Building the Digital Workplace: From Intranets to Ultra Teams

How Confluence and SharePoint fuel innovation and collaboration in the digital workplace.

If you ask your peers what they look for in a job, most would point out freedom as one of the key considerations. By freedom, we mean the ability to perform work independently or to have the authority to make decisions.

Today, leaders everywhere are deploying digital tools to boost autonomous operating models. With a plethora of available tools, from communication to project management, anyone can access information and work collaboratively anywhere, anytime.

The next-generation workplace is designed to facilitate this trend. Here, intranet solutions have emerged as a key enabler.

Unlike conventional intranets that are more about one-way communication between management and employees, modern intranets are where work happens.

The scale of intranet deployment depends on the size of your organization. You may have already deployed many of the features of an intranet:

  • Cloud-based content sharing and editing
  • Instant messages in replacement of emails
  • Digital employee center instead of paper documents

Rather than adding multiple apps and platforms into your organization, you only need to create a digital hub to simplify processes and consolidate information. That’s the core value of an intranet – to connect business strategy and the way digital tools are being used.

An intranet increases productivity, transparency, and information accessibility. Having a single source of truth is crucial to check up on important issues in real-time and mobilize information on the fly. Most importantly, your team can collaborate without boundaries.

So, we’ve developed this complete guide to Building the Digital Workplace: From Intranets to Ultra Teams. In it, you’ll learn about the latest trends and best practices in building collaborative intranets that empower your teams to do their best work.

Along the way, we will introduce the two most popular platforms for enterprise intranet development: Atlassian’s Confluence and Microsoft SharePoint Online.

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Digital Workplace Overview

The growing portfolio of workplace apps has transformed the way people work. At the speed in which these apps are deployed every day, you can find dedicated tools in every corner of the office.
Below are the key components in building the digital workplace:

  • Communication: Incorporate messaging tools, company blogs, or chatbot for internal information delivery.
  • Collaboration: Deploy a project management tool and knowledge-sharing platform for coordinating work across teams, effective document management, and reliable performance measurement.
  • Mobility: Enable remote access of tools away from the office, whether via desktop browser or mobile app.
  • Business applications: HR platform, CRM, expenses & payroll for efficient talent acquisition and employee management.

By bringing teams together on an interactive intranet, you can unleash the combined power of your organization to improve productivity, efficiency, and boost engagement from across different functions.

But that’s only the tip of the digital iceberg. More autonomy results in less control over how work is done. As such, leadership is still indispensable to utilizing these technologies to their advantage.

Below, we will discuss the common challenges in building a digital workplace and how to address them.

Common Challenges In The Digital Workplace

App-Switching Reduces Productivity 

Last year, RingCentral, a cloud-based enterprise collaboration platform, reported that 69% of workers waste up to an hour each day toggling between apps, which translates to 32 work days per year. Additionally, each of these apps is often used exclusively within a department, making it unnecessarily complicated for external teams to collaborate with 

As the adage goes, more doesn’t always mean better.  

Imagine that your organization has already invested a hefty amount of money on various tools. Teams have been using G Suite and Microsoft Office Suite for collaboration, document creation, and content management for years.  

Now, as agility grows its footprints, your IT manager requests to use Atlassian Jira for his software team to deliver products faster. You realize the benefits that an extensive tool like Jira can offer, so it’s a clear investment opportunity. 

As the company grows, you start to notice the gaps between these systems. While the IT team manages just fine with Jira, they still have to jump back and forth from endless email threads to respond to requests. Or worse, they often lose track of tasks because the project plan is stored on another team space on SharePoint. If someone forgets to notify other members of the new assignments, no one seems to be on track. 

Clearly, you need a better way to navigate this “Wild West” of digital workplace tools. Failure to align them can cause a huge deficiency in productivity. 

Digital Walls Create Information Silos 

In today’s workplace, it’s not how much data that matters. It’s what information is being shared that counts 

Yes, digital tools are generating terabytes of data, and it’s available anywhere on the cloud, from chat messages, documents, to product-related matters. However, many organizations overlook the importance of informationsharing space 

With great amounts of data, it’s even more crucial to identify key messages that are worth spreading. Your teams may not realize how their knowledge could help one another to achieve better results. Such silos cause fragmented collaboration, and ultimately, affect the overall health of the organization’s performance.  

As reported by The Panopto Workplace, the average US companies already lose $47 million annually in productivity due to inefficient knowledge sharing. You may not see the direct impact of information silos, yet it is the biggest cause of productivity degradation. According to the report, 85 percent of employees agree that preserving and sharing unique knowledge in the workplace is critical to increasing productivity. 

Just a simple scenario, a customer requests information about the product, but your agent is unable to help because he doesn’t have the product marketing materials. The customer is getting frustrated and decides not to purchase anymore. Is that the agent’s fault? Not entirely. If only there were a space where everyone has instant access to the company’s related documents, including the product descriptions, frequently asked questions, and so on, the agent would have been able to assist the customer better. 

