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The Top 4 Challenges Facing Your Business (and How Microsoft Viva Can Help Solve Them).

For many organizations, COVID-19 has triggered a remote working revolution. While there are many benefits to working remotely, there are also plenty of drawbacks. 

If your business is going to thrive in this new era of remote working, change is essential. For many organizations, this means introducing new tools, applications, and experiences that are designed to promote employee productivity, wellbeing, and communication regardless of whether your staff are working from the office, or remotely. 

To help support this new way of working, Microsoft has just announced their Viva employee experience platform (EXP). This platform aims to improve the employee’s experience across many of the key areas where businesses are currently struggling. 

In this article, we’ll explore four of the biggest challenges facing employers and employees in 2021. We’ll then show how each of Viva’s modules are designed to help you tackle this specific problem, and rise to the challenges of navigating the post-pandemic economy. 

1. Lack of Employee Training 

No company wants to lose their best employees, but replacing any member of staff comes at a cost. 

The Society for Human Resource Management estimates the average cost of replacing an employee is between six and nine months of that person’s salary. If an employee is earning $60,000 per year, you can expect to run up a bill of $30,000-$45,000 in recruitment and training costs. 

There are many factors that can influence an employee’s decision to stay with your company. However, according to LinkedIn’s Workplace Learning Report, 94% of employees would be willing to stay in their job longer, if you offered them learning and development opportunities. 

By investing in employee training, you can potentially save your business thousands of dollars. However, finding the time to dedicate to staff training isn’t always easy. Currently, the average employee spends only 1% of their working week on training and development

Microsoft Viva’s Learning takes a unique approach to this problem. This Viva module makes training resources available in the locations where your employees already spend a good portion of their working day – inside Microsoft Teams. 

Viva Learning turns Microsoft Teams into a learning hub. This provides a centralized location where your employees can discover, share, and access content libraries that would otherwise be spread across your organization. 

Viva also promises to help managers identify and address the skill gaps within their teams. These managers can use Viva to assign learning to their staff and then track the status of those assignments without ever leaving the Teams UI.

By making learning a natural part of the employee’s work day, Viva promises to make learning accessible to even the busiest employees. This can help you create a company culture of continuous staff training, and ensure you don’t lose your best employees to your biggest competitors. 

As part of their Viva Learning initiative, Microsoft is partnering with some of the leading staff training providers. In addition to your company’s existing training materials, Viva Learning integrates with Skillsoft, Coursera, Pluralsight, and edX. You can even play LinkedIn Learning courses directly in Microsoft Teams using the LinkedIn Learning embedded player. 

Learning management system providers Cornerstone OnDemand, Saba, and SAP SuccessFactors have also announced their intention to integrate with Viva Learning. If you’ve purchased content from any of these learning management providers, your staff will be able to access this content from the familiar Microsoft Teams interface. 

In addition to providing a standard search function, Viva Learning displays recommended content in a personalized view. This View uses insights from Microsoft Graph to locate content that’s relevant to that specific employee. This promises to put a wealth of highly relevant training at every single employee’s fingertips. 

Viva Learning is due to be released later this year, but you can sign up now to learn more about this project. 

2. Vital company data spread across multiple platforms 

Chances are that your company is generating a wealth of valuable information. However, this data is often spread across multiple sources, for example in wikis, SharePoint websites, Excel Online documents, and inside Microsoft Teams conversions. 

When information is scattered across disparate sources, your employees may struggle to locate the information they need. According to research, 60% of employees have difficulty accessing data that’s vital for their work. This can have a disastrous impact on productivity. 

Viva Topics is an artificial intelligence (AI)-powered solution that promises to help your employees find relevant, actionable information. These AI algorithms automatically identify content and conversions in the applications that your employees use every day. Viva Topics will then automatically organize this information into related topics, such as products, processes, customers, and projects. 

You also have the option to guide these algorithms, by creating a topic manually. Viva will then attempt to populate these topics with relevant content. This can be a great way to ensure that Viva’s AI algorithms are searching for exactly the information that matters to your organization. 

Regardless of whether a topic is created manually or automatically, you can update any of Viva’s topic cards and pages. This means that your staff can work alongside Viva’s AI algorithms and machine learning capabilities, to co-author high-quality, informative resources.

To help your employees access this information, Viva Topics will display topic cards inside relevant Microsoft 365 applications. This should help your staff discover knowledge in the context of their natural workflows, rather than having to refer to a separate application or searching an external resource such as a knowledge base. 

Data collection and sharing applications such as Viva Topics can raise concerns regarding privacy. To help you retain control over your data, Viva Topics has built-in security and compliance features. This includes the ability to apply restrictions on the scope and availability of information that’s shared by Viva Topics. 

3. Low levels of employee engagement 

An engaged workforce is a productive workforce! Studies suggest that companies with high employee engagement are 21% more profitable and experience 41% lower absenteeism

Keeping your employees engaged has always been vital to running a successful business. However, the COVID-19 pandemic means that your workforce may have spent the majority of 2021 working remotely. They may even be working from home for the foreseeable future, due to ongoing restrictions or concerns regarding health and safety. In these challenging circumstances, businesses need to work harder than ever before to keep their employees engaged

The Microsoft Viva Connections module is designed to help promote a positive company culture, encourage connections between your employees, and improve overall employee engagement. 

Microsoft describes Viva Connections as a “modern engagement experience.” This innovative solution provides each of your employees with a personalized, company-branded location. Here, they’ll find tools, news, and conversations that Viva has chosen specifically for them. 

Similar to other Viva modules, this content appears in the applications that your employees use everyday. Rather than requiring your staff to check an external resource or master a new application, Connections attempts to make engagement a natural part of the employee’s working day. 

Microsoft is expected to roll out Viva Connections in Spring 2020. If you want to boost employee engagement today, check out these three Power Automate workflows for improving communication amongst your remote teams. 

4. Burnout, stress and poor mental health 

Working from home has many benefits. However, there are some drawbacks particularly the blurring of work and home life. According to a recent survey, 51% of respondents said they worked outside of their contracted hours during the pandemic. This has inevitably taken a toll on employee well being.

According to experience management experts Qualtrics, nearly 70% of employees have reported rising stress levels and 40% suffered from reduced mental health throughout 2020. If left unaddressed, this can result in employee burnout – in fact, a recent study found that 76% of US employees experience burnout

As a responsible employer, you have a duty of care to your employees. However, there’s evidence to suggest that promoting a positive work-life balance isn’t just the right thing to do. Companies that prioritize the employee experience are 25% more profitable and twice as innovative compared to businesses that don’t invest in their staff’s emotional and mental health. Businesses that work to enhance wellbeing also significantly outperform their peers in both earnings and stock appreciation. 

The Viva Insights module aims to help businesses improve overall productivity and wellbeing. This module provides data-driven, privacy-protected insights and recommendations regarding employee habits and behaviors. 

