Content Formula

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 365 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.

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