Ten digital workplace and Microsoft 365 trends for 2023

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

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

1. Microsoft Viva picks up momentum across the digital workplace

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

10. Digital workplace teams make all the difference

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

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

Happy new year

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

Viva Engage, Viva Goals, Viva Sales: what are the new Microsoft Viva modules?

Since the launch of Microsoft Viva in early 2021, Microsoft has continued to invest in its employee experience platform, by adding new features, connectors and capabilities to the existing four modules – Viva Connections, Viva Learning, Viva Insights and Viva Topics.

But in recent weeks the expansion of the platform and the Microsoft Viva brand has quickened with the announcement of three new modules: Viva Goals, Viva Results and Viva Engage.

In this post we’re going to explore the three new Viva modules, what they do and the value that they could bring to businesses.

What is Microsoft Viva?

Microsoft Viva as an employee experience platform that is delivered through Microsoft Teams. Initially four modules were announced, all of which have since launched. Even though Viva is positioned as a platform, it is arguably a series of separate apps within the Teams platform:

Viva ConnectionsViva Connections: A gateway to internal communications and company resources

Viva InsightsViva Insights: Personalised analytics and related insights for individuals, managers and leaders that support well-being, collaboration, productivity and more

Viva LearningViva Learning: A learning hub that aggregates learning resources from a variety of different systems and sources

Viva TopicsViva Topics: A knowledge discovery platform that uses AI to source resources and experts on different topics.

Microsoft Viva has had huge interest from intranet, digital workplace and Microsoft 365 teams, who are actively deploying one or more of its modules across the digital workplace.

Let’s explore the opportunities the three recently announced modules bring.

Viva Goals

Although Viva Goals was only formally announced in May 2022, it’s been on the roadmap for considerably longer, and is a direct result of Microsoft’s acquisition of Ally.io, a leading provider of Objectives and Key Results (OKR) software. OKR software helps organisations, teams and individuals to set meaningful goals and then record progress towards meeting them; it is a good way to give strategic context to employee’s daily work, for example.

The Viva Goals module brings the core OKR functionality from the Ally.io solution into Microsoft Teams, and presents an interesting option for organisations either using existing OKR software, or wanting to introduce it. Using Viva Goals will bring OKRs more directly into the flow of work in organisations and departments that use Microsoft Teams.

Viva Goals has several different options including:

    • OKRs available at the individual, team and organisational level
    • The ability to align OKRs with projects and tasks, with some integrations with applications like Jira
    • The ability to build custom dashboards to show OKR progress that can then be shared to help discussions, for example about progress of projects
    • Embed OKRs into Teams discussion threads.

Viva Goals will be made fully available in Q3 2022, and will be added as an option for those who have subscribed to the full Viva suite. It will also likely be available on a separate subscription. We can see Viva Goals really adding value in some organisations, and complementing other Viva modules, including Viva Learning

Viva Sales

Viva Sales was announced in June and represents a slight departure from the rest of the suite, in that it is positioned as a “seller experience application” rather than being applicable for all employees.

Viva Sales provides a range of tools to help anyone involved in sales processes. These include using AI to facilitate the capture of client and sales data that might arise from interactions in Teams and Outlook which will automatically be entered into a CRM system, reducing or even eliminating manual entry.

Although this will undoubtedly include Microsoft Dynamics, the use of the generic CRM term in the announcement hints that there may well be connectors to other popular CRM systems.

Although the details are still vague, other features of Viva Sales will include:

  • Surfacing data from an organisation’s CRM system in Outlook and Teams, to provide context to communications and conversations with and about customers and prospects
  • Providing various insight and suggestions using AI, relating to sales conversations, interaction and activity
  • AI-driven analysis of sales calls and meetings providing actions lists, analysis of performance and even sentiment analysis.’

Although the full details of Viva Sales have still to come out and the module won’t be released until Q4 2022, we see lots of potential with Viva Sales.

CRM systems often do not get populated as much as they should do and can be disconnected from communication channels; we can see this working particularly well where non-sales staff are responsible for client relationships and even selling, and would benefit in having more visibility of CRM data. The AI-powered insights also sound intriguing.

Viva Engage

The latest module to be announced is Viva Engage, revealed in a recent post on the Microsoft Viva blog and announced at the Microsoft Inspire event. Viva Engage is positioned as being “designed to help people and teams to be their best..[and] give leaders a new way to shape culture at their organization by unlocking communication and engagement opportunities for everyone”.

However, Viva Engage is not actually new and is, to some extent, another re-branding exercise from Microsoft. It’s essentially a newly designed Yammer Communities app for Microsoft Teams that will replace the existing app and adds some new features on top of the existing Yammer platform. This brings the Yammer experience more directly into Teams, and again has real value in organisations where Teams adoption is high.

The key new element is a feature where people can create “storylines” using traditional posts, or photos and videos (now rebranded as “stories”), similar to some consumer social media platforms. Stories will appear in a carousel format at the top of a storylines tab..

Viva Engage will be free for anybody who has an existing license that covers Yammer. The Communities app will be rebranded in late August.”

The announcement of Viva Engage has led some to initial confusion. In the threads to the original announcement and articles, some have said that trying to differentiate between Viva Engage and Yammer is confusing to explain to users, essentially as Engage is essentially a Yammer app. Others have asked what it means for the future of Yammer.

Defending the announcement Steve Nguynen confirmed that there is no plan to rebrand Yammer and that the “best way to think about this announcement is that Yammer is going to power the Viva Engage experience… and the beginning of us bringing Yammer more closely to our Viva suite of products.”

While we like the new storylines features, we agree that the positioning of Viva Engage in relation to Yammer is a little confusing as they are essentially the same product. We’d also like to see the Storylines feature added to the general Yammer platform to keep everything in sync.

Keep on moving forward with Viva

Microsoft keeps on investing in Viva and the three new modules extend the scope of what it can do. We wouldn’t be surprised if more modules were announced through the year.

If you’d like to discuss how you can use Microsoft Viva in your organisation or want to explore the potential of the newly announced modules, then get in touch!

What’s on the Microsoft 365 roadmap for 2022?

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

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

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

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

Additions and enhancements to Microsoft Viva

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

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

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

Microsoft Teams goes from strength to strength

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

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

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

Other improvements and additions include:

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

Microsoft Mesh for Teams

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

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

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

More power for the Power Platform

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

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

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

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

Upgrades to Microsoft Stream

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

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

SharePoint Syntex additions

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

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

Get in touch!

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

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

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