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!

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!

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!

7 reasons to use SharePoint for policy management

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

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

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

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

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

Seven reasons why SharePoint policy management is the best approach

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

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

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

2 You can automate lifecycle management processes

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

3 You can get a complete audit trail

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

4 You can easily provide access to all

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

5 You can integrate it into your search

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

6 It can integrate with your wider Microsoft 365 ecosystem

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

7 You can track usage and get data

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

Book a demo

But what about mandatory policies and tracking reads? Introducing Xoralia Policies

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

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

The app is a simple but complete solution that provides:

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

How it works

In a nutshell, Xoralia Policies works in five simple steps.

Policy management software - SharePoint, Office 365 & MS Teams

Main features

1 An attractive, central policy library

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

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

2 Complete auditability

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

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

3 Robust policy management with automated notifications

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

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

4 Analytics for mandatory reads and more

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

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

5 Strong findability

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

6 Easy set-up and deployment

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

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

7 Options for customisation

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

Book a demo

Customer case study

Policy management software example

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

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

Policy management software example

SharePoint is made for policy management

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

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

What are digital experience platforms (DXPs) and employee experience platforms (EXPs)?

Digital experience and employee experience are terms that have become increasingly common in the digital workplace world, as well as in related fields such as digital customer experience and HR. Accompanying this are the concepts of the digital experience platform (DXP) and the related employee experience platform (EXP), both terms that are seeing ever-wider use. For example, Microsoft has gone to market using the term EXP to describe its Microsoft Viva suite of apps.

But there is some confusion about exactly what digital experience platforms and employee experience platforms are. In this post, we’re going to define and unpack these terms, as well as cover some of their key characteristics.

Defining DXPs and EXPs

As with terms such as digital workplace and employee experience, there is no consensus on the exact meaning of DXPs and EXPs, although there is a broad understanding of their general meaning. For example, when we wrote about What is digital employee experience?, we ended up covering seven different definitions!

The terms DXP and EXP are being used extensively in marketing material from technical providers, so definitions tend to be characterised by the features and capabilities of the product being promoted, meaning general definitions can be further muddied.

Gartner provides a decent definition of a DXP, describing it as an integrated set of technologies, based on a common platform, that provides a broad range of audiences with consistent, secure and personalized access to information and applications across many digital touchpoints.

These digital touchpoints can include websites, apps, portals and more. When sources use the term DXP, they are generally referring to external-facing channels aimed at customers who buy products and services, such as Sitecore, Adobe, Liferay and Bloomreach.

Using this definition, an employee experience platform can be considered as a specific type of DXP, but one that is firmly aimed at an employee audience and their needs. Josh Bersin, a well-regarded HR thought leader, wrote about EXPs back in 2019, categorising them as a new category of workplace software. Bersin described EXPs as meeting companies desire to integrate their entire end-to-end service experience, and as being platform that lets a company design [a] multi-step, multi-flow experience, integrate it with all the various IT and HR applications needed, and abstract the user from the complexity behind the scenes.

EXP is a term that is increasingly being used to describe software that can include the delivery of an intranet and related content across multiple channels. For example, LiveTiles has occasionally described its suite of products as an EXP.

Seven characteristics of a DXP and an EXP

Getting into a debate about the semantics of exact definitions of DXPs and EXPs can be a bit of a navel-gazing exercise. It’s more worthwhile looking into broader meanings by defining some of the main characteristics of the two. These match many of the key qualities teams are looking for when choosing a modern platform to build and deliver digital experiences for customers and employees.

Here’s our view of seven key characteristics of DXPs and EXPs.

1 They’re integrated sets of distinct capabilities

DXPs and EXPs are platforms. This means they are distinct from being standalone apps and will have a variety of distinct capabilities, features and apps (or the equivalent) that can be deployed, as well as allowing integrations to be built in. Although these features might be experienced separately, they should also be integrated so they can work together seamlessly. For example, we would consider SharePoint Online and Microsoft Teams as platforms, but our Xoralia Policy Management library might be viewed as an application. A DXP or EXP will therefore have multiple features that deliver different capabilities to make up one, coherent digital experience.

