Being in charge of a corporate digital employee initiative is no picnic. The experience for the users should be fun and intuitive, which means for IT it's everything but that.
A lot of APIs, authentication methods and automation workflows need juggled if you want to break down information silos into one more central place.
If you're a SharePoint user we have created a list of popular plugins that make your SharePoint into a digital workplace. But like most organizations you're probably looking to get more outside applications into the intranet. So here are our top 5 integrations you should embark on to turn your intranet (SharePoint or not) into a more digital employee experience:
1. Offer pre-made automations for each department
Many teams in your organization may rely on automation apps like Zapier as a kind of "band aid" to help themselves shovel data from app A to B.
Tools like Zapier allow you to share recipes (called "Zaps") with other so it's easy to share the benefits with the rest of the team
Generally with these apps, employees create a "recipe" that takes a trigger from one app to create or update a record in another app. Recipes are easy to create such automation apps have a plethora of integrations at the ready.
Recipes can usually be shared so that colleagues can recreate recipes by simply connecting them to their user accounts. You could use and create a more digital employee experience, by collecting such recipe templates into a central gallery (say in your intranet) so that all employees can take advantage of recipes their colleagues spent time to create.
Of course there is a whole shadow IT component to these apps. Is your organization allowing Zapier (or competitors like Workato, Make, Automate, etc.) to be used, and if so, should you perhaps consider to sign up to a team/enterprise version?
But while you're busy figuring that out, if your primary goal is to create a more digital experience for employees, than presenting such recipes in a central location could be a low hanging fruit.
2. Using automations? Add a "collection" step into the workflow
We covered automation apps above. Most of these tools offer multi-step workflows as part of paid plans, where employees can push data from one trigger app to multiple apps simultaneously. This gives you a super low-tech, but effective, way to improve your digital employee experience: you can create an additional step that sends data directly to a dedicated page in the intranet.
Effectively, this gets you an aggregated list of updates, from across all your recipes, in one central location. How does this work? As an example, in Zapier you can take any existing recipe and add another step to it that pushes the Zap to the intranet.
Get summaries of automations executed by Zapier in a central place like the SharePoint intranet (via Digital Assistant)
Intranet add-ons, like Digital Assistant, will automatically create "Cards" for each recipe to sort incoming updates into. These Cards are basically a "dropbox" where you write your own layout as an Adaptive Card (a process that is code-free thanks to a clever and free Microsoft design tool).
Cards that automatically collect work automations into a central SharePoint page
With this method, employees can aggregate all their Zaps into a central view, making it easier to stay up-to-date. In terms of creating an engaging digital experience for your employees, this integration can go a long way to pull formerly disenfranchised strands of data into one view, saving both clicks and user frustration in the process.
3. For SharePoint: Improve search with off-the-shelf integrations
Did you know that employees spend 36% of their time looking for stuff? No wonder that enterprise search engines are such a huge market, albeit one that's usually reserved to large organizations with a budget to match.
Very few people know that there are two ways to improve the search experience for your employees using SharePoint. Confusingly, both are from Microsoft and have almost the same name so let's look at them:
A. Modern Search - the original (Link)
This is a popular Add-on, co-created by Microsoft, that replaces the built-in Search with a – you guessed it – modern UI that can incorporate outside sources. On top of offering various configurations, Modern Search is completely extensible to allow other data sources to be seamlessly incorporated into your SharePoint search. Providers such as Digital Assistant, for example, can show Cards above regular search results to give you a Google-esque experience. Cool, huh?
Example of a SharePoint search being enhanced with an answer card similar to a Google featured snippet
B. Modern search experience - powered by Microsoft Search (Link)
Then there's the twin of Modern Search, Microsoft Search. This is actually the default search engine most new-ish SharePoint Online tenants get out-of-the-box. It, too, can easily incorporate dozens of databases and datastores with pre-built Graph connectors. This is actually quicker to do compared with the Modern Search Add-in, at the expense that the search UI cannot be customized at all.
We covered more pros and cons of SharePoint search in our troubleshooting guide.
If adding more sources helps create a better digital experience for your employees, then that's great. But chances are your team could make some quick wins with a customizable search UI, so you could consider giving the Modern Search Add-in a whirl.
4. Make common HR/IT requests into chatbots
Digital employee experience that integrates with other internal systems for easy collection of issues and automated fulfillment of requests
Unbelievably, password resets account for about 30%-50% of IT service desk requests. Similarly, HR is dealing with a lot of recurring issues, such as employee onboarding or trivial things like timesheet approval.
Employees can feel frustrated if they have to bother their colleagues for resolving trivial issues, therefor organizations can improve employee engagement if they create a more digital experience for users. Recurring IT or HR issues should be at the top of your list when designing a chatbot.
Beyond platonic smalltalk, however, chatbots can be a major undertaking to design successfully. They need to collect issues accurately, resolve most of them within minutes, or escalate to a human where necessary.
We've made an entire guide on how to create and design chatbots that integrate with existing systems to make a successful digital employee experience.
5. Switch off email notifications
Push notifications are so prolific in your private life that you almost wish they were never invented...until you get to work and literally every notification is cluttering up your inbox.
Most employees hop between 10 different work apps every hour, often prompted by email notifications that distract them.
A digital assistant can restore some peace and quiet by collecting all notifications into a central list that the user can check when they are ready, regaining valuable focus in their inbox.
Assistants can further improve the digital experience for employees with AI. AI can automatically switch the user into a Do not disturb function based on past patterns or calendar availability. Meanwhile, time sensitive notifications can break through anytime, as if your digital assistant is a virtual set of eyes and ears within all applications you normally jump in-between.
How does a digital assistant receive notifications? For most integrations the assistant relies on the API of the app to receive new records, due tasks, etc. But notifications can also be abstracted from other sources such as webhooks from automations (see step 2).
But what about those pesky email notifications? In cases where your Assistant already gets notifications another way (through a proper API-based integration) just create filters to remove them.
For edge cases, however, where emails are the only available channel to notify the employee, users can forward these to their personalized assistant email "dropbox". It's a somewhat crude, but surprisingly effective way, to get back Inbox zen.
Forward unwanted notifications to the personalized email address of your digital assistant – and let it deal with them
Successful vendors in this notifications space are Digital Assistant or Acapella, both of which you should try! Getting a handle on old-fashioned email notifications is a surefire way to improve the digital experience you offer your employees.
I hope you found this to be an interesting angle as to what integrations give you the most digital employee experience improvements. Do you think your organization may try a few of these or is there anything we missed? Comment below.