Putting It All Together: The Components of an Operational Portal Structure at the Core of a Digital Workplace
In our last blog "Putting Office 365 to Work with an Operational Portal Structure," we introduced the concept of an Operational Portal Structure (OPS) and how it is the contextual core of a Digital Workplace. We explored the meaning of an OPS, its evolution, and how it can be realized through Office 365 and SharePoint Online.
In this blog, we will take a deeper look at the core components of an OPS, what is necessary for it to be part of an Office 365 Digital Workplace, and why.
As more organizations come to understand the value and impact of an Office 365 Digital Workplace, it will be increasingly important for businesses to successfully bring together all the necessary components. By doing so, businesses will empower employees to be more productive and proactive in their jobs while making business easier and more efficient.
To address the needs and the core components of a Digital Workplace, a new concept is emerging called an Operational Portal Structure, and it is the logical next step for businesses to move forward. But what is an Operational Portal Structure? And, more importantly, what is the impact on your business now and going forward?
Many businesses today are experiencing a common problem about how to increase workforce productivity and lower IT costs. The technology infrastructure of business applications driven by siloed departments has become a tangled web that employees find difficult, confusing, and chaotic to sift through, making it harder to do business inside than outside.
This complex infrastructure poses administrative challenges for IT because of separate log-in credentials, interfaces, training, support, and administration. Business applications necessary to automate processes were deployed by functional departments like Sales, HR, IT and others often independent of one another and with no prior planning. Documents and information is spread across departments while news and announcements are disseminated through endless emails that are difficult to find and organize.
For those of you using SharePoint Online on Office 365, you may have heard about the new SharePoint Modern User Interface (SPfx) that Microsoft is slowly rolling out.
Many of us in the SharePoint community are really excited to see the SharePoint look and feel brought up to date with responsive design, and a fresh new experience which aligns better with the rest of Office 365 services. It really is laying the groundwork for a Digital Workplace and an eventual seamless experience between SharePoint and other services like Groups, Planner, OneDrive and more.
However, when is the right time to move to this new Modern UI? When should you open it up to your user community in a production environment? The answer to that is not for a while, perhaps 12 – 18 months. Why? Well because the Modern UI is only about two-thirds of the way there.
If you have existing SharePoint sites, you will find that the Modern UI will only support some of your list types. It only supports custom lists and not Tasks, Calendars, Contacts etc. Those will still display in the Classic UI. So your end-users will see two different UIs depending on the type of list they are in. This will even change where and how navigation is shown. Now that will really mess them up! Feel free to peruse this article which dives deeper into Modern Vs. Classic Interfaces.
If you are taking advantage of Office 365 Groups and shared OneDrives, your user community is already exposed to some of the Modern UI, as that is the standard interface for OneDrive. Part of the new strategy is to make SharePoint Document libraries and OneDrive share the same type of user interface.
So if you do turn on the Modern look for your SharePoint Document Libraries, it will be more consistent with OneDrive. However, it will not look anything like the rest of your SharePoint site. Our friend Nathan Wells' blog illuminates the troublesome differences in the two looks. This puts it all in a no-win scenario. If you have SharePoint sites that are more than just document repositories, with lists, then use the Classic UI.
If the only reason you are using SharePoint is to share documents and you are rolling out Office 365 and OneDrive to your users, then the Modern UI might be OK. Once again it is all about consistency of user experience.
Finally, regarding converting your Home pages to the Modern UI, again that has a lot to do with being ready for production in things like new web parts, navigation handling and layout options. Like the rest of the roll-out of the Modern UI, site page building and editing is coming along but not quite there.
Traditional SharePoint Site Pages were built using standard webpart page layouts, CSS tricks and sometimes required changing the Master Page. Because of the short-comings, there were a wealth of web parts developed over the years to put whatever you needed on the page.
With the Modern UI, you no longer need to worry about all the complexities of the old Classic approach. Site pages are responsive out of the box, as are the web parts built specifically for SPfx. The long term vision is excellent, but the issue is when will there be enough function to support a production roll-out for end-users? Again, not for a while. Doing something like just providing a list of open tasks on a department home page is not possible because a Tasks list is not supported in the Modern UI. Page layouts (columns, etc) is very limited, and the availability of web parts in the early stages. Many of them are still somewhat buggy. So don’t get your users excited about the new UI just yet. You can read here one of the many siren songs wooing new users.
At SP Marketplace, we also are seeing Microsoft announce new site templates like the Communications site which is a precursor to a simple Intranet page. It also is in early stages but shows promise.