For employees, Viva Insights will identify ways that the individual can change their work habits, in order to support their emotional and mental wellbeing. For example, Viva will provide actionable recommendations on how the employee can adjust their schedule to accommodate regular breaks. Over time, these recommendations can encourage your employees to develop better work habits. 

 

For managers, Insights will highlight behaviors that are putting their team at risk of stress and burnout. This includes regular after-hours work, and meeting overload.

For business owners, leaders, and other key stakeholders, Insights can provide de-identified aggregate data. This information can help these stakeholders identify opportunities to improve wellbeing and productivity across their organization, and can also highlight any serious business-wide problems. 

You can install the Viva Insights application in Microsoft Teams today. An initial set of personal insights is also available in public preview for Microsoft Exchange Online. Manager and leader insights are available in public preview for licensed Workplace Analytics customers. 

In addition to providing insights in Microsoft Teams, there are plans to integrate Microsoft Workplace Analytics and Microsoft MyAnalytics. According to Microsoft, you can expect additional wellbeing experiences in the coming months. This includes an integration with meditation and mindfulness experts Headspace, and the previously-announced virtual commute feature. At Systems Assurance, we understand that many businesses are eager for ways to promote a positive work-life balance during these challenging times. To help combat the blurring between work life and home life, we’ve published a Power Automate template that emulates the upcoming Microsoft virtual commute feature. This workflow can help your staff prepare for work, and wind down after a busy day.

How to Build a Recruitment Automation Platform with Microsoft 365

Finding the perfect new hire can be a time-consuming process. You’ll need to collect CVs, process job application forms, and ensure you respond to the best candidates quickly – before they get snapped up by your competitors! 

In this article, we’ll show you how to automate the hiring and recruitment process with Microsoft 365. We’ll be using Power Automate, SharePoint, Planner, and Microsoft Forms to build an automated platform that’ll automatically convert each job application into a candidate profile. We’ll then use automated notifications and tasks to help you respond to each potential candidate in a timely manner. 

By the end of this tutorial, finding your next great hire will be as simple as reviewing a series of automatically-generated user profiles in a SharePoint site. 

What we’ll be building 

In this tutorial, we’ll create a job application form using Microsoft Forms

Candidates can use this form to submit their information, and even upload a copy of their CV. We’ll then create a SharePoint site where all of this information will be uploaded automatically. 

Next, we’ll connect the job application form to our SharePoint site using Power Automate. This will involve building a workflow that extracts all the data from the submitted form and uses it to create a candidate profile within our SharePoint site. 

 

To fully-automate this recruitment platform, we’ll explore some additional steps that you can add to your Power Automate workflow. This includes creating an email notification for every new submission, and adding a task to your Microsoft Planner. The latter can help ensure you respond to each job application, no matter how busy you get.

How to create a job application form 

To start, let’s create the job application form. You can customize this form to collect everything you need to know about a potential new hire. However, to keep this section short we’ll be limiting ourselves to collecting some basic information about the candidate, and then giving them the option to upload their CV. 

To build the job application form: 

  1. Log into Microsoft Forms
  2. Select “New Form.” This launches Microsoft’s form editor. 
  3. Select “Add New.” 
  4. Make sure the “Questions” tab is selected. 
  5. You’ll typically want to start by collecting the candidate’s contact information, such as their name, email address, and telephone number. To create each of these user-input fields, click “Text.” You can then enter the label that you want to display above each field, for example Please enter your email address. Unless you have a specific reason not to, you’ll typically want to enable the “Required” slider for all the fields in your form.  
  1. You may also want to verify that this candidate is permitted to work in your geographical location. To mix things up, I’ll request this information as a multiple choice question. Select “Add New > Choice,” and type your question. You can then enter “Yes” and “No” as the possible options.
  1. Now comes the main event! We’re going to create a section where the candidate can describe all their relevant skills and experience. You can add this section as a “Text” field. However, the candidate may have lots to say, so be sure to enable the “Long answer” slider. This will give the candidate more words to work with.
  1. When searching for a new hire, you’ll typically want to see a copy of each candidate’s CV. You can ask the candidate to upload their CV as part of their Microsoft Forms submission. These files will then be uploaded to a new SharePoint folder, ready for you to review. To request this file, select “Add New” and then click the little downwards-pointing arrow. You can then select “File upload.” 
  1. In the “File upload” panel, enter some text requesting a copy of the candidate’s CV. You can then specify how many files the candidate can upload, and their maximum file size.
  1. When looking for a new hire, you may want to request additional information or documents. You can expand on this form, to ensure you have all the information you need to decide whether to progress to the interview stage. 
  1. You can also test how your job application form will appear to the candidate, by selecting “Preview.” Once you’re happy with the results, it’s time to take your form public. 

Publishing your job application form 

You can add a Microsoft Form to your website using a QR code, link, or embed code. This step will vary depending on where you’re planning to display your form, and your chosen embed method. However, as an example let’s look at how you’d embed this form in a WordPress website: 

  1. In your Microsoft Forms application, select “Share.” 
  2. In the panel that appears, select “Embed.” 
  3. Copy the embed code. 
  4. Log into your WordPress dashboard. 
  5. Navigate to the page where you want to embed your job application form, and open that page for editing. 
  6. Find the area where you want to display your form, and then insert a “Custom HTML” block using WordPress’ Gutenberg editor. 
  7. Paste your embed code into the HTML block. 
  8. Publish or update this page, as normal. 

Your job application form will now appear on your WordPress website.

Create a SharePoint site 

At this point, we have a form that potential candidates can use to submit their information. The next step is creating a SharePoint site and list, where all of this data will be stored. 

  1. Log into your Microsoft SharePoint account
  2. Select “Create site > Team site.” 
  3. Give your site a descriptive name; I’m using “Candidates.” 
  4. Select “Next > Finish.” 
  5. Inside your site, click “New > List.” 
  1. Select “Blank list.” 
  2. Give your list a descriptive name, and enter an optional description. 
  3. When you’re happy with the information you’ve entered, click “Create.” 

Automatically create a profile for each new candidate 

Now we’re ready to create our Power Automate workflow. In this first step, I’ll create a simple workflow that extracts the data from each new job application, and creates a user profile within your SharePoint site. 

  1. Log into your Microsoft 365 account. 
  2. Select the “Power Automate” app. 
  3. In the left-hand menu, select “Templates.” 
  4. Search for the following template: “Automatically create a profile for a new candidate.” Select this template when it appears. 
  5. Read the description, and if you’re happy to proceed then click “Continue.” Power Automate will now open this template for editing. 
  6. Let’s start from the top, with the “When a new response is submitted” section. Open the “Form ID” dropdown, and select the form we created in the previous section.
  1. Next, move onto the “Apply to each” section. Open the “Form ID” dropdown, and select the form we created in the previous step. 
  1. Move onto the “Create item” section. Click to place your cursor in the “Site Address” field, and choose the SharePoint site we just created. 
  2. Click to place your cursor in the “List item” field, and select the list we created in the previous step.
  3. In “Title,” you can assign a name to the candidate‘s profile. To ensure each profile is unique, I’m going to use dynamic content. Click to place your cursor inside the “Title” field, and the “Dynamic Content” menu should open automatically. 
  1. You can now choose the value to use for the candidate’s profile; I’ll be using the candidate’s name. 