2 They’re multi-channel

A DXP or EXP can serve and be accessed through multiple channels, such as web browsers, web apps and mobile apps. An increasing number of EXPs can also be accessed through Microsoft Teams.

The aim for these platforms is often to deliver a consistent experience across different mediums to suit different user preferences and use cases. For example, the ability for EXPs to provide mobile access is important for frontline employees. As new channels emerge, DXPs and EXPs will need to keep up. The move for EXPs to be accessed through Teams, for example, is a trend we’ve seen over the past two years.

3 They have multiple use cases

Because DXPs and EXPs are platforms which can incorporate a wide range of features both native and through integrations they can meet a high number of use cases through a range of content and experiences. An EXP, for example, might be able to deliver internal communications, communities of practice, employee feedback surveys, peer to peer recognition, access to policy and procedure libraries, enterprise search, collaboration, wellbeing analytics, access to learning, HR self-service, employee onboarding, idea management and more!

4 They’re user- and people-centric

DXPs and EXPs are about experiences which are firmly focused on the user, and which deliver value to them. The front-end experience should be well-designed, intuitive, easy to use and make people want to return. The overall platform should be geared towards user needs and user journeys, ultimately easing pain points and helping individuals complete transactions, find information and save time. These might sound like obvious, foundational principles for all digital experiences, but it’s worth remembering that there are still a lot of poor digital experiences out there!

Because experience platforms deliver a range of capabilities and have multiple features, the user experience needs to be consistent, smooth and uninhibited across these, avoiding the ultimately confusing and frustrating fragmentation that happens when having to use multiple applications.

5 They’re a single pane of glass for integrations

A DXP or EXP should provide that single pane of glass for everything a customer or employee needs to do or find. This is usually delivered through a breadth of native features, but also through integrations.

A trending theme in digital employee experience is the ability to create one environment where employees can access all the information and applications they need for the working day. The idea of a one stop shop – the single pane of glass or front door to the wider digital workplace – is a persuasive one, helping to save time and reduce the number of different applications that employees need to visit which can be a source of pain and frustration. An EXP should be able to deliver this capability by allowing easy integrations with other applications which allow information to be displayed, simple transactions to be performed and notifications to be viewed.

Similarly, a DXP should provide one place for everything a customer needs to do, including viewing content, completing e-commerce transactions, asking questions and more.

6 Theyre personalised

A central tenet of modern digital experiences is that they are personalised to the individual user, whether they’re a customer or an employee. This means a DXP or EXP recognises the person accessing the platform, and returns content and experiences relevant to that individual’s profile and preferences. For EXPs, this means that content and experiences can be targeted to different employee groups, often based on their Active Directory profile data. It might also be possible for employees to configure their own experiences, for example, by changing the layout of the homepage, subscribing to content on different topics and adding their own favourite links. For DXPs that are aimed at customers, the personalisation element is not necessarily based on a person authenticating into the environment.

7 They are flexible, configurable, extensible and customisable

A DXP or EXP does not deliver a limited range of fixed experiences. They offer the opportunity to create a range of difference experiences by being flexible, configurable, extensible and customisable. You should be able to create excellent customer and employee experiences suited to the needs of your users, with benefits that will be felt at an organisational level.

Still confused? Get in touch!

There’s a lot of noise about Digital Experience Platforms and Employee Experience Platforms, but we think DXPs and EXPs as terms and concepts may be around for a while. While there are no agreed specific definitions, we’re seeing some common characteristics which we’ve detailed in this article. If you’re still confused and want to discuss anything relating to your DXP or EXP, then get in touch!

10 digital workplace and intranet trends for 2022

2021 was another important year for digital workplaces and intranets. Remote and hybrid working continued to dominate, ensuring business continuity during another year of the pandemic. Technology options also moved forward with the release of the Microsoft Viva suite, for example, and intranet and digital workplace teams worked hard to support employees. Microsoft Teams continued its huge adoption path. Employee experience was high on the agenda for internal communicators and HR functions, while IT teams embraced the need to drive a streamlined experience for employees and simplify the application landscape through a single digital workplace environment.

