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The Business Impact of Employee Experience on Customer Experience

I am working on a new trend report covering this topic in part and this is based on the work I do (disclosure) – more on the report here: Employee Customer Experience Connection. One of the primary assumptions I’m exploring for the report is that effectively driving a positive employee experience has interrelated benefits on the customer experience too. And as we all know, the customer is king so this seeming interrelationship would seem a slam dunk and of great interest.

There is a lot of anecdotal evidence of the interrelationship, but I am not finding a huge amount of concrete evidence of this based on research. Still I am convinced and persist in my efforts. This post is in part an exploration of this and I am also trying to get others’ views so please take part in the poll at the end 🙏

This Forrester report on the The Total Economic Impact™ Of Microsoft Viva was commissioned by Microsoft. These kinds of reports are pretty standard for many technology vendors to try and justify, as the title suggests, the economic impact of using the technology. I thought this would be an excellent start since Microsoft Viva is an employee experience platform launched by Microsoft not too long ago – more on it here: Employee Experience and Engagement | Microsoft Viva.

I have pasted a relevant piece from out of the report below (the diagram and section after it in yellow). This piece covers the benefits that derive from improved business outcomes. It seems natural to have expected that of the many benefits covered in the report (see full list below), this one would contain something to do with impact on customer related outcomes, like revenue growth, increased satisfaction and loyalty, reduced churn or improved retention, etc. Not so much. Although you could assume some indirect impact, like getting to market faster means customers can buy the product sooner and therefore incremental revenue is realised sooner, it’s still not what I am after.

Most of the benefits, like the many others (which are notable), are very much focused on internal metrics. I discuss this at the end of the post.

All benefits covered in the report:

  • Faster Onboarding Process
  • Improved Productivity from Content and Expert Discovery
  • Improved Employee Retention
  • Time Savings for Operations Teams
  • Improved Business Outcomes – see detail below
  • Unquantified Benefits
  • Flexibility

Improved Business Outcomes

Evidence and data

Enriching employee experiences resulted in better business outcomes, including better product development, greater innovation, and increased revenues. The Viva suite influenced key performance indicators such as time-to-market, product market fit, and utilization rates by tying actions to outcomes. Each app additionally improved employee competency, engagement, and motivation. This benefit increased with extended deployment, higher adoption, and tighter integration with Viva Goals to focus people. Achieving these benefits required business process redesign, leadership development, and change management.

The head of program management in software shared that Viva Goals enabled the launch of a product in eight new regions in fewer than four months, which would have taken nearly two years otherwise. Not executing this launch would have left millions of dollars in deals on the table.

The IT executive for workplace IT experience in professional services said that Viva improved time-to-deliver by enabling employees to quickly surface exemplars and best practices. The IT executive also said that Viva Insights creates focus time, which “has been a game changer and gives people time to concentrate on delivering more value to the company.”

The COO in electronics said that Viva Learning helped drive employee retention through increased engagement and motivation. This avoided hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars in annual lost revenue because product engineering attrition delayed new product launches.

The product owner in CPG said that Viva Topics helped with cross-team collaboration and learning. This directly increased shared knowledge and knocked down silos, which ultimately improved R&D potential.

Modelling and assumptions

For the composite organization, Forrester assumes that:
It realizes $6 million in incremental revenue annually due to faster time-to-market.
Thirty percent of faster time-to-market is directly attributable to Viva.
There is a 45% gross margin applied.

Risks

The following factors may impact other organizations’ realization of this benefit category:
The value of faster time-to-market for the organization.
The extent to which Viva is leveraged to drive innovation and development velocity.
The organization’s average gross margin.

Results

To account for these risks, Forrester adjusted this benefit downward by 20%, yielding a
three-year risk-adjusted total PV of $1.6 million

Why are employee and customer experience outcomes not better aligned?

Read some of the articles I have curated or written on about the interrelationship of these two fields, either on the landing page at the bottom, or at the beginning on the landing page itself, where I crunch some numbers about the potential value of the market combined. You will see that there is a lot being said about this.

