As Office 365 continues to evolve, so too do our roles and requirements as internal communicators.
Our head of digital Tony Stewart takes a dive into Office 365 to look at recent updates to six specific tools in the Office 365 suite, and how they can help boost collaboration and creativity for internal comms teams.
Looking for a specific Office 365 tool? Skip to one of these timestamps to learn more.
02: 11 Yammer
Sharepoint still provides the intranet news resource that a lot of internal comms teams use to publish content for their employees and the mobile app has come on leaps and bounds to help employees access that content on the go. But it's still not the best platform for two-way dialogue. The conversation and discussion tools are not as powerful as some of the other platforms that exist in Office 365, such as Yammer and Teams
Recent improvements in Yammer and Sharepoint integration do help with that dialogue but the experience for the user is still clunky and often, that discussion could be better done in Teams or Yammer without the need for the Sharepoint pull through.
As they upgrade to Office 365, many businesses will simply be lifting and shifting their existing intranet – on Sharepoint or elsewhere – into the new Sharepoint environment and, in all honesty, I'm not sure how much bang for your buck you're really getting in that process. There may be smarter things you could be doing through Teams, Yammer or Stream to help your employees engage and understand what's going on within the business.
Sharepoint can be the bedrock to any good internal comms online strategy, but it's always worth looking left and right in the Office 365 environment and asking what the other tools and platforms are that exist within the suite that can help support your internal comms goals and objectives.
Yammer has been around for years, of course, but now it's free as part of the Office 365 environment and recently, Microsoft have unleashed a heap of updates to the platform.
You can now pin 'groups', which are now called 'communities', run polls and share praise with colleagues by @mentioning them within the platform. There have also been some cosmetic updates. You can brand these communities with their own cover images or brand the Yammer environment with your business and GIF support has been updated. Lots of little tweaks and upgrades have been introduced in to bring Yammer in line with other competitors in the Enterprise Social Network space.
The fact that Yammer is now free, and available to any internal comms team with Office 365 access is a fantastic opportunity. We're certainly seeing more demand for community-driven content to help people feel better connected as they work remotely. Now is a great opportunity to look at Yammer in your organisation and understand how it can improve engagement and companionship.
You just need to make sure that Yammer is aligned with your wider internal comms goals and objectives, and that you've looked at things like governance, training, education, how your leaders can get involved and how you're going to measure success to really help it flourish within your business.
Teams does seem to be the new poster child for Office 365 and with good reason. It's a fantastic way to collaborate with colleagues, share documents and really get on with 'doing the do' when it comes to business tasks and projects.
While it does have some benefit in applications for internal comms when it comes to very specific targeted communications to a specific audience, Teams isn't so good for more business-wide communication.
Teams wasn't really designed to support many-to-many comms and conversations and trying to do so can be a frustrating, messy experience for colleagues as they're bombarded with notifications or group messages that don't relate to them.
Teams is also where the video calling, chatbots or third-party plug-ins which allow you to swap shifts or check your payslips also happen. Even through that isn't strictly internal comms stuff, allowing your employees to self-serve really improves the employee experience. I think this area of Teams, while not strictly IC, is definitely worthy of exploration.
Microsoft is constantly updating Teams with updates, tweaks and extra functionality which can really help support, not only project work, but the internal comms experience as well.
I wouldn't normally dive into the more office-y platforms in Office 365, but with the launch of PowerPoint Live recently, coupled with the seismic shift to remote working, I couldn't overlook the tweaks Microsoft have made to PowerPoint.
Sending a link to a live PowerPoint to colleagues, you invite them into that experience. A bit like Facebook live videos, they'll watch the presentation with you as you present to them. They can see the slide you're looking at, and also go back to previous slides. Rather powerfully, you'll be able to run a Q&A where people can give feedback on the presentation as it's happening. Also, they can share their sentiments – a like, a heart, a frowning face. The real-time feedback as you're presenting can be incredibly powerful to you as a presenter when you're looking to engage with lots of colleagues.
What's really smart is that the audio is tracked and subtitled, as you're making the presentation. If you have colleagues who can't listen to it on their device, they can read along. It also provides the opportunity to translate that content to a global audience.
This is, of course, at the whim of the auto-translator, but it does help make that real time content much more accessible to your employees.
Finally, as the PowerPoint finishes, people are invited to feedback on various parts of the presentation’s style and content. Again, this is valuable from an IC point of view in terms of gaining immediate measurement and insight into how people felt about a town hall or CEO announcement.
This is all a big leap for PowerPoint and I'm excited to see how internal comms make use of it in the coming months.
Microsoft Stream is essentially YouTube for business. What I love about this is it gives internal comms teams a proper platform to share empathic, powerful, insightful video content from leaders and colleagues that engage on a much more personal level.
Stream is a place where you can create channels around different topics and themes. You can also pull that content through Yammer, SharePoint and Teams. There's a common place to access that content, no matter what device you're on.
Microsoft have also upgraded the Stream experience recently. Audio now has filtering and noise cancellation so it's cleaner for the end user. You can also add visuals, like arrows or scribes, to create an extra layer of creativity.
Live events within Stream can also power those events like town halls or strategy meetings, Stream records them and makes them available to embed into future posts in places like Yammer to bring it to life for other members of the audience.
With more IC teams now using video to communicate with employees, I see Stream as an important part of a winder online internal comms channel matrix.
Power BI might sound like a superhero, but if you're a measurement freak like me, it's about to become your new best friend.
The platform allows you to create live, up to date reporting on the data, content and spreadsheets you have on pretty much any subject you like. A client of ours uses Workplace. In order to measure success and report back to senior leaders, they have both qualitative and quantitative data that they use to create that report. Power BI allows us to pull together the insights from Workplace's dashboard, as well as the surveys, data and conversations we gather outside Workplace, together in the Power BI dashboard. We can look at the insights across the whole organisation but, with a couple of clicks, we can drill down and look at this behaviours in a specific department like HR, or a specific location. Those powerful insights make it easy to tell the story of success to your senior leaders and stakeholders.
These Power BI dashboard can also measure sentiment and insight across a range of articles or groups within your business. So, from an IC perspective, you can see how different strands of your strategy are landing in different parts of your organisation. For example: 'we sent out a particular newsletter and a lot of the HR colleagues are responding negatively'. With this insight you can drill down and find out why, also making it a powerful driver for shaping future internal communications.
Power BI can be a little bit overwhelming. But with the right guidance and strategy around what you're looking to measure and how you want to report it, it can be an incredibly powerful part of your reporting and measurement arsenal.
Join Tony and senior consultant Matt Cassell for our Q&A webinar 'Mind the Skills Gap: Is Internal Comms Ready for the Digital Future?'