How to make Microsoft Viva the centre of your digital workplace

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

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

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

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

What is Microsoft Viva?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3 Viva Topics is supporting knowledge management

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

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

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

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

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

5 Viva Connections brings your intranet into Teams

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Apps, apps and more apps

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

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

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

Microsoft’s in-built Teams apps

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

Bookings

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

Screenshot of the queue view in the Bookings app in Teams

Lists

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

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

Tasks

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

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

Praise

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

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

Approvals

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

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

Shifts

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

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

Using Microsoft Teams apps

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

7 top tips to improve Office 365 adoption and change management

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

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

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

1 Involve and train your champions

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

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

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

2 Focus on real use cases rather than concepts

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

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

3 Creating engaging campaign assets

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

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

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

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

4 Plan out your reinforcement activities

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

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

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

5 Plan self-serve resources

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

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

6 Use Office 365 to drive usage of Office 365

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

7 Ring fence your ACM budget

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

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

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

13 essential elements of SharePoint intranet governance

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

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

1. Strategic bodies and cross-functional groups

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

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

2. Information architecture, site scope and hierarchy

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

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

3. Search and taxonomy

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

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

4. Relation to other M365 channels

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

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

5. Personalisation and targeting

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

6. Approach to customisation, plug-ins and integrations

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

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

7. Roles and responsibilities

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

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

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

8. Content strategy

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

9. Publishing standards

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

10. Content roles and responsibilities

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

11. Content lifecycle management processes and approvals

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

12. Terms of usage and other policies

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

13. Templates and webparts

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

SharePoint intranet governance

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

How to drive Office 365 adoption and change management

Adoption and change management (ACM) is a big-ticket item for any team involved in launching Office 365 or Microsoft 365, as well as constituent tools such as a SharePoint intranet, Yammer, Teams, Viva and OneDrive. Microsoft 365 is a strategic platform that is designed to be used every day at scale, so you want to make sure as many employees as possible are using it in a way that drives value.

Good levels of adoption can never be assumed – they don’t just happen on their own. Change management efforts are needed to influence both the hearts and minds of busy employees so they know how, when and why to use the new digital workplace tools at their fingertips. It’s worth noting that “adoption” is not just about getting higher numbers of active users, but also about using tools in the best way possible to drive productivity and achieve positive outcomes. All your employees using 365 tools, but in less-than-ideal ways, does not amount to good adoption.

In this post, we’re going to explore why ACM is so important for the Microsoft 365 digital workplace, some of the associated challenges and the elements that need to be in place for a successful ACM programme.

Why is good Office 365 adoption so important?

There are several reasons why adoption of the 365 platform and its tools is critical.

Supporting your ROI

Office 365 is a significant strategic investment, designed for adoption at scale. The benefits will not be fully unlocked without good levels of adoption, and you need an active ACM initiative to achieve ROI.

Productivity and efficiency

365 tools are designed to transform both employee and team productivity, improving efficiency across multiple processes. The higher the adoption levels, the more opportunities there are to derive productivity benefits across your organisation.

Communication and collaboration

Teams, Yammer and SharePoint can revolutionise communication around companies, as well as transform collaboration across different locations. Good levels of adoption lead to flows of information and knowledge that are critical for remaining competitive, allowing everybody in the company to work together effectively.

Enables remote and hybrid working

The age of hybrid work is here. Good adoption of 365 tools is critical when navigating the challenges of remote and hybrid working.

High profile use cases

A range of high-profile use cases rely on good adoption of 365 tools, such as internal communications that reach a high number of staff.

Advancing the digital workplace

When you have good adoption levels across your digital workplace, this increases your workforce’s confidence in using digital tools, in turn providing an excellent base from which evolve your landscape by adding more 365 tools to deliver additional value.

What are the challenges around adoption, and how does change management help?

Challenges can emerge when trying to reach adoption levels and usage patterns that really drive value. Here, change management efforts are essential to achieve the adoption levels your leaders want.

Employees are very busy and suffer from change fatigue

The majority of employees are very busy, and are constantly being bombarded with messages. They may also have developed change fatigue, what with the continual roll-out of initiatives and tools. You need strong messaging with clear benefits to really capture the attention of employees, persuading them to invest the time and cognitive effort required to adopt a new tool.

Employees can be reluctant and resistant to change

Many of us can be both reluctant and resistant to change. Doing things differently requires effort and potential learning curves. Change can even seem threatening, and some employees are particularly resistant to adopting new technology. In fact, in the famous adoption curve popularised by Roger’s Diffusion of Innovations, 16% of users are usually classified as “laggards”.

Efforts wane over time and change lacks reinforcement

Employees often start with good intentions, but adoption can wane over time and employees fall back into old habits. A lack of both reinforcement in messaging and opportunities to use the tools can mean that adoption is not truly embedded and is vulnerable to diminishing.

Employees get the how, but not the why

Employees might be able to use tools and have had the benefits explained to them, but that doesn’t always mean they are convinced to change their behaviours. Sometimes, employees need to have the “why” illustrated for them to understand what’s in it for them.

Usage is not advanced

Tools might have high numbers of active users – Microsoft Team, for example – but how they are being used may not be advanced or even optimal. Often, employees need specific training on how to use Microsoft 365 in more sophisticated or advanced ways, such as using whiteboarding in Microsoft Teams.