What is a struggle is to find verifiable, quantified, research backed evidence. I’m not sure why but let me hazard a guess or 2:

  1. This is not a thing and it is not a trend, i.e. employee experience has no bearing on customer experience and outcomes related to the latter. I struggle to believe this but must accept it’s a possibility.
  2. We are not there yet and the scientists and researchers have not cottoned onto this yet so have not done work on it yet. This is more likely the case.

I’m not giving up. I believe in this. At this stage, short of the type of evidence mentioned above, I’d love to just get some validation. Please let me know what you think and answer the poll below. If nothing else, it will ensure me I’m not going mad and others agree 🤪 Also, if you have come across any evidence, please share it in a comment.

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Microsoft Viva keeps growing – roundup of latest announcements

I have some new announcements to share on this subject, or should I say Microsoft has (disclosure) and the full details are captured in this blog post: Empower and energize employees with Microsoft Viva | Microsoft 365 Blog. In this post I just wanted to capture a few things I think are particularly noteworthy, especially the completely new announcements.

Viva Pulse

The Viva Pulse announcement includes the opportunity to join our Viva Pulse Customer Advisory Board Program – you can read about it in the post and sign up here: Viva Pulse Customer Advisory Board Program Sign Up. There is a lot of interest in this area form HR departments and if you are in one and interested, it would be wise to jump in there before it becomes oversubscribed. Also check out the People in Microsoft Viva announcement and more on that here – also of interest to HR types: People in Microsoft Viva – Putting people at the center of the employee experience. – Microsoft Tech Community.

Note this is not the same as what Glint will do when it is integrated into Viva (see announcement) but not entirely unrelated. The one will be for managers (Pulse) the other (Glint) for HR leaders.

Viva Amplify

This is an entirely new module announced covering employee comms (hence the yellow background). I’ve covered the use of a Teams App Template called Company Communicator before, see posts below (), which attempted to address this need, amongst others. See Viva Amplify as the successor to Company Communicator, on steroids 💪This is a hugely exciting module and I think internal comms teams everywhere will be champing at the bit to get their hands on it – you can apply to be in the Viva Amplify preview program so get signing up.

How to run a Hackathon for Microsoft Teams and Power Platform

Internal Communications is more important than ever but missing a trick

Considering Microsoft Teams as a Platform – get started with App templates

Viva Sales

I have also spoken about this module before (see post below ) and this announcement just gives more info on features and confirms that it will be GA (Generally Available) October 3rd. As part of this announcement comes the point that it is not going to be free for Salesforce customers, only D365 customers. More on the announcement here: Reimagine selling with Viva Sales – Microsoft Dynamics 365 Blog

Microsoft Viva goes vertical – sales productivity module announced

Viva Connections

To streamline the Viva experience and help employees start their day on track, the new Viva Connections home experience will bring all the Microsoft Viva apps and services into one place.

For those that want a single entry point for Viva modules and/or an Employee Hub (a concept many customers are keen to achieve), I think this is a really good development.

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Why globalisation is still important despite headwinds and here is how to leverage it

I’ve just returned from a week in Japan with colleagues from all over the world – the featured image has yours truly pictured in one of sessions we held 😎 I look after Microsoft Japan’s global accounts in EMEA (disclosure) from a customer success point of view – these are global companies with regional operations outside Japan. The last global connection we had was in late 2019, pre-pandemic. I’ve been doing this particular role coming on 5 years, the latter years it’s all been done remotely due to the pandemic of course. Even before this, most of my roles have been regionally or globally focused (in startup or established company) so I write with a degree of experience.

Some context for a modern day global organisation

The opening paragraph sets the scene. Here’s more.

I also work very closely with colleagues in North America and Asia Pacific who look after the same customers with their regional operations there. They also attended this session. The attendees also spanned multiple technology workstreams, many of them highly interdependent. Finally, we had attendees from Japan who look after the customer in their home country.

As you can imagine, this made for a very complex set of meetings. The fact we had been working together remotely for many years helped but it was amazing how the physical setting accelerated things and helped overcome much of the complexity.

