Yammer launched in just 7 days during COVID-19, to enable 2-way communication with first responders

The Challenge

In the massive state of Western Australia, the first responders in a medical emergency are from St John Ambulance. When coronavirus became prevalent in March this year, St John needed a way to get out information rapidly, especially to first responders around the evolving Covid-19 situation. 

Fortunately, St John WA was already working with Engage Squared to plan the roll out of Yammer. Strategically, the decision was made to pivot and collapse a planned 10-week program into launching Yammer in just 7 days. 

The Solution

It was very important for us to get key messages out, especially for Covid-19, rapidly and in a uniform way,” said Christina Blake, Head of Community Engagement & Internal Comms, at St John. “At St John we looked to breakdown silos and fill the gaps in connecting our workforce. Accessibility is important for volunteers, and the advantage of Yammer is they can connect easily through their mobile devices.” 

St John has 120-year tradition of providing high quality ambulance services and first aid. The workforce is made up of about 2,000 employees and 8,000 volunteers. Many are first responders, who are dispersed over the largest state in Australia

Prior to this project, St John WA had very limited communication and collaboration tools available to its workforce. Staff and volunteers were reliant on push communications delivered via phone, email, the website and their SharePoint intranet. To communicate with their geographically dispersed workforce, bulk emails would be sent, and team chats and updates were often sent within private Facebook groups, commonly set-up and run by volunteers.  

According to Christina Blake – the decision to launch Yammer aligned well with their cultural priorities, including listening to staff and volunteers and enabling greater leadership visibility. Overall, St John WA want to ensure front line staff learning is based on facts, customer case examples and continuous learning. A perfect fit for Yammer. 

The Achievements

In the first few weeks, users on the new Yammer network grew from a handful on the project team to over 2000. And there was a steady increase in users and engagement in the 6 weeks since. 

Through Yammer, St John WA CEO Michelle Fyfe has been able to send out video updates and key message posts across the organisation on topics covering the flu vaccine, downloading of the COVID- Safe app, updates from the Medical Director for frontline staff, along with updates from the Executive Team. These video updates have proved popular and each are seen by over 650 staff and volunteers.  

Operational managers were able to ask for Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) usage queries to made on a Yammer thread to be collated onto a FAQ page. This is a terrific use case for the role Yammer played during the Covid-19, to help keep staff informed, and ensure they and their patients are kept safe. 

The results overall for the new Yammer network have been impressive. St John WA had the foresight to activate Swoop Analytics from the outset. Response rates were sitting at 88 percent, well above the global average.  

From a security perspective, the project has also enabled to transfer closed private Facebook groups to more inclusive Yammer conversations on an endorsed Microsoft platform. 

Yammer has also given leaders and operational managers the ability to share, amplify and endorse posts and gauge sentiment across the organisation. And most importantly it has enabled for first responders to be actively involved in two-way conversations and obtain information rapidly in the uncertain times of the pandemic.  

Value Provided and Outcomes

  • On day 1, the network had a single CEO video. By day 7, the network had 2,000 users. 
  • Yammer provided an opportunity for communications with front-line employees to become two-way for the first time.
  • A user reported that the dictation function on iPad was extremely useful for writing up clinical notes, halving the time taken.  This time saving tip was shared Company-wide, allowing others to save time
  • A lot of critical content was communicated out to the business in times of need in the form of short videos, for example showing how ventilation machines work in an ambulance.
Mark Woodrow and Matt Dodd, from Engage Squared ran workshops for the leadership team and community leads, in the St John WA head office – but most joined remotely for social distancing

Why this is just the beginning: Understanding the opportunity behind a digital-first workplace

Claudia Piscitelli, Change & Adoption Lead

A few short weeks ago, we were humbled to be recognised with an Advanced Specialisation in Adoption and Change Management by Microsoft. We are one of only two partners in Australia who have achieved this specialisation. Receiving that news reminded me of why I love what I do, and it got me thinking about the role of change management and technology as enablers for transformation. Plenty of businesses were already on the path to digital transformation well before the impacts of Covid-19 hit. But what was originally a five-year plan has been accelerated to mere weeks because of the pandemic. As the old saying goes – necessity is the mother of invention.

As conversations around returning to the workplace start to emerge, it’s important for companies to apply a long-term lens to their business strategy. One that carefully considers both the employee and customer experience, and the role technology will play to support those experiences. While the easing of restrictions will mean a return to the office for some, there will be a large cohort of workers and employers who will continue to work remotely for some time.

We are well and truly in the middle of creating a new future for our working lives and the way business is done. Companies like Microsoft, Twitter, and Facebook have already begun planning for remote work to become a staple for future and current employees. So, what does this mean in practice? And how can companies gain a competitive edge by looking at the opportunities that come with a digital-first business strategy?

