Get The Most Out Of Your Microsoft 365 Digital Workplace by Tracy van der Schyff

Investing in tech won’t fix your problems, but training your people on how to use the new technology will, says Tracy van der Schyff. We caught up with Tracy to find out about which tools she thinks are needed to run a digital workplace, how to get the most out of your Microsoft 365 digital workplace and why investing in people should be a company’s biggest priority.

Tracy is a long-term contributor in the community, a Microsoft 365 consultant and a passionate advocate of its technology. She has produced a nice amount of content for our blog and was a speaker at our first bigger online event, Valo Fest 2020.

Here’s what she has to say:

The digital workplace tools you’ll need in Microsoft 365

Q: What does the term digital workplace mean to you?

It’s about having a virtual office. It’s a single place where you can work together with people and access all the tools you need to help you do your job effectively.

Q: What tools are needed within a digital workplace?

Being a Microsoft baby, it’s going to be all about Microsoft 365. It’s a mistake to think that it’s just Microsoft Teams or Outlook or SharePoint. It’s about using all the apps. Think Stream for your videos. Forms for quizzes. And even Sway for digital information packs. They’re the tools that together complete the digital workplace. The magic is all about the mutualist symbiosis between the apps and services.

Q: Which tools do you recommend for which purpose?

When companies get involved with Microsoft 365 they have to figure out which tool to use, when and for what. People get very confused, but training often solves that. The challenge is you can use an app for multiple purposes. You can use an email to send a friend a birthday wish, or to fire an employee, or to make a company announcement, so it’s about figuring out what the strengths and weaknesses of the different apps are, and then applying them for best fit based on the company culture and requirements.

As a general rule, OneDrive should be used for your personal work drafts and anything you share externally. Whereas Teams should be more about the groups of people who work together. Of course, behind Teams is SharePoint. But if you look at standalone SharePoint communication sites, which is more of an intranet/communication environment, then that’s a place for everyone. I categorize it simply:

  • OneDrive is me.
  • Teams is we.
  • Intranets are us.

Create an engaging digital workplace by investing in people

Q: What do you think about digital workplaces that are driven by requirements and budget?

In the past, projects were driven by requirements and budget. But this is the wrong approach. When we let budgets or requirements only drive projects like these, they tend to fail. It’s purely because we don’t do things for the right reasons. We should be investing in our greatest assets, our employees.

So right in the beginning, I always get HR and change management teams involved because it shouldn’t just be an IT or monetary driven requirement. The approach should be about investing in people and creating engaging workplaces.

Q: How can organizations use their digital workplaces to improve employee engagement?

There are so many tools, but the first ones that come to mind are Yammer and Teams. But plugging in all the other tools is important to create and get the most out of your Microsoft 365 digital workplace too.

The products can’t fix the problems. People fix problems with products. So, companies need to be really careful. So, when companies don’t invest in people, and ensure they have dedicated people on board to help drive that change, then it won’t happen.

You can’t just put a product down or install or roll it out and think you’ll have a digital workplace. It doesn’t work like that. The maturity of the employees need to grow with the digital maturity, which is why I cannot say this enough, please train your people.

Q: How do you make that happen?

Lots of effort, elbow grease and hard work. The investment in people and training is usually a more difficult discussion to have. Training is the first budget they cut but that’s the area where you can get the most ROI. It’s a sad reality that companies are still not focusing enough on training.

As with anything, changing perspectives is done through knowledge sharing and disagreeing. Sharing information and training is a form of that. Training is the best way to introduce people to new ways of working, changing the way they think, and getting them to drop old habits.

Top tips on how to get the most out of your Microsoft 365 digital workplace

Q: Changing a culture is a huge mission, how should it be done?

You’ll always need management support. I work from the management side and from the bottom up. They meet each other halfway. But change always starts with self. I’ve always seen the work that I do as tech therapy. All my training is around making people feel better about themselves and their abilities.

If we can focus on that and make people feel better about their abilities and help them to have a better tech self-esteem, so many positive things come with that. That’s what forces cultural change. It’s not posters on a wall, or an email from the CEO. It’s about how people feel about themselves. When people feel better about themselves, they help to build better cultures.

Q: What are your tips or tricks to creating a better digital workplace?

The biggest tip I can give is don’t assume.

We have to stop assuming that people know how to do things. It’s the biggest mistake. Don’t assume that your employees are digitally literate.

I’ve done the research for years and at least 70 percent of our workforce aren’t digitally literate, and it has a massive impact on the adoption of the tools.

We have to invest in our employees. We have to make sure they can catch up with the tech, because tech is so advanced. It’s agile. Now we have to make humans agile too. That the biggest challenge.

Tracy is a good friend of Valo and she was also one of our speakers at our first bigger online event, Valo Fest 2020. You can tune in and get access to her session on “How To Simplify & Accelerate Your Microsoft 365 Roll Out” for free here!


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