This is all you need to extract the data from each job application, and upload it to SharePoint. However, I’m going to automate more of the hiring process, by adding a few extra steps. The following steps are all optional, although they can make for a quicker, more efficient hiring process. 

Receive email notifications 

At this point, Power Automate extracts the job application data and adds it to your SharePoint site automatically. However, you’ll still need to manually check this site, in order to see whether any new applications have been submitted. 

By adding email notifications to your workflow, you’ll be notified about each new application, and can start processing that application immediately. 

To create an email notification: 

  1. In the workflow’s “Apply to each” section, click “Add an action.”
  2. In the “Search” field, type “email.” When it appears, select “Send an email notification (V3).” 
  3. In “To,” enter the email address that you want to use. 
  4. To make the emails more informative, I’m going to use some dynamic content in my “Subject” line. Click to place your cursor inside the subject line and then select the dynamic content that you want to use. For example, you might select the candidate’s name, or the role they’ve applied for. You can also add some static text to the email subject, in order to make it more descriptive. 
  5. Finally, create the body for your email. Again, you may want to use a combination of static and dynamic content. 

Update your Microsoft Planner 

Email notifications are useful, but it’s still easy for job applications to slip to the bottom of your “To Do” list – or even slip your mind entirely. If you’re juggling a busy schedule, it may help to create a reminder that you need to reply to each new job application. 

Every time you receive an application, Power Automate can add a task to your Microsoft Planner, reminding you that you need to respond to this candidate. 

Before adding this action to your Power Automate workflow, you may want to log into Microsoft Planner and create a new plan. For example, I’m creating a “Candidates” plan. 

In your Power Automate flow, you’ll need to find the “Apply to each” section. In this section: 

  1. Click “Add an action.” 
  2. Search for the following item, and select it when it appears: “Create a task.”
  3. Open the “Group ID” dropdown and choose the plan that you created in the previous step.
  1. You’ll now need to enter the plan ID. You can find this information by logging into Microsoft Planner and opening the plan where Power Automate should create your tasks. Take a look at the URL; the plan ID is the section at the end of your URL. Copy this value. 
  2. Switch back to Power Automate, and paste the plan ID into the “Plan ID” field.
  3. You can now create a title for each task that this workflow creates. Again, you may want to experiment with some dynamic content.

Now, every time someone submits a job application, this workflow will add a new task to your planner. This ensures you’ll have no problems remembering to follow-up on job applications.

Build an Automated Shift Scheduling Platform with Power Automate and Microsoft Shift

Creating a schedule for your shift-based workers can be a time-consuming and frustrating task. If you want your business to run like a well-oiled machine, it may help to swap the traditional spreadsheets and calendars for modern scheduling software. 

Microsoft Shifts lets you build a schedule, assign shifts to employees, and even create a To Do list for each individual shift. Your employees can then access this schedule at any time, directly from their Microsoft Teams dashboard. 

In this article, we’ll share everything you need to know about Microsoft Shifts. Once you’re up and running with Shifts, we’ll show you how to get more from this application, by adding powerful automation to the mix. 

By the end of this article, you’ll be managing all of your employee schedules via Microsoft Shifts. You’ll also receive notifications about important shift-related events, via two custom Power Automate workflows

What we’ll be building 

Microsoft Shifts is an app that lets you build, update, and manage your schedules, directly from the Teams user interface. You can even assign activities to each shift, which is perfect if you have little direct contact with an employee, for example if you’re managing a remote workforce, or your employees are still working from home due to COVID restrictions. 

However, sometimes you’ll need to make changes to your schedule. For example, perhaps an employee becomes ill, or has a family emergency they need to attend to. In these scenarios, Shifts has everything employees need to request swift swaps, or time off. 

By default, Shifts doesn’t explicitly notify you about these requests. If an employee needs to cancel a shift due to sickness, or two team members want to swap their shifts, you’ll probably want to know about it! 

Towards the end of this article, we’ll use Power Automate to create some simple workflows that send you an email, or a smartphone notification every time an employee submits a change request. This ensures you can respond to these changes immediately, without having to manually monitor the Microsoft Shifts application. 

How to enable Microsoft Shifts 

Before we build our automation workflow, it’s a good idea to verify that Microsoft Shifts is enabled for all users across your organization: 

  1. Log into the Microsoft Teams admin center. 
  2. In the left-hand menu, select “Teams apps > Manage apps.”
  1. Search for the “Shifts” application, and select it when it appears. 

You can now check the “Status” slider, and activate it if necessary. Microsoft Shifts is now enabled across your organization, ready for you to use. 

If you want to disable Microsoft Shifts at any point, simply navigate back to this screen and deactivate the “Status” slider. 

How to build your schedule in Microsoft Shifts 

Let’s start by creating a basic schedule, and then adding team members to that schedule. For example, you might create a schedule for a specific department, such as customer service or engineering. If you’re open for business 24/7, it might make sense to create a separate day and night schedule. Alternatively, you can monitor your entire workforce from a single screen, by creating an organization-wide schedule. 

To create your first schedule: 

  1. Sign into Microsoft Teams
  2. In the left-hand menu, click the three-dotted icon and then select “Shifts.”
  1. You can now choose the team who you’re creating this schedule for. Note that you must be this team’s owner. 
  2. When prompted, confirm your time zone. 
  3. Microsoft Teams will now generate a blank schedule. By default, all team members will be added to this schedule automatically. However, you can add more employees by selecting “Add people.” This includes employees outside of your chosen team.
  1. Typically, you’ll now want to populate your schedule by creating some shifts. You can either create an open shift that any employee can claim, or create a shift and assign that shift to an employee simultaneously. 
    • To perform the latter, double-click an empty slot next to the date where you want to create this shift, and the person you’re assigning this shift to. This will launch a window where you can enter information about this shift, including whether this shift includes any paid or unpaid breaks. 
  1. You may also want to assign a list of shift activities. This can be particularly helpful for employees who work unsupervised, such as remote staff members. Even if you do have face-to-face contact with an employee, providing a To Do list can help avoid misunderstandings, and boost productivity
    • To create an activity list, click “Add activity.” This will launch a popup where you can create the employee’s “To Do” list.
  1. Alternatively, you can create an open shift, which any employee can claim. This can be particularly useful if you offer optional overtime, or work with freelancers or contractors who don’t have a fixed shift pattern. 
    • In the “Open Shifts” row, double-click an empty slot for the date and time where you want to create the open shift. You can then create this shift as normal, for example specifying a start and end date, and adding a list of shift activities. 
  1. This open shift will now be added to your schedule, ready for an employee to claim. Alternatively, you can assign an open shift to an employee at any point, by clicking the three dots that appear alongside the open shift. You can then select “Assign open shift,” and choose the lucky employee. 
  1. You can now rinse and repeat to create more shifts, and build your completed schedule. 
  2. Your employees can’t access this schedule until you share it with them. When you’re ready to go live, select “Share with team” in the upper-right corner. Now, all team members will be able to view this schedule directly from their Microsoft Teams dashboard. 

