Why are employee networks the organizational form of tomorrow (actually of today)?
How do toolsets like Office 365 help to improve collaboration and automate processes?
I would like to answer both questions with a case study from business practice. The article shows the power of Enterprise Social Networks (ESN) and how simple means can save time and money. In this example, we were able to set up and run a webinar in-house within eight days. When we received the request, it was not clear yet,
- if we can answer it,
- who has the necessary knowledge and
- if there are any other people interested in solving the problem.
In advance I would like to share some information about the company. VINCI Energies has more than 77,000 employees, 12,000 of them in Germany. It is a decentralised organisation with many brands and small Business Units (BUs). Many employees have an Office 365 E3 license. Personnel development is mainly carried out via an in-house academy.
Cutting down trees without sharpening the saw
Some processes in companies are cumbersome and involve several departments and people, although there are better solutions. If you want to cut down trees and don’t have time to sharpen the saw, you miss opportunities. In the short term it is annoying to optimize or question processes; in the long run it improves satisfaction and productivity enormously.
Usually, the time required is manageable … if the right tools are available and colleagues learn from each other. Ideally, this does not end there, and it continues when BUs, business areas or corporate brands take over and further improve successful processes.
From inquiry to implementation in 8 working days
Request to the Academy – 26.07.
Hiring new employees triggers an extensive process (“new employee”). The personnel department requires personal data. And the new employee needs his equipment (office furniture, car, software/hardware, mobile phone, etc.). A colleague would like to simplify this process with Microsoft Forms and Power Automate (former Flow).
Although I’m already working intensively with some Office 365 tools, I couldn’t answer my colleague’s request. So far, I’ve only used “ready-to-use” flows, but haven’t created any new ones yet. Nevertheless, I was sure that we had the know-how in the company.
The right colleague is only a few clicks away – 26.07.
There is a colleague with the necessary knowledge and I will find him. In similar situations I have had good experiences with the Yammer group “Early Adopters”. To reach more colleagues, I translate the question and post it on Yammer.
After seven minutes the first comment is written. By the end of the day, three colleagues had replied who wanted to help. In addition, there is a note from a C-level manager who wishes to transfer the finished solution to other areas.
One working day later, the colleague who asked the question visualized the “New Employee” workflow on Yammer and discussed the first approaches to a solution.
We agree to offer an open webinar and then share the recording via Microsoft Stream. The appointment is organized via the Outlook plugin FindTime.
Webinar and implementation – 05.08.
On 05.08. a colleague conducts the webinar with Microsoft teams. He shares his screen. First, he creates a Microsoft Forms and then he designs a Microsoft Power Automate (the first two steps of the workflow “New employee”). He answers questions immediately. He picks up beginners and advanced users wherever they are. After 45 minutes, the webinar is over and ten participants from four countries have learned something new. The group consists of a C-level, a marketing manager, project managers and IT managers. We share the Microsoft Streams video afterwards on Yammer.
I immediately get ideas on how to put what I have learned into practice. I decide to automate an internal inquiry and processing academy process:
In July, we licensed the film “Die Stille Revolution” and advertised it internally on Yammer. This causes additional work for an academy employee and the customer experience is sub-optimal – the enquirer is waiting for a response:
- A customer requests the license from the Academy (via Yammer, Teams, Outlook, Phone).
- The Academy answers the request through the same channel.
- The Academy enters information into an Excel list in MS Teams – the brand and function of the inquirer to evaluate who accepted the movie best.
After I have optimized the process with Forms and Power Automate, there is no further effort for the academy and the customer gets his access immediately:
- I have added a MS Forms link to the movie on Yammer.
- The customer fills in the questionnaire – the average processing time is 16 seconds.
- After a questionnaire has been sent, MS Power Automate triggers two actions:
- The customer receives an e-mail with the access data for the movie.
- Customer information appears in the Excel list in the Microsoft Teams Academy.
What we have learned
In the example, three elements interlock, which I trace back to the correct mindset, skillset and toolset:
- Mindset: The Academy is a central service function that acts as an internal consultant and network developer to handle enquiries for which there is no other contact.
- Skillset: The corporate network know-how comes to life. We have colleagues who share their knowledge and help their coworkers – external support is not necessary.
- Toolset: Our ESN helps us to bring the right people together. Tool homogeneity facilitates collaboration. Employees do not work with different tools, but speak or learn a common language with Office 365. Here it was: Outlook, FindTime, Yammer, Forms, Power Automate, Stream, Teams.
We assume that it is easy for everyone, which is easy for us. This is wrong! There are colleagues, family members or friends who benefit from our knowledge, skills and abilities. Internal help and training offers are therefore an inexhaustible goldmine.
Some companies have institutionalised “learning from colleagues”. Leonid Lezner discusses with Winfried Ebner from Deutsche Telekom what is important about employee networks on his Firmenfunk podcast.