How to make Microsoft Viva the centre of your digital workplace

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

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

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

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

What is Microsoft Viva?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3 Viva Topics is supporting knowledge management

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

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

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

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

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

5 Viva Connections brings your intranet into Teams

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Apps, apps and more apps

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

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

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

Microsoft’s in-built Teams apps

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

Bookings

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

Screenshot of the queue view in the Bookings app in Teams

Lists

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

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

Tasks

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

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

Praise

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

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

Approvals

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

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

Shifts

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

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

Using Microsoft Teams apps

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

7 top tips to improve Office 365 adoption and change management

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

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

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

1 Involve and train your champions

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

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

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

2 Focus on real use cases rather than concepts

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

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

3 Creating engaging campaign assets

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

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

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

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

4 Plan out your reinforcement activities

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

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

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

5 Plan self-serve resources

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

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

6 Use Office 365 to drive usage of Office 365

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

7 Ring fence your ACM budget

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

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

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

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!

6 great SharePoint examples with screenshots for 2022

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

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

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

1 Using SharePoint to implement Viva Connections

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

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

Entain Viva Connections

2 Creating a hub or portal to centralise and contextualise learning

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

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

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

School-Led Network LMS365

3 A central policy library to support compliance and minimise risk

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

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

Xoralia

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

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

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

Haines Watts

5 Revolutionising frontline messaging with a custom SharePoint solution

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

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

TTEC Messages For You

6 Streamlining digital communications through a SharePoint intranet homepage

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

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

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

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

TP Bennetts

Using SharePoint in 2022

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

7 objectives for your modern intranet in 2022

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

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

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

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

Here are seven 2022 objectives for your modern intranet.

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

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

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

2 Make your content better

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

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

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

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

3 Be the front door to your wider digital workplace

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

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

4 Improve findability

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

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

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

5 Support a better employee experience

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

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

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

6 Support hybrid and remote working

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

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

7 Continually improve

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

Continual improvement is usually underpinned by multiple approaches, including:

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

Improving your intranet in 2022

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

15 intranet content ideas that support employee engagement

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

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

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

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

  1. Feedback polls

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

  1. Customer success stories

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

  1. Examples of living the values

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

  1. Shout-outs and thankyous from peers

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

  1. Employee blogs and photos

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

  1. Podcasts

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

  1. Authentic leadership comms

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

  1. Q&As with senior leaders

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

Q&A

  1. Crowdsourcing input from employees

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

  1. Internal opportunities

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

  1. Access to learning

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

LMS365

  1. Health and wellbeing themed content

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

  1. Events

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

Events

  1. Ideation platforms

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

  1. Communities

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

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

Yammer

Engage your employees

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

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!

Webinar video: Using SharePoint for policy management and compliance

Ensuring that employees read policies is an important factor in compliance for all organisations. You may be considering using SharePoint to manage your policies or your organization may be using it now, but in either case you may be asking the question Is SharePoint the best approach?

During this webinar, we will show you how to get the most out of SharePoint when managing your policies and help your organisation to stay compliant.

We will explain why SharePoint is the best approach and cover:

  • Common organisational scenarios in policy management
  • How to get the best out of SharePoint
  • Is SharePoint enough?
  • One of our customer case studies

25 business processes you can automate using Microsoft 365

Business automation and process improvement are key reasons why organisations launch Microsoft 365 and create intranets. They want to reduce costs, save time, increase productivity, speed up end-to-end processes and remove frustration for users.

Microsoft 365 customers have an incredibly powerful platform from which to start automating business processes, both simple and complex. Using different combinations of features and capabilities, you can make a real difference to your digital workplace, organisational efficiency and employee experience. The opportunity for business automation extends to some of the products that work alongside Microsoft 365, such as LiveTiles intranet, LMS365 or the Xoralia policy management tool, mainly because they are based on 365 technologies like SharePoint and Power Automate.

It’s also worth noting that Microsoft’s continuing investment in the 365 platform and Microsoft Teams means new opportunities for automation are opening up. For example, the Microsoft Viva suite of apps is providing exciting opportunities to increase productivity and improve employee experience, while Power Virtual Agents allows every organisation to leverage the power of bots. In fact, when we first published this post, we included 19 opportunities, but we’ve since expanded this to 25.

Let’s look at some of the processes you can automate, based on what we’ve seen with clients and other organisations. Just to be clear, there is a lot you can potentially do these ideas are just for starters!