Of course much background work happened by some very talented organisers before the week started so that helped too. We also had many attendees that couldn’t make it so this was a hybrid event as they attended remotely, another added layer of complexity.

The purpose of all the conversations and meetings were many fold but chief amongst them were to answer the following questions:

  1. How can Microsoft support our customers better in their global operations and to achieve their goals?
  2. How can we achieve our goals with these accounts by collaborating within Microsoft better, globally?
  3. How can we reconnect and reignite our relationships and network for better outcomes, again globally?

I make these points just to set the context of how globalisation works at the company where I work. Clearly I cannot share specific details and this also does not get to the heart of what globalisation is, where its at, why its important and how it can work best. For that see the next sections.

I also want to recognise that the organisation I work for is pretty exceptional. There are a lot of global corporations and organisations that work on a similar scale but not that many, that they are pervasive. Nor do many of them have the kinds of resources, wealth and capabilities that Microsoft have with a presence in 190+ countries around the world.

You could see it as the standard for the global organisation.

Globalisation headwinds

For this you should look at this article on HBR: The State of Globalization in 2022 (hbr.org). The pertinent piece for me is this one, the authors’ conclusions:

The growth and geographic reach of international flows can rise and fall over time, but the fundamental drivers of success in global strategy remain unchanged. The similarities and differences between countries define the landscape for international value creation, and the task of the global strategist is to navigate the opportunities and threats presented by both the bridges and the barriers between markets. As the landscape shifts, global strategies must be updated, but managers should avoid the costly overreactions that tend to follow major shocks to globalization.

The death of globalisation has long been talked about, since way before Trump happened to the world and Brexit, with their distinctive anti-globalisation and nationalistic stances.

Despite all of the negativity and barriers to globalisation I am as optimistic as the authors of the HBR article conclude their piece. Here is why 👇

The need for and means to leverage globalisation

The world (i.e. the planet) is getting smaller.

More and more people are filling it, we are increasingly bumping up against each other. No longer can we assume that what happens in one place will not effect another. Climate change is a great example of this – we are all in it together.

Although global travel is down, we are more interconnected than ever before. Technology helps us to connect and collaborate. This removes some of the barriers that used to be in place for us to be able to work with colleagues, customer and partners beyond our borders.

But we can’t sit back and believe that it will all just work. My getting to Japan to work with far flung colleagues reaped untold benefits but it came at a cost. I’m not talking about monetary costs, although they were substantial. I’m talking about the effort required to get clearance and visas, the time it took and the toll on energy and then what was required to make things work. It was all worth it in the end but we have to make an effort to make globalisation work.

It needs diversity.

I don’t mean the tick box of corporate responsibility. I mean diversity of thought. The more of us from different backgrounds, experiences and skills that get together, the better will be our solutions. I’m convinced of this.

None of us individually is better than all of us together. Especially in complex environments, it makes sense to understand solutions that can transcend ideology, cultures and habits.

People of all natures and type coming together to discover solutions that effect and benefit us all is beautiful to behold.

Physical interaction is still the gold standard.

After two years of virtual meetings, it has been so good to be together. The outcomes are better, as I’ve observed. The closeness, the energy, the vitality adds a palpable improvement.

But remember what is better about physical meetings and don’t try replicate what could be done virtually. I think the pendulum may have swung so far the other way after 2-3 years working mostly remotely, it has built some ingrained habits that are difficult to lose. The result can be ineffectiveness and inefficiency.

The best way out is through.

I learned even more about the fascinating culture that Japan represents in this recent trip (more on my Instagram account). What I didn’t need to learn was about the state of the Japanese economy. This has been written about endlessly starting with their so-called lost decade in the 1990’s which some posit goes much further.

The point is that Japan has to reinvent itself to again become a powerhouse of innovation and global leadership that it once was. Nothing speaks to this fall from grace as much as Sony’s loss to Apple in the audio wars in the late 1990’s. I used to work at Sony because I saw the potential it had then to dominate in the category and wrote about it briefly here: The end of ownership and the rise of usership.