Here at Content Formula, we remained extremely busy throughout the year, and were proud to continue to deliver successes including the launch of a global intranet at Entain and a mobile intranet app at Yorkshire Tea, among many other projects. We also rolled out and evolved our Xoralia intelligent policy management solution for SharePoint which has been very well-received.

But what about 2022? What will the coming year bring for the intranet and digital workplace world? We think it will be another important year. Here are our thoughts on ten digital workplace and intranet trends to expect in 2022.

  1. Competition will continue to stimulate the intranet software market

The intranet in-a-box software market is now relatively mature, with a great deal of choice for teams. Many of these offerings extend beyond just being an intranet, focusing on the wider digital workplace as well as capabilities that cover other areas of employee experience. It’s hard to believe it’s now five years since we announced our partnership with LiveTiles (then Wizdom) – still one of the major intranet and employee experience software providers.

One of the strong characteristics of the market is the competition between providers, ultimately leading to investment in products, feature-rich offerings, better customer service, competitive pricing, innovation and choice. We think this is going to be a prominent theme throughout 2022. Consolidation in the sector will fuel more product development; for example, two major providers – Staffbase and Valo – just announced they are joining forces. Much of this competition comes from Microsoft itself, whose support for intranets using SharePoint out-of-the-box, alongside the growing influence of Microsoft Viva, is forcing tech providers to up their game.

  1. Intranets and digital workplaces will continue to support hybrid working

Unfortunately, the pandemic is still ongoing, and remote and hybrid working is the reality for many of us. However, hybrid working is becoming a choice for many organisations who see opportunities to both reduce real estate costs and offer a style of working that is attractive to employees. While many have returned to the office, opinion polls continually show that the majority of employees also want to have opportunities to work from home where they can be more productive and better balance their working and non-working lives.

Hybrid was quite possibly the word of 2021, but we think it’s going to continue into 2022 as intranets and digital workplaces do the heavy lifting to support remote working. Back in September 2021, we produced a checklist for intranet and digital workplace teams with the ways they can support the return to the office and hybrid work, including guidance on social distancing, integrations with various apps such as desk booking and more. We think we’ll see more and more content and capabilities appearing which support hybrid working for the short- and long-term.

  1. External social media and the consumer world will influence the digital workplace

External social media channels and the consumer mobile app world have always had an influence on the digital workplace, with popular features and apps eventually appearing in one form or another in digital workplace tools. The adoption of social features in intranets is a key example.

In 2022, we think we’ll again see the influence of the consumer world on intranet features. This is probably most prominent with the advance of podcasts aimed at employees – an increasingly popular content format for internal comms teams. Podcasting looks set to rise in popularity in 2022. We’d be intrigued to see if TikTok somehow finds its way into the enterprise, perhaps through the encouragement of more employee-generated video sharing on intranet, collaboration and video-sharing platforms.

  1. Microsoft Teams will increasingly become the digital workplace of choice

Nobody could have predicted the huge impact that Microsoft Teams would have on the working world. It has changed the digital workplace landscape, and Microsoft are not done yet as they continue to invest in this exciting platform. With Teams adoption so high across many organisations, it is becoming the fundamental digital workplace experience for many employees. Subsequently, many are looking to integrate more and more external apps into Teams, as well as existing Microsoft 365 tools including the SharePoint intranet.

We’re starting to see some organisations referring to Microsoft Teams as their digital workplace. Depending on how you define the digital workplace, we can see it becoming a core point of entry into the digital workplace in the same way that the intranet homepage is. In 2022, integrating apps and intranets into the Teams experience will undoubtedly be a major direction of travel.

  1. Microsoft Viva will enter the equation

Related to the growth of Teams as the de facto digital workplace entry point is Microsoft Viva – the new employee experience platform launched in early 2021. This includes four apps accessed through Teams (Viva Learning, Viva Connections, Viva Insights and Viva Topics) that deliver a range of capabilities across communications, knowledge management, learning, collaboration and more.

While it’s still relatively early days for Viva, with functionality being released throughout 2021, 2022 looks set to become the year Viva will be adopted at scale, emerging as a staple of the digital workplace. We’re seeing huge interest in its intranet and digital workplace capabilities, and there’s more to come as Microsoft adds features such as support for integrations into Viva Connections. In particular, Viva can complement a SharePoint intranet by bringing content into Teams, as well as surface learning via Viva Learning.

