Which brings me to Microsoft Viva. We wrote about Viva when it was initially launched as a concept and businesses (and more importantly, their employees) can now experience the capabilities. Viva helps resolve some of the challenges with business intranets:
It makes some of the collaboration systems more usable and insightful
It actually provides outcomes for employees (through the learning module in particular)
It integrates with existing processes and exposes these application-centric processes through Teams
At the same time, it is trying to be a “cultural change agent” by having a single place to go to view company news and announcements. This is similar to many company intranets, and like many of them, is likely to be an abandoned sideshow – the only time many employees visit it will be when they are forced to – like when the CEO sends an all-company email saying that there is an announcement on the company intranet that everyone needs to see. Which is the digital equivalent of posting you a letter to inform you that you have an email!
The challenge for Viva is that employees need to be using Teams to get the most out of it – and I don’t just mean “using Teams for chat and calling” but using the collaboration elements effectively – ALL the time. And the challenge with this is that (a) many employees don’t EVER use these features of Teams (or use them sporadically), and (b) some companies (and teams within companies) have multiple platforms for collaboration and sharing (Slack, Trello, Basecamp, Jira etc).
But either way, Viva looks like a positive step forward for collaboration – and more importantly, it gives businesses some guidelines on how to improve their existing intranet.
How to Make your Intranet work?
Integrate the work that people have KPIs on, with collaboration and intranet systems
Design processes so the intranet makes it EASIER for people to do their jobs – by removing unnecessary handing of information, copying and pasting, multiple levels of authentication and moving between many applications or screens. Leave requests or approving invoices have already been integrated into email – so managers can click a button in the email to send the approval. But what if there were a page on the intranet where all the leave requests or approvals for funding or payment were in a single spot? What if the system provided insight around these requests (such as Mary Singh only has 1 day leave left, or Company ABC takes 90 days to pay on average)? And if all leave requests could be approved with a single click, it actually makes the employees life easier.
Build processes into the systems to solve employee pain points
Many intranets are ostensibly used for helping employees find each other or find experts on specific topics. But they don’t guide this process – they just say “there’s lots of information here – use the search tool and good luck!”. Design guided processes for outcomes people actually want to achieve. Survey your employees to find out what they’d like the intranet to help them achieve – and build some employee journey maps across various roles to understand the challenges and pain points. If it makes sense, use the intranet to help resolve those pain points.
Make your existing tools more powerful and easier to use
Your employees generally want to collaborate. Don’t get me wrong – many don’t wake up each morning thinking that they’d love to share some documents with unknown team members today – but they do want to work together more easily than they do today. So take a look at what stops them from achieving this and look to solve those problems by making existing tools more powerful and easier to use. Adding analytics helps employees and their managers better manage their time and their interactions. Automating file sharing and discovery will help employees find the information they need without adding additional work for the content creator.
Businesses need to think of their intranets as “places to get things done”
Too many intranets seem to be designed for 4pm on Friday afternoon versus 9am Monday morning. And if this is yours, then don’t be surprised that employees don’t use it that often or give it little time. The more you can use an intranet to make employees lives easier, the more likely that you will be creating a resource which improves the productivity and happiness of the employees you serve.
Ecosystm Principal Advisor, Ravi Bhogaraju says, “It is becoming clear that companies and individuals are grappling with three issues – the changing size and composition of the workforce; the productivity of those who are driving the businesses; and attracting, reskilling and engaging the broader workforce.” These are the challenges that tech providers will have to help organisations with.
Workspace is Google’s office productivity suite comprising video conferencing, cloud storage, collaboration tools, security and management controls built into a cohesive environment. The new features announced by Google Workspaces include Focus Time to avoid distractions by limiting notifications, recurring out-of-office and location indicators to make colleagues aware if the person is working from home or office, support for Google voice assistant in workplaces, second-screen experiences to support multiple devices, and features for frontline workers designed to help mobile employees collaborate and communicate better with the rest of the organisation. Google is also working on a trimmed down version of Google Workspace – Google Workspace Essentials – which will provide support for Chat, Jamboard, and Calendar. Workspace is estimated to have 2.6 billion monthly active users.
Bhogaraju says, “One of the issues that is fast emerging as significant is not just the employee experience or customer experience but the complexity of the digital workplace as platforms introduce newer and advanced features. In the end, there has to be simplicity, clarity, and a clear focus on the goals – not just an overload of features that makes life more complex for the employee. It would be critical to enable these features thoughtfully and reskill staff adequately so that the adoption and impact to business process is felt in their day-to-day activities.”