Top-down approach when you also need bottom-up

Some employees aren’t swayed by top-down messaging that comes from the centre about using new digital tools. This might be because these central communications are not viewed as relevant to their particular function, location or role, or there might be an inherent mistrust of messaging from the central IT function. Here, a bottom-up approach which involves endorsement from peers and local champions can be essential in driving adoption.

It’s hard to keep up with 365

365 is a very extensive platform, and Microsoft is continually investing in new tools like Microsoft Viva, as well as extending the capabilities of the existing suite. It can be very hard for employees to keep up with new tools and features, as well as smaller changes to the UI.

ACM is not always budgeted for

A practical reason why ACM efforts can sometimes fail is that there is simply not enough budget left over for it. Leaders tend to underestimate the costs needed for large digital projects, or other elements of the project end up eating into the ACM budget.

What are the essential elements needed for adoption and change management?

There are various elements that need to be in place for a successful ACM programme that delivers lasting adoption and embeds change.

Putting employees at the centre, not technology

Change and adoption is about people, not technology. The digital workplace or 365 tool that you are expecting people to use must be people-centred, with a good user experience and no technology-related barriers to use. Any adoption campaign must also put people at the centre and be targeted around their needs.

Understanding employees and their pain points

A thorough understanding of employees and their pain points, conducted through user and stakeholder research, is important to not only shape the tools they use, but also design an impactful ACM campaign. For example, focusing on use cases which resonate with particular groups can illustrate the value of using a particular tool.

Training and support

Usually, there will be some kind of training involved in change management, whether for champions, super-users, site admins, content publishers or even on a “train the trainers” basis. Training is not necessarily required for users, but some ongoing support whereby they can ask questions might be, alongside making self-serve resources available.

Measurement

Measurement is an important part of adoption and change management. You need to apply the right measures and metrics to know whether adoption and usage is reaching required levels, and to subsequently target additional interventions and communications if they are not. Measurement also needs to be sustained as adoption patterns change over time.

Top-down and bottom-up communications

Generally, a good ACM plan will incorporate both top-down communications from senior leaders to show a tool is endorsed and is a company priority, and bottom-up communications from peers and champions that are more likely to resonate with different locations and groups.

 A formal plan

Having a formal ACM plan (and related communications plan) that all stakeholders buy into is critical in order to execute successful 365 adoption and change management. This ensures you can co-ordinate efforts across different stakeholders and communication channels, but also change the focus over time as adoption and behaviours evolve. At Content Formula, we use the ADKAR change model as a basis for our planning, a popular framework with five stages – Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability and Reinforcement. Microsoft also advocates for the use of ADKAR.

Targeting efforts

It’s important to target your ACM effort to different groups. We advise using key personas to maximise the impact of messaging.

Engaging communications

Successful ACM initiatives rely on good communications. These need to be engaging to stand out and have an impact. Use of video, imaginative assets and relevant, targeted copy can all make a difference.

Announcing Content Formula’s new Adoption and Change Management (ACM) service

We know how important ACM is, and we often work with clients to design successful change management programmes that lead to successful and sustainable launches of Office 365, Teams, Yammer, Viva or a SharePoint intranet.

Our new ACM service covers everything you need in order to embed change in the best possible way and drive secure transformation, supporting users and leading them successfully through change.

As noted, our ACM approach is based around the highly regarded ADKAR framework:

  • Awareness: Announce and explain the change, involving employees
  • Desire: Get employees ready for the change, overcome any fears and build momentum
  • Knowledge: Drive confidence through training, demos and champions
  • Ability: Get employees used to using new tools through practice, training, coaching and feedback
  • Reinforcement: Provide recognition and incentives to embed the change, along with ongoing support.

What to expect

Our ACM package includes a number of phases and deliverables:

ACM-led discovery

We will begin by gaining an understanding of employees’ approach to change, communications and training, as well as levels of stakeholder/champion engagement to date. We will do this through a general change workshop, a stakeholder workshop and user interviews, followed by a playback of our discovery findings to the project team.

Strategy and change planning

Based on our findings, we will shape a strategy and roadmap that includes tactics for effective communications, training and support.

Communications

Following on from planning, we will deliver communications which directly address user pain points, along with core desires to build a campaign that is engaging, effective and informative. Assets can include digital posters, GIFs, intranet articles, lock screen graphics and videos.

Training

Our training will be tailored to the audience. We will get to know employees’ wants and needs, and deliver training that addresses these. This can include training support materials and videos, carrying out champion training, content owner support and even a Q&A chatbot.

Post-launch support

The change effort will not stop on launch day. Our ACM includes a pot of days to be used when required for strategic support/coaching, as well as reinforcement activities up to six months post-launch to ensure continued adoption.

 

Need support with 365 adoption? Get in touch!

Adoption and change management is critical. If you need help, want to discuss your ACM strategy and approach or are interested in our new ACM service, then get in touch!

7 ways to use SharePoint to support employee onboarding

An important use case for any digital workplace or employee experience platform is employee onboarding. When a new hire first joins a company, there are lots of forms to complete, team members to meet and information to absorb. A successful onboarding initiative helps make that process for new joiners more efficient, less overwhelming and as welcoming as possible. Typically, an onboarding programme might continue from when a person is hired through their first 90 days or so, but can last longer, even sometimes extending up to a year.

Employee onboarding is an important element of employee experience. Critically, there are a plethora of statistics that show a successful onboarding programme can significantly reduce employee turnover and support talent retention.