Silo builds the wall in people’s minds and creates the barrier in organizations’ hearts.

That being said, you can deploy a plethora of apps in every department, but failing to utilize them well will lead to productivity loss and information silos 

What if there is a way to synchronize all your business processes and manage cross-departmental knowledge in one place 

Welcome to the new intranet universe! 

Digital Workplace Pillar Page
Intranet As A Digital Workplace Hub

At the ground level, an integrated intranet platform can fulfill the requirements for document management, including team directory, with real-time collaboration via push notifications, wiki space, and content creation, plus project planning and other business services. It’s no wonder teams are increasingly adopting intranets to manage enterprise-scale business initiatives.  

The Core Benefits of Intranets

1. Overcome Budget Constraints 

Thanks to modern intranet capabilities, you can facilitate multiple cloud-based functions without a hefty investment. A modern intranet should offer the following key components:

  • Communication: Messaging space, chatbots (optional)
  • Collaboration: Project management tools, knowledgesharing space, surveys or polls
  • Business OperationsHR portal, CRM, expenses, and payroll 

2. Breakdown Siloed Systems and Data 

The conventional “front office” and “back office” structure impedes a connected digital workplace. It’s not uncommon that, say, customer support agents don’t know what the product team is working on, making it hard for them to respond to customer inquiries about the product. Intranets are essential to bridging that gap.  

Having shared knowledge on the company’s priorities–whether it’s related to a project that employees are working on or to understand the overall business strategyis crucial to staying productive and, more importantly, having the right knowledge to serve customers.  

3. Facilitate Collaboration 

A connected organization is a successful organization. Modern intranets help paint the big picture of your organization – how individual teams contribute to the overall business growth. It’s where people share knowledge and communicate ideas, a place to breed innovation.   

The Most Popular Workplace Apps

Customer Support & CRM Pillar Page

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The Building Blocks Of The Digital Workplace: Intranet Portals

With intranet portals, companies can incorporate a variety of tools to facilitate a truly digital environment.  

For the purpose of this guide, we will discuss the combined functionality of the two most popular intranet platforms: Atlassian Confluence and Microsoft SharePoint.  Understanding the strengths of both tools will give you a general idea of what makes a powerful intranet.  

Confluence Pillar Page

Atlassian Confluence is a wiki platform that emphasizes content creating and collaboration, helping teams do their best work. What makes it an ideal software for intranet development is its simple, yet powerful page design capabilities, with real-time notifications that keep everyone engaged on important matters. You can also integrate it with the project management tool Jira, along with over 800 third-party apps in Atlassian Marketplace to extends its functionality. 

SharePoint Pillar Page

Microsoft SharePoint is a popular intranet platform bundled with Microsoft Office Suite. It bests Confluence in document management. Instead of having to download attachments for editing and then reuploading them, SharePoint allows you to work on Microsoft files in real-time, in the cloud (via the popular Office Web Apps). Combined with features like hub sites creation, team chat, project planning, and integration with third-party apps, SharePoint is a preferred intranet solution for Microsoft users

To deliver on the promise of modern intranets, your organization must prioritize tools that support all aspects of work, as explained below: 

1. Knowledge Base

Traditional intranets are often seen solely as a repository for static documents, like employee handbooks and HR policies.  

Modern intranets go much further, enabling successful organizations to manage knowledge as an asset. They give employees a place to share new ideas, co-create content, and deliver new levels of innovation.  

Today’s intranets are the home to workflow documentation, how-to blog posts, departmental project plans, meeting notes, team announcements, reporting, and so on. They breakdown the walls between teams and projects, enabling employees to explore knowledge and collaborate beyond their traditional domains 

Why it matters? Using the Wikipedia-like approach to content creation, as seen in Confluence, your intranet is where ideas take shape and benefit from the collective intelligence of your teamsYour sales team, for example, can finally engage with the marketing department to provide insights into customer experiences, enabling them to come up with better tactics to attract customers. 

Space OKRs Pillar Page

2. Communication Tools

One of the core functions of an intranet is to foster peer-to-peer collaboration. This is not just about the casual chats, but more about real-time interactions to get work done. For example, it is common to have individuals work on a piece of content, then send it to their managers for review. The feedback loop is often exclusive to internal team members. What if you could source new ideas by getting other people to share their feedback, especially for bigger organization initiatives?  

Most software allows you to integrate your preferred messaging platform, such as Slack or Yammer, beside the built-in chat feature. This way, your organization can take advantage of both direct messaging capabilities of a third-party app and company-wide news updates on the intranet.  

