Tips from Microsoft MVPs: Build engaging user experiences and boost productivity in Microsoft 365

Espc2022 Mvptips Featured

Digital user experience took center stage at the 2022 European SharePoint, Office 365, and Azure Conference (ESPC). With the help of Microsoft MVPs, we explain how IT leaders and their teams can support their end users to keep them safe and productive while navigating a hybrid workplace.

Recently, the Microsoft community came together at ESPC in Copenhagen. Microsoft MVPs and industry experts worldwide shared their advice on how to thrive in the Microsoft cloud. I learned a lot about new capabilities in Viva, updates in Teams, and security and compliance controls in Microsoft 365. But the theme that really stood out was all about people

In a global shift to digital in 2020, IT teams rolled out Microsoft cloud solutions such as Teams to tackle remote work challenges. Today, work is no longer just a place; as Microsoft puts it, it’s “an experience that needs to transcend time and space so employees can stay engaged and connected no matter where they’re working.”  

And if there’s anything that the pandemic taught IT leaders, it’s that employee experience (EXP) matters. Let’s outline the key elements that make this new approach so important in our current working context, according to Microsoft: 

  • Digital capabilities 
  • Physical space and facilities 
  • Organization culture 

Gartner expects more than 50% of IT organizations will prioritize and measure the success of digital initiatives based on the digital employee experience

At ShareGate, we’ve been doing a ton of research on how to help IT leaders adapt to the needs of their end users and organizations with agility while developing our latest releases: ShareGate’s Teams provisioning and end-user app

For some clarifying insight on the information that was discussed at the event, here are the key learnings and Microsoft tools that can help your IT team create great EXP and improve productivity while maintaining an organized environment. 


Teams is the window into the Microsoft 365 productivity suite

Much of the functionality in Teams is derived from Microsoft 365 Groups and its associated services. That’s why Teams is referred to as the window into the Microsoft 365 productivity suite.  

But its cross-functional nature goes further than that.  

Microsoft MVPs Susan Hanley and Jasper Oosterveld’s talk, “ETips from the field: Harmonizing SharePoint and Teams,” hammered home the point that Teams is the hub for teamwork in Microsoft 365.

Bring people into Teams and stay in Teams.” 

Exp

Here’s a curated list of actionable tips and tricks shared at the conference to enhance the user experience: 

  • Create SharePoint pages that explain how to navigate your environment and best practices and add them as tabs in Teams. This way, newcomers can easily access those pages and understand how to find and classify information. 
  • Bring your entire SharePoint intranet into Teams to deliver it in the flow of work via Viva Connections.
    • Viva Connections is a free, customizable app that gives you access to news, conversations, and resources directly in Teams and is built on existing capabilities in Microsoft 365, such as SharePoint, Teams, Yammer, and Stream. 
  • Collaborate on files in Teams.
    • Share channels across teams and organizations. 
  • Connect to your communities with Viva Engage.
    • Pin the Viva Engage app in Teams to bring Yammer into Teams.  
  • Add Planner tabs to team channels to update meetings and stay efficient. 
  • Turn on Viva Learning at the organization level on the Manage apps page in the Teams admin center.
    • Viva Learning offers free courses, providing development opportunities for employees. 
    • End users can search courses in Teams chat. 

This helped me realize that as the needs for hybrid and remote workers continue to evolve, Microsoft is continually investing in centralized collaboration tools that tie everything together to keep us connected and productive. 


Collaboration is a two-way street: IT and end-users need to work together 

The user experience is not just about how people use technology, but also the way that IT works with them.

This is something that Antje Lamartine, Microsoft 365 Adoption & Change Management MVP, mentioned in her session, “Walk the line with Teams: Excited end users and overwhelmed IT or vice versa?” 

“IT makes decisions on their own and forgets end users—working in silos doesn’t work. It’s about the people, not the technology.”

Antje Lamartine, Microsoft MVP

Antje pointed out that when IT rolls out changes and new technology without involving end users in the process, they shouldn’t be surprised when their ticket queue piles up. This vicious cycle overwhelms IT and end users and wastes valuable work time.  

Partnering with end users in the following ways will help increase adoption and drive effective change management: 

  • Find your pilot group or champions who are excited about new tech changes, often ask the most questions, and have a keen interest in tech 
  • Activate functionalities for your champions (in a demo environment), so they can play around and test new features 
  • Find ways to involve them in the process and make sure they feel they have a voice in the decisions, and at what frequency 
  • Be accessible and available to receive frequent feedback 

We sat down with Antje during ESPC to talk about how IT can overcome the biggest change management challenges for ShareGate’s RISING UP series. Hear what she had to say in the following clip from our latest episode! 

Watch all the MVP interviews in the series!

“At the end of the day, decisions on what to roll out or what to activate or what to deactivate—that’s still a human decision. You still have to look into this, discuss it, look at the impact for your environment, and if it makes sense for the end users.”


Employee well-being is key for workplace productivity: How Viva Insights and Teams can help 

Distributed work is a mainstay, and Microsoft cloud technology has played a critical role. But digital exhaustion is a threat worth taking seriously.  

In her session, “Power employee productivity with Viva and Teams”, Beatriz Oliveira, Microsoft Regional Director and Office Development MVP, cited 84% of productivity loss at work can be linked to mental or physical health. 

