Listen, Breath AND Consider how employees do their work – Build an Intelligent Digital Workplace on top of Office365

Defining a Digital Workplace for any organization without knowing the business requirements and budget is irrelevant in 2019, as still today, for many of us the digital workplace era still didn’t happen. The real question is, is a Digital Workplace based on the Microsoft Ecosystem a Buzzword? A Revolution or a Reality?

A Buzzword? I really don’t think so, as more than 13.200.000 results are returned by Google​ and More than 11.200.000 results are returned by Bing. So, definitively it’s more than a buzzword. The whole Microsoft ecosystem is on it.

A Revolution? ​YES! It’s -maybe- the first time where all’s about the employee and not IT, anymore. It’s a revolution because it’s going to change how businesses think about technology​ and ultimately going to be measured by employees experiences. Welcome to the Employee first, and only employee first world!
Credits : Patrick Guimonet

A Reality? ​Yes, as we all want to get our stuff done, on all devices and from anywhere. In today’s world, a reality for millions and millions of employees who live in their day to day ACTIVITY. ​

All that being said, if you still wonder why should you build an intelligent and connected Digital Workplace, here are a few focal points:

  • Improve existing services and legacy processes that you have built ages ago. Your digital workplace will offer your employees an instant, 24/7 self-service, improved service capacity and automated intelligent process with zero human contact. As your digital workplace allows an easier access to Team meetings and removes the barriers between different stacks, it provides IT as employees a better work-life balance while increasing productivity.
  • Improve Employee’s experience. Providing quality is complex and different that providing quantity. Quality is resource-intensive in legacy systems and applications. in the meantime, your Digital Workplace can automate certain aspects of it -in a hybrid model-, driving costs down, while the quality rises up. investing in your Digital Workplace will make it possible for everyone to move seamlessly between different tools, stacks and channels (such as bots, AI, PowerApps, Flow, Microsoft Bot Framework) and will dominate as a gateway to self-service in your Digital Workplace.
  • Increase flexibility. an intelligent and connected digital workplace should/will allow employees to choose their own devices and facilitate a variety of workstyles. With the use of persona-based devices, employees content and data can be securely embedded in collaboration tools and corporate cloud storages so we can easily can access data from any device, in any location and time as seamlessly whether they are a physical office or working remotely. access to this data increases efficiency and drives increased productivity
  • Optimize costs. raising up the productivity by implementing self-help and self-service tools (such as password resets, connectivity problems or specific application issues) that empower users to resolve their own issues and it eliminates the risk of over reliance on individual employees’ knowledge by implementing deskside support models with standardized processes and procedures.

Gartner defines Digital Workplace as fostering a new way of working for the digital age that promotes team collaboration and personal productivity [2016], and todays blogpost is to show you how you should build A Great digital workplace consists of a holistic set of tools, platforms and environments for work, delivered in a coherent, reusable and productive way.

Your digital workplace can have a very wide scope, depending your business requirements with a broad range of functionality, capabilities and all kind of persona-based content. Often, the wider and larger the scope, the more potential and value it will deliver to you and your employees.

It’s in your advantage to not to have a “traditional SharePoint intranet” attitude and focus on publishing and Dynamic content. Listen, breath and Consider how employees do their work, which tool they use, what they can’t use, what they want to deliver as a business value and define a very sharp Digital Workplace and begin your digital transformation. As Jeff teper mentioned during his keynote at espc18: a digital transformation is key to any organization”

In consideration of a wide scope, several elements will be outlined and here is my top 10 Trends that will drive your Digital Workplace 2019:

Video is the new King

Microsoft Stream is an Enterprise Video service where employees in your organization can upload, view and share videos securely. You can share recordings of classes, meetings, presentations, training sessions, or other videos that aid your team’s collaboration. Microsoft Stream also makes it easy to share comments on a video, tag timecodes in comments and descriptions to refer to specific points in a video and discuss with colleagues. 

In any greenfield project I do encourage organizations to use stream as a video repository for how-top’s, technical videos, trainings, recording of meetings, classes and many other categories. You can embed video’s within guidelines or policies in a SharePoint site or Microsoft teams team.

Instead of building classic FAQ’s or Help files, stream delivers a robust mobile experience in an area where many enterprises are struggling. A consistent user experience across desktop, web, tablet and mobile reduces friction when switching across devices. main advantages of Microsoft Stream compared to classic FAQs

  • Increase engagement with likes, shares, and comments​
  • If your service plan supports deep search, you will see matching transcript segments in the search results page. You can click on a transcript to jump to the moment that the given word is spoken.

