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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 Via 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.

Will Business Travel Return to Normal After Covid-19?

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.

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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: 

● Log into Microsoft Forms

● Select “New Form.” This launches Microsoft’s form editor. 

● Select “Add New.” 

● Make sure the “Questions” tab is selected. 

● 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.

● 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.

● 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.”

● 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.

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: 

● In Microsoft Forms, select the “Share” button. 

● In the panel that appears, select “Embed.” 

● Copy the embed code. 

● Log into your WordPress dashboard. 

● Navigate to the page where you want to embed your form, and open that page for editing. 

● Find the area where you want to display your form, and add a “Custom HTML” block using the Gutenberg editor. 

● Paste your embed code into the HTML block. 

● Publish or update this page, as normal. 

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: 

● Log into your Microsoft SharePoint account

● Select “Create site.” 

● When prompted, choose “Team site.” 

● Give your site a descriptive name; I’m using “Invoicing.” 

● 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. 

● Log into the Power Automate app

● In the left-hand menu, click “Create.” 

● Select “Automated cloud flow.” 

● In “Trigger,” start typing the following: “When a new response form is submitted.” Select this option when it appears. 

● Click “Create.” This will open a new workflow for you to edit. 

● 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. 

● Select “Next step.” 

● In the subsequent panel, search for the following: “Get response details.” Select this option when it appears.

● Click to place your cursor inside the “Form ID” field and select the Microsoft Form you created in the previous step. 

● 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.” 

● In the “Dynamic content” menu, select “Response ID.” 

● Click “Next step.” 

● In the subsequent popup, search for “Create file.” 

● When it appears, select “Create file: Sharepoint.” 

● In “Site Address,” copy/paste the URL of your SharePoint site. 

● In “Folder path,” click the little folder icon and select the area where you want to save your invoices.

● 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.

● 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: 

● Select “New step.” 

● In the subsequent panel, start typing: “Send an email notification (V3).” Select this item when it appears.

● 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. 

● 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

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 that 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.

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How to Automate Equipment Requests for New Employees and Remote Workers

Do you need an easier way to process employee equipment requests? 

By adding automation to your request and procurement processes, you can ensure that all your employees have access to the equipment they need to be productive in the workplace

This includes new starters, who may require a list of hardware and office equipment on their very first day. With many employees still working from home, an automated equipment request platform can also help your remote staff work safely. Regardless of geographical location, these remote employees can easily request equipment such as lumbar support chairs and standing workstations, and have it shipped directly to their home address. 

In this article, we’ll be using Microsoft Power Automate, Microsoft Forms, and Outlook to create an automated request and procurement system. With this workflow in place, requesting equipment becomes as simple as completing an online form. Your busy HR department can then approve or deny each request, simply by reading the automated email and clicking a button. 

What we’ll be building

In this tutorial, we’ll be creating an “Equipment Request” form, using Microsoft Forms.

Your employees can use this form whenever they need to request a piece of equipment. For employees who are working from home, we’ll create a field where they can enter their home address. This allows you to ship equipment directly to the employee’s home, potentially saving you a considerable amount of time. 

When the employee clicks “Send,” Microsoft Forms will display a “Your response was submitted” message. This ensures the employee knows you’ve logged their request successfully.

Whenever an employee submits a request, Power Automate will extract all the relevant information and send an email to the nominated individual or department. For example, you might send these emails to your HR department, or use Automate’s dynamic content to forward each request to the employee’s specific manager or supervisor. 

This individual or team will receive the email, and can then either approve or deny the equipment request. The employee will automatically receive an email, informing them of the outcome. 

These emails are fully customizable. For example, your denial email might include a Microsoft Form where the employee can re-submit their application with more information, or you might include a shipping number in your approval emails. 

How to create an equipment request form, with Microsoft Forms

The first step is creating the equipment request form. You can customize this form to collect the information that matters to you, but to keep things simple we’ll be requesting the employee’s contact details, and some information about the equipment they require. 

