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Your future digital workplace is here: highlights from the Digital Workplace Conference 2018

AI, Machine Learning, Bots, PowerApps, Flow and Teams were just a few of the stars of the DWC show… But, above all, the day focused on the overarching importance of employee experience and getting increased ROI from your Office 365 investment.

Your future digital workplace is here: highlights from the Digital Workplace Conference 2018

Doug Baxter

DWC Melbourne 2018 seemed to be very well attended, with the customary diverse range of business sectors and roles, and well supported by vendors, technologists and service offerings.

This year was very much the “Year of the Bot”, with AI and Machine Learning evident across pretty much all of the vendors in the exhibition area. And yet… in response to my question of “how are you going with Office 365?”, it seems that getting the basics right in Office 365, beyond technical implementation, is proving to be a challenge for many organisations. Adoption seems to be the common problem, which makes me wonder if Bots, AI and Machine Learning will help or hinder. At the moment, these technologies as implemented in the workplace are simplistic, and suited for very specific tasks, such as “FAQ” bot or “Find an Expert” bot. Despite the vendor hype, although they can usefully augment the capabilities in Office 365, they won’t be taking over from humans anytime soon. So the much bigger picture is about realising increased ROI from Office 365, through improved adoption, in order to improve the Employee Experience (EX) which we know will in turn help to improve the Customer Experience (CX).

However, that’s easier said than done. Most of the people I spoke with said their organisations haven’t really progressed beyond the basics of email integration, Office apps and maybe a bit of SharePoint (although usually for internal consumption within IT). Quite a few were intrigued by Microsoft Teams and were interested in some of the sessions where Teams was discussed. But nobody claimed a successful roll-out, underpinned with good change management and usage policies. It was all a bit “here and there”. Unsurprising, given the challenge of bridging the gap between technical implementation of Office 365 and the reality of business adoption. It’s for this reason that Empired has developed its “Office 365 Advisory Service” – designed to bridge that gap. Get in touch to find out more.

We also spoke with many visitors to our stand who wanted to know more about Empired’s SNAP 365 – the foundation for your digital workplace: what is it, why do we need it, what does it do? The best and most pertinent question was simply “what is a digital workplace?”. The answer to this can be long and complex, or it can be as simple as “whatever helps you and your colleagues get your work done more effectively”. We consider SNAP 365, built on Office 365, to be a good starting point, providing a “one-stop shop” for information, collaboration and business tools. Of course, we also had a Bot on display – our “Request Leave” bot, tirelessly interacting with a SNAP 365 user. After all, you must have a Bot – it’s 2018!

It was great to have an Empired entourage at this year’s event, both presenting on stage (excellent sessions from our very own Dave Paylor and Ashish Trivedi) and out in force amongst the delegates (Linden Hocking and myself).

A highlights recap wouldn’t be complete without thoughts from others in the team...

Linden Hocking

The keynote highlighted the rate of change in our digital world. People seem to be a lot busier these days, but don't feel they are as productive as they used to be. We have so many tools in our life that focus on a specific purpose and it's that fact that makes us feel we are less productive. In the past you had fewer tools with a lot less functionality, so really your work life was less complicated and you could just get stuff done. The new Microsoft Office 365 world has a lot of tools under the hood, but the fact that they are all becoming interconnected and are part of the same ecosystem, it's making work life easier, in comparison to utilising multiple tools from multiple vendors.

AI was a common theme this year, with LiveTiles bots becoming a major player in this space. Their product has been bolstered by the AI Spark partner program that has launched in Australia. Only a few partners have signed up at this stage. A lot of customers were interested in where they start with a bot, who should own it and what are some of the better applications.

People are doing some amazing stuff with PowerApps and Flow. The products are still in their infancy, but showing amazing potential since becoming generally available. The two products when combined and extended with azure logic apps seem to have no limit with what you can do. However, there are some areas that still need some investment.

The biggest focus was on modern SharePoint. Modern SharePoint brings a lot of great features, but it's clear there are still some limitations and gaps that Microsoft needs to fill. It's not very extensible and there's a good reason behind this. The tools that you need to use to extend modern SharePoint are not simple. Publishing sites haven't been replaced sufficiently yet and the new search experience has a long way to go. There were very few in the crowd that have never used O365 before and the level of expertise of our customers is really high.

Of course, Dave and Ashish did a great job presenting. I learnt some cool stuff about JSON, so thank you, Dave!

Dave Paylor

The day’s hot topics were PowerApps, Flow and Teams, with Bots, 'intranet-in-a-box', and modern SharePoint also getting some attention.

On a slightly different topic, it was good to see so many there from Microsoft. This year Aaron Dinage presented the keynote with other presentations from Elaine van Bergen (ex-Empired) and Mark Rhodes (ex-Empired), along with other Microsoft attendees, including our Brisbane local, Mukesh.

Posted by: Doug Baxter, Solution Specialist | 30 August 2018

Tags: Information Management, document management, Digital Workplace, Collaboration, PowerApps

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