Over the last few years, there has been more and more attention paid to how the digital workplace supports onboarding. Since the pandemic, the digital side of employee onboarding has become even more important as companies have been forced to design virtual onboarding programmes during lockdown. Thankfully, SharePoint, with some additional integrations from across Microsoft 365, can support employee onboarding in several ways. Let’s explore seven of these.

1 Provide a secure SharePoint site before day one

When a person first confirms that they are accepting a position, there is often a lot of paperwork they must complete before their first day, as well as information to provide and reading to do. Completing this before their first day usually helps get everything prepared, including setting them up on different systems, ordering IT equipment and so on. It can also allow them to learn about the company and even meet their new colleagues.

Creating a secure SharePoint site that new hires can access before their first day is a great way to provide all the necessary information and documents, as well as create all the forms they need to complete. The latter can use embedded Microsoft Forms with workflows from Power Automate to help IT and HR functions complete all the pre-first day tasks. A specific, secure SharePoint site can prove to be far more efficient than using email and helps a new hire make a flying start when they join, rather than spending the first day filling out forms and reading documentation.

2 Create a hub for your new hires on your SharePoint intranet

A SharePoint intranet often contains valuable information that new hires need to know regarding the company and its processes, its strategy and values, tools and apps, how to get things done and so on. Intranet teams often choose to create a new hire hub which highlights all the content that is valuable for a new starter, as well as adding specific resources for the new starter community. This might include checklists of things employees need to do, a welcome video from the CEO or presentations which feature in onboarding and induction sessions. It might also display a calendar of all the milestones an employee needs to be aware of in their first 30 days.

A hub can also contain links to some of the elements mentioned below, including a task list, a Yammer community, policies and learning resources. Ideally, a new hire hub should have web parts that are targeted and personalised to ensure resources and links are relevant to the individual and their location, department and role.

3 Build a custom set of personalised tasks with automation and workflow

When new starters join a company, there are a lot of tasks to complete, including forms to fill out, policies to read, learning to complete and courses to attend. Aggregating all these tasks into a targeted list can be extremely helpful in making sure the new starter keeps on top of what they need to do. Creating a set of personalised tasks that appears in your SharePoint intranet can be done through customised development, taking advantage of Power Automate to deliver the right workflows. Building this into your intranet homepage can also ensure they are front of mind for the new starter.

4 Get mandatory reads on your policies

When a person joins a company, there is often a lot of reading to get through, some of which might be mandatory. They may need to read a professional conduct policy, an IT policy, a social media usage policy and a range of other HR policies. There may also be some mandatory risk compliance procedures they need to read and digest, and which managers or HR functions need to monitor to ensure they have been read and digested. SharePoint can help with both disseminating information and monitoring mandatory reads.

You can use SharePoint document libraries to distribute companywide policies that need to be read, and also add some personalisation, customised development, Power Automate flows and Power BI reporting to create a targeted mandatory reads capability where the new starter confirms they have read a particular policy. A team manager or HR function can then monitor completion through reporting. This mandatory reads feature is so popular that we created it within our Xoralia policy management solution for SharePoint.

5 Create learning for employee onboarding using LMS365

Learning is usually a huge part of the onboarding experience. As part of the induction process, a new starter may need to take a series of courses or training programmes so they can settle into life at their new company and carry out their role. Some of this learning is likely to be mandatory. Typically, it may include:

  • An introduction to the company, its strategy and core processes
  • Health and safety
  • How to use technology platforms
  • Specific role-based training, often technical or specialist in nature
  • Mandatory compliance training across different areas.

The best way to incorporate learning directly into your SharePoint environment is to use a learning platform like LMS365; this integrates seamlessly with SharePoint and Microsoft 365 because it’s based on SharePoint itself. Some organisations choose to put a SharePoint page or site ahead of LMS365 in order to create a compelling entry point into the system or make it part of their intranet experience (most employees might not even be aware they are entering a different system). Given its power, many teams have established a whole onboarding programme within LMS365.

6 Create a new hire community

Meeting people and networking helps new employees settle quickly. Creating a community for new starters is a strong element for any onboarding programme, and is a good way to engage new starters. New hires can support each other, as well as connect with HR and other support functions to ask questions. With SharePoint Online and Microsoft 365, a Yammer community with an embedded feed in your new hire area on the intranet can work very well, although some organisations might prefer to use Teams for community interaction.

7 Get feedback on your employee onboarding programme

An important method of improving your employee onboarding programme is to make sure you ask for feedback from the new hires who have just gone through it. Getting specific feedback and input can help identify issues that need fixing, highlight elements that are working well and elicit ideas for improvements.

There are multiple ways to get feedback using SharePoint. You could embed a Microsoft form to ask specific questions or seek more detailed feedback, or you could embed a Yammer community on a SharePoint page to generate a discussion. You can also use SharePoint commenting to generate comments and ideas. However you do it, getting feedback can make all the difference, and sends a positive message that feedback from users is valued.

Designing employee onboarding using SharePoint

Employee onboarding is a key process in employee experience, and can make a tangible contribution to talent retention. SharePoint is a strong foundational technology to design onboarding experiences and deliver related content and features. If you’d like to discuss using SharePoint for your employee onboarding programme, then get in touch!

6 great SharePoint examples with screenshots for 2022

SharePoint remains an excellent platform for delivering high impact intranets and digital workplace solutions to increase engagement, drive efficiency, minimise risk and improve productivity. At Content Formula, we’ve delivered hundreds of SharePoint projects that have supported employees in their day-to-day work while helping the organisations they work for realise strategic goals.