How to enhance Microsoft Shifts with Power Automate workflows 

Out-of-the-box, Microsoft Shifts provides everything you need to coordinate your shift workers. However, you’ll need to access the Shifts application in order to view any changes that have been made to the schedule. This means it’s easy to miss important developments, such as an employee requesting emergency sick leave.

To ensure every shift runs smoothly, you may want to add some automation to the mix. By combining some simple Power Automate workflows with Microsoft Shifts, you’ll receive a notification everytime someone makes a change to the schedule. This helps you monitor your schedule, without having to manually check the Microsoft Shifts application. 

In this section, we’ll create two simple automated cloud flows for Microsoft Shifts. Both of these flows start exactly the same: 

  1. Log into your Microsoft 365 account
  2. Select the “Power Automate” app. 
  3. In the left-hand menu, click “Create.” 
  4. When prompted, select “Automated cloud flow.” 
  1. This launches the “Build an automated cloud flow” window. The next steps will vary, depending on which Microsoft Shifts flow you want to create. 

Never miss another vacation or sick leave request 

Employees can request time off directly from the Microsoft Shifts user interface. This includes vacation days, parental leave, and sick days. To request leave, an employee can simply select the “Requests” tab, followed by “New request.”

In the subsequent popup, the employee can then select “Time off” and create their request.

You can review these requests, by launching the Microsoft Shifts user interface and then selecting the “Requests” tab. You can then approve or deny each request.

However, this requires you to periodically check the “Requests” tab. This can result in frustrating delays for your employees. You may even fail to notice that an employee is unable to attend their scheduled shift! 

In this section, we’ll build a simple Power Automate flow that’ll send you an email every time an employee requests time off. 

To create this workflow:

  1. In the “Build an automated cloud flow” popup, give your flow a descriptive name. I’m using “Time off notifications.” 
  2. For your trigger, type “Shifts.” When it appears, select the following trigger: “When a time off request is created, updated, or deleted.” 
  3. Select “Create.” This creates a new workflow with your chosen trigger.
  1. Click to place your cursor inside the “Team” field. In the subsequent dropdown, select the team that you want to monitor. 
  2. Click “New step.” 
  3. In the “Choose an action” panel, type “email.” 
  4. When it appears, select the following: “Send an email notification (v3).” This adds a new panel to your Power Automate workflow.
  1. Click to place your cursor inside the “To” field. 
  2. You can now enter your email address. 
  3. To create a more informative email, I’m going to use some dynamic content. For “Subject line,” click “Add dynamic content.” This will launch Power Automate’s dynamic content menu.
  1. I want my subject line to specify whether the time off request has been created, updated, or deleted. Click “Change Type.” 
  2. You can now add any necessary supporting text to this subject line. 
  1. Next, click to place your cursor inside the “Body” field. You can now write your email. IMAGE microsoft-teams-email 
  2. Click “Save.” Your workflow is now live! 

Now, anytime an employee creates, updates, or deletes a time off request, Power Automate will send you a notification via email. You can then react to this change immediately. 

Get shift swap notifications sent to your smartphone 

Sometimes, your employees may need to request a shift swap, for example due to changes in their childcare, or other responsibilities. 

To request a shift swap, employees can select “New request” and then open the “Swap” tab.

The employee can then enter the necessary information, and submit their request. You’ll need to approve or deny this request directly from the Microsoft Shifts dashboard. However, you may benefit from receiving notifications outside of Shifts. 

Since we covered email notifications in the previous section, let’s focus on mobile notifications this time around. Assuming that you’ve installed the Power Automate mobile app (Android or iOS), this workflow will push a notification to your smartphone or tablet every time a swift swap request is created. 

To create this workflow: 

  1. In the “Build an automated cloud flow” popup, give your flow a descriptive name. I’m using “Shift swap notifications.” 
  2. For your trigger, type “Shifts.” When it appears, select the following trigger: “When swap shift request is created, updated, or deleted.” 
  3. Select “Create.” This creates a blank workflow with your chosen trigger. ● Click to place your cursor inside the “Team” field. In the subsequent dropdown, select the team that you want to monitor. 
  4. Click “New step.” This adds a “Choose an action” panel to your workflow. ● In this panel, select “Notifications > Send me a mobile notification.”
  1. You can now create your mobile notification. I’m going to add some dynamic content, so click “Add dynamic content.”
  1. I want to specify whether the swift swap request was created, changed, or deleted. To include this information in your notification, select “Change Type.” 
  2. At this point, you may want to add some static text to your notifications. 
  1. You can add more information to your mobile notification, such as a link to Microsoft Teams. When you’re happy with how your notification is set up, click “Save” to publish your workflow.

Now, every time a swift swap request is created, changed, or deleted, you’ll receive a notification on your mobile device. 

Want more Power Automate workflows? We’ve published a step-by-step guide to building a vacation approval platform, an expenses approval system, and even a Microsoft Teams virtual commute feature.

How to Drive Change Management in the Remote Working Era

COVID-19 has kickstarted a remote working revolution that’s forced many businesses to rethink every part of their operations. 

Although many countries are starting to roll out their vaccine programs, there’s evidence to suggest that remote working is here to stay. Many businesses are already planning to give staff the option to work remotely, post-pandemic. 

There are many benefits to working remotely, including improved employee satisfaction, higher job retention rates, and lower operational costs. However, remote working also poses some challenges, particularly when it comes to change management. 

At a time when many businesses are looking to implement change, remote working is making change management more difficult than ever before. 

In this article, we’ll share a detailed, step-by-step change management roadmap that you can perform remotely. By following these steps, you can drive meaningful, long-term change amongst your remote workforce – at a time when it’s vital that your business adapts, in order to survive. 

Phase 1: Consider the impact 

Before you enter the planning phase of change management, it’s important to consider the impact the change will have on your team. In particular, it’s vital your remote workforce has access to the equipment and software required to implement the planned change. You also need to ensure they have everything they need, in order to remain safe and productive in their working-from-home environment, after implementing the change. 

As part of the change management process, your employees may need to request new equipment. In this scenario, you can use a tool such as Power Automate to build an automated request and procurement platform. This can remove a significant amount of pressure from your HR and financial departments. It can also encourage your remote workers to reach out, and request any equipment they may be missing. 

You should also ensure your remote workforce has access to all the software and digital tools they need to implement the change. Here, we always recommend using a cloud-based platform, such as Microsoft 365. By opting for modern cloud technologies, your employees will have access to the exact same tools and data, regardless of their geographical location. This can remove much of the complexity associated with driving change management remotely. 

These are the major factors that can impact your remote change management. However, change management is notoriously complex, and there are many factors that are difficult to quantify.

