Building a successful digital workplace. Step 4: Facilitating collaboration

In the vast majority of cases, digitalization brings improvements and productivity boosts. However, it also creates a flood of new channels and tools that can trigger stress and create chaos, thereby preventing the digital workplace from reaching its full potential. To optimize productivity and efficiency, you need to implement new guidelines, shortcuts, templates, and personal navigation together with a rulebook and consolidated structure for the plethora of tools and systems.

In this fourth posting on our blog theme of Building a successful digital workplace, we’ll discuss how to create functions and processes that facilitate and stimulate successful internal collaboration.

Among other things, the blog post will address issues such as:

  • How to avoid system anarchy that can disrupt collaboration and make system management difficult and expensive.
  • How to make conversations, collaborations, project-related information, competence, tools, and other internal resources easy to find.
  • How to facilitate collaboration projects so that anyone can create and manage collaborations in an easy, process-oriented, and efficient manner.

If you haven't read the first blog posts in this series, you'll find them here:

System dictatorship – a necessary evil

There’s a multitude of applications for collaboration, planning, online meetings, and conversations and virtually any of them can be used in the digital workplace. It’s tempting to let users decide which applications to use, but this approach will most likely result in system anarchy and an environment that’s difficult to collaborate in and manage. For example, finding an old conversation in an environment sprinkled with various chat and communities applications is a time-consuming and tedious task. How can you possibly keep track of your conversations if there are four or five different chat applications?

So, however boring it sounds, a degree of system dictatorship is necessary. It is after all for the benefit of both your employees and your business in terms of boosting productivity and containing costs. With a powerful and modern intranet platform like Omnia, you can create an orderly structure among the plethora of tools and applications, making it easier to find information, collaborations, and conversations. Below are some suggestions as to how you can achieve this. But do bear in mind that, even if you can consolidate and facilitate easy access to conversations and information using smart functions, it’s always wise to keep the number of competing applications to a minimum. Having too many just creates confusion about which to use when and for what purpose. Furthermore, each application requires system management and support.

A windows strategy for better control

Users view and access information and resources through several windows:

  • Structured content. For example, documents that require version control and revision management and other content containing descriptive information (metadata).
  • Shared information and knowledge.
  • Collaboration and social relations.
  • Personal information.

In most digital workplaces users access structured information via the intranet. This is all to the good since the intranet is specifically designed to handle this type of information. Private and personal information is usually stored in and managed via dedicated tools and services such as OneDrive, Dropbox, your personal calendar in Outlook, and similar applications. Consequently, it’s relatively easy to keep track of, find, and access structured and personal information.

The problems arising from having many channels and multiple similar applications primarily involve shared information and knowledge, collaborations, and social relations. Collaborations can, for instance, be initiated and managed through applications like Teams, Outlook, SharePoint, Yammer, and of course the communities and collaboration spaces of the intranet. The same applies to conversations, which can be conducted via Yammer, Slack, Teams, e-mail/Outlook, and the built-in intranet chat application. Forums and knowledge-sharing spaces can also be created on the intranet or in SharePoint, Yammer, and in many other comparable applications.

If nothing is done to prevent user confusion due to this problem, your digital workplace will become increasingly chaotic and inefficient. To help users keep track of their collaborations, work relationships, conversations, and other information flows, you can take some or all of the following steps:

  • Create guidelines for when different applications are to be used. Don’t leave it up to the users. Set clear rules and instructions for how and when applications like Teams, Yammer, Outlook, and the intranet’s built-in chat and communities are to be used. With templates (see Facilitate efficient collaboration using templates below) you can further simplify and control usage of the applications. For instance, you may want Teams to be the primary communications tool in every client project, while Yammer should only be used for internal discussions about improvements and the company’s future. By including Teams in the template for creating new customer projects, it will be obvious to the employees which meetings and communications tools should be used.

  • Build a personal navigation structure on the intranet which allows fast access to relevant collaborations, conversations, work tasks, documents, and other resources. This includes a user-oriented start page and notification panel listing the latest news and recently used/visited resources, tools, and collaborations. In Omnia, you can target news, messages, assigned tasks, documents, and other information in the notification panel. Many organizations choose to show the most recently used and updated collaborations, comments, activities, and files on both the start page and in the notification panel.

  • Converge conversations and events into a single view. There are several techniques you can use to integrate conversations and events from different applications into a single stream of information. You can, for instance, integrate the intranet with Teams in order to pull notifications and messages in Teams into the intranet, or vice versa. Read more about how this can be done in the blog post Strategies for integrating your Intranet with Microsoft Teams

  • Consolidate all collaborations into a searchable list so as to allow a much easier and faster route to collaborations and projects. This will enable users to find projects and people using search filters and free text searches. This kind of collaboration overview and search functionality is preconfigured in Omnia. You can also categorize and link to collaborations and projects outside Omnia, such as in Teams and Yammer and other integrated applications. Omnia also offers a personal navigation panel, with search filters, containing every collaboration and project in which the user is a participant.

  • Customize the intranet’s search functionality so that, using search filters, users can faster find what they’re looking for in collaboration spaces, conversations and communities. There’s often a need to find a certain document, a discussion, a note, or a high-value tip in a context the user can have forgotten about. Omnia and similar intranet platforms have powerful search filter options designed for this purpose. 

Facilitate efficient collaboration with templates

By using templates, you can ensure that collaborations and projects are initiated and managed in an efficient, consistent, and uniform manner and that the application's environment is kept in an orderly state. Since a template contains designated tools, resources, and applications and works as a step-by-step guide, it’s very safe to allow it to be used by the entire organization, or at least a large part thereof. Using templates is an excellent method of preventing errors. It’s a good idea to include instructions on how to manage collaborations of the kind the template is designed for, and on how to use the available tools. A template would typically contain a meetings application, a storage area for shared files, a chat application, a planning application like Planner, and other collaboration applications. It’s also common practice to include document templates and in some cases Document Management Systems, just to make certain that documents and processes have the correct layout and structure from the start of the project. 

Another advantage of using templates is that they can be configured with mandatory properties and functions which automatically create the order and control you want. You can, for instance, add an approval routine that requires authorization from the appropriate decision-maker before a new collaboration space is published. Additionally, you can configure the template so that language, project type, and leader, and similar properties are obligatory selections when creating a collaboration space.

Omnia is equipped with powerful functions and an easy-to-follow guide for building all kinds of collaboration templates. For example, you can create templates based on application environments, like Teams, Yammer, or Microsoft 365 Groups. You can also base them on focus areas, such as customer projects, in which all necessary applications are included.

By implementing a templates-based structure for the creation of collaborations, you’ll make sure all of your projects are managed and governed correctly. You’ll also be ensured that your employees are collaborating in compliance with the organization’s process requirements and that they are using the right applications. By being kept neat and tidy, your systems environment will be easy to support and manage. But, and most importantly, a template-based structure makes it much easier for users to understand and keep track of all their activities, projects and content feeds.

Learn more

Watch our webcast How to implement a successful intranet in Office 365 and SharePoint if you’d like to learn more about how to create a solid structure for high efficiency and productivity. The webcast addresses areas such as structured information management, targeting, and user-adapted content in Omnia. You can also read our whitepaper How to succeed with your digital workplace initiative for advice on how to create a productive digital workplace.

Keep an eye out for our next blog post, step 5 in this series, in which we’ll discuss how you create a digital workplace offering an intuitive, task-oriented, and world-class user experience.

If you haven't read the first blog posts in this series, you'll find them here:

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