One of the major advantages of SharePoint is its flexibility, insofar as it can deliver all kinds of different solutions while integrating with other Office 365 tools, providing huge value either out of the box or with customisation. There is also a highly mature ecosystem of products based on SharePoint.

With intranets and the digital workplace set to be more important in 2022 than ever, there are bound to be many opportunities for SharePoint to make a difference. Let’s look at six high impact examples of how you can use SharePoint, illustrated with screenshots from some of the work we have delivered to clients.

1 Using SharePoint to implement Viva Connections

One of the most exciting digital workplace developments of the past 18 months has been the launch of Microsoft Viva – the employee experience platform that consists of complementary apps that are accessed through Teams. One of these is Viva Connections, which seeks to surface internal communications, relevant reference content and Yammer conversations all within the Teams experience. Additionally, the Viva Connections dashboard can feature integrations from other digital workplace systems such as ServiceNow, SuccessFactors and Glint. We know many internal communications and digital workplace teams are currently considering how they can use Viva Connections, and 2022 will be a big year for the platform.

There is still some confusion about Viva Connections and whether it replaces a SharePoint intranet. In fact, Viva Connections is dependent on SharePoint, as what you’re viewing is essentially SharePoint content within the Microsoft Teams environment. By making a SharePoint communication or hub site a home site and creating your desired navigation within Viva Connections (or inheriting it from the home site), you can allow employees to access SharePoint content through Teams. This can be really valuable if your employees spend a lot of time within Teams, bringing SharePoint content to the place where they are working and providing a more consistent digital workplace experience across different tools.

Entain Viva Connections

2 Creating a hub or portal to centralise and contextualise learning

Over the past year, placing learning and training right at the heart of the digital workplace and the daily flow of work has come increasingly into focus. This is partly down to the possibilities of integrating a learning platform seamlessly into Office 365 through a solution like LMS365 (which is actually based on SharePoint), as well as the launch of Microsoft Viva Learning which surfaces relevant learning content for users.

If you are using LMS365, a great use case for SharePoint is to create a learning hub on your intranet which can act as a seamless front page into your learning platform, giving more context about the content you provide It can also be a top-level navigation item in your information architecture so users can find it more easily. Here, you can leverage SharePoint web parts such as news, events, key links and even Yammer threads to bring together the latest updates, as well as provide information about learning at your organisation, offer opportunities to ask questions to the learning team and more. You can also link to relevant dashboards within LMS365.

Because LMS365 integrates so seamlessly with a SharePoint intranet, users may not even realise that they are entering the LMS365 platform because it will feel like one integrated ecosystem, delivering a consistent digital employee experience and supporting good learning adoption.

School-Led Network LMS365

3 A central policy library to support compliance and minimise risk

SharePoint is an excellent platform for employees to access the trusted, authoritative information, content and documents that they need in order to get things done, carry out their role or complete mandatory compliance-related tasks. A central policy library built on SharePoint and Microsoft 365 has real value as a place where employees can easily find HR and work-related policies, procedural information, critical forms, key guidelines and more, knowing they are accessing the latest and most up-to-date information. When you don’t have a central library, it cannot only prove difficult for employees to find the policies they need, but if they do, they then have no way of knowing if it is the right version. Carrying out tasks and making decisions based on out-of-date policy documents can involve risks, especially if they pertain to a topic like health & safety.

There are multiple ways to create a policy library using SharePoint, such as leveraging pages, a document library, integrating workflows from Power Automate and using the right permissions to ensure documents are kept up to date. At Content Formula, we have used SharePoint as the basis for Xoralia – a sophisticated and intelligent policies and procedures library software product with multiple features including mandatory reads, detailed reporting, robust policy lifecycle management and even a range of useful web parts that you can deploy on your SharePoint intranet.

Xoralia

4 An HR intrant to support self-service and key HR processes

An HR intranet based on SharePoint is an excellent way to help HR teams achieve their goals and ensure employees have access to the people-related information they need. An HR-focused SharePoint intranet will have a number of key features including access to HR policies, personalisation to target information to the right location and role and integrations with core HR systems to support self-service tasks like booking annual leave. The flexibility of SharePoint means this can all be achieved in a relatively straightforward way that allows employees to access what they need on a self-serve basis, relieving pressure on busy HR support teams.

SharePoint pages can also include information and integrations to streamline major HR processes. For example, employee onboarding is a high-value use case that supports good employee experience. You can use a combination of SharePoint web parts, features and integrations like lists, notifications, to-dos, forms and personalisation to make sure new joiners have an authoritative list of the tasks they need to complete and when. They can then perform the tasks and track their progress. This drives efficiency and makes the onboarding experience smoother for new joiners.

Haines Watts

5 Revolutionising frontline messaging with a custom SharePoint solution

Communicating with frontline staff in a targeted and impactful way can be challenging. For example, we were engaged by TTEC – a global provider of customer experience services with many frontline staff deployed to different customers – to deliver an improved method of messaging hard-to-reach staff. Using email had proved to be ineffectual, and they were looking for a fresh way to deliver personalised, hyper-targeted messaging.

One of the advantages of using SharePoint here is that you can deliver customised solutions. Customisation is not always desired by IT functions, but for high impact use cases, it can be necessary to achieve great results. We were able to deliver a user-friendly messaging service that is hard-baked into their already highly-used SharePoint intranet. Here, each employee can view personal and targeted group messages and reply to them. It’s a simple and elegant solution that has had a strong impact and exploits the power of SharePoint.