“Despite all the productivity tools you can bring to the table, there’s one thing that really impacts productivity, which is well-being.”

Beatriz Oliveira, Microsoft MVP

When I asked Beatriz how IT leaders can help their teams and organizations improve EXP, she said there’s no one-size-fits-all solution.  

I think that IT leadership understands that they really have to be mindful of the employee experience. Also, they have to be mindful about promoting solutions; not just acknowledging them, but also putting them to practice. Take advantage of the technology in place, but also embrace programs and assess what’s working and what’s not.” 

Set boundaries with Viva Insights

Blocking a few hours daily to focus without interruptions can help you progress on your important tasks and projects. Here’s what you can do with Viva Insights to help you set those boundaries, be productive, and stay healthy at work. 

  • Schedule focus time for future workdays. 
Book Focus Time
Source: Microsoft 
  • Configure quiet time to disconnect from work and recharge. 
Configure Quiet Time
Source: Microsoft 
  • Start a virtual commute to end your day. 
Virtual Commute
Source: Microsoft 

Enable more inclusive meetings

  • Enable translation in Teams so users can translate Teams messages into the language specified by their personal language settings. This feature is rolled out by default for your organization. 
Teams Chat Translation
  • Use live captions in a Teams meeting. Microsoft recently released live translated captions in Teams Premium. This new feature allows users to see captions translated into the language they’re most comfortable with and is currently available as a preview for all customers. 
Live Captions
  • Blurred background makes it easier to remove noisy environments and helps participants focus on the speaker. It’s particularly helpful for people who rely on lipreading to enhance comprehension.  
Blurred Background

Take home message: You’re not as productive as you think when you have back-to-back meetings or are working long hours.  


Communication is a powerful tool: Using Teams, SharePoint, and Yammer

In her session on “How to leverage Microsoft 365 to improve employee communications,” Susan Hanley offered her tips for tackling some of the challenges currently facing IT and organizations, such as: 

  • Low engagement and retention  
  • A lack of visibility across departments and locations  
  • A lack of centralized location of leadership communication to the broader organization 
  • Out-of-sync distributed employees 

The solution, she said, is to define a strategy for using the different communication channels in Microsoft 365 to reach the right people. 

You really want to think about who the audience is. Who are we trying to talk to? How fast do we want the message to get to them? And what is our overall outcome for that communication? We have a breadth of tools that we can use; each one has incredible superpowers, and if we use them wisely, we’ll be able to significantly improve both readability and, more importantly, outcomes of our communications methods.

Image Bettertogether
Source: Susan Hanley, Microsoft MVP

“We have a breadth of tools that we can use; each one has incredible superpowers, and if we use them wisely, we’ll be able to significantly improve both readability and, more importantly, outcomes of our communications methods.”

Susan Hanley, Microsoft MVP 

Microsoft 365 governance isn’t just an IT thing—you need end users

On one hand, you want to give members the freedom to create teams to avoid the threat of shadow IT and prevent end-user tickets from piling up. On the other hand, you don’t want end users to create clutter with unnecessary or duplicate teams.  

“Sprawl happens when there isn’t enough guidance when creating groups.” 

Karuana Gatimu, Principal Manager and Teams Engineering at Microsoft

In her talk, “Governance and security practices for Microsoft 365”, Karuana turned the classic IT-led provisioning model on its head—one where IT teams can quickly become overwhelmed if users rely on them to approve the creation of each new group. 

Her tip? Look no further than your end users, who can tell you if your policies are “frictionless.” 

Image Controlgovernance
Source: Karuana Gatimu, Principal Manager and Teams Engineering, Microsoft

Not surprising news: when duplicate and inactive teams are cluttering your tenant unnecessarily, it makes it difficult for your users to find the resources they’re looking for. Unorganized content and unstructured sites can lead to confusion. Also, you can’t manage what you can’t track.  

ShareGate to the rescue 👋

Manually finding inactive and orphaned teams and reaching out to their owners is a time-consuming task that IT teams are sometimes too overwhelmed to do regularly. To make this task easier, you can use ShareGate’s automation to find inactive teams and collaborate with owners to resolve them. 

Inactive Teams

ShareGate’s Teams provisioning feature offers a simple experience for end users to create what they need, with your governance policies built right in.  

Provisioning

With ShareGate’s Teams provisioning templates, your users can create and manage their own teams following your rules for team creation. Meaning you don’t need to approve new teams! The templates are automatically rolled out to your users through the integrated app, saving you time and taking the complexity out of customizing and managing your templates. Neat, right?

What should IT focus on in 2023 regarding Microsoft 365 management and governance? 

If you’ve read this far, there’s no doubt you can start off strong in the new year. Not sure where to start? According to Jasper Oosterveld, Microsoft MVP, IT departments should focus on the following topics: 

  • Defining and implementing a data classification and protection strategy with Microsoft Purview. 
  • Defining and implementing data lifecycle management with Microsoft Purview.  
  • Defining and implementing an adoption and change management strategy with the communication and HR department. 

And that’s a wrap! As we head into 2023, we look forward to continuing to help IT leaders and their teams adapt to new and challenging environments and empower their end users to be their best. The IT challenges might be frightful, but our solutions are, well, delightful! 

Best wishes for a prosperous New Year. 

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Karuana Gatimu

INTERVIEW WITH KARUANA GATIMU How to achieve frictionless IT governance