HUB before SUB

In any greenfield project, please be aware that Microsoft will not invest time and money in subsites to bring them modern. It definitively doesn’t mean that you can’t use subsites – you still can – but in your governance, try to encourage, recommend your employees using HUB sites and the root sites as you will benefit of those commons:

  • Search across the HUB: When you search from a SharePoint hub site, content on the hub site itself along with content on any associated sites is returned in the search results. only if you have access to.
  • News roll-up: News published on a hub site and on any associated sites is automatically aggregated and shown on the home page.
  • Shared navigation: At the top of a hub site and any associated sites, above the site navigation, is the hub site navigation bar. As owner, you can customize this navigation bar.
  • Highlighted content: Use the web part to dynamically display content from sites associated with the hub site.
  • Create associated sites: You can create a new site that is automatically associated with your hub site by clicking Create site in the top right corner of the hub site.

Invest in Search

Search is an essential for your Digital Workplace. As soon as you start building an experience with a wider scope beyond the traditional SharePoint intranet, you also create an expectation from users that they will be able to search for everything in one place. your Digital Workplace is composed from multiple stacks. Microsoft is expanding their vision – for search- to encompass search both inside and outside of Microsoft 365. By applying artificial intelligence (AI) technology from Bing to the deep personalized insights surfaced by the Microsoft Graph, we now can make/query search in our organization even more effective.

Search will move to a prominent, consistent place across the apps you work with every day. From Outlook to PowerPoint, Excel to Sway, OneNote to Microsoft Teams, to SharePoint, the search bar will be in the same place—across desktop, mobile, and web.

while some users do have unrealistic expectations please achieve a great search with good findability you’ll be helping to drive productivity. SharePoint has a great search engine, which works well out-of-the-box (no refiners in Modern, yet), but you only start really getting the value when you invest some time and resources in configuring the search – even if it’s with a PnP project.

Listen to your employees and give the choice!

Talk to your champions, employees and learn what going well and what’s not. Learn about your company and people as your findings will determine your strategy and learning phases.

The way on how you want to communicate in your Digital Workplace will depend from your organization. If they love Yammer based conversations, you know that you have to use Yammer conversations and the new Yammer Web part. Your technical and functional design as your roadmap will be determined by your employees and not your IT anymore. Give them the choice. As you can see, you always have more than one tool per category – whenever you build your Digital Workplace try to use all of those stacks to get the best benefit of each of them.

Introduce bots

The Microsoft Teams store that was launched in March 2017. Bots allow users to interact with cloud services like task management, scheduling, and polling, through chat conversations in Microsoft Teams. Bots for Microsoft Teams are built on the Microsoft Bot Framework. Currently, Microsoft Teams support bots in private chats and channels within a team. Administrators can control whether the use of bots is allowed or prohibited within the Office 365 tenant. 

You can easily create a bot, but before building and deploying your custom bot, use existing ones and maybe you’ll find the solution that fits into your digital workplace.

Here is an example of a bot. at the valo website; I just wrote something funny to see the reaction of the bot. I didn’t got any response that could help me out; so, I left the chat. A mail has been send to the team with my question and they reached me out, that she already had a boyfriend! 😊 Raise UP of efficiency and productivity in one single bot!

Don’t be scared of Hybrid Models

We live in a SharePoint and office 365 world and not a SharePoint or office365. if no service or tool doesn’t respond to your requirement, it’s still ok to use a SharePoint server feature. I have to admit that in the beginning, the hybrid model was seen as a transitional model – but, the day of today, it’s a valuable and a strong model that has been adopted by many other organizations. If for any reason (legal, functional) you can’t bring all your stacks to office365, you can take the phased approach, by migrating step by step. first the metadata, then the search, then your sites (as an example)…

Rise of Business Apps

PowerApps, Flow, Dynamics – any of those business applications can be used outside of your Digital Workplace, but all of them can be embed (imported) into your SharePoint site or Microsoft teams team. your employees will interact with data that comes outside of office365.

  • Build powerful standalone PowerApps that consume data from dynamics
  • build powerful workflows with Microsoft flow where the start action is an item creation trigger in a SharePoint list
  • extend your SharePoint forms with PowerApps and bring some intelligence into your forms with sliders or BING location services. Enter an address and BING will update the location or modify a value of a textbox with the slider.

Introduce to v.Next systems (Spaces, HoloLens…)

It’s not always that easy to adopt new technologies in any organization – but as part of your Digital Transformation, it’s a good tradition to always have some space for new and fancy technologies for a limited users where they can play with innovative technologies such as SharePoint Spaces. SharePoint spaces are integrated and extensible. You can augment a space with content from across Microsoft 365 and from other data sources and services. You can customize a space to reflect your brand. And you can build new capabilities for SharePoint spaces with the SharePoint Framework.

Automate, automate and automate

Automation is extremely important in your Digital Workplace. How better and intelligent the approach, how more you will reduce the cost. As an organization’s transformation demands grow and maturity, productivity becomes a bigger concern. By automating things such as password reset, site creation, site deletion, vacation time, timesheet, … with business apps. In some scenarios, you can trim hours off your process and will significantly improve your productivity.