● Log into Microsoft Forms

● Select “New Form.” This launches Microsoft’s form editor. 

● Select “Add New.”

● Make sure the “Questions” tab is selected. 

● You’ll typically want to add some fields for the employee’s contact information. For each field, click “Text,” and then enter the label that you want to display above this field. For example, I’m creating fields for the employee’s name, and email address. If the employee in question is working from home, you may want to request their home address. This allows you to ship the requested equipment directly to their home office. Unless you have a specific reason not to, you’ll typically want to enable the “Required” slider for all the fields in your form. 

● Next, you may want to specify this employee’s department. Since your organization has a list of predefined departments, you can request this information as multiple choice. Select “Option” and then use the subsequent controls to add all of your departments.

● If your employees can choose from a variety of equipment, you may also want to provide a list of equipment categories, for example Additional Monitor, Laptop, Home Office Chair, or Docking Station. This can also be useful for indicating the kind of equipment that your employees can request.

● Finally, you may want to create a text field where employees can add some information to their request. For example, they might include a link to the exact model of office chair they require, or provide an explanation about why they need a replacement docking station. To create this text box, select “Add New > Text.” You’ll typically want to enable the “Long answer” slider as this gives your employees more characters to work with. 

This is the basic information you’ll typically require for any employee equipment request. However, you can add more fields or multiple choice questions, depending on the information you require. 

You can test how your form will appear, by selecting “Preview.” You can also check how this form will appear across desktop and mobile devices, using the buttons along the top of the screen. Once you’re happy with the results, it’s time to take your form public. 

Adding a Microsoft Form to your employee portal or website

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 can embed this form in your WordPress website: 

● In Microsoft Forms, select the “Share” button. 

● In the panel that appears, select “Embed.” This should reveal an embed code.

● Click “Copy.” 

● Log into your WordPress dashboard. 

● Navigate to the page where you want to embed your equipment request form, and open that page for editing. 

● Find the area where you want to display your form, and add a “Custom HTML” block.

● Paste your embed code into the HTML block. 

● Publish or update this page, as normal.

Your equipment request form should now appear on your website. 

Now, your employees can request hardware and office equipment, by completing this form. 

How to automate your equipment approval workflow

In this section, we’ll create a workflow that extracts the information from each submitted form, and then emails it to a nominated individual or team. We’ll also create two emails that will be sent to your employees, depending on whether their request gets approved or denied. 

● Log into your Microsoft 365 account

● Select the “Power Automate” app. 

● In the left-hand menu, select “Templates.” 

● Search for the following template: “Start an approval process and send email on Microsoft Form submission.” Select this template when it appears. 

● Read the description, and if you’re happy to proceed then click “Continue.” Power Automate will now open this template for editing. 

● Let’s start at the top, with the “When a new response is submitted” field. Open the “Form ID” dropdown, and select the Microsoft Form we created in the previous step.

● Next, move to the “Get response details” box. Open the “Form ID” dropdown, and select your equipment request form. 

● In the “Start an approval” section, you’ll need to specify the email of the person who submitted this form. You can pull this information directly from Microsoft Forms, using dynamic content. To open the dynamic content menu, click to place your cursor inside the “Requestor” field. This will open the “Dynamic content” dropdown. 

You’ll now need to extract the requestor’s email address. This step will vary depending on how you set up your Microsoft Form, but for me it means selecting the “Responder’s email” value. 

In the “Start an approval” section, you’ll also need to specify the approval type. Sometimes, you may want to share equipment requests with multiple people, for example your entire HR department, or the employee’s direct supervisor and your financial officer. If you require sign-off from all these people, you can select “Everyone must approve.” Alternatively, if you require approval from a single person only, select “First to respond.” You can then enter the email address of everyone who will receive this equipment request. 

At this point, you can also provide several canned responses that the HR department or individual can add to their automated email response. For example, you might give the reponsder the option to choose between “approved,” “approved, pending more information,” or “denied, but please resubmit your request in the next financial quarter.” 