In particular, it can be difficult to predict the people aspect of change management. There’s a chance that some team members may be highly resistant to change. Friction between departments can also completely derail your change management initiatives. 

These issues can affect any change management project. However, they can be particularly difficult to manage when you’re trying to implement change remotely. 

To give your project the best possible chance of success, you should strive to identify these personal, miscellaneous issues early in the process. Here, it may help to ask employees for their input. You can use a tool such as Microsoft Forms to ask your employees the tough questions. This can help you predict the impact the proposed change will have on the individuals within your organization. 

By understanding the people side of change, you’ll be in a strong position to identify any potential roadblocks. You can then start planning mitigation strategies to minimize, or possibly even completely avoid these roadblocks. 

Phase 2: Build your execution roadmap 

This is where you’ll define your execution roadmap. This phase involves identifying your business outcomes, and your requirements. You’ll then create a strategy for driving your remote workforce towards your desired business outcomes. 

During the roadmap phase, it’s a good idea to conduct regular meetings with key stakeholders and change agents. This is where a robust, reliable digital communication platform is essential. A tool such as Microsoft Teams can help you communicate with everyone involved in the change management process, regardless of whether they’re working in the office, or from home. 

If you opt for Microsoft Teams, you’ll have the option to record all your meetings. Change management can be a complex process, and potentially involves a team of stakeholders. By recording all your meetings, you can help minimize misunderstandings and confusions that can occur over time. 

To enable the screen recording feature: 

  1. Log into the Microsoft Teams admin center
  2. Navigate to “Meetings > Meeting policies > Add.” 
  3. Give your policy a name and a description. 
  4. Find the “Allow cloud recording” slider, and push it into the “On” position.
  5. Save your changes. 

You can now record your Microsoft Teams meeting, by clicking the three-dotted “More actions” icon and then selecting “Start recording.”

Once you’ve finished, end the meeting as normal. Your recording will be automatically processed and uploaded to your Microsoft Stream account. You can now review this recording at any time, or even share it amongst your wider workforce. 

Phase 3: Document the change 

Here, you’ll take all the information and input from the previous phases, and create your change management roadmap. After building your roadmap, it’s important to ensure your staff have all the information they need, in order to follow that roadmap. 

When you’re driving change amongst a remote workforce, it often helps to create self-help resources that employees can access online. This might involve documentation, video tutorials, FAQs, wikis, or knowledge bases. 

If you’re using Microsoft 365, you can upload and host any file via Microsoft Teams. Your staff can then access these resources directly from their Teams dashboard. This approach is particularly useful if different departments or groups require access to different information. By creating unique self-help resources for each team, you can ensure your staff have access to all the information they need, without overwhelming or confusing them with irrelevant information. 

To share any file, simply choose your channel and then select Microsoft Teams’ “File” tab. You can then drag and drop this file into Teams. This file is now accessible to all channel members. 

Alternatively, you can create a wiki for each channel. Whenever you create a channel, Teams generates a wiki automatically, so you already have the foundations for creating a comprehensive change management wiki. 

To turn this blank slate into valuable change management documentation, select the channel in question and then click the “Wiki” tab. You can now add a headline, and start writing your first wiki page.

Alternatively, you can create a new wiki by clicking the “+” tab, followed by “Wiki.”

Microsoft Teams will generate your wiki’s first page automatically. You can add more pages by clicking the little lined icon and then selecting “New Page.”

Your change management initiative may be deadline-based. For example, your roadmap may involve deliverables or goals that you want to achieve by a specific date. 

To ensure everyone is working to the same schedule, you may want to enter all this information into a cloud-based tool, such as Microsoft Planner. Your workforce can now follow along with your schedule, regardless of geographical location. 

Phase 4: Implement your roadmap 

This is where you’ll execute your change management plan. During this phase, employees should refer to your change management documentation for the information they need, in order to implement long-term change. 

However, even with all the documentation you created in the previous step, your employees may still have the occasional question, or encounter issues along the way. 

Once again, a digital communication tool such as Microsoft Teams is essential. Your remote employees can use Teams to connect with their manager, team leader, or any other key stakeholders who can provide the assistance they need. 

To encourage your employees to reach out, it may help to create a designated point of contact for anyone who’s struggling to implement the change. 

During this phase, it’s also important to keep in close contact with supervisors, managers, team leaders, and any other key stakeholders. These people are at the frontlines, which means they’re in a strong position to gauge how well the change is progressing, and identify any issues that need to be resolved. 

It’s a good idea to schedule regular Teams meetings with these key stakeholders. You should also encourage key stakeholders to relay any questions or requests for assistance that they receive. If you notice a pattern, this suggests that something’s missing from your change management documentation. By updating your documentation with the missing information, you can ensure that your staff don’t keep encountering the exact same problem. 

Stage 5: Keep your employees involved in the change 

Just because you’ve made a change, doesn’t mean your employees won’t be tempted to slip back into old habits. 

To maximize your chances of long-term success, it’s important to keep in contact with key stakeholders, even after you’ve implemented your change initiative. These stakeholders can share feedback and raise any concerns in the weeks, or even months following the change. 

It’s also a good idea to regularly request feedback from your staff. This can help you monitor how well the change has been received, and identify any issue that may unfold slowly, over the long term. 

Even the simple act of asking employees for their feedback, can set your change management initiative up for long-term success. Change can be hard to maintain. However, by making your staff active participants you can encourage them to uphold these changes over the following months, and even years. 

You can request employee thoughts and feedback using a tool such as Microsoft Forms. For example, you might use this tool to create an employee questionnaire, and then either publish this questionnaire to your employee portal, or distribute it via email.

Will Business Travel Return to Normal After Covid-19?

 

In 2020, Business travel came to a screeching halt due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, with countries starting to roll out their vaccines programs, many businesses are now looking tentatively to the future and wondering: 

Was all that business travel really necessary?

According to a recent report, 89% of employees expect international business travel to be significantly reduced for at least the next three years. Even Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates has waded into the debate, by stating that he expects 50% of business travel to disappear in the post-pandemic economy

In this article we’ll explore why so many businesses are rethinking their approach to business travel. We’ll then share four compelling reasons why you might want to replace traditional business trips with a modern digital alternative. Finally, we’ll introduce you to a technology that can provide that invaluable, face-to-face experience with zero travel required.

Bill Gates: “My prediction would be that over 50% of business travel will go away”

The COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally changed every part of our lives, including the way we work. 

Throughout the pandemic, many essential workers continued to head into their physical place of work. However, businesses outside of these essential services were forced to find new ways of working

For many of us, 2020 was the year we embraced digital communication tools such as Microsoft Teams, and cloud-based platforms such as Microsoft 365. Far from being a poor alternative, many businesses discovered there were some areas where technology has the edge over face-to-face interaction. 

But does that include business travel? 

Speaking at the New York Times’ Dealbook conference, Bill Gates gave his predictions. After so many months spent working remotely, Gates imagines there will be a “very high threshold” for conducting business travel, in the post-pandemic business landscape. 

