1. Cloud storage + collaboration

Many organizations still send attachments through emails instead of consistently using OneDrive or similar tools. However, with working from home, the pressure to innovate has had some incredible results where cloud products have shaped up to become an innovative new stepping stone to collaboration.

Paper - Dropbox
Cloud storage from Dropbox aims to improve collaboration. Source: Dropbox

Look at Dropbox for example: It now offers unrivalled features like an interactive notebook where users can contribute and manage ideas in one view that's always in-sync. They also vertically integrate with other oft-needed tools like a corporate password manager, or a neat "badge" that automatically keps Word docs in sync between colleagues.

Verdict: Hip
With at-best spotty adoption rates, cloud storage has been in need of some innovation – partly to justify the ongoing cost to host content there. If your cloud storage app isn't doing it for you, shop around and you may be amazed.
By the way, if you're already using Dropbox then check out the Digital Assistant app for it.

2. Cherishing mental health awareness at work

As a nod to overworked and stressed employees, Microsoft has introduced Viva Insights, a tool to help managers understand work patterns and allow users to manage their time more productively.

As described in their blog, they focus on creating a more mindful workday experience by offering tools like blocking calendar hours, closing out tasks at the end of a day, or getting mindfulness tips.

This is similar to other tools like Cisco People Insight that have been around for a few years.

Verdict: Hype
The internet is full of millenials making fun of thinly-veiled, and ultimately hollow, promises made by corporate HR to improve mental health awareness. Tools like Viva Insights are great for organizations that already have a genuine, high-commitment approach to HR. But they will likely be of limited use in the hands of an organization that lacks the right culture.

@loewhaley

*HR sends an email about the EAP* #wfh #corporate #joblife #workfromhome #millennial #office #mentalhealth #foryou

♬ original sound - Laura

3. Centralizing dashboards

It's not uncommon for the average employee to use over 30 different cloud applications at work. With that you employees get 30 different logins, notification emails, bookmarks and - of course - UIs to navigate.

Jumping between applications is known to consume over one third of employees' time (not to mention the frustration), so finding ways to cut down on clicks and tab hopping is top of mind for the industry.

Cards that pull information from multiple business apps into one view. Source: Digital Workplace Group

One such approach is to build singular dashboards that pull "cards" from various sources into one pane of glass. Popular examples would include Cisco with their Digital Assistant, or Microsoft with the recently announced Viva Connections.

Viva Connections vision of a Card-based board inside MS Teams. Source: Microsoft

These tools, generally, allow users to arrange little Cards or widgets on a personalized dashboard which they can invoke from on-the-go or on their desktop. It's like a personal homepage where all the tools you require frequently, including their key stats or status, are all pulled together into one view.

Verdict: Hip
Tools like Cisco's Digital Assistant have won industry awards and pride themselves on improving employee satisfaction by over 15%. With most cloud apps using standardized APIs, technological hurdles to create your own dashboard have been reduced. This makes creating a central card board for your intranet, or as a Teams app, a feasible solution to reducing wasted productivity.

4. Modernize the intranet experience

An evergreen trend is to do something about the often unloved Intranet. Short of migrating to an all-new platform, there is a lot of things many organizations leave untried to improve the existing intranet's experience for their users.

Here are things experts regularly recommend you could try when improving an existing intranet:

  • Make a content inventory
    Check what documents even are in your intranet, and possibly how many views pages got over a period of time. Do frequently visited pages also get frequently updated? Are there 10 year old documents nobody needs? Give your intranet a Marie Kondo overhaul and people should start to find it more relevant.
  • Update the style
    A very low hanging fruit is to update the styling of an intranet. Even if you're not a massive corporation with a corporate font, your users still will appreciate a modern look and feel with more whitespace. Speak to your intranet's manufacturer to find out if they have released new themes since your original implementation.
  • Try unused intranet features
    Oftentimes intranets have more features than organizations use in production. Let's say, 5 years ago, your organization was smaller and didn't include social network features in their rollout. But now you could think about switching these on. Speak to your manufacturer's customer rep to find out if there are features your license includes, that you simply never used.
  • Create more semi-automated self-services
    Many solutions come with forms and data grids that you could use to automate requests for HR, IT or Facilities. For example you could create forms for PTO requests, Working from home set ups, Laptop replacements, or catering requests for meetings. By advertising these to users via standardized forms you can improve their experience and increase the uptake of services offered by the organization.

Verdict: Hip
By now everybody knows that 90% of Intranets regularly are a failure, so there isn't much to loose when embarking on improving it. Try and see if you could make quick wins with any of the above, and your users may thank you.

5. Smart chatbots for employee self-services

Even better than offering self-services in the intranet, would be to bring them directly into ubiquitous chat tools like Slack or MS Teams. These tools can be accessed from any device by using natural sentences, thus dramatically cutting the number of clicks needed to look something up or fill something out. (Check out a list of popular use cases for employee self-service chatbots).

There a lot of great guides to start exploring this topic for your organization, for example whether you're better off with a one-off bot or a whole bot platform.

Verdict: Hip
Many enterprise chat apps have added droves of chatbots to their "stores", for example Webex has over 150, and Slack over 40. Using chatbots doesn't require separate apps which reduces complexity for the organization, and regardless of the use case users easily familiarize themselves with their UI – as it's all just natural language powered by AI.

6. Smart speakers in the office

Remember when Gartner predicted that by 2022 we'd all be literally talking to chatbots at work? There was talk of voice-only UIs and Cortana or Alexa squawking out of every speaker near you.

But, as we discussed above, the reality is that there are many more fundamental issues that need solving first. Adding an Alexa as the user-facing element is basically just the icing on the cake.

While there are ways you can use consumer-grade smart speaker to improve the workplace experience, most organizations go the way of creating a holistic digital employee experience.

Verdict: Hype
Solutions for creating a digital employee employee experience are moving fast, but simply buying a bunch of Alexas is neither here nor there. Consumer-grade smart speakers do not interface with enough business data, and they really are best considered as an alternative input method to a keyboard.

~

These are the most popular trends and for creating an intelligent, digital workplace experience. Do you think I missed anything or do you disagree with my verdict? Let me know in the comments below.

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Article by Henry Amm

I’m the Senior Director for the Digital Assistant Platform. Prevously gained 6 years of experience as an Intranet consultant. Fluent in German.

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Article by: Henry Amm

I’m the Senior Director for the Digital Assistant Platform. Prevously gained 6 years of experience as an Intranet consultant. Fluent in German.

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