First and foremost, the catalyst for success – whether it be to improve internal functions or better serve customers – is investing in the right technology. Many of us have experienced first-hand how technologies such as Microsoft Teams can enable businesses to ‘keep the lights on’ by helping us communicate and collaborate with each other. Over the past few weeks, I have seen and been part of a lot of discussions around rapid deployment of cloud technology to support remote working. But introducing these technologies is only the very beginning. I have always believed it is not the technology but how we use it that drives value and outcomes.

Before the pandemic, companies like Microsoft were already investing big to help organisations get the most out of their people by empowering them with the right technology – technology that is suited to the modern landscape and the challenges we face today. Our current circumstances have only accelerated the inevitable move towards a more flexible, diverse and digital workplace. There are huge benefits that come with a business model that prioritises digital-first. For example:  

  1. It provides access to new pools of talent and, more importantly, helps retain existing talent, because there is less emphasis on being near the office and more emphasis on skills
  2. It will improve diversity and spread economic opportunity beyond bustling city centers to other regions and communities
  3. Less commute and less travel = better environment and better quality of life… need I say more?

From a change management perspective, now is the perfect time for companies to critically evaluate their long-term business model and start planning for the future. In some ways, this crisis has created the perfect storm for digital transformation in the workplace. Why? Because it has shifted everyone’s priorities. All the right players are paying attention and making changes – from executives, through to IT, HR, communications, and everyone in between.

So now that you have the right environment for change, how are you going to use it to your advantage? What new norms are you going to introduce? How are you going to use the lessons learnt from this time to transform your business? When answering these questions, make sure to consider these two crucial things:

  1. What success measures you are going to put in place to track progress and identify areas for improvement (for example, leveraging SWOOP or Workplace Analytics to capture rich insights)
  2. How your change management strategy is going to support bringing staff ‘on the journey’ to transformation. For example, who else will need to be involved and what communications and training staff may need. Because ultimately, this is about changing behaviour to drive impact.

Want to learn more? Talk to us about technology adoption and change management at info@engagesq.com.

Office Safe – Prepare your employees to safely move back into the workplace

Are you ready to keep your staff safe when they return to the office?

People across Australia are venturing back to the office – but to keep everyone safe, some things will need to be a bit different. The need to respond swiftly and offer effective solutions will be a priority for many businesses.

To reduce the risk of potential infection and disruption in the workplace, businesses will need to implement new safety plans to comply with government regulations and social distancing practices.

Managing staff locations and office attendance on a rotating basis will be a new challenge for managers and HR teams, as well as ensuring all employees are clear on the right practices and understand the options, locations and spaces available to them.

Teams Shifts Activation

Employers will need to be ready to answer the following critical questions when staff begin to return to the office:

  1. Do you know where your employees are – and are they following new OHS requirements?
  2. Do your staff know where their colleagues are so that they can best plan their workday?
  3. Do your staff know when they can be in the office (or will they be the person who pushes the company over the office limit)?
  4. Will there be meeting rooms available for them to work effectively with a mix of colleagues who are in the office and working remotely?

Our team has been trialling a range of effective measures, both internally and with our clients.

Luckily, Microsoft have some great tools available to help you respond to these challenges quickly and easily by leveraging “Shifts in Microsoft Teams”.

These features are not just for organisations with a front-line workforce, “Shifts” can also be deployed for office-based teams.

Activating the following Teams capabilities can help all organisations to overcome these challenges, by:

  1. Helping employees plan where they will be – without exceeding the number of staff in the office at any one time. Managers and team leaders can create schedules to comply with HR rules, allowing employees to opt-in (or be rostered on) to work in the office.
  2. Giving teams visibility of their team’s whereabouts, and meeting room availability through calendar integration – not just in Teams but also in their Outlook calendar.
  3. Empowering collaboration – enabling employees to collaborate through document sharing, news bulletins and videos.
  4. Implementing an efficient process for scheduling changes that are tailored to how managers and employees work.

We will deliver

We’re ready to help you setup “Shifts” (and other tools) to ensure the safety of your staff.

  1. Discovery sessions – work with your HR and OHS teams to review existing workforce management systems and collateral, as well as office logistics considerations.
  2. Application configuration – configure Shifts to provide employees with a customised experience whilst considering business priorities. Optionally, we can also implement one or more automated flows to prompt staff to provide more detail of their plans.
  3. Change management – physical and virtual change management recommendations to help employers get back to work safely and securely.
  4. Training sessions – tailored sessions for managers and end users to empower them to use the application efficiently.