Is it time to rethink our approach to business travel? Let’s look at four reasons why you might want to join Microsoft’s co-founder, and replace at least some business trips, with digital alternatives. 

1. Minimize your carbon footprint, while maximising your positive PR

The environment is a huge topic, with many businesses actively taking steps to become more sustainable. This includes Microsoft, who recently pledged to become carbon negative by 2030.

With commercial air travel generating 2%-3% of global carbon emissions, there’s no denying that airline travel is a huge contributor to global pollution. However, there’s an environmental impact associated with all travel. Even if your staff only travel locally, every car journey contributes towards global emissions. 

By replacing business travel with digital meetings, you can minimize your company’s carbon footprint. 

Sustainability is a great cause that every business should care about. However, conservation is also a huge buzzword, particularly amongst millennials. Consumers are increasingly looking for businesses who share their ethical viewpoints. By reducing your business travel, you can appeal to today’s environmentally-conscious customer. 

Sustainability can also be a great way to generate positive PR. Microsoft was recently praised for their plans to purchase jet fuel made with waste oil. This fuel is made from waste sources such as cooking oil, and then blended with traditional jet fuel. Microsoft plans to distribute this fuel amongst Alaska Air planes at Los Angeles International Airport, as these represent their staff’s most frequently-booked routes. 

Eco-friendly initiatives are generally received well by the press, and the public. However, this positive PR can quickly turn sour if you’re discovered to be promoting environmental issues – while also taking unnecessary business trips. 

Leonardo DiCaprio was famously lambasted by the media back in 2016 when he flew 8,000 miles to accept an award on climate change. More recently, Prince Charles took three private jet flights in 11 days, expanding his carbon footprint by 16,000 air miles, before meeting climate activist Greta Thunberg. 

It’s unlikely your business trips will feature in the tabloids or gossip columns. However, these celebrity stories demonstrate how negatively the general public views environmental hypocrisy. If you have any plans to speak about environmental issues in the future, it’s vital you minimize your business trips. 

2. Save $2,600 per business trip  

Corporate expense specialists Certify estimates that domestic travel costs businesses $111.7 billion every single year. If you travel further afield, it’s estimated that companies spend $31.6 billion each year on international travel. 

This is already a hefty amount, but business trips often incur additional expenses. This includes eating out, local travel such as taxi fares, travel insurance, and overnight accomodation. When you factor in these additional expenses, Certify estimates that the average domestic business trip costs $949 per person, while the average international trip comes in at $2,600.

It’s also important to remember that time is money. Each business trip takes your employees away from their regular place of work and responsibilities. While dedicated employees may still answer work emails on their smartphone, or check in with the occasional phone call, business trips will always have an impact on employee productivity. 

Depending on the business trip, the employee may lose hours or even days to travelling. You might be tempted to recoup this lost time by encouraging your employees to travel outside of their regular working hours. 

While this may help productivity in the short-term, this rarely works in the long-term. An employee who’s in the office full-time and travelling in their “free” time is going to be unhappy, stressed, and unmotivated. They may even question whether they might be happier with a less demanding job (and a more reasonable employer!) 

When you consider the cost, it becomes more difficult to justify the average business trip. Replacing expensive, unnecessary business trips with a digital alternative could save your business a considerable amount of money. 

3. Minimize the risk to health and safety, and avoid expensive lawsuits  

Health and safety is a huge concern for many businesses. As a responsible employer, you’ll likely have strict health and safety policies in the work environment. However, travel exposes you employees to lots of additional risks. 

If your employees suffer an accident while travelling, you could face expensive legal action. One solution is to invest in staff training. This can provide your workforce with the skills they need to remain safe while travelling. 

However, regardless of whether you create or commission these training materials, it’ll cost time and money. You may also struggle to create training for all the situations your employees might conceivably encounter while out in the field. 

By minimizing the number of business trips, you can also minimize the risk to your employees. This can keep your staff safe, while protecting your company against expensive and reputation-damaging lawsuits. Despite the health and safety risks, some travel may be unavoidable. However, it’s easier to create training for a small number of necessary trips, compared to creating training for a long list of different situations. 

4. Promote a better work-life balance

Business trips can be a great opportunity to experience new cultures and countries. Many regular business travellers enjoy this part of their job. However, there is a point where a hectic travel schedule can start to take its toll.

1 in 5 businesses travellers admit they feel stressed about upcoming trips. According to the same study about 30% struggle to stay healthy while traveling for work. Close to half of respondents also feel they don’t get enough sleep due to business trips. 

Regular travel can also negatively impact the traveller’s personal life, by taking them away from their friends, family, and other responsibilities. Anyone in a parental or care-giving role may find it particularly difficult to juggle their responsibilities with regular business trips. Even Bill Gates admits he has a “simpler schedule” now that COVID-19 has made business travel impossible. 

By reducing the number of business trips, you can help your employees achieve a healthier work-life balance. This can benefit your bottom line, as a happy workforce is a more productive workforce. Employees who enjoy their job are also less likely to go job-hunting. 

When considering the impact that business travel has on your employees, it’s also important to factor in the stress and anxiety surrounding COVID-19. Many countries are making good progress with their vaccines, but people remain understandably cautious about resuming normal activities, including business travel. 

Even someone who has received their vaccine, may be concerned about transmitting the virus to their friends and family. Other people are concerned about news reports regarding new variations of the coronavirus. In this climate, even necessary business travel may cause your employees a significant amount of stress. 

Business travel: What’s the alternative?

At Systems Assurance, we believe that the majority of expensive, time-consuming, and stress-inducing business travel can be replaced by advanced digital solutions. 

In recent years, we’ve seen huge advancements in “mixed reality” solutions such as VERTX Remote Support. Many frontline workers and engineers are already using these mixed reality applications to communicate with co-workers, partners, and customers remotely. 

With solutions such as VERTX, you can explore the end-user’s surroundings in real time, using their smartphone or tablet’s built-in camera. You can then personally guide the end-user through any task using voice and annotations. This might involve helping them resolve the issue themselves, or working with them to assess a problem before deciding what the next steps should be. Both of these actions would typically require an in-person visit, potentially racking up considerable travel expenses, and reducing employee productivity. 

Request a trial and see for yourself how “Remote Assist” by Systems Assurance will help you save costs by eliminating all your business travel.

 Request your 30 day, 3 user trial – Free of Charge – call us on 0114 292 2911.

How to Build an Automated Invoice Processing Platform

Payment processing can be a complicated process, spanning multiple apps, documents, and channels. If every payment involves PDFs, scanned documents, email chains, and maybe even paper invoices, then your invoicing processing is a prime candidate for automation. 

By replacing this chaotic process with a streamlined, automated workflow, you can save a tonne of time, while completely eliminating costly and time-consuming human errors. 

In this article, we’ll show how to build an automated invoicing platform. By the end of this article, you’ll have created a simple system where customers and partners can submit their invoice via a standardized form. Power Automate will then extract the necessary information, save it to a centralized location, and notify the relevant parties that a new invoice is awaiting their approval.