You can create a custom response by selecting either “Custom Responses – Wait for all responses” or “Custom Responses – Wait for one response.” You’ll then get access to all the additional options you need, in order to create an automated response.

After entering this information, you can create the email that’s sent whenever a request is approved. You’ll need to start by specifying the employee’s email address. Here, we’re going to use dynamic content, so click to place your cursor inside the “To” field. This will open Power Automate’s Dynamic Content menu.

You’ll now need to retrieve the value the employee entered into Microsoft Forms. This step will vary depending on how you created your form, but for me this means selecting the following value: “Get response details: Responders’ email.” 

After entering this information, you may want to customize the text that appears in the approval email.

Instead of sending the same auto-response to every employee, it may help to include some dynamic content. For example, you might include a list of all the equipment the employee has requested. You can pull this information from their Microsoft Form submission, by selecting “Add dynamic content.” You can then search for the field where the employee was asked to provide this information. For my form, this means selecting: “Please provide more information about the equipment you require.” 

Once you’re happy with your approval email, you can move onto the “If no” box. You can now create the email to send whenever a request gets denied.

After creating your emails, you can verify that your flow is set up correctly using the “Flow Checker” and “Test” tools. Assuming there’s no issues with your workflow, your automated employee request platform is now ready to use. 

Want more Power Automate workflows? Check out our step-by-step guide to building an automated work hours tracker for your remote workers.

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How to Build an Automated Customer Support Platform Using Power Automate

How to Build an Automated Customer Support Platform Using Power Automate

The modern customer is demanding: if they have a question, they expect an answer immediately. 

According to research, 90% of customers rate a rapid response as “important” or “very important” when they have a customer service question. To help keep your customers happy, your support staff need quick and easy access to every customer enquiry. It also helps if they’re notified about these support requests as soon as they come in! 

In this tutorial, we’ll show you how to supercharge your customer support, using automation. We’ll build a simple customer contact form, and then use Power Automate to extract all the information from the customer submission, log it as a new Azure work item, and post a notification to Microsoft Teams. 

With this automation in place, your support staff can simply click a link and immediately see all the information they need, in order to start working on that customer’s query. By the end of this tutorial, you’ll have built the kind of automated support system that’ll keep even the demanding customer happy. 

What we’ll be building

In this tutorial, we’ll be creating a “Contact Us” form, using Microsoft Forms.

Customers can use this form to send you questions, feedback, or comments. As soon as the customer clicks “Send,” Microsoft Forms will display a “Your response was submitted” message. This ensures the customer knows you’ve logged their submission successfully.

Every time a customer completes this form, Power Automate will create a new task in Azure DevOps

Your staff can then open this task, and view more information about the customer’s submission. Your employees can also use Azure DevOps to perform essential management tasks. This includes assigning the work item to a named user, assigning it a priority level, and posting comments on the work item.

Today’s customers are demanding, and expect a speedy response to all enquiries. To help you meet customer expectations, this Power Automate workflow will automatically notify your team about new customer submissions. As soon as the customer clicks “Send,” Power Automate will post a notification to the Microsoft Teams channel of your choice. 

This message will include a link to the associated Azure DevOps work item. This means your employees can click through to the related work item, and instantly have access to all the information they need. 

Create your customer contact form

To start, we’ll need to build the customer support form: 

● Log into Microsoft Forms

● Select “New Form.” This launches Microsoft’s form editor. 

● Select “Add New.”

● Make sure the “Questions” tab is selected. 

● To start, I’m going to create a field where customers can enter their email address, so select “Text.” 

● In “Question,” type the text that’ll be displayed before the customer starts typing. Typically, this should prompt the customer for a specific type of content, for example I’m using “Your email address.”

● To respond to a customer, you’ll need to know their contact information. To facilitate communication, I’m making the email field mandatory by activating the “Required” slider. ● Next, we’re going to create a field where the customer can enter their name. Select “Add New > Text.” 

● In “Question,” type “Full name.” This field doesn’t need to be mandatory, so leave the “Required” slider in the “Off” position. 