Work completion time frame: 5 – 10 working days

To find out more information, contact us at info@engagesq.com

Meet Rabia – Our very own Microsoft MVP

The Microsoft MVP (Most Valuable Professional) is not awarded to just anyone in the tech industry. It’s a highly acclaimed and sought-after achievement that recognises outstanding contributions to the Microsoft community – and can only be received following peer recognition and nominations from existing MVPs.

The most recent intake saw one of our own, Rabia Williams, recognised as an MVP for Office Development. She’s been working at Engage Squared for the past 15 months, leading our development efforts on a range of major projects for our large financial services and banking clients.

Rabia is a true tech enthusiast who excels at solving problems with creatively coded solutions. Her tag line, now famous within Engage Squared, is “I will code for pizza” – and she really does, we tried! It’s easy to see why she was nominated as her passion for Office 365 development shines through everything she does!

After having interviewed Rabia about her thoughts about becoming an MVP, she commented that being a woman in tech, she feels that she can finally contribute to discussions on stereotypes about women or any other minority groups in technology (who are equally as hard-working as she is). Her message is simply inspiring those groups to rise up and claim what they deserve.

To her, being awarded MVP is a constant reminder to be a better version of herself, refining her work to its utmost quality, the credibility of the replies she provides to others, her social responsibilities, and being a visible point of contact within the Microsoft community.

Rabia’s notable achievements at Engage Squared

Rabia has been a star performer at Engage Squared, leading our delivery of major projects for several key clients in the last year.

This includes ANZ Bank, where she led the upgrade of their legacy Intranet from 2010 to 2016, upgrading and refreshing .Net code – some of which was more than 7 years old. She has also been at the forefront of our SharePoint Online work at ANZ, leading our local and remote development teams to create their new intranet portal on SharePoint Online.

At Suncorp, Rabia has been leading our technical activities to implement a new Intranet based on our modern Office 365 Intranet Accelerator. She wears multiple hats, across DevOps, development, and architecture.

And recently, at V/Line, Rabia took on responsibilities as technical lead to deliver a new Intranet based on our accelerator.

Community contribution

Her dedication to both the Microsoft and wider developer communities has seen Rabia recognised for contributing to the office365-cli open source project amongst a number of others.

This is what really sets Rabia apart from the rest of the population: her willingness to help others and how she is constantly striving to leave footprints of knowledge and expertise wherever she goes.

Her most recent activities within the Microsoft community as an MVP include presenting at M365 May, where she conducted two sessions:

And if that wasn’t enough for you, she featured in a Microsoft 365 & SharePoint PnP Weekly Episode, talking about the ease of working with SPFx, to challenges of cloud-based authentication, and to being involved with the tremendous growth of Microsoft Teams apps/extensions.

“Rabia’s professionalism, enthusiasm for the product and the ease with which she was able to guide the client staff through the new functionality was exactly what was needed. She made an extremely positive impression with the client and us”
Some standout feedback from a partner last year

You can catch Rabia on LinkedIn here, otherwise reach out to us if you’re interested in her consulting services for your next project!

Microsoft Lists makes tracking information easier and smarter

Amidst a huge list of announcements at Microsoft’s Build conference last week, one surprise that we were excited to hear about is a new app launching in the next few months.

Lists will be a new Microsoft 365 app that will supercharge SharePoint lists. The app will bring these features out of SharePoint, making it much easier to create, share, and configure information for yourself, your team, and across your organisation.

Employees will longer need to create a full SharePoint site – and battle the learning curve to understand all of the features that comes with that – just to start tracking and organising information. This is a time and sanity saver for employees whose business may require a laborious and slow approval process to create a SharePoint site. They can create a list straight away and share the information with who they want. (Rest assured… all the new features in the Lists app will also be available in SharePoint too!)

New opportunities to streamline work

This will create heaps of new opportunities to streamline how businesses work. From building a staff marketplace, to crowd-sourcing ideas, to tracking the whereabouts of your team as we begin to return to work (but not all at the same time), the functionality available in Lists could power lots of previously complex systems.

We love this because we have clients asking for these kinds of features. For example, we recently created a staff marketplace on an intranet. To do this, we used JSON list view formatting and Power Apps to achieve this. The end-result looked nice, but it took a bit of effort to create, test, and maintain, the solution. The new card view promised in Lists (coupled with a powerful format editor) would have allowed us to easily solve this problem without any code!

A calendar view is a popular requested feature for modern SharePoint that will be easily met with Lists. This will be a great for use-cases for project teams visualising important project dates, company events, training, upcoming marketing campaigns, and comes with colour-coding (often a showstopper for calendars).

Lists of data are not created in a vacuum and often have discussions happening between team members. Tracking project and planning activities will become easier using the new commenting feature. This will allow conversations to stay in one location, and provide the ability to mention your colleagues to notify of important updates. At the moment you need to build this out yourself without being able to mention anyone – this will soon be available out-of-the-box!