TTEC Messages For You

6 Streamlining digital communications through a SharePoint intranet homepage

The digital communications landscape for most organisations is highly complex, with multiple channels for internal and external messaging as well as varied audience targeting across different locations, functions and regions. It’s hard for employees to keep on top of all the news they need to read, events they might want to attend, automated notifications they may receive from different systems, various social feeds and more!

One thing a SharePoint intranet does very well is surface news and updates from different channels in one place, helping to streamline communications and reduce information overload while also ensuring relevance through matching the right content to an individual’s Active Directory profile. For example, a SharePoint intranet homepage could include:

  • Global, regional, divisional, departmental and role-based news
  • Automated notifications, reminders and approval requests from right across the digital workplace
  • Embedded social feeds from internal tools like Yammer or external channels like Twitter
  • Details of events
  • And more!

A compelling intranet homepage that improves communications is a common use case that is as relevant in 2022 as it has been for the past fifteen years.

TP Bennetts

Using SharePoint in 2022

We’re looking to delivering more exciting SharePoint projects this year. If you’d like to discuss your potential SharePoint intranet or digital workplace project, then get in touch!

7 objectives for your modern intranet in 2022

Every few months, we come across someone telling us that intranets are dead or are no longer relevant. As we start 2022, this is very much not the case. Organisations from small charities with under a hundred staff through to global household brands with a workforce of hundreds of thousands still choose to invest in intranets. Intranet software providers and intranet consultancies are also thriving, and Microsoft continues to extend the power of SharePoint to make it easier to create an enterprise intranet. Modern intranets are very much here to stay, and are a central pillar of the wider digital workplace.

One of the reasons that misunderstandings about the value of intranets persist is that some commentators aren’t referring to modern intranets. In the past, many intranets have been poor, with low adoption, bad findability and stale content; unfortunately, these issues are still prevalent today due to lack of TLC from intranet owners. Such repositories of out-of-date and hard-to-find content, often with a poor user experience, have given intranets a bad name.

Modern intranets are actually vibrant and valuable, come integrated with digital workplace tools, provide strong content and communications, evolve with employee need and are driven by user feedback. They are essential in supporting employees everyday work as they get things done.

If you have a modern intranet that is delivering value, that’s great. But this year is no time to rest on your laurels. Modern intranets can always improve and extend their success. If you’re thinking about some 2022 goals for your intranet, we’ve listed some of our thoughts on what you should focus on.

Here are seven 2022 objectives for your modern intranet.

1 Deliver on your modern intranet strategic objectives (or revisit your strategy)

A great ambition for 2022 is to make sure you are delivering on your original intranet strategic objectives. But do you even know what your modern intranet strategic objectives are? Do you have a clear intranet strategy, or at least a strategy that has been reviewed more recently than when you originally set up your modern intranet?

It’s always good to revisit your intranet strategy to make sure it is relevant, provides value and is moving forwards in alignment with wider strategic goals. If your strategy is no longer relevant, you may need to redraft or reconsider your strategy, which might require further discovery or user research. Whether working towards a new strategy or reviewing your old one, it can be an excellent frame of reference and starting point for working out your modern intranet’s priorities and objectives going into 2022.

2 Make your content better

Having good quality content is essential for your intranet; it drives both value and employee trust, therefore underpinning adoption. Every piece of content on your intranet should be:

  • Purposeful
  • Accurate
  • Timely
  • Engaging
  • Findable
  • In accordance with publishing standards.

This is hard to achieve when you have a decentralised publishing model, which is the norm for most intranets. Unless they have been freshly launched, the vast majority of modern intranets have room to improve their content.

In 2022, a great commitment to make for your modern intranet is improving your content. Unless all your content creation and publishing is centralised, this can only be done by doubling down on content governance. This usually entails a variety of approaches and measures, including defining your publishing standards, establishing automated content reviews for authors, conducting annual site reviews involving the central intranet team, providing more training and resources across your content community and establishing approval workflows where necessary. Executing a combination of these tactics reaps rewards, improving adoption and increasing trust.

3 Be the front door to your wider digital workplace

A key role of a modern intranet is to provide the entry point into the wider digital workplace. Making the intranet a personalised front door and single pane of glass to the enterprise’s portfolio of applications is an excellent use case which is popular with employees. If it isn’t already, making your intranet just that front door should be a strong priority for any intranet team.

Again, there are multiple ways to achieve this, including creating a central directory of apps that employees choose from to create personalised links, integrating other platforms and apps to enable simple transactions to be completed or data to be viewed, or enabling a navigation or search that allows users to reach other digital workplace tools and content.

4 Improve findability

Poor search and findability is often the number one complaint from intranet users. One of a modern intranet’s key roles is to help employees find the content, apps and people they need to carry out their role. But all too often, finding what they need is more painful than it should be, resulting in wasted time and effort.

Even strong modern intranets usually have room for improvement when it comes to search and findability; moving the needle on this important aspect of a modern intranet is a great new year’s resolution to make. Here, a coordinated combination of approaches is needed. Findability is not just about search, but also about the content you’re searching for, as well as your information architecture.

Approaches to consider include tagging your content, training content authors to make their content more findable, regularly analysing search metrics, reducing the amount of content, adding best bets, re-jigging your intranet navigation and even creating directories of information such as apps and sites.

5 Support a better employee experience

The past couple of years have seen a real focus on employee experience for intranet and digital workplace teams. Products like Microsoft Viva are firmly positioned as improving employee experience, and some intranet software is being branded as employee experience platforms (EXPs).