Sony had everything it needed to win. Hardware (it dominated with Walkman), content (it owned several of the major Hollywood studios and music companies) and software, although this was perhaps where it was at its weakest. Still Apple beat it with the iPod and then iPhone.

This article by McKinsey (Japan’s globalization imperative) was prescient in that I hear a lot of the same things now. Which means that it is still an imperative. And the only way out is through stringent application and adherence to the belief that this will help.

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Infinite experience at the intersection of employee and customer

As I am writing a new trend report on the subject (Employee Customer Experience Connection), I’m always on the lookout for new indicators that the trend is catching on through the writing or research of others. I’ve found two such pieces just today which are definitely good indicators, especially of the “connection” part.

The first is an article on Computer weekly that references Forrester Research, Qualtrics and others. It also includes case studies and some useful onward links – articles including the onward links below:

The other article is from the MIT Technology Review: Customer and employee experience: The new normal.

It is based on a survey of 277 business leaders and decision-makers globally – around 79% of whom are C-level executives or at director level and includes a full report you can download.

I won’t share a PDF version of the report I have for fear of transgressing copyright, I’ll just share pertinent points below but first I’ll make an important distinction.

Infinite or total experience is the key

Something both the articles above and the report from MIT refer to is the total experience. The total experience is when you look at EX and CX in combination. It’s the first time I have noticed this reference since I started writing about this combination, or connection as I refer to it. From the linked articles in the landing page for the trend report I am writing; you will see it has been at least 18 months I have been pushing this combination/connection as a key element of the trend. So, it’s really good to see it being validated.

In terms of terminology, I prefer a reference to infinite rather than total because of the use of the graphic and the way this shows the interconnectivity of EX and CX. Regardless of the term used, it is this connection and how this is managed that is the interesting thing – experience optimisation as I have called it.

You can read the articles I linked to and below are some interesting facts from the MIT report. You will see there is not too much emphasis on this so still something to be worked on.

Highlights of the research on employee and customer experience connecting

1 The pandemic accelerated already existing trends toward digitization of customer experiences (CX) and employee experiences (EX), as well as the adoption of more tech centric business models. This shift is happening in both expected industries (digitally native organizations) and legacy enterprises (traditional finance and public services organizations).

2 CX and EX are just two facets of a more holistic “total experience” that enterprises must seek to deliver over the coming months and years. On top of service-oriented digital offerings that transcend transactional use cases, enterprises are also developing hybrid experiences that blend both digital and real-world elements.

3 Disintermediation—engaging, serving, and delivering directly to the end user—will be a critical component of success for enterprises as they build effective “total experience” ecosystems. Another key component will be establishing and sustaining digital trust among users.

An interesting stat from the survey responses

And I love this quote from a customer case study:

“We aren’t just focusing on digital transformation from an IT perspective. We’re thinking, ‘What is it that we need to work with our communities? With our residents and businesses? Who are the people who have interactions with us? And how do we enrich their experience?’”

Rehana Ramesh, Head of Digital Transformation, Brent Council

It resonates with me because it illustrates so well, like the 3 reasons retailers are leading at the intersection of employee and customer experience that I captured, how public services can be a key driver of this connection.

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How Microsoft Viva can drive Performance – Correlating and Tracking Business Outcomes

I’m doing a lot of Microsoft Viva work with customers (disclosure) as well as working on a trend report on a related subject, so I am constantly thinking about where this work leads to. The obvious question is what kind of business outcome you are trying to achieve and how do you measure it. This post is to share some initial thinking. Anyone who reads this and is involved in similar work, I’d love your input so I can advance this very quick attempt (hence thought rocket).

So first let me elaborate on the format briefly. It’s just a simple table. I felt it was a nice way to achieve what I wanted. Aside from the structure you can create, it kind of helps to list things out. I wanted to have almost a catalogue that I could capture existing work with but also help stimulate future work (or at least thinking around it). The table below is a combination of those things. Considering there are so many modules in Viva, the structure was helpful to work around them too.