People involved in on-boarding new staff members can find it difficult to have a re-usable staff on-boarding checklist. One of the new templates caters for this specific scenario, which should be received with cheers from human resource staff around the world.

Previously to achieve a some of these features you’d need to have speciality knowledge in JSON, know how to configure a Flow, or create a Power App. These capabilities are still here, and enable power users to extend and customise the list experience, however bringing some of those capabilities in a more accessible feature brings value to a wider group of people.

What was announced?

Rolling out during our winter (southern hemisphere), and building on-top of the existing SharePoint Lists functionality, here’s a summary of what was announced at Microsoft Build 2020:

Lists home app | You can create and manage lists within the one location, with mobile app is coming later this year. You can create lists for your existing Teams or create lists only you can access until you’re ready to share with your colleagues.

Import from Excel| Import your data directly from your excel files and into a list.

Some hurdles we find with clients is importing their data from Excel tables into SharePoint. The tools get partway there but aren’t too friendly. Having this baked into the creation experience makes it a much easier conversation to get data out of Excel, which would benefit from all the additional features from lists. No more needing to manually type and manage all the details of someone’s name, email, department, manager, etc., when all that data exists in their user profile.

That data can still be exported to excel for analysis, however the creation and processes around the data can be more easily managed in lists.

Templates | Save time needed to create a spreadsheet or list for common scenarios by using pre-built templates. This has all the fields and formatting already applied for you, and you can customise from there if you need to. Some of the templates so far are:

  • Issue tracking
  • New hire checklist
  • Event itinerary
  • Business trip approvals
  • Team evaluations
  • Asset tracker
  • Project planning
  • Social media calendar

Even if your use-case isn’t specifically one of the listed ones, you can always choose one that fits closest and modify it to fit your use-case

Lists and Teams | Lists can be created and managed directly in your existing Teams. Before you needed to create a SharePoint List first, then go back into Teams, and then add the list as a tab to your channel. This saves all that time


Customise how your list looks | Change how your information is presented by using list, calendar, and card views. You can format it even further by using the format designer to display exactly the information you want to present.


Create processes with Rules | Start a process when an item is added, modified, or a column value changes to something specific, and notify someone based on the data in your list. This brings the capabilities of Power Automate into an easy creation tool.

Want to send an email when an item progresses to a certain stage? Want to be notified if the budget ever changes for a project? This makes it easy to set these processes.


Get others’ attention with comments | Comments in items allow you to mention your colleagues to provide feedback, give status updates, and keep everyone in the loop.

I haven’t used SharePoint Lists, what are some good use-cases?

Think of any list of information you store in a word doc, excel file, PDF, OneNote, etc. Any information you use to store, track, or manage, for a business process, is a great fit for Lists.

A few common use-cases are:

  • Project tasks
  • Project issues
  • Tracking the status of projects
  • Staff on-boarding checklist
  • Leave requests
  • Asset management
  • Safety and audit checks
  • Employees holding a Work Health and Safety role
  • Planning marketing newsletters and events
  • Tracking staff expertise across the business
  • Idea tracking

Isn’t this just SharePoint Lists?

Yes, but an evolved form.

SharePoint lists is still the data storage for Microsoft lists. Now lists are even more accessible to users, saving time by reducing the time needed to create a SharePoint site first to start creating lists. This can be a challenge for organisations that have long approvals to get a site created in the first place, when all you wanted was a simple list to get started.

People would instantly turn to an Excel file instead, when their situation would have been perfect in a list with all the features provided that Excel isn’t built to address.

What about my existing SharePoint Lists?

If you’re already using lists in your Teams and Team Sites, that’s great! They’ll automatically get the new features when they’re rolled out.

I use classic SharePoint lists, what about me? Are they getting deprecated?

Microsoft has no plans to deprecate classic lists. If you’re ready to change your lists to the modern view though, they’ll automatically receive the new benefits

I have more questions, where can I find more information?

Reach out to us if you have any questions and here are some resources to learn more:

Microsoft Teams vs Zoom

How Microsoft Teams will never have an incident like ‘Zoombombing’

Lauren Simonson, Mark Woodrow

Microsoft Teams vs Zoom

With the majority of the population being forced to stay home to help stop the spread of COVID-19, many have turned to videoconferencing platforms to undertake work meetings and also virtual social gatherings.

Educational institutions, government agencies, places of worship and a whole array of other companies have shut their doors, leading them to look to platforms that make remote work accessible. But, it’s imperative to do your homework to make the right technology choices before jumping in.

Many organisations have made the switch to online platforms, such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom, to be able to host videoconferencing meetings, but what distinctly separates these two is the transparency of information on your privacy, data and security.