The good news is we are seeing site page capabilities growing quickly! For vendors of out-of-the box Intranet and Operational Portals, this investment by Microsoft allows us to eventually take our solutions to new levels of ease of use.
Today we are implementing SPfx on our existing products, and will be showing a prototype of our Intranet, Employee Self-Service and Department Portal at Microsoft's Ignite Exposition September 25-29 in Orlando, Florida.
We are also integrating Office 365 services like Planner, Groups and other seamlessly into our Portals, and the Modern UI will bring it together in a common user experience across SharePoint and Office 365.
All this leading to real-life delivery of a true Digital Workplace on Office 365 over the next 12 months, assuming SPfx is ready for Prime-time.
Intranet portal design has evolved considerably as a result of Office 365 and SharePoint. As more organizations come to understand and embrace the Digital Workplace, employees expect a centralized, seamless user interface that they can access anywhere, anytime.
Hiring new employees can be a long, complicated, and tedious process. Department managers and staff in charge with selecting and hiring an employee must weed through hundreds of resumes, spend hours interviewing candidates, and finally select the candidate who is not only right for the business but also for the position.
Once an employment position is filled, it might seem as though the hard work is over. On the contrary, the hard work is just beginning. Employee success often begins with how quickly and how effortlessly they can get up to speed at the business, within the role they will play, and the duties they will perform.
Additionally, onboarding new employees involve tasks not just related to the human resources department but the department for which they will work, and possibly others. This can lead to complications for HR because now they must cross-functionally track and manage tasks. Not only must HR staff track and manage the tasks that are related directly to HR, but they must stay in step with tasks associated with other departments that are in line with current rules and regulations.
In our last blog “The Hidden Issue of Siloed Departments and Organic IT Chaos,” we discussed the impact of siloed departments that operated in isolation of each other at businesses. As the business grew, these siloed departments, such as HR and IT, added their own separate applications and systems. The result was a chaotic IT infrastructure, or what we call Organic IT.
Organic IT has a chaotic effect on the business, from IT costs to interdepartmental communication to employee productivity.
In our last blog, “The Need for a Digital Workplace on Office 365,” we talked about Organic IT - systems and applications that arose naturally as the business grew. At the time this was necessary from a departmental point of view in order to set into place a way for employees to receive services, follow procedures, submit requests, and ask questions.
The downside to this approach of Organic IT is that interdepartmental communication and access to employee-facing business processes, such as time off or expense reporting, is completely separate from one another. This presents a number of problems when employees need to interact with multiple departments and receive services in order to effectively do their job.
After a full week at Microsoft Ignite 2016, technology is again offering real game changing opportunities for organizations across all industries. There were many great sessions that are now available online from the Ignite 2016 site.
At the core is a cloud computing model and a new term “Digital Workplace.” Moving to a cloud model represents great cost savings and accessibility options. But this infrastructure alone does not result in more productivity and collaboration within your organization. How you apply it in your organization makes the difference.
Providing your employees with a common platform that brings together communication, collaboration, processes, and information as a Digital Workplace becomes critical. This is where Microsoft is taking the Office 365 Ecosystem, delivering many new services that form the basis for your Digital Workplace.
We at SP Marketplace have been working with Microsoft to leverage this new technology in our Office 365 out-of-the-box solutions, and here is your chance to see what is possible. At Ignite, we saw many sessions on these new services and how Microsoft is delivering a common user experience across services laying the foundation for transformational change in the way business is done.
As a vendor of Office 365 solutions, SP Marketplace speaks with hundreds of Office 365 customers every month. It always amazes us how many businesses are using just a fraction of the Office 365 functions. Apparently ROI for technology investment is not important. Obviously this inflammatory statement is not true (we hope); but rather, it is a lack of information or education about Office 365. You can benefit from what you don’t know.
The average Office 365 customer we see mostly uses it for email. In fact, the main reason in buying Office 365 for many was to get rid of their Exchange Server. What they don’t know is email is only about 15% of what Office 365 can do. In fact, even worse, their staff still uses only the Outlook client and never signs into the Office 365 site to discover all the cool functions available. This is just sad because often they are paying for 100%, but only getting 15% of the possible ROI.
SP Marketplace views Office 365 usage as a technology Maslow’s Hierarchy. It starts with the most basic needs fulfillment up to optimal realization. Your ROI corresponds with a rise in level of maturity of use. The higher you go, the more ROI you get out of it for your organization.