With many organisations now moving towards a Digital Workplace strategy it can be overwhelming when scanning the market place for solutions. Collaboration and social tools for the enterprise have exploded and the market place is extremely crowded. In the rush to innovate, there is still a role for simplicity in how organisations can and perhaps should design a Digital Workplace.

Microsoft are one of the biggest players in the Digital Workplace arena, and Office 365 is quickly growing into a foundation and hub that can unlock all of the benefits organisations are looking to seek from a Digital Workplace strategy.

One of the key challenges that exist around Office 365 in organisation is ‘ownership’ and ‘education’ – there is a huge range of tools that are part of the Office 365 toolkit and selecting what is right for each organisation can be a difficult and subjective process.

There is also the challenge that Microsoft are always innovating – Office 365 is not a static toolkit, so it isn’t an easy task to keep up with Microsoft’s own roadmap when making decisions.

One of the important considerations with any Office 365 strategy is that Microsoft Office 365 is a toolkit that is greater than the sum of its parts.

Integration & Intranet

A sensible foundation of a Digital Workplace starts at your organisational Intranet. In the modern workplace, the traditional Intranet is quickly becoming redundant – the foundation of your Digital Workplace should include a content hub that can bring in exciting Microsoft tools like Stream and Yammer for social integration – and also link off to tools such as Teams and One Drive which are more focused on productivity and ‘inner loop’ collaboration.

One of the key benefits of Microsoft’s core ‘Intranet’ product which is SharePoint online is the ease of ‘out of the box’ integration with the range of tools in Office 365. Office 365 is designed to plug together so that the power of each tool is amplified by working in parallel with other tools.

Some of the confusion that often arises with Office 365 is the overlap in some of the tools – and although tools like Yammer and Teams for example do offer similar capabilities in some cases, they are both designed for very different use cases – and have a role to play together.

Social and Content

The key tools in the Microsoft Office 365 toolkit for Social and Content are SharePoint online, Stream and Yammer.

  • SharePoint online acts as the content hub where you can build and create templates to deliver news, stories and articles.
  • Stream is the Microsoft version of a corporate You Tube and provides an out of the box video hosting solution with social features.
  • Yammer is the Microsoft social tool that sits across an entire organisation – enabling the outer loop – and provides an easy social add in for conversation around content.

In isolation, each of these tools can deliver a part of a Digital Workplace, but the benefits and true value come when they work well together.

There is still some maturity needed in Microsoft’s product backlog and with tools like Facebook at Work disrupting the marketplace that provides video and social in one great package it is easy to see why doubts persist around Yammer for example which is currently lagging behind in both the capability and user experience of Facebook.

But – the key benefit Yammer has it is part of the Microsoft eco-system and that has value – especially as Microsoft continue to invest in the Yammer roadmap. What Office 365 can offer is a complete suite of tools that can build out a fully integrated Digital Workplace – and whilst third party tools do offer integration – they will never be as snug a fit as a Microsoft product.

Productivity and Collaboration

With the likes of Delve, One Drive and Teams Microsoft have built some impressive tooling that offers enterprise solutions to building out collaboration and productivity.

  • Delve is designed to surface individual preferences based on intelligence, it will point you to content and documents that are of interest to the user, and also is where a user will build out their own profile
  • One Drive is where you store your documents and allows you to share and collaborate with your colleagues
  • Teams is fast becoming the flagship product in Office 365 – offering real time collaboration capability and bringing together the best features of Skype and SharePoint into one tool that provides a very powerful collaboration solution.

Within the O365 ecosystem there is crossover – most significantly in the collaboration space. Microsoft has a very clear definition between Teams and Yammer for example – with Teams far more focused on providing a collaboration ‘hub’ for your ‘inner loop’ – e.g. groups of colleagues who you work or collaborate with frequently, or have a requirement to work with on a set project.

Yammer extends your network to the wider organisation – ‘the outer loop’ – and also provides Internal Communications teams with a channel to drive Employee Voice and Engagement initiatives.

The Employee Experience

Microsoft Office 365 offers an integrated solution to the Digital Workplace. And with other tools part of the ecosystem and Microsoft family (e.g. Dynamics HR) there is plenty of scope to broaden out that Workplace across core HR systems such as payroll.

The key objective for any Digital Workplace project is to unlock the benefits Digital and Social can bring in driving productivity and innovation – leading to better business outcomes.

It is also important that a Digital Workplace project creates a world class employee experience – making it easy, simple and straightforward for employees to complete tasks, find information and collaborate. That is where Office 365 really starts to prove its value, although there are perhaps shinier, more innovative tools in a crowded market – the integrated suite of Office 365 tools can provide a great Employee Experience by being greater than the sum of their parts.

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