Zoom have indicated that their easy-to-use interface ticks the box for a simple solution for online meetings, video conferencing and group messaging. However, with their skyrocketing user numbers, this has placed a magnifying glass over the company’s policies, specifically around their data security and encryption.

Zoom users have raised their concerns about the software with a new buzz word: Zoombombing – this is where uninvited guests attend meetings and chats. Reports have come back from consumers deeply upset from the Zoombombing incidents they’ve experienced, their apprehension on Zoom data being shared with Facebook and the company’s misleading claims on the end-to-end encryption of the meeting software.

Why you should review your Zoom settings

Security experts, lawmakers, and government agencies (including the FBI) have warned that Zoom’s default settings don’t have the state-of-the-art security and compliance requirements needed in this day and age for virtual meetings.

Each Zoom call has a randomly generated ID number used by participants to gain access to a meeting. These are public and if shared around, can result in surprise visitors joining. Researchers have found the IDs can be easy to guess, share and hack.

The risk for a public meeting is an uninvited guest joins and uses Zoom’s screen-sharing feature to broadcast unsavoury content in your meetings, with consumer reports that these types of incidents aren’t unique to just them. To prevent this, you need to check your Zoom settings.

To see your current settings, go to Settings on the left-hand side and against Who can share / Who can start sharing when someone else is sharing, ensure to select Host Only can share. Once you save your settings, future meetings that you start will have sharing disabled by default.

You can change settings for screen sharing on mobile devices and during a meeting but be careful you know all the participants before opening up the screen share capability to all participants.

The advantage of Teams is that many security features are already built in

Teams has powerful privacy and security controls where you can manage meeting participants and who can access that meeting information.

With Teams, you can control who from outside your organization can join meetings directly, and who waits in the online lobby. Conveniently, you act as the moderator, designating presenters and who can screen share.

For additional control, remember to use Attendee and Presenter roles. This gives the Presenter full control but stops Attendees from muting other people, removing people from the meeting, or sharing their screens without the Presenter’s permission. Also, make sure you ask your Teams (O365) admin to block anonymous users from joining Teams meetings.

You’re able to give people guest access from outside your organisation securely while still retaining control over all your data. Recordings are only made available to those on a call or meeting invitees, where these recordings are securely stored and protected by permissions and end-to-end encryption.

Questions raised about how secure data is on Zoom

In recent weeks, there have been a number of data privacy concerns around Zoom.

There are reports that the Apple iOS version of the Zoom app sends some analytics data to Facebook; even for Zoom users who don’t actually have a Facebook account (according to a Motherboard analysis of the app). This data could include a device’s model, network provider, time zone, city, and unique device identifier advertisers can use to send targeted ads. Zoom is currently being sued in California for allegedly giving personal data to outside companies, including Facebook, without fully informing customers.

Questions have also been raised over whether Zoom is right to claim its data is end-to-end encrypted– which implies that no one, even Zoom itself, can read chats. Online news site The Intercept calls their definition ‘misleading’, as Zoom can itself access unencrypted video and audio from meetings. Under certain circumstances, it turns out, multiple people in a meeting might be able to read private messages. Depending on where these are downloaded, private messages could also be revealed in Zoom meeting minutes.

Zoom appears to be taking these issues seriously, with their CEO Eric S. Yuan having announced a 90-day feature freeze, shifting all their engineering resources to focus on Zoom’s trust, safety, and privacy issues. Zoom’s waiting room feature, and meeting room passwords, are being introduced as default.

Microsoft Teams has far superior built-in security capability that’s ‘out of the box’

“When you use Microsoft Teams, you are entrusting us with one of your most valuable assets—your data and personal information. Our approach to privacy is grounded in our commitment to giving you transparency over the collection, use, and distribution of your data.”

Jared Spataro, Corporate Vice President for Microsoft 365.

Microsoft Teams advanced security and compliance capabilities for customers, includes:

  • Multi-factor authentication
  • Single sign on through Azure Active Directory for the Office 365 suite
  • Encryption of data in transit and at rest
  • Advanced Threat Protection
  • Communication compliance
  • Data retention policies
  • Data loss prevention

To summarise, Microsoft Teams has the capability and sophisticated architecture to ensure your security, data and privacy are the highest priority. Not only this, but as a collaborative tool and part of Office 365, it integrates with the Microsoft stack of products making it a natural part of your workday, whether in the office or working remotely.

Microsoft Teams, the chat-based workspace in Office 365

To read more on Teams and to test this for free yourself, go to:


About the authors:

Lauren Simonson manages sales and partnerships at Engage Squared.

Mark Woodrow is the O365 Evangelist at Engage Squared.