Intranets have a role to play in improving employee experience through content, features and services. They can increase productivity, save time, reduce frustration and help employees get things done, as well as facilitating learning, supporting well-being and providing access to data that aids better decision-making. They can also engage the workforce by driving connections and community.

Employee experience is a wide term, so one of the secrets of ensuring your intranet promotes better employee experience in 2022 is to actually work out what this means to you and your employees. Here, having conversations with users, inviting feedback from employees and examining the results of your employee engagement survey, as well as working with partners in HR and learning, can help yield results while simultaneously showing that you are committed to improving your workforce’s experience.

6 Support hybrid and remote working

Hybrid working and how best to support it was a huge issue during 2020 and 2021, and will continue to be throughout 2022, especially as organisations start to encourage the return to the office and are figuring out the longer-term future of hybrid working.

As core channels in the digital workplace, modern intranets play a major role in supporting hybrid working, for example, through providing content on the best tools to use for new ways of working. Integrations can help with the return to the office, co-ordinating communication between those on site and those working remotely. Intranets also provide a forum for employees to air their opinions about hybrid working, which is crucial while it’s still a fast-moving area where listening is critical. We think hybrid work support will be a strong priority for any modern intranet this year.

7 Continually improve

Continual improvement is a concept that many intranet teams aspire to, but which can be hard to put into practice. Committing or recommitting to continual improvement in 2022 (and following through with it) will certainly reap value in terms of adoption, impact and perceptions of value.

Continual improvement is usually underpinned by multiple approaches, including:

  • Using measurement to inform changes, and then re-measuring to ascertain the relative impact
  • Using agile methodologies and sprints to drive a series of iterative improvements
  • Committing to a roadmap of new features and content areas
  • Seeking employee feedback and acting on it; this often means creating feedback loops to drive changes across your intranet
  • Driving a mindset of continual improvement in the core intranet team, but also across wider intranet roles and your content community.

Improving your intranet in 2022

Modern intranets have an important role to play in 2022, driving strategic value for your organisation and assisting employees in their day-to-day work. If you need help meeting your intranet objectives in 2022, or deciding what those priorities should be, then get in touch!

15 intranet content ideas that support employee engagement

Modern intranets have many objectives. They help employees get things done productively and support a good employee experience. They deliver internal communications so employees stay informed and up-to-date. They provide access to content and information to help people carry out their role. They facilitate collaboration and provide access to knowledge and learning. And they reflect and nurture organisational culture and support employee engagement.

Employee engagement itself is a complex subject that often gets caught up in debates around definitions and measurement. There are also multiple factors which impact engagement. Intranets can successfully support employee engagement in several ways, including:

  • Reflecting and amplifying the positive aspects of organisational culture
  • Celebrating and recognising company, team and employee successes
  • Providing more information about company values, missions and purpose
  • Giving employees a voice and providing a platform for listening and dialogue
  • Establishing effective communications for senior leaders
  • Connecting employees and driving a sense of community across an organisation
  • Supporting personal development and career growth
  • Amplifying a one company identity and brand.

More specifically, there are numerous content ideas that support engagement and help make a company a great place to work. Let’s explore 15 intranet content types and features that support employee engagement.

  1. Feedback polls

Using polls on an intranet is an excellent way to get a snapshot of employee sentiment on different topics. It can also drive intranet adoption through adding a light-hearted feature to the intranet homepage, especially if visitors can see the results once they’ve voted. Intranet polls play their part in driving employee engagement by making employees feel they are listened to, thereby supporting an open and relaxed organisational culture.

  1. Customer success stories

Customer success stories are a staple of external-facing websites, but are not always featured on intranets. Success stories help to celebrate overall company success as well as individual team and employee contributions, and reinforce the message that employees make a difference, adding context to everyday actions.

  1. Examples of living the values

Most companies have values or a mission statement. Let’s be honest, these can be pretty generic and are not always taken seriously by employees. News items or stories that actually provide examples of how an organisation is living its values and putting them into action are more likely to resonate than something more general and woollier. Content that helps an employee feel proud to be working at the company is going to support employee engagement.

  1. Shout-outs and thankyous from peers

Peer-to-peer recognition is a strong way to celebrate individual achievements, generating a positive culture and sense of community. This is often done through shout-outs and thankyous from individuals to their colleagues, recognising contributions that reflect organisational values or instances where people have gone the extra mile. There are dedicated peer recognition solutions, but praise and shout-outs can also be delivered very successfully through social platforms like Yammer. Surfacing these on your intranet homepage can support engagement and culture amplification initiatives.

  1. Employee blogs and photos

Having visible user-generated content on your intranet can raise adoption, but also demonstrates that the employee voice is valued, again underpinning engagement efforts. When you give everybody a voice, it sends out a strong message that opinions are valued. There are multiple ways to surface user-generated content on your intranet, but employee blogging is an excellent way to tick the box on engagement and generate lively content. Including photos submitted by employees even via a simple photo of the day feature can also be effective for engagement.

  1. Podcasts

Podcasts are currently a very popular content format which are increasingly being used inside enterprises. Podcasts on particular themes can be a highly effective way to deliver targeted content to specific audience segments, supporting wider employee engagement. Podcasts have the advantage of being popular across different demographics, including frontline employees.