Why it matters? Atlassian Confluence also excels at communication integration. To illustrate it further, you can set up Slack notifications for whenever there is an update on a Confluence page. And vice versa, it’s possible to leave comments or interact with the Confluence update within Slack. While at it, a simple search can open up Slack conversation related to any Confluence updates 

Confluence Cloud Pillar Page

3. Document Management

Without a central hub for document sharing, one would manually send a file to every team member, and then follow-up with emails every time there is a change. And that’s only the beginning. Outdated files can create a communication gap that directly affects the workflow. Having a space to store important work documents is essential to keeping your business running smoothly. 

When it comes to file sharing, nothing beats an intranet. From real-time syncing to native document editing tools, an intranet offers more depth to repositories than cloud-based word processing platforms like DropBox or Google Drive. Most importantly, all of your confidential data will be kept securely and under control. You can set permission access to the right audience, as well as audit the activity log to manage who has been viewing or editing anything. 

Why it matters? With Microsoft SharePoint, your organization can break free from endless email threads and copies of documents as attachments to stay aligned on a single document. Microsoft documents can be edited and automatically saved in the cloud. No matter when and where your team members access the file, they will always see the most updated version. You can track the edit trail as well as who has been interacting with it to ensure transparency across the board. To avoid unwanted data thieves, it’s important to have stronger security and integration with the Active Directory, which helps restrict access based on department and role. 

Document Management Pillar Page

4. Employee Center

Your organization’s intranet serves as a portal for all things related to employment matters. From individual employee profile setup, performance tracking, financial reporting, to human resources and operations. It’s where you can access important records like attendance management to payroll.

Why it matters? From the HR point of view, an intranet provides an easy way to organize on-boarding materials for new hires. This is important to cultivate a positive employee experience – a component of the digital workplace

In brief, a successful intranet is human-centric, rather than being techdriven. You must look at areas that truly matter to your organization, whether it’s to facilitate communication or streamline processes. Keep in mind the core components above for a start, and upgrade your intranet offerings as the team scales.   

Challenges In Launching Intranets

Employee Resistance To Change

One of the biggest risks of reinventing legacy IT systems is low user adoption. Many people resist change, so it’s important that you have an effective user adoption strategy before implementing a new intranet.  

A key impediment to successful launches is cultural change. Since old habits die hard, your teams may opt out of the new intranet platform and, instead, revert to legacy approaches like emailing documents, storing information on hard drives, and other uncollaborative practices.

As with any new software deployment, it’s critical to show everyone how it adds value to their day-to-day work. Otherwise, your digital workplace initiative may get lost in a sea of change resistance.

For organizations that have deployed multiple digital apps and tools, moving to a centralized hub of collaboration may also take some getting used to.  

Choosing The Right Solutions

Another potential roadblock is having too many options to begin with.  

If you want to launch an intranet based on a collective set of systems, you will end up with multiple points of communication. And that, unfortunately, is a common problem in digital workplaces.

For teams to navigate cross-functional work, it can be like trying to find an information needle in a digital haystack. For instance, team messages are stored in Slack, while project information is only accessible via SharePoint, and the customer requests are kept in the CRM. Imagine the effort required to search for a single piece of information through all these apps. 

While using multiple softwares to create an intranet is not ideal, you can integrate them to make the most of your current investment. That’s why Confluence has become such a popular intranet solution for businesses that are using other Atlassian tools, like Jira. Virtually every team – from product development to project execution, and beyond – can find a common ground through the Atlassian ecosystem and third-party apps. 

Measure The Business Value Of A Company Intranet: Ultra-High-Performing Teams

Modern intranets deliver tremendous benefits to innovation-driven organizations:

  • Employee engagement: Everyone is a part of something bigger than themselves, as they have a safe environment to share ideas and spread content that matters.
  • Employee experience: With improved transparency and information accessibility, your teams can spend less time searching for information and more time creating an impact.
  • Productivity growth: Since everything is accessible on the cloud, and everyone is only a chat message away, you can ensure a continuous flow of work with a clear audit trail. Best of all, there are multiple apps that allow you to customize the intranet workspace to fit different team and individual needs.
  • New employee onboarding: A positive experience goes a long way. Every new hire is provided with information to help them get started and quickly keep up with how things work.
  • Culture creation: At its core, an intranet allows you to cultivate a workplace culture based on shared values. It is enabled by a community of teams, including remote employees.
  • Innovation-led culture: Ideas spark innovation. But you must first create an environment that breeds ideas. With borderless connection across functions, anyone can discover knowledge that is beyond their job scope. By learning from one another, your team members can explore their untapped potential in areas that are new to them.

Are you ready to build your digital workplace? Then you’ve come to the right place. A premium solution partner for both Atlassian and Microsoft, Communardo hosts the annual Digital Workplace Summit every year. We’re recognized experts in enterprise collaboration and makers of the popular SharePoint Online Connector for Confluence.

Download our ebook on the Digital Workplace for more info on building a successful digital workplace using Atlassian, Microsoft, or our Marketplace apps.