Here is a wonderful example on how to build a serverless site provisioning engine which is easy to setup and use. you can simply by adding a new list item, trigger the creation thanks to Flow  

Don’t forget to monitor

You may be in a complete serverless organization, but you still need to monitor the whole environment. Nowadays, It is very common for the companies to use new technology to change and improve their existing processes. In many cases, a good working Digital Workplace needs a good equipment: network, system (Authentication, Domain controller, …) – those will be also a key to continue operating well. But, even if the Microsoft cloud is something essential for a your digital workplace, that does not mean it’s infallible. Faults that give rise to sometimes critical situations may appear at any time. Therefore, in any organization, in which an infrastructure is important, it will be necessary to control the correct operation of it so that a possible error does not end up affecting the service given to users. Here are tools that you can use to watch in-and-outside of your Digital Workplace.

Microsoft Operations Management Suite capabilities in the cloud: Stay in control of your IT—across your environment and platforms—with System Center. Simplify the deployment, configuration, management, and monitoring of your infrastructure and virtualized software-defined datacenter, while increasing agility and performance. You can gather Logs – even custom ones. Get the Configuration Data and Backup info.​ Monitor user & Admin activities and Availability​

Secure Score

Automated scan of your Office 365 subscription and security:

  • Guidelines for User Management (MFA, Password Reset)​
  • No automatic fix​
  • No Assignment of tasks​
  • Run time can take up to 48 hours​
  • With the Microsoft365 era it also includes Windows scores​
  • Needs Windows Defender ATP​

Cloud App Security

Office 365 Cloud App Security gives you insight into suspicious activity in Office 365 so you can investigate situations that are potentially problematic and, if needed, take action to address security issues. With Office 365 Cloud App Security, you can receive notifications of triggered alerts for atypical or suspicious activities, see how your organization’s data in Office 365 is accessed and used, suspend user accounts exhibiting suspicious activity, and require users to log back in to Office 365 apps after an alert has been triggered. Read this article to get an overview of Office 365 Cloud App Security features and capabilities.

Whenever you’re done with your Digital Workplace, The good, bad and ugly of Office 365 for your Digital Workplace – it should be so intuitive that everybody could use it without any help of IT. In today’s services era there is no documentation or forums on how to use Facebook, Twitter, Netflix or any other Service Provider. The conclusion is that you did a great job if Traditionalists, baby boomers, Gen X and Millennials can use your Digital Workplace.


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Take in consideration: The good, bad and ugly of Office 365 whenever you create your Digital Workplace on top of it.

  • Provisioning​: Whenever adding a new service, many stacks are provisioned for you, no need to wait to different legacy on-premises teams to create User Mailbox, SharePoint site…
  • Automation ​: When you Create an Office 365 group it will provision for you a SharePoint Site, a Shared Mailbox, a Planner Plan etc… ​
  • Extensibility​ SharePoint Framework, Microsoft Bot Framework, API, …​
  • Diversity​: There is more than 1 tool for anything è SharePoint (HUB, TEAM, Communication sites), tasks (Wunderlist, Planner, To-Do, …) …​
  • Next-Gen Tech: You always get the latest technology – Delve, My Analytics or even Microsoft Graph who is a great endpoint for developers​
  • Manageability​ : Being able to handle operation even outside your network perimeter​
  • Cloud Offerings​ : 1TB for OneDrive For Business / Unlimited. a 20x increase in the SharePoint Online per user license storage allocation.
  • Insights around deprecated features​ : While adding a new feature can require time removing a feature can go very fast in office365
  • The Site Mailbox is going away in SharePoint Online​
  • Announcement done: January 2017 | Execution: March 2017​
  • Lack in progress in some stacks​ : Planner, Sway, Yammer (not the new web part – edit a post took nearly 3 years)​
  • Slow progress in some stacks​ : External sharing in Microsoft Teams was first for B2B users, then open for everybody…​
  • Confusing management UX​ : Root Site Collection is Modern while Sub Site is still in classic mode
  • No PowerShell, API support for several stacks ​: Microsoft Teams(!), Planner, Sway, Stream…​
  • Poor PowerShell support in SharePoint​: 800 on-premises cmdlets vs 40 online cmdlets​
  • Roadmaps​ : Do I want to change every X times?​
  • Governance (ITIL): What about the local Helpdesk? What about the Change Management?​ Do I still need them in a Services Era? What about existing complex business processes?​

​It’s a little bit long, but hopefully this article will help you designing your road to the Microsoft cloud.


I own a company and work a lot with #SharePoint. Entrepreneur. Microsoft Regional Director and @MVPAward for Office Servers and Services.

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