What we’ll be building

In this tutorial, we’ll create an invoice submission form, using Microsoft Forms

Third parties can use this form to create and submit an invoice by entering information including their contact details, and the products or services they’re billing you for. As soon as the customer clicks “Send,” Microsoft Forms will display a “Your response was submitted” message. This ensures the customer knows that you’ve logged their submission successfully. 

Next, I’m going to capture the Microsoft Forms data and add it to a SharePoint site. This provides a central location where your HR department can view all submitted invoices. 

Finally, we’ll create an email notification so your HR or financial department knows there’s a new invoice that requires their approval. 

Create your invoice submission form

Let’s start by building the invoicing form. You can use this form to request all the information your HR or financial department requires, in order to process a payment. To keep things simple I’ll be requesting the responder’s contact information plus some basic information about the services or items this invoice pertains to. 

To create your form: 

  1. Log into Microsoft Forms
  2. Select “New Form.” This launches Microsoft’s form editor. 
  3. Select “Add New.” 
  4. Make sure the “Questions” tab is selected. 
  5. You’ll usually want to start by collecting the person’s contact information. You can request details such as their name, email address and postal address, by adding “Text” fields to your form. Unless you have a specific reason not to, you’ll typically want to make these fields mandatory by pushing the “Required” slider into the “On” position.
  1. You may also request an invoice and/or purchasing order number. You can collect this information by adding two more “Text” fields to your form.
  1. I’m going to request information about the product(s) or service(s) this person is invoiding for, as a separate page. To create this kind of multi-page form, select the little downwards-pointing arrow, and then click “Section.”
  1. You can now add fields for all the information you want to collect. This might include the cost of each item, or the total hours this freelancer has worked for your business.
  1. You can test your form at any point, by selecting the “Preview” button. In this mode, you can also check how your form will appear across desktop and mobile devices, using the buttons along the top of the screen. Once you’re happy with your results, it’s time to take your form public. 

Add invoicing features to your employee portal or company website 

You can add the Microsoft Form to your website using a QR code, link, or an embed code. This step will vary depending on where you want to display your form. As an example, I’m going to embed my form on my WordPress website: 

  1. In Microsoft Forms, select the “Share” button. 
  2. In the panel that appears, select “Embed.” 
  3. Copy the embed code. 
  4. Log into your WordPress dashboard. 
  5. Navigate to the page where you want to embed your form, and open that page for editing. 
  6. Find the area where you want to display your form, and add a “Custom HTML” block using the Gutenberg editor. 
  7. Paste your embed code into the HTML block. 
  8. Publish or update this page, as normal. 
  9. Your invoicing form should now appear on your website. 

Create a Microsoft SharePoint site 

Next, I’m going to create a SharePoint site where Power Automate will store all the invoicing data: 

  1. Log into your Microsoft SharePoint account
  2. Select “Create site.” 
  3. When prompted, choose “Team site.” 
  4. Give your site a descriptive name; I’m using “Invoicing.” 
  5. Select “Next > Finish.” 

Inside your site, you may want to create a folder where Power Automate will store all your invoicing data, or a list. This can make it easier for your HR department to find the information they need in order to process payments. 

Create your automated invoicing platform

It’s time to create your workflow! Whenever someone submits an invoice, this workflow will extract the data from their submission, and add it to your SharePoint site. 

  1. Log into the Power Automate app
  2. In the left-hand menu, click “Create.” 
  3. Select “Automated cloud flow.” 
  4. In “Trigger,” start typing the following: “When a new response form is submitted.” Select this option when it appears. 
  1. Click “Create.” This will open a new workflow for you to edit. 
  2. Click to place your cursor inside the “Form ID” field. This should open a dropdown menu where you can select the form we created in the previous step. 
  3. Select “Next step.” 
  4. In the subsequent panel, search for the following: “Get response details.” Select this option when it appears.
  1. Click to place your cursor inside the “Form ID” field and select the Microsoft Form you created in the previous step. 
  2. Click to place your cursor inside the “Response ID” field. The “Dynamic content” menu should open automatically. If this menu doesn’t open, select the following link: “Add dynamic content.” 
  1. In the “Dynamic content” menu, select “Response ID.” 
  2. Click “Next step.” 
  3. In the subsequent popup, search for “Create file.” 
  4. When it appears, select “Create file: Sharepoint.” 
  1. In “Site Address,” copy/paste the URL of your SharePoint site. 
  2. In “Folder path,” click the little folder icon and select the area where you want to save your invoices.
  1. In “File Name,” specify the name that Power Automate should assign every file that’s generated using this workflow. To ensure every invoice has a unique name, you may want to use dynamic content, for example I’m using the “invoice number” value from my Microsoft Form.
  1. Click to place your cursor inside the “File content” field. Here, you can specify all the information you want to extract from the submitted invoice. This data will be saved to your SharePoint site.

Now, every time someone submits an invoice, Power Automate will extract all the information from this form and upload it to your SharePoint site. 

This is all you need to create an automated invoicing platform. However, this workflow still requires your HR department to monitor your SharePoint site for incoming invoices. To make this workflow fully automated, you may want to add an email notification to the mix.

Going fully-automated: How to create an invoice notification 

In this final section, we’ll create an email that Power Automate will send to a nominated address whenever someone submits an invoice. This can be useful for notifying your HR or financial department about an item that requires their attention. 

To add an email notification to your workflow: 

  1. Select “New step.” 
  2. In the subsequent panel, start typing: “Send an email notification (V3).” Select this item when it appears.
  1. Click to place your cursor inside the “To” field. You can then enter the email address that Power Automate should send this email to, for example your head of IT or HR department. 
  2. You can now create a subject line for your email. To make this subject line more informative, you may want to use dynamic content. For example, I’m including an invoice number. 

Now, every time someone submits an invoice, a new file will be generated based on that invoice and uploaded to your SharePoint site. Power Automate will then notify the relevant party that there’s a new invoice that requires their attention. 

Do you want to automate other parts of your business? Check out our guides to building an automated customer support platform and building an automated vacation approval process.

Why Change Management is The Key to Digital Transformation

Digital transformation is key to surviving in today’s rapidly-moving business landscape. 

For your organization, this might mean introducing new digital technologies, updating your processes to improve employee communication, or identifying opportunities to expand into lucrative new markets. 

A successful digital transformation can boost your productivity and your profits. However, there’s evidence to suggest that up to 90 percent of digital transformation initiatives fail. 

At Systems Assurance, we’re convinced that change management is the key to successful digital transformation. In this article, we’ll explore what change management is, and the role it has to play in successful change management. We’ll then set you up for success, by sharing a five step plan for applying change management techniques throughout your digital transformation initiative. 

By the end of this article, you’ll know how to boost key stakeholder buy-in, encourage employees to embrace change, and give your digital transformation initiatives the best possible chance of success. 

