications for Standard Chartered Bank in Singapore and spends her weekends travelling.

Sharon is part of Intranetizen and co-founder of 300 Seconds.

A version of this article was originally published at SharonODea.co.uk.

A gold win for CSR at the Intranet Innovation Awards

Larger companies take corporate social responsibility very seriously; its more about local actions than mere policies. Johnson & Johnson wanted to support Operation Smile, and get their employees around the Asia Pacific region directly involved.

Content Formula, SharePoint consultancy, was asked to help mobilise 15,000 employees across different operating companies, so we had to develop a single approach that suited a diverse audience.

The SharePoint site design won a gold award in the annual Intranet Innovation Awards, and were very proud of the win, but also pleased to have the opportunity to work on a campaign that had such real-world impact.

Making Smiles – a social intranet to engage employees around CSR from Content Formula

Our SharePoint consultancy designed and deployed a secure intranet solution that encouraged employees to get involved and share the challenge of raising money via built-in social tools and networking. The making smiles, changing lives campaign raised enough to help over 1,500 children with cleft palates or cleft lips.

More than just an information hub, the site enabled people to create groups and events to raise money, and invite colleagues to grow awareness and involve more people. Allowing people to share their event photos made sure there was always fresh content and reason to return, and of course people were proud to share how much money they were raising.

Operation Smile actually invited several J&J employees to help run week-long missions in the field, and employees then reported back via blogs, photos, and videos on the campaign site. Mobile access was therefore crucial for those in the field, and for everyone during their commute and when at home. We would say, if you want to drive employee engagement, mobile access is vital.

The campaign was a success not only because it restored so many smiles, but also because it engaged thousands of employees across Asia Pacific, helping J&J maintain their engagement and company ethos across the region. Were pleased the campaign has been recognised (thank you, Step Two), and thrilled to have been part of such a cause.

At Content Formula were working more and more on employee engagement campaigns and intranets. Weve developed an employee engagement methodology to help drive the form and function of these campaigns.

Take a look at a couple of other similar case studies where we used our methodology: Better World Walk and I am Ethicon.

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