  1. The digital divide for the frontline will continue to narrow

Traditionally, frontline employees have tended to lag behind their desk-based colleagues in terms of access to digital services and communications. There are multiple reasons for this, including a lack of digital identities and being less prioritised by organisations.

The good news is that each year, this digital divide has continued to narrow due to the accessibility of some great employee apps such as LiveTiles Reach. Mobile intranets and apps are now far better supported and more commonplace, with some internal communications teams also thinking outside the box. For example, customer experience solutions provider TTEC commissioned us to develop an innovative solution to deliver targeted messages to their frontline call centre staff.

While this is not a new trend, we think that in 2022, the digital gap between knowledge workers and frontline staff will continue to narrow, triggering a positive impact on frontline productivity, engagement and wellbeing.

  1. HR and people-centric content and features will influence the intranet

In 2021, we saw increasing numbers of intranet, HR and internal communications teams focus on people-centric features and content, thus supporting a strong employee experience. Learning is one of these themes (and explored in more detail below), as well as employee wellbeing and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I). In fact, some organisations are producing an entire HR intranet that echoes these themes.

We think people-centric intranets will be a significant theme in 2022, with more and more teams creating content and adding relevant capabilities. For example, to support wellbeing, an intranet might include events and activities, wellbeing tips, analytics and community, while also acting to reduce information overload, supporting health & safety and more.

  1. Citizen developers will become more commonplace

Last year, one of our digital workplace priorities for 2021 was to nurture your citizen developers. While progress in this area has perhaps been gradual rather than rapid, we are seeing more organisations start to formalise approaches to support power users and citizen developers in leveraging the full power of low-code and no-code solutions, including for intranet development.

The Power Platform on Microsoft 365 (Power BI, PowerApps, Power Automate, Power Virtual Agents) presents exceptional opportunities for non-IT professionals to create simple apps, dashboards, workflows and automation, as well as for established coders to carry out rapid application development. We expect citizen development to evolve this year, with more organisations dipping their toe in the water.

  1. Learning will continue to come into the heart of the digital workplace

For years, learning and training were on the periphery of the digital workplace usually stuck in a Learning Management System (LMS) with poor usability and no single sign-on. No wonder adoption and course take-up were either poor or merely viewed as an annoying box-ticking exercise. This has started to change over the past two years, and we see 2022 being the year learning really comes into the heart of the digital workplace.

There are lots of reasons for this a renewed emphasis on e-learning due to the pandemic, the need to upskill employees digitally, an emphasis on employee experience, learning being an obvious area to focus on for maturing digital workplaces but it’s also because of the solutions available. For example, the LMS365 learning platform integrates so seamlessly with Microsoft 365 and Teams that it is easy to access learning through a SharePoint intranet, Microsoft Teams or mobile app. Microsoft Viva Learning is also seen as an opportunity to surface learning content in Teams. We think that in 2022, learning will start to enter the daily flow of work for more and more employees.

  1. Intranets will keep on delivering value

We don’t know how many times over the years we’ve read a declaration that intranets are dead. But as we enter 2022, intranets are very much alive. Customers are still asking us for support in creating amazing intranets, and the ones that have launched tell us they are getting great value. Intranets will continue proving valuable in 2022.

The reasons for this are two-fold. Firstly, the fundamental premise behind an intranet a website for employees that helps them get things done, keep up to date, find information they need and connect with colleagues is still a very good one. Secondly, intranets keep on evolving with new features and capabilities. Over 25 years, they have absorbed personalisation, collaboration, social, mobile, transactional, video and some digital workplace capabilities. They are now evolving so they can be accessed from anywhere, including through other applications such as Microsoft Teams. Long live the humble intranet still going strong!

Here’s to a happy and healthy 2022

2022 will be another exciting year for intranets and digital workplaces. If you’d like to discuss any of the trends in this article or your 2022 intranet and digital workplace plans, then get in touch!

We hope you’ve enjoyed the blog over the past twelve months. All of us at Content Formula wish you a very happy and healthy 2022. See you next year!

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