Corporate community leadership and management in times of crisis

In these times of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is plenty of information about working remotely and crisis communications.  This post is about neither of these.  I want to focus on the role communities within organisations can play in supporting people through times of crisis

The Edelman Trust Barometer shows that in the last 2 years the most trusted people are now my employer and, after scientists, my fellow citizens in my country and in my community.  And whilst people are most reliant on news organisations for information on the coronavirus, it is, in fact, employer communications that are the most believed source.  This places a great expectation on organisational leaders, corporate communicators and community managers as employees turn to them and their work community for trusted answers.  So how can we address this?  How can we build community resilience and demonstrate care?

“Leadership in communities is as much about influence as it is authority”

Make your intranet your source of truth

With all the talk of collaboration and remote working tools, it can be easy to forget the humble intranet.

Make sure you have a dedicated page for the crisis response and that you are linking to the credible expert sources.  Your “sponsorship” of government or health sources passes on your trusted position to these. Use this page as the source of truth and link to it from any communications you send out and add it as a tab in any collaboration tools, such as Teams, so it is easy to get clear and consistent information out to different groups of colleagues.

Have a prominent link or news item on the intranet homepage so people can find it quickly – ideally show when it was last updated to keep people’s confidence it is accurate.  Call out any specific actions clearly and consider having sections on what you know and don’t know.  People are looking to see if colleagues have been affected, and what steps they need to take.

Activate and engage your employee community 

Tools like Teams helps get the work done remotely but doesn’t always engage the community or cut across pockets of knowledge. This is where enterprise social networks (ESNs) like Yammer come into their own. 

Whilst your intranet gives you your source of truth, your ESN gives your employees a voice.  Set up a crisis community to allow them to raise concerns and questions as it’s better to know what they are than think they don’t exist if you can’t see them.  Use it to ask for their help or ideas. Set up an official profile such as “Company News” to act as a spokesperson, posting links back to the intranet and giving the official view in any answers. It will save time and effort when people look at their ESN feed. 

Run Q&A sessions with senior leaders at set times to connect them to the issues faced by remote workers and frontline staff.  It makes the leadership team both present and visible. 

Coach your leaders

Leadership in communities is as much about influence as it is authority so make sure your leadership team feel confident to participate in your network.  In a crisis, the situation can change rapidly so have leaders post updates as close to real-time as possible and be authentic. Don’t try to control the narrative – you have the intranet page for that. Instead control how you react. Use natural language and if you don’t know the answers yet, say so. 

Remind them that the ESN is really an extension of the workplace, so ask them what they would say if they were briefing a group of staff in a meeting, or if they overheard a question in a corridor.  Get them to use this response as the basis for what they can post.  Take the time to thank people for their efforts or ideas directly – it demonstrates leaders are listening and builds the psychological safety for people to speak up.

The power in communities

Communities are geared to support their members. There is an unwritten social contract between members based on the common interest they share. This sense of connection and support is important, narrowing the emotional distance even when working remotely.  Trust is the currency of these communities, so listen to what is being said and be present. Remember that in many cases communities will mobilise to protect themselves.  If this mobilisation is supported with active leadership then we can create resilience in our people instead of reliance.

Simon Terry, creator of the Collaboration Value Maturity Model and collaboration thought leader draws similar conclusions in his recent article Three Key Roles For Yammer A Crisis

Matt Dodd – Digital Workplace Consultant – Engage Squared

“Matt changes the way people work, create and connect through human-centered approaches to culture, leadership and digital services.
He combines design, empathy and systems thinking to deliver value to individuals and organisations.
Since 2004, he’s been working with large organisations delivering digital-based change and workplaces. ”

Hourglass and laptop computer

SharePoint 2010

You might have read it before but I’m going to tell you again. SharePoint 2010 is going out of support on 13th October 2020. But what does that actually mean? We’re here to tell you!

SharePoint 2010 has been in ‘Extended Support’ for 4 years, meaning you’ve only been receiving security updates across that period. If you were an early adopter, you’re probably really happy with your return on investment. Perhaps you’re apprehensive about migrating.

Let’s start with what happens if you don’t. You won’t be compliant with standards & regulations and could lose business. You won’t have any support from Microsoft without a very costly support agreement. You’ll be vulnerable to any new security issues that arise. Your critical business functions could kick the bucket. You’ll be hard pressed to find agencies with people who remember how to use 2010, let alone want to.

So, what are my options? The way we see it, you have 2.5 options, On-Premise, Cloud or a combination of both (the half). However, for most of you, choosing the correct option has never been simpler.

Does my organisation NEED to be On-Premise?