● The final section is where the customer can type their questions, feedback, or other comments. Select “Add New > Text.” 

● In “Question,” enter a prompt. I’m using “How can we help?” 

● The customer may need to type a significant amount of text into this section, so activate the “Long answer” slider. 

● Mark this field as mandatory, using the “Required” slider.

● Now, we need to specify who can complete this form. Select “Share.”

● We want to make this form public, so open the dropdown and choose “Anyone with the link can respond.”

You can now preview how your form will appear on both desktop and mobile, by selecting “Preview.”

If you’re happy with the results, it’s time to make your form public.

Adding Microsoft Forms to your WordPress website

You can add a Microsoft Form to your website using a link, QR code, 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 easy it is to embed this form on a WordPress website: 

● Select Microsoft Form’s “Share” button. 

● In the side-panel, select “Embed.” This should reveal an embed code.

● Click “Copy.” 

● Switch over to your WordPress dashboard. 

● Navigate to the page or post where you want to embed your contact form, and open it for editing. 

● Find the area where you want to display your contact form, and add a “Custom HTML” block.

● Paste your embed code into the HTML block. 

● Publish or update this page, as normal. 

This contact form should now appear on your website, ready for customers to start sending you their feedback. 

How to create a new Azure DevOps project

Every time a customer completes this form, Power Automate will create a new task in the Azure DevOps project of your choice. 

To help organize your customer feedback, you may want to create a new Azure DevOps project, dedicated solely to interacting with your customers: 

● Sign into Azure DevOps

● On the main dashboard, select “New project.”

● Give this project a descriptive name; I’m using “Contact form responses.” ● Enter an optional description. 

● You typically won’t want your customer interactions to be publicly accessible. Unless you have a specific reason not to, select “Private.” 

Mirosoft will now create your new Azure DevOps project. 

Adding automation to your customer contact form

Now all of this setup is out of the way, it’s time to create our Power Automate workflow: 

● Log into Power Automate

● Search for the following template: “Automatically file bugs and notify team.”

● Select this template when it appears. Read the description, and if you’re’ happy to proceed click “Continue.” Power Automate will now open this template for editing.

● Let’s start from the top! Click to place your cursor inside the “Form ID” field. You should now see a list of all your forms.

● Select the contact form that you just created. 

● Move to the “Apply to each” section. Click to select the “Form ID” field and then select your contact form from the list.

● Scroll to the “Create a work item” section. 

● Click to place your cursor inside the “Organization Name” field, and then select your organization from the list.

● Click to place your cursor inside the “Project name” field. Select the Azure DevOps project that you just created.

● In “Work Item Type,” enter the type of work item that you want to create for each customer submission. I’m using “Task.” 

● Now, we need to create a title for the work item. Click the “Title” field and the “Dynamic Content” window should open automatically. I want to use the customer’s name as my title, so I’m selecting “Full Name.” 

● Scroll to the “Post message” section. 

● Select “Team.” The dropdown should now display a list of all the Teams associated with this account. Make your selection from the dropdown. 

● Click to select the “Channel” field, and choose a channel from the list. Power Automate will post all your notifications to this channel. 

● In “Message,” you’ll need to type the message that Power Automate will post to Microsoft Teams every time someone submits a customer contact form. To make this message more useful, you can use dynamic content. I’m including a direct link to the associated work item, by selecting “URL.”

Review the information you’ve just entered, and if you’re happy to proceed click “Save.” And that it’s it! Now, every time a customer completes this form, Power Automate will create a new work item and notify your employees via Microsoft Teams. 

Want more Microsoft Power Automate content?

Do you want to automate more of your day-to-day tasks? Check out our other Power Automate guides: 

3 essential Power Automate templates for remote workers. 

The best automated workflows to improve communication with your remote teams. ● How to build an automated work hours tracker. 

Never miss another deadline, by automating your Microsoft Planner. 

● How to create your own Microsoft Teams virtual commute, today.

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