Workspace Transformation across Industries
With many of Google’s employees and developers working remotely, the company has first-hand experience of the challenges of remote working and is leveraging the experience. Google Workspace is also working on custom solutions for various industries. In Retail for example, Woolworths, rolled out Google Workspace and Chrome for geographically dispersed teams to collaborate in real-time and adopt custom-made applications linked to global servers to allow managers to log and address tickets from the shop floor itself. Similarly in Aviation, All Nippon Airways uses Google Workspace to allow pilots, cabin attendants, HR and finance staff to communicate and collaborate in real-time across the globe, using Google Meet, Google Docs, Google Sheets and Google Slides from their PCs, smartphones or tablets. Google retains its focus on the Education industry – Google Workspace Education Fundamentals is free for all qualifying institutions. Solutions such as Google’s Classroom, Teach from Anywhere hub, roster sync, mobile grading and EdTech tools aim to enable better learning and teaching experience for students and educators.
Tech Companies Revamping their Collaboration Offerings
With more companies rethinking their work policies, leaders in the collaboration space are also stepping up their game to evolve their offerings for the hybrid norm. Microsoft’s Viva unifies the experience across Teams and Microsoft 365 for employee communications, wellbeing, learning and knowledge discovery. Similarly, Zoom too has upgraded and integrated various utility, sharing, and management features to support a hybrid workforce. Tech companies are being forced to invest in creating next-generation tools to stay relevant, as Future of Work models continue to shift and evolve.
As tech companies evolve their capabilities, Bhogaraju warns organisations on how they should leverage them. “While technology companies continue to deliver feature rich suites – in reality the uptake and embedding of these programs into the day-to-day business processes is still in its early stages. Business, HR and IT teams continue to struggle. They tend to operate within independent thought silos and there is limited consensus on which feature is really needed and how it can add to the productivity and efficiency. Without this crucial context and an effective change management program – they remain rich features and not impactful ones.”
The hybrid workplace model is gaining popularity in 2021. Check out Ecosytsm’s top 5 Future of Work Trends For 2021. Signup for Free to download the report.
At the start of 2020, my colleague Audrey William and I discussed the need for workplace analytics when predicting workplace trends for the year, but the pandemic delayed many of these investments. As working from home (or from anywhere) becomes a long-term trend, we are learning that managers need tools to better empower their employees to deliver what the business needs. There are many reports of employees working overtime; working longer days; not taking breaks; being in back-to-back meetings for days on end; skipping meals; and wearing themselves out.
There are many benefits of remote work – employees have the freedom to manage the day as they choose, they have no commute and (conceptually) more harmony between work and home duties. But there are also many processes that are harder. It is not as easy to find the right person to connect to or learn from, get the best information or answer to a question, and get coaching and new skills. Managers need to understand their employee work experience because they don’t sit with or supervise them all day. Self-service for employees used to mean walking around the office and having a conversation or meeting. Today, we need to make these outcomes easier for every worker regardless of location.
Microsoft Lauches Viva
Microsoft has announced the release of Viva – a new product suite to help businesses overcome these challenges. They have published a “Future of Employee Experience” video here as part of the launch – but don’t watch it – or if you do, be prepared to be disappointed when you see the actual products… The good news is that we have moved from oval-shaped phones in Future of Work videos in 2000 (because all web content is designed for round screens right?) to transparent phones in 2010 (who needs to be able to see what’s on the screen?) to virtual screens in Future of Work videos in 2021… Guess they’ll never become a reality either!
Based off the early reviews and commentary about Viva, I believe Microsoft is really onto a winner here:
Managers need better analytics about how their team spends their days and employees need insights as to how to increase their productivity or find a better balance in their life.
Employees need to find the people and information in their business to connect with and learn from – how often do employees reach out to others to ask for help or information when the answers they were looking for weren’t too far away. This information needs to be easier to find – even surfaced to employees before they go looking for it.
Everyone in your business needs to keep learning within their flow of work – the formal training programs offered by most businesses today are useless if employees are too busy to take the course.
Business leaders need to drive cultural change more effectively or support their broader business initiatives by linking employees with the information and insights that can help reinforce or change organisational culture.
Viva should support these outcomes. Microsoft is partnering with many other businesses to make this work (systems integrators, training providers, workplace and HR platforms etc). If the products deliver as promised, they might provide the missing link that many businesses need today to keep their employees safe, productive, happy and connected.
Learn about the factors that have been accelerating the shift towards the new ways of working. The top 5 Future of Work Trends For 2021 are available for download from the Ecosystm platform. Signup for Free to download the report.