With SharePoint Online as strong as it currently is, Office 365 is a truly great option. There’s no need to worry about servers, infrastructure or any maintenance. The lowest availability that Office 365 has had over since the start of 2017 is 99.97%. That’s about 2.6 hours a year, which would be a dream to achieve the 3 nines with an on-premise hosted environment. And what’s more, if you are affected by the outages, Microsoft will fix it for you.

You also get access to the entire Office 365 suite. Perhaps you can replace your costly, aging, 2010 customisations with, much easier to develop, Power Apps & Flows. If not, you have access to more APIs than ever (including the Microsoft Graph) and the SharePoint Framework (SPFx), which will soon integrate with Word, Microsoft Teams and Outlook as part of the Fluid Framework.

If the answer to the above question was Yes, our next question is:

Why?

Is your security & compliance team pressuring you to stay On-Premise because that’s what they believe is compliant? Office 365 is more complaint by global and local standards than ever & the Security & Compliance centre makes it easier to track any exceptions or potential threats.

Microsoft compliance offerings

Microsoft offers a comprehensive set of compliance offerings to help your organization comply with national, regional, and industry-specific requirements governing the collection and use of data.

Global & US Government Compliance
Industry & Regional Compliance

Image reference: Current Office 365 Compliance https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/microsoft-365/compliance/offering-home?view=o365-worldwide


On Premises

If you do need to stay on-premise, what version is right for you? 2013 is already well into its lifespan, and you’ll likely have to repeat this exercise in 2023. SharePoint 2016 can use SPFx once it has been upgraded to Feature Pack 2, but SharePoint Server 2019 has SPFx & the Modern Experience (including all the out-of-the-box mobile responsive features that come with it) that, in our opinion, makes it a no brainer, despite sharing much of the underlying architecture from 2016.

Regardless of your decision, the steps to prepare are all the same.

  • Compile a list of customisations/business apps/processes that are business critical
    • Now is a great time to categorise them whether they need updating or not
  • Audit your SharePoint content to see what needs to be migrated (if any)
    • Now is a great time to have a spring clean so your new SharePoint environment isn’t clogged from the beginning
    • Identify who your content owners are

This will help you & your organisation to understand the size of the task at hand and can help you start planning your move. If you decide you want to upgrade your environment instead of starting anew, you will need to upgrade to SharePoint 2013, then SharePoint 2016 and then finally SharePoint 2019 (if you want to go that far).

SharePoint 2010 Server and Dependencies
SharePoint Servers & Dependencies

Image reference: https://techcommunity.microsoft.com/t5/microsoft-sharepoint-blog/extended-support-for-sharepoint-server-2010-ends-in-october-2020/ba-p/272628


Online

Things are much simpler if you want to migrate to Office 365. You can create a new tenant in a matter of minutes, sync your active Directory to Azure Active Directory and have people up and running in less than the time it took to write this blog post. Microsoft PowerApps and Power Automate are natural successors to many of your On-Premise customisations.

Someone with intermediate Excel skills (a citizen developer) could potentially replace an expensive bespoke customisation made in InfoPath Forms and Designer workflows in a matter of days.

The page authoring experience of Modern SharePoint is now so easy to use that you can create an entire Intranet quicker than ever before, especially if you’ve consolidated pages from your old intranet in the audit, as suggested above.

Whilst there’s no way of directly migrating old Intranet pages to Modern SharePoint, you can easily improve them. You can also use migration tools such as ShareGate to migrate documents, files, images and lists from old SharePoint/Network drive to SharePoint Online & OneDrive respectively.

You will also get access to Microsoft’s continuous stream of updates to Office 365, constantly improving your return on investment.

Finally, most Office 365 licenses come with Exchange Online, making it easier than ever to give your users email on the move. Microsoft are also keen to help with licensing, offering FastTrack adoption support.

Remember it’s not the end of the world if you don’t migrate by 13th October… providing nothing goes wrong on the 14th!

Microsoft vs Covid-19: How tech is helping amidst the chaos

As we watch the rest of the world move to remote working, we are all preparing ourselves to hunker down into the isolation of our homes.  However, many organisations are just beginning their journey to the modern workplace and may face significant disruption to their business and financial wellbeing in the coming months.

As a Microsoft Partner, we wanted to share with you some useful resources available to you and your company right now, no matter where you are on your journey to the cloud.

  1. Crisis Communication App

First up, The Crisis Communication App is a single portal that equips companies in delivering all COVID-19 related communication to their users, as well as updates from reputable sources such as WHO or the CDC. Employees can report their work status (whether they are working from home or sick) or send requests for help. The app is built on PowerApps and is ready to be rolled out very quickly (within one day) to the whole workforce for no cost.