Digital transformation in a pandemic economy

At Systems Assurance, we’ve spent over a decade helping businesses of all sizes improve productivity and boost their profits through successful digital transformation. However, the COVID-19 pandemic means that more businesses than ever before are contacting us for digital transformation advice. 

We’re also working with more and more organizations who need to make changes fast. It seems we’re not the only ones, as 71% of technologists report that digital transformation projects that should have taken months or even years to complete, are being implemented in a matter of weeks. 

With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to affect every part of our daily lives, this rapid rate of digital transformation doesn’t seem set to change anytime soon. In fact, we’re convinced that making positive, sustainable change through digital transformation is the key to navigating 2021, and beyond. 

With the stakes high, it’s crucial that you get your digital transformation right. This may be more complicated than it sounds, with research suggesting that 90 percent of digital decision-makers fail due to factors such as a lack of resources, and reliance on legacy technology. In addition, only 16 percent of employees say their organization’s digital transformation initiatives have improved performance and equipped them to sustain change over the long-term. 

These figures are already worrying, but there’s evidence to indicate that COVID-19 may be making successful digital transformations even more difficult to achieve – at a time when

businesses’ need to change the most! According to a recent study, 76% of technologists are concerned about the long-term impact of digital transformation initiatives that are being rushed through due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

There are many reasons why digital transformation initiatives may fail. However, at Systems Assurance we believe there’s one crucial element that can help any business achieve digital transformation success – and that’s change management. 

What is change management vital for digital transformation success? 

Digital transformation isn’t as simple as identifying an issue, and addressing it. You need to focus on how you’re going to implement these changes, particularly the social aspect of change implementation. This is where change management comes in. 

Change management can be difficult to define, as it follows a more reactive and indefinite route than other forms of management, such as project management. However, it’s generally defined as the processes, tools and techniques that are required to manage the people side of change. 

Successful digital transformation hinges on convincing your workforce to use the tools and experiences you create for them. This can be difficult, as most people are reluctant to try new things – and your employees are no exception! Change management can make your workforce feel energized and eager to buy into your digital transformation initiatives. 

If your staff are motivated and enthusiastic about the planned changes, then immediately your digital transformation stands a far greater chance of success. 

Change management can also help you secure the budget required for successful transformation. It’s notoriously difficult to convince decision makers to update business processes and tools that seem to be working. Although every change management project is different, they typically share some common goals: 

  • Improve Return On Investment (ROI) by boosting the efficiency and productivity of your workforce. This may involve implementing digital tools, and updating old processes.
  • Create a competitive advantage by identifying opportunities to improve and innovative. 

This may involve reducing costs, launching new products and services, or improving the quality of your existing offerings. 

By putting these change management objectives at the core of your planned digital transformation strategy, you can help combat the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality. This can help you secure buy-in from key stakeholders, and increase your chances of digital transformation success. 

How do I integrate change management and digital transformation?

To ensure success, it’s vital you apply change management principles across the entire digital transformation lifecycle. This process will look different for every organization. However, to give you an overview, here’s our suggested five step plan for integrating change management and digital transformation:

Phase 1: Prepare for digital transformation success 

During this phase, you can lay the foundation for implementing positive, long-term change. During the preparation stage, you should focus on developing a digital transformation charter that articulates your business goals and strategies to achieve your desired business outcomes. 

This is also the time to start documenting any risks that may hinder your digital transformation, such as employee resistance, legacy databases, and end-user adoption. You can then identify key stakeholders who can help you remove, or at least reduce these potential roadblocks. 

Studies have shown that when key stakeholders encourage staff to challenge old ways of working, digital transformation initiatives are almost twice as likely to succeed. By identifying and activating these key stakeholders at the start of the digital transformation process, they’ll be in a strong position to create excitement and drive adoption throughout the entire project. 

Phase 2: Build your execution roadmap  

During this phase, you’ll define your execution roadmap. This includes identifying your desired business outcomes, and your requirements. You can then identify key tactics that will help drive the desired change amongst your workforce. At this point, it may help to conduct an organizational readiness assessment. 

You should also concentrate on arranging these tactics to deliver maximum value. For example, some tactics may deliver a bigger impact during the pre-launch phase, while others are better suited to the post-launch phase. 

You can use this information to create a more robust execution roadmap. When building your roadmap, it’s recommended you conduct regular meetings with key stakeholders and change agents. This can help you gather valuable feedback, while also ensuring these key players remain personally invested in your digital transformation initiative. 

Phase 3: Create your plan – and communicate it clearly! 

This is the phase where you’ll finalize your digital transformation strategy. Here, you’ll use inputs from all the previous phases and formulate a plan that’ll shape the rest of your digital transformation initiative.

According to research, digital transformation strategies that have Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are twice as likely to succeed. Wherever possible, we recommend defining tangible KPIs during this phase. 

Good communication is a crucial factor in driving change, so your plan should feature a communication component. To improve communication across all key stakeholders, it may help to use tools such as wireframes, prototypes, proof of concepts, and data modelling. 

There is also evidence to suggest that communicating your transformation vision via digital channels can give your initiative a much higher chance of success compared to in-person communication. For this reason, we recommend that digital communication should feature heavily in your plan. 

By communicating with your key stakeholders in a clear and enthusiastic manner, you can help ensure transparency and encourage excitement. This is essential for helping your key stakeholders fulfill their role as enthusiastic advocates for your digital transformation initiative. 

When communicating with your end-users, it may help to weave your digital transformation activities into a clear “change story.” This helps employees understand how your organization is changing, why it’s changing, and why these changes are so important. Management consulting specialists McKinsey found organizations that created a change story were three more times more likely to achieve a successful digital transformation. 

It’s also important to include a training component in your plan, as this maximizes the chances of your workforce using the new tools, techniques, and processes. 

Phase 4: Create a shared project management environment 

This is where all your hard work pays off, as you execute your digital transmission strategy. However, during this phase there’s a risk that your focus may drift away from change management. 

Change management can be a vague, intangible concept. Now that you’re making concrete, tangible changes such as migrating to new tools and modifying businesses processes, it’s easy to let change management fade into the background. 

During this phase, it’s crucial that you avoid the temptation to set up a separate change management workstream. Instead, it’s far better to set up a shared project management environment for your tangible digital transformation items and your change management activities. 

This ensures that change management activities are included in the same planning and review sessions as your tangible digital transformation items. This is vital for ensuring your change management efforts remain aligned with the day-to-day realities of implementing digital transformation.

Phase 5: Time to launch! 

This is the most critical moment for any digital transformation initiative, as it’s here where you’ll drive user adoption. 

Assuming that you successfully integrated change management with your digital transformation initiative, you should be primed and ready for launch. For example, your keystakholders should have received all the training they need to drive adoption, business processes should have been updated, and measurement plans should be in-place ready to record your KPIs. 

During this phrase, it’s important to monitor all feedback, and share this feedback with relevant stakeholders. This can help resolve any unexpected issues that may arise, and give you the best possible chance of implementing permanent change.