  1. Authentic leadership comms

CEOs and other senior leaders have a major influence on employee engagement. Most intranets showcase leadership communications, but these can sometimes still come across as formal and corporate. Leadership communications that are more honest, personal, informal, authentic and even vulnerable, showing the real person behind the job title, are more likely to resonate with the workforce and better support employee engagement. During the pandemic, some CEOs started to communicate through informal videos shot at home which have been generally well-received, and which can work on the intranet too.

  1. Q&As with senior leaders

Another good way to drive transparency and open communication with senior leaders is to publish questions from employees with relative questions and answers, or hold Ask Me Anything sessions and publish the related recordings or discussion threads on the intranet. Again, the more open and less sanitised these Q&As are, the more likely it is they will engage employees.

Q&A

  1. Crowdsourcing input from employees

Modern intranets and social collaboration platforms provide opportunities for dialogue. Having two-way channels where employees are asked their opinion by senior management and, most importantly, where this results in action can positively influence employees feelings about their employer. Specifically, crowdsourcing input and feedback from employees to influence decision-making is key here; we’ve heard examples that range from the tactical (getting input on new uniforms for customer-facing staff) to the strategic (asking for input into new strategies). Surveys, polls, discussion threads and commenting can all be used to crowdsource employee input.

  1. Internal opportunities

High levels of internal talent mobility and opportunities for staff career paths are highly desirable for organisations, as they help retain the best talent and reduce recruitment costs. Advertising internal opportunities on your intranet, including new roles, secondments and training schemes, is a common way to drive awareness of these positions, as well as promoting employee engagement through demonstrating the opportunities for career growth available to employees.

  1. Access to learning

Employees ability to access resources that will help them in their personal development and career growth is an underrated source of employee engagement; it demonstrates an investment in and commitment to people. Being able to search and discover courses, learning material and training assets is a strong use case for any intranet. This is becoming increasingly possible with the tight integration between learning platforms like LMS365 and SharePoint intranets.

LMS365

  1. Health and wellbeing themed content

Health and wellbeing is a significant theme in employee experience, and demonstrates an organisation’s commitment to its employees. An intranet can support wellbeing in numerous ways, providing health & safety information, tips and tricks, factsheets, health-related communities and more.

  1. Events

An events calendar is a useful addition to any intranet homepage, especially if employees can register for specific events and add the details to their personal calendar a feature available in SharePoint Online. Event calendars also work very well to promote both learning through knowledge-based webinars, for example, and wellbeing sessions on topics like mindfulness.

Events

  1. Ideation platforms

Ideation platforms are highly mature, and are becoming a common part of the digital workplace landscape. They work by inviting employees to submit ideas usually on a particular theme or responding to a specific challenge with the ability to vote on the best ones. A company may then choose to take some of these ideas to fruition. A snapshot of the latest ideas submitted, as well as the ones that are being actioned, shows employee ideas are being taken seriously.

  1. Communities

Online communities on both work and non-work themes help drive connections and foster a real sense of community and engagement within your organisation. These can range from professional Communities of Practice, to Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), to Communities of Interest on non-working themes. Whether a forum for discussing highly specialist engineering techniques or a place to swap cat videos, communities drive employee conversations and connections.

An intranet supports online communities in different ways; for example, your core intranet features may support communities or include feeds from a social platform like Yammer. A central directory of groups can also help users discover and join communities they are interested in.

Yammer

Engage your employees

Employee engagement is key, and the content and features you include on your intranet can make a real difference. If you’d like to discuss how you can use your intranet as part of your employee engagement strategy, then get in touch!

What’s on the Microsoft 365 roadmap for 2022?

One of the pleasures of working with SharePoint, Microsoft Teams and the Microsoft 365 platform in general is the continual investment Microsoft drives to improve the platform, introducing new tools and features. For example, in 2021, we welcomed the Microsoft Viva suite. Sometimes, these changes are modest but have powerful potential, such as extending the formatting options for SharePoint lists. However, it can be difficult and even overwhelming for admins and IT teams to try and keep up with all the changes.

In 2022, we’re expecting another very active year for Microsoft Teams, SharePoint and 365. It’s also going to be a big year for Microsoft Viva. In this post, we’re going to cover some of the changes we’re most looking forward to here at Content Formula, but really, we’re only scratching the surface of what’s coming.

The full detailed Microsoft 365 roadmap contains over 500 items in development at the time of writing, plus over 250 more being rolled out. The Book of News summary of main announcements from November 2021’s Ignite conference is a good place to start, showing a very active roadmap ahead. Of course, there will also be some surprises that haven’t been announced, or things that have been promised but haven’t yet appeared.

Here’s our pick of the 2022 Microsoft roadmap so far.

Additions and enhancements to Microsoft Viva

The Microsoft Viva suite of apps was a high-profile launch in 2021, and is getting huge interest from digital workplace, intranet, HR and internal communications teams. We think Microsoft will continue to push Viva hard in 2022, making it an increasingly accepted part of the digital workplace landscape.

Microsoft has announced a slew of changes that will continue to enhance Viva’s value. One of these will be a whole new Viva module related to OKRs (Objective and Key Results) emerging from Microsoft’s acquisition of ally.io, an OKR software vendor. The reporting within Viva Insights will continue to expand, with new areas covering management behaviours and meeting habits, the latter being an area where businesses still exhibit bad practices.

The power of Viva Topics is going to be extended, covering Outlook and Yammer communities while also trialling an intriguing Q&A concierge service which routes queries to relevant subject-matter experts; this will help expertise location and knowledge-sharing. The power of SharePoint Syntex can also be leveraged to build topics. The library of out-of-the-box connectors for different enterprise systems across all the Viva apps will continue to expand, with some significant additions Workday and DocuSign, in particular, launching in early 2022.