During this uncertain and challenging time, your workforce has an expectation that they will be well-informed and feel supported. The app provides:

  • A platform for companies to push out updates and communications, targeted by country or group
  • Offers a single source of truth for information
  •  A reference point for emergency contacts
  • A way to easily update your working from home status and out of office message

NB: Microsoft has temporarily changed the PowerApps licensing requirements for this app by classifying ‘push notifications’ as a standard connector not requiring premium licenses. 

  1. Free Microsoft Teams

“Teams is a pivotal part of the remote work experience, and Microsoft is committed to making Teams available to everyone,”

Gavriella Schuster, Microsoft Corporate Vice President

Microsoft has offered Microsoft Teams (Office 365 E1) free for 6 months as a response to a new working dynamic. Companies can get on board with Microsoft Teams rapidly to allow their remote employees to keep in touch by sending instant messages and making calls, sharing files and collaborating with their teams in a central, secure location. Since 31st of January, Microsoft has seen a 500% increase in Teams meetings as companies rush to adopt.

If you want to get started on Teams yourself sign in here with a work or school email address, or here with a Gmail or Outlook email. If you want to roll out Teams to your whole organisation, contact your Microsoft representative.

If Teams is completely new to your company, here are some free training resources available at Microsoft LearnRegionally delivered webinars and Role-specific learning paths

  1. Health Bot Service

The Health Bot Service is an AI-powered, compliant healthcare experience that can take requests, ask about symptoms and assist in getting people to trusted services and information. The specific COVID-19 template has built an up-to-date medical library based on CDC recommendations for concerns and care navigation. The service can integrate into channels such as Teams, Facebook, Webchat etc. The Health Bot Service is a great tool to organise request loads from the business and triage information requests.

For more information, click here.

  1. Focus Assist

Disclaimer – this is not a recent feature specific to COVID, but it’s more useful than ever with remote working. It’s difficult withholding a good work/life balance when we are literally working where we live. I envy those lucky few with a full office set up at home that can close the door on their laptop at 5 pm. But for some of us, it’s hard to not graze away on emails throughout the evening, jump on questions or feel a niggling sense of an unread notification.

Focus Assist is a handy feature that allows you to minimise or completely stop notifications. You can set up your hours of work and enjoy the tranquil relaxation of a noiseless phone after you have commuted from your dining table to the sofa.

We hope these resources are useful to you and take away (some of!) the stress of getting everyone working from home. We will remain online and will operate as usual throughout this challenging time. Stay safe out there everyone!

See here: https://news.microsoft.com/covid-19-response/ for the full bank of Microsoft COVID 19 response resources.

Laura Williams – UX Designer – Engage Squared

Year of Yammer Down Under

When we heard that the global Yammer team was in town for the Ignite tour we jumped at the chance to get up close and personal with them and the new Yammer. We knew we wouldn’t be the only ones, so we organised two exclusive business user group events, in Melbourne and Sydney respectivly, to satisfy the Yammer die-hards (and those without Ignite tour tickets).  

The events kicked off with an animated demo of all the new features from Steven Nguyen the primo Yammer evangelist. The live video capture was a highlight, but he also covered some great advancements in community management features such as pinning conversations at the top of a group and stopping replies all together on controversial posts.

Jason Mayans, Yammer Program Manager, then continued to define the new simplified Yammer vision as well as some stories from his colourful 21-year tenure with Microsoft. We ended with an insightful audience Q&A and more importantly drinks and nibbles.

Main takeaways from the events

  • A clear vision for Yammer: It’s great to have a clear direction from the team for the future of Yammer, simply summed up with three pillars: Leadership engagement, knowledge and community. This helps to clarify and position Yammer as an ‘outer loop’ tool to enable broad, organisational conversations, in contrast with the ‘inner loop’ tools; helping to answer the common questions around when to use Yammer and when to use Teams.
  • KISS: The much-loved acronym for ‘Keep It Simple Silly’ sums up the new direction from the Yammer team – don’t over complicate things. Simplifying the design by reducing to only one feed, decluttering the layout and adding a splash of colour makes the new interface feel modern and relevant.

The best of the new with Yammer

  • Yammer from Outlook: Don’t just consume – respond directly from your email. Interactively reply to the Yammer post from within the email to ensure everyone has their say.
  • Live video mobile video capture: Natively film, edit and publish a video from within Yammer. And do it quickly. With supercharged rendering, your video will be ready before you know it
  • Community focus: Communities replace groups in the new Yammer, bringing with them some needed customisation options and clarity on their purpose.

What can you do to prepare?

  • Join the Yammer public preview program from here  
  • Get a sneak peek and ask a member of Engage Squared to give you a quick demo
  • Join the O365 BUG (Business user group) meetups in Melbourne & Sydney to keep up to date with all the new updates
  • Start engaging your business now to plan for your launch or re-launch