Click to enlarge

I don’t think the structure and the breakdowns need much more elaboration – they are fairly self-evident. What is much more important is what goes inside them and the references and descriptions I use.

I’ve had to make this generic and I’ve not added specific targets but the clues to what those would be is in the KPI/Outcome column.

As mentioned, some of these are based on real work and some just ideas. As mentioned, would love any input – just add a comment if you have any. This is still very much a work in progress and any work I do or input I receive I’ll progress this perspective further with.

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Microsoft 365 customer questions – Teams chat pop out for improved collaboration

I work in the business of dealing with customer questions on Microsoft 365 all the time (disclosure), either directly or indirectly. This is part of a series of posts where I share them if they can be of help to others. Where I can of course and naturally, not just the questions but the answers too. All questions and answers strive to respect both sides sensitivities (parts will have been redacted and/or anonymised) and the main topic is covered in each post title.

Q – How can I chat and collaborate on a file at the same time

I was having a chat with a customer on Microsoft Teams and we were discussing the content of a PowerPoint file. The file was open for both of us in the desktop version of the PowerPoint App. I was referencing the content and the customer started complaining that every time I did that, she would have to switch out of chat and go the PowerPoint App to view the content referenced. Then come back to the chat to carry on the discussion. This context switching was fraying her nerves and is a classic example of bad collaboration productivity when a perfectly good solution will do, which is what she asked for 👇

A – Teams chat pop out

First just to say that if you want to work on an App like PowerPoint and chat alongside it at the same time, you can do that perfectly well when you are viewing the App in Teams – see screenshot below. Here you can see I have opened a Word file from the chat where I shared it. When you open the file from the chat, the conversation is not automatically displayed alongside the file, but you just have to click the Conversation icon to do that (see yellow circle). This functionality also works in a Channel conversation by the way.

Chat alongside App in Teams desktop – click to enlarge

This first option definitely does the job but sometimes you want to go beyond the App within Teams for richer functionality and use the desktop version of the App. Or collaborate alongside Apps not integrated into Teams like the Office Apps are. Thats when you use the Chat pop out function. Here are instructions for how to pop out a chat. Below is a screenshot of what it looks like. You can resize both windows to suit side by side work and chat better this way if you wish.

Chat alongside App outside Teams desktop – click to enlarge

And finally, here is an example of the popped-out chat alongside a browser window, just to show you how it’s possible to chat in this way alongside any other application.

Chat alongside non-Teams embedded App – click to enlarge
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Microsoft Viva goes vertical – sales productivity module announced

I have been writing a lot on Microsoft Viva lately since I work with customers on it (disclosure) and since it is an employee experience platform (EXP), I am working on a new trend report that is related: Employee Customer Experience Connection. More specifically, I have been saying in relation to my work and the trend report, that sales is a sweet spot for an EXP. Some of my recent posts on this below.

Microsoft Teams and CRM for Sales Productivity

Microsoft 365 customer questions – Sales Productivity

What do I mean by vertical?

Just last week I announce two other modules that had recently been launched: Employee Experience platform offering grows with new Microsoft Viva modules. These modules along with all the original four are modules that can touch all parts of the organisation – hence horizontal. They are not specific to any one department, in other words vertical. In the case of Viva Sales, the focus is squarely on the sales department and function and on supporting revenue growth.

Here is an official post from Microsoft on the latest addition: Introducing Viva Sales, a modern way of selling that brings together any CRM, Microsoft 365 and Teams – The Official Microsoft Blog

And a video with some good demos:

Why sales is the sweet spot for the employee customer connection?