Microsoft Teams goes from strength to strength

The success of Microsoft Teams has been remarkable, and is an integral part of the digital workplace for many organisations. Microsoft continue to add to it, and the 2022 roadmap should see another round of enhancements, many of which cement Teams as the all-in-one communication system for employees.

One of the most far-reaching of these enhancements is further development of Microsoft Teams Connect – the feature that enables external collaboration. It will be easier to schedule meetings in a Teams channel that is shared across multiple organisations and individuals, providing a welcome addition to enable projects involving third parties and contractors. Chat will also be extended to allow individuals to use Teams with anyone outside a work network for personal calls while still sticking to organisational security policies, thus extending Teams popularity.

There are also some enhancements to Teams analytics in the pipeline. A new device-specific analytics board will be of particular interest to organisations who have rolled out the Teams mobile app, while a board that provides data and analytics per physical workspace will be useful in co-ordinating hybrid working or improving adoption in specific locations.

Other improvements and additions include:

  • The ability to join BlueJeans and GoToMeeting calls from a Teams Room, joining existing support for Zoom and Cicso
  • More support to use Teams as part of a hotdesking solution
  • More apps for Teams being added by partners
  • Some improvements to chat, including the ability for a user to send memo reminders to themselves on a chat thread
  • An improved design for the Teams app store
  • A new virtual green room for Teams events
  • A slew of improvements for event organisers, including better Q&A, having multiple moderators and more.

Microsoft Mesh for Teams

Support for augmented and virtual reality has been steadily improving in the background, although outside some online events, specific learning sessions and niche scenarios, these 3D experiences are yet to really seize the imagination of organisations or digital workplace teams.

Despite this, large tech providers are staking a lot of future investment on AR, VR and 3D experiences, particularly for remove events, meetings and collaboration. Facebook has changed its name to Meta and shared their plans for an immersive AR / VR world called the Metaverse, which is painted a little like Second Life on steroids. Microsoft’s response is to continue to roll out Mesh – its mixed reality framework – that is now being extended to Microsoft Teams.

The introduction of Mesh in Teams allows participants to meet in 3D scenarios as avatars that display their reactions. Microsoft says this means users can maintain their presence in meetings without turning on cameras, and interact socially in more informal spaces for those much-discussed water cooler moments. The adoption and utilisation of these features in 2022 is going to be fascinating to watch, partly because we genuinely don’t know if they will take off or not.

More power for the Power Platform

Along with hybrid, low-code and no-code have been the digital workplace phrases of the year, and that looks set to continue in 2022. Microsoft are investing in a round of improvements to the Power Platform.

Some of these are designed to help organisations leverage the apps and workflow of the Power Platform more easily within the Teams experience, particularly Power Virtual Agents, to bring bots more directly into channels or target them to specific security groups. A Power BI app for Teams is also now available.

A new capability called process mining within Power Automate generates analytics and process maps across processes and workflows, aiming to provide insights on the success of processes, analysing the time spent on steps and where there are bottlenecks. We think this forensic approach will be of interest to many teams, and support continual improvement.

There are a range of other smaller improvements, too numerous to go into in-depth here, which include some interesting developments to drive citizen development. For example, within Power Virtual Agents, bot developers will be able to have conversations inside the bot authoring experience – a simple feature which could allow citizen developers to seek advice or collaborate with IT experts and their peers. This ability to collaborate and comment is being extended across the other Power Platform apps too, with notes and feedback similar to commenting in Office. Again, we see this helping to drive citizen development or offer support in cases where central IT resources are seeking input from business process owners or teams.

Upgrades to Microsoft Stream

Video is now a popular medium in many organisations, complementing internal communications, leadership communications, learning and even employee blogging (logging). Previously, Microsoft Stream the video sharing platform within the 365 platform has made it easy to embed videos within SharePoint intranets or communication sites, but the actual Stream user experience has been more of a separate app experience.

Now, Microsoft Stream is being rebranded as Microsoft Steam classic, and Stream built on SharePoint is being introduced. Video and audio files will be stored in the same way that other files are stored in SharePoint, making it even easier to integrate Stream right across the 365 suite. It also means that video and audio files will align to other SharePoint governance put in place for content services, covering permissions, compliance and more. This will bring video more efficiently into the overall 365 experience, including within a SharePoint intranet, and remove any associated barriers around video sharing and podcasting.

SharePoint Syntex additions

One of the roadmap areas we’re most excited about is an expansion of SharePoint Syntex – the AI feature that can be applied to content in various imaginative ways. In the next generation of Syntex, there is better support for using the software to construct Microsoft office documents so you can build model documents, for example, with different data and sections based on information from other elements. For example, you could automatically build standard NDA or contract documents based on information generated from your CRM system, with some variation dependent on who the contract concerns, as may be the case for UK- or US-based businesses.

We can see great value in high-volume documents areas such as contract management, invoicing or procurement processes. Used in conjunction with other parts of the Microsoft 365 suite, there are certainly some intriguing combinations that could transform inefficient processes. The ability to leverage Syntex for document searching using Syntex-generated metadata is also being extended.

Get in touch!

The new year is going to be another big one for Microsoft 365, Teams and Viva. We’re excited for all that is to come! If you’d like to discuss your strategy and plans for 2022, then get in touch!

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