  1. Updating key business policies

Many intranets have a central library of key business policies. It’s important that these are kept up to date; there may be regular reviews in place to ensure this happens. Automated reminders to content owners based on review dates introduce an automation layer to support an effective central policy library.

Potential tools to use: Xoralia policy management tool, SharePoint, Power Automate.
  1. Monitoring mandatory reads

Sometimes, it’s important for employees to read particular content for compliance, regulatory or risk reasons: perhaps a new policy, an important update or a critical communication. Monitoring who has confirmed they have read the content can be a real administrative burden. Automating this process saves vast amounts of time and effort. This can involve sending targeted reminders based on Active Directory (AD) groups to those employees still to confirm the mandatory read, and producing real-time progress reports.

Potential tools to use: Xoralia policy management tool, SharePoint, Power Automate, Power BI, Azure Active Directory
  1. Adding document metadata

Having the right metadata for documents helps with findability, but also gives users important information about the content; it may define displays in web environments, and support other outcomes such as targeting. Getting the right metadata on a document is something some organisations struggle with, especially if it all needs to be done manually.

Automation can really help add accurate document metadata. For example, if there is metadata associated with a project and a new document is added to the project workspace, the document may be able to inherit that metadata. There are also opportunities to use AI to suggest the right metadata to add through the SharePoint Syntex service.

Potential tools to use: Power Automate, SharePoint, SharePoint Syntex
  1. Archiving content and data

Governance around the archiving and deletion of content and data is critical for keeping your digital workplace tidy, aligning to company retention policies and enhancing findability. Adding some automation to this process really helps so that documents, content and spaces are automatically archived based on different criteria (including review or approval from the content owner).

Potential tools to use: Power Automate, SharePoint
  1. Updating employee profiles

The employee directory and profiles are a staple of the intranet environment, but the best ones always represent the one source of truth of HR data so that profiles are always accurate, and employees don’t have to complete information across two systems.

Updates to your HR system containing individual employee data should always be reflected in individual employee profiles. For example, an update to a job title in the HR system should also be displayed on the intranet, ideally in real-time.

Potential tools to use: LiveTiles Directory, Delve, Custom-built solution, Active Directory
  1. Requests and approvals

This is perhaps the most common form of process improvement driven by intranets and Microsoft 365, using forms and workflow to deal with requests involving everything from booking travel, to organising annual leave, to requesting stationery, to ordering lunch for a client meeting. Usually, these requests need to go through an approval process. In many organisations, there will still be request and approval processes which are done using email or even paper that are just waiting to be automated. Increasingly, requests and approvals are being dealt with through chatbots that might be accessed through Microsoft Teams, or even through a mobile app for frontline staff.

Potential tools to use: Microsoft Forms, Power Automate, SharePoint, Power Virtual Agents, Microsoft Teams apps
  1. IT and facilities performance monitoring

Performance monitoring of different systems is an obvious area to automate, using dashboards to provide reporting and notifications when things don’t look right, based on different rules. We’ve seen many examples of this, including the monitoring of load times on different web channels or servers, or reporting on the temperature of different parts of a building.

Potential tools to use: Power BI, LiveTiles Intelligence, SharePoint, Azure application insights
  1. Microsoft 365 adoption reporting

Unsurprisingly, digital workplace teams are always interested in driving adoption of Microsoft 365 and its constituent tools. With so many tools and channels in operation, automated reporting of the use of different applications and channels via a customised dashboard is almost always of interest to teams. Increasingly, some of the behaviours of Microsoft 365 are being rolled into the new Viva Insights tool which focuses on collaboration, productivity and wellbeing, offering some organisation-wide analytics.

Potential tools to use: Power BI, Microsoft 365 out-of-the-box, Viva Insights
  1. Logging support calls

There are already systems like ServiceNow which allow users to log issues and automatically raise tickets for IT, HR and other support services. The ability to raise tickets is usually a prerequisite for running any scalable helpdesk or support service, and integrating this automation into your intranet or Microsoft Teams can be helpful. Increasingly, support calls are also being logged through chatbots. More lightweight processes might not always warrant investment in a separate system. In these instances, using your intranet platform or Microsoft365 may make a lot of sense as an affordable system to log support calls, and automation can really add value.