  1. Sales is the front line. It is where the interaction between employees and customers is most tangible and critical and where great experiences matter. To improve the customer experience, you should start with the employee experience. It doesn’t matter if most of your sales are online now, and customers don’t need to interact much during the actual selling process. At some point, customers will interact with your company, post purchase or in the lead up to it, direct or indirect. Everyone is always selling, whether it is in their title or not and every interaction with your company is a reflection of an experience with it and influences sales. The retail industry is where employee customer interaction is keenest and most critical as I wrote about here: 3 reasons retailers are leading at the intersection of employee and customer experience.
  2. Sales and growing revenue is number one. It is always a high priority for companies – maybe the highest, especially in tough times. So getting sales performance right is a top priority. Understanding it is a first step. Viva Insights is a great module for this specifically as I recounted in both of the articles I referenced earlier; through the work I am doing with customers. Second and ongoing is to conduct thoughtful experiments that will improve sales performance and productivity and measuring that impact of those through Viva Insights. Viva Sales will make the delivery of improved sales performance and productivity easier in Teams, through the flow of work. This point is stressed in an interview with Microsoft’s Chief Commercial Officer: Judson Althoff discusses the companies’ newest expansion, Viva Sales (cnbc.com)
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Features that Delight – Outlook Calendar Board

The new Calendar Board view is only available in Outlook Web App at the moment but coming to the client soon. It is a delightful tool that still lets you work in calendar view but add a whole host of Applets and integrations alongside it in a zoomable canvas – very productive indeed.

There is more on this feature on the Microsoft Support site here.

I really like this view and since I do everything Outlook related in the browser, I’ve been using this for about 6 months now, which is when it first started making an appearance.

While you can bring in a Calendar or task (To Do) view into your email flow, I prefer to separate it out. Calendar work requires focus in my view. And the ability to add to other Applets and functions with their own capability that support the work you are busy with and is scheduled in your calendar, just makes this focus super effective.

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Employee Experience platform offering grows with new Microsoft Viva modules

I’m writing this post because I am working on a new trend report covering the subject: Employee Customer Experience Connection. So I have an interest in new developments in related fields and I also want to use these posts as a way to collate all these new developments so I can add them to the trend report as I go. I also am working with and advising customers in this space through my role at Microsoft (disclosure).

Viva Goals

So the first new concrete addition to the Microsoft Viva platform is Viva Goals, which was announced publicly a few weeks back. But this has been in the pipeline ever since and as a result of the Ally acquisition last year.

At left is the video heralding the announcement and it has a demo to show what it’s all about.

In a nutshell, Viva Goals incorporates OKR functionality into the platform. OKR stands for Objectives and Key Results.

This is an extremely important addition that makes concrete sense for a company that wants to manage business outcomes more holistically. OKR’s is a way to set and track company goals and trickle them down into smaller outcomes (key results) and throughout the organisation to those responsible for achieving them.

I have been using Ally in its existing form only as a way to test the functionality. I’m really impressed with how simple it is made and they also provide good, templated solutions to help create your own.

I think when it comes to good use of an OKR tool, the devil is in the details and it is how you word the OKR’s and how you tangibly create goals that are achievable and realistic that matters. This is as much art as science but the good thing is you can track effectiveness and get better over time.

Glint

It’s no secret that Glint, a similar Microsoft acquisition through LinkedIn, and Viva play nice together and there is much value to be gained in its eventual and complete integration.

In this video from a year ago you see how Glint can integrate especially well with Viva Insights.

Glint is more than just a survey tool but essentially it is used to manage qualitative feedback from employees. Marrying the outcomes from this to more quantitative measures like you would get from Viva Insights makes the combination super powerful.

It is going to be excellent to see how this area of the employee experience evolves as it is a key addition to the Viva platform.

What’s next

Obviously, I cannot say all that I know, suffice it to say that key business scenarios are going to play a leading role.

Imagine aligning Insights to specific functions like sales as I have already described here based on recent work I did and am still doing: Microsoft 365 customer questions – Sales Productivity.

The scenarios described in the post above are pretty clear I hope but you should understand they are cobbled together solutions at the moment. Far better will be when they are integrated fully into the Viva suite.

I’ll say no more than that for now, indeed I can’t. But watch this space 👀

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Features that delight and distress when switching tech tools

Normally I talk about the former, features that delight, when I review any new use of technology or features I’ve come across. But there is most definitely times when distress is the case. And so in this post I have examples of both.

Spike in delight

First up is a new email app I tried on my PC called Spike. I’m absolutely loving it. They talk about “The