With the end of the year fast approaching and holiday season on the horizon, you probably have a pile of communications you need to get to employees before the festive shutdown and the start of 2021.

Effective communication is important now more than ever. From keeping teams informed about organisational changes, business performance and plans and priorities for the next year. To celebrating successes, lifting morale and spreading a little festive cheer. However, bombarding colleagues with messages is the fastest way to cause at best, a headache and at worst, disengagement.

Traditionally, many organisations rely on email and on-premise intranet systems to broadcast information. And despite sharp advances in cloud-based platforms like Microsoft 365, many leaders have reverted to email as the main communication channel in the pandemic. Paul Hunt, Principal Consultant for Office 365 at Trustmarque, acknowledges this is likely due to other priorities taking precedence. As a result, on-premise comms strategies have been transferred to the remote working and cloud-based world. But there are more sophisticated options.

Paul comments: “With the rapid transition to remote working, organisations now need to rethink what information they need to get to who and when. We have the opportunity to consider how we make communications accessible on different devices. We can take dynamic content to any person, on any device, anywhere in the world. We can communicate and connect better than ever before.”

Now is the ideal time to consider your communications strategy. Keeping bad, or even just outdated habits, a thing of 2020. With that in mind we take a look at the main options available in Microsoft 365, the market-leading collaboration and communication solution.

What are the options outside of email?

Teams Vs SharePoint Vs Yammer for communications

Intranet and comms, teams or yammer or sharerpoint

Firstly, it is important to note that all three applications are now integrated. While document sharing and collaboration in Teams leverages SharePoint infrastructure, Yammer has recently been further integrated with the Teams platform as part of a recent Microsoft 365 update.

In terms of deciding which channel to use, it really comes down to what you want to communicate and to whom.

Teams is a collaboration channel ideal for working directly with colleagues on joint projects. It allows colleagues to easily interact on tasks relating to their day-to-day roles. Teams Chat is also used by colleagues familiar to one another. Teams Live Events and video conferencing can be an ideal way to engage with staff to provide updates, briefings and training.

Yammer is an enterprise social platform that is great for cross-organisational outreach. It is good for publishing news and updates to reach colleagues outside of your usual network. Yammer can also be useful in creating common interest groups such as cycling, running, baking, whatever. This can be a great way to break down the silos between different teams or departments who can connect over something that is not explicitly linked to work.

SharePoint News is the best option for corporate communications like those from senior leaders, change management teams or marketing. You can use SharePoint News to create and broadcast content like blog posts which can be emailed as a stand-alone piece of content or in a newsletter that is sent to individuals, groups or all users. This makes it a great platform to target specific content at specific users.

SharePoint Intranet hubs act as the shop window to your corporate information – signposting colleagues to relevant content, pages or other platforms. They now have the added feature of multi-lingual capability, which can be somewhat automated through translation services in Bing. This enhanced editing experience is great for multi time zone, multi-national organisations, allowing them to get targeted information to range of users.

“In terms of which option is best, it really depends how your organisation wants to communicate and use the tools,” advises Paul. “There is always a flexibility in how we can use the tools available and how they work in parallel to complement each other. We’ve moved away from the world of ‘context switching’ or platform switching’ and it’s a much more seamless experience.”

Frequency of communications

There’s no right or wrong answer for how much you should be communicating. It is about getting into a rhythm and approach that works well for your organisation. By sending out targeted communications to specific user groups, you will reduce unsolicited or unnecessary contact.

If you need to communicate with small groups or individuals, especially if it is frequently, Teams chat certainly works better than email. What’s more within the notification settings, colleagues have the option to mute a chat or leave a chat entirely if they don’t feel it’s relevant. Within Teams you can also set your status do not disturb to prevent in-coming contact when you need to stay focused. There are some great tools that give users the ability to set the parameters around how and when they can be contacted – within reason.

For more advice on how to use Microsoft Teams, you might find some of the following blogs useful:

How to secure intranet and comms in the cloud

“There is a perception that email is always safe”, says Paul. “We know that is not true. It requires security controls and user awareness. The same logic applies to platforms like SharePoint and Teams.”

There are layers of security you can add within Microsoft 365 to determine how content is shared, including:

  • Decisions on type of content available to individual users or groups
  • Conditional access control for viewing and sharing
  • Multi factor authentication for access
  • Read only access for access from personal devices

For staff conversations in Yammer or Teams Chat, Microsoft Communication Compliance allows you to monitor conversations in a non-invasive way.  The tool uses AI to detect anything inappropriate such as harassment, bullying or offensive content. Administrators can determine what the red flags should be within your organisation. For example, Communication Compliance is commonly used by the financial industry to monitor insider trading.

Paul says it is a careful balance between freedom and control. “We can give people the freedom to think, discuss and collaborate, but also put some controls around that for compliance and protection,” he commented.

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By Katherine Murphy, content enthusiast