Potential tools to use: Microsoft Forms, PowerApps, Power Automate, Power Virtual Agents, Microsoft Teams Apps
  1. Centralising notifications from different systems

Information overload is still a real issue for many users, especially with an overwhelming email in-box. Many users find it hard to keep on top of all the automated notifications, alerts, approvals and actions needed across a number of disparate systems.

Having a focused activity stream, list of notifications or notification dashboard from systems in one place (universal inbox) that can allow users to organise all the things they need to do, and ensure approvals are made more speedily. Here, there are an increasing number of options to deliver this capability within Microsoft Teams, to frontline staff via a mobile app or through a chatbot facility where employees can complete simple transactions.

Potential tools to use: Power Automate, PowerApps, Microsoft Teams Apps, SharePoint, LiveTiles Everywhere, Power Virtual Agents
  1. Financial reporting and monitoring

Financial reporting is an obvious use case for a dashboard which can have considerable value for senior management and finance departments, helping to drive accountability and support decision-making. However, dashboards with simplified financial and performance data such as sales can even be presented to users on the intranet homepage as a way of keeping everybody up to date. This form of automation almost always has value.

Potential tools to use: Power BI, SharePoint
  1. Marketing automation

Marketing automation is on the wish-list of most marketing functions, but is not always put into operation. Marketing automation can be powerful in saving time and supporting your sales funnel. It can range from the simple (sending out an automatic email based on the completion of a website form) to the sophisticated (sending out a targeted message based on a range of user behaviour). Reporting on the success of your efforts is also automated.

Potential tools to use: PowerApps, Power Automate, Power BI, Microsoft Dynamics, Outlook
  1. Tracking assets

IT departments often need to track and manage the assets which are given out to users, including devices, equipment, software licenses and more. It’s incredible how many teams still rely on spreadsheets and email for this exercise, even though there may be some workflow in place to issue devices for new employees. Automating this process allows you to use one source of truth for keeping track of your assets alongside stakeholder and user reporting. You can also potentially integrate this with the process for users requesting new assets, as well as the employee onboarding and offboarding process.

Potential tools to use: PowerApps, Power BI, Power Automate, Microsoft Forms, Power Virtual Agents
  1. 360 appraisals

360 appraisals tend to be a process-heavy exercise involving data input from different users, reporting, approval workflow, notifications and the need to store all the data in a core system of record. In other words, 360 appraisals are ripe for automation and improvement! Appraisals can be cumbersome and time-consuming, so anything which makes them easier for everybody is welcome.

Potential tools to use: Microsoft Forms, Power Automate, PowerApps, SharePoint
  1. Document building

Building model documents based on different criteria is a theme often found in knowledge management. It’s of real interest in certain sectors, especially professional services, but also functions such as in-house legal teams. Being able to build automated documents like contracts and agreements based on different metadata (e.g. client name or document type) can help maintain document standards, as well as save huge amounts of time.

Often, the model document produced is a starting point which must still be completed and checked, but the process automation adds a lot of value.

Potential tools to use: PowerApps, SharePoint Workflows, Microsoft Office, Power Virtual Agents
  1. Know Your Client

Know Your Client (KYC) is a standard process carried out by some companies as part of the due diligence and procurement process to onboard new clients, suppliers and vendors, and minimise risks involved. KYC may involve interrogating external databases with company information, and performing credit checks. The extent to which KYC processes can be automated varies, but there is usually scope for speeding up the process, such as using a chatbot to gather initial information or running the process through Teams if that is the system where most work gets done.

Potential tools to use: Virtual Power Agents, PowerApps, Power BI, Microsoft Forms, Power Automate, Microsoft Teams apps
  1. Resource planning

Resource planning for projects, teams and initiatives can be challenging, particularly if relevant information is scattered around different systems. For example, you may want to view core information from your HR platform, timecard systems and details of expertise from people profiles to help you assemble the right team and check availability.

Automating reporting with data from various systems to help with resource planning and specific views to aid team selection can be very powerful, helping you to create the best teams while ensuring capacity. This can be extremely valuable for managers and frontline teams where shift work is involved, or for businesses with a lot of seasonal work or intense projects.

Potential tools to use: Power BI, Microsoft Planner, Power Automate, Microsoft Shifts
  1. Project management

Project management is a broad activity which is key to the way many companies operate. Microsoft 365 can help with many aspects of project management, including providing the base for some automation. For example, some companies might choose to automatically create a collaboration space whenever a project is set up in their financial management system or equivalent, or choose to integrate real-time budgeting and financial or timecard information within their project space. This helps to embed collaboration and dashboards right into the project management processes, as well as drive efficiencies.

Potential tools to use: Microsoft Planner, Power BI, Microsoft Teams, Microsoft Project, SharePoint Online, Outlook
  1. Employee onboarding

Having a formal employee onboarding programme drives efficiencies and make new starters feel welcome, supporting better employee retention. With so many checklists and tasks to complete and information to provide, there are myriad processes which can be automated or semi-automated even before a new hire’s first day. Ensuring that employees fill in the necessary forms before they start and in their first few weeks (and ensuring this information goes to the right people and systems) is a great starting point. They might need to read a policy, take a course, review information on the intranet, complete their contact details, supply particular forms and more. Some organisations particularly with frontline employees choose to invest in a dedicated employee onboarding app for this.

Potential tools to use: PowerApps, LMS365, Xoralia policy management tool, Power Automate, SharePoint Online, LiveTiles content targeting, Power BI
  1. Employee offboarding

Employee onboarding gets a lot of attention, but offboarding also involves multiple processes, including ensuring equipment is recovered and sent back, completing any necessary paperwork, making adjustments in different systems, carrying out an exit interview or even issuing an invitation to join the alumni programme. This is another process where automation can streamline interactions, workflows and reporting.

Potential tools to use: Power Automate, Microsoft Forms, Power BI
  1. Collecting data from the field

Sometimes, field workers or mobile employees may need to file reports with data collected when they are out and about, such as engineers making site inspections. Ideally, data should be gathered and inputted directly into mobile devices. Automation can make sure this information appears automatically in documents, databases, dashboards and even workspaces.

Potential tools to use: PowerApps, Microsoft Forms, Teams Apps, Power Virtual Agents, SharePoint, Power BI
  1. Learning and development administration

Learning and development is a critical part of employee and organisational life. However, it can take a lot of administration effort, particularly when enrolling employees onto mandatory training (which can occur annually), monitoring progress and completions and reporting sometimes even to external bodies – for compliance reasons. Automation makes a lot of sense in enrolment and tracking, especially when targeting different courses to different Microsoft AD groups. Although it’s early days, learning automation might also involve Viva Learning in the future as its capabilities evolve and develop.

Potential tools to use: LMS365, SharePoint, Power Automate, Power BI, Microsoft Viva Learning, Xoralia policy management tool, Azure Active Directory
  1. Keeping groups and lists up to date

Group and list management is often a time-consuming activity and can incorporate multiple aspects of your digital workplace, including e-mail distribution, content targeting, personalisation, security and permissions, subscriptions, employee directories and more. Groups can be highly dynamic, based on joiners and leavers, internal moves and individual preferences. Ensuring your Azure Active Directory groups are fully up to date and mirroring your needs is key. Here, automation is a must, including synchronisation with your HR system of record, as well as facilitating elements such as default membership of different communities, enabling topic subscriptions on your intranet and more.

Potential tools to use: Azure Active Directory, Power Automate, SharePoint
  1. Meetings

We spend so much of our time in meetings, yet very little automation outside of what happens when you use Outlook tends to be applied to meeting booking, even though this is an area where there are multiple opportunities to improve processes. Automation could be applied to booking equipment, creating a space, sourcing tools such as whiteboards (if for a virtual meeting), diary management, sending out reminders, constructing minutes, determining agendas, regulating the number of people in the office (due to COVID restrictions), gathering pre-meeting data and even organising travel arrangements.

Potential tools to use: Power Automate, Outlook, Microsoft Forms
  1. Knowledge Management

Viva Topics is an intriguing new part of the Viva suite of employee experience apps that uses AI to automate the presentation of content and identification of experts on different topics, and presents this information to users. In a way, this represents the partial automation of knowledge management, and is an exciting prospect. However, it comes with a caveat: Viva Topics is not plug-and-play, and requires active and ongoing knowledge curation, plus a necessary level of content, to get value out of the tool.

Potential tools to use: Microsoft Viva Topics, SharePoint

Microsoft 365 is a productivity and automation platform

You can do so much with Microsoft 365, providing a digital workplace where you can drive automation, reporting and more. In fact, there’s so much to automate, it can be hard to know where to start! If you’d like to discuss using Microsoft 365 to automate key business processes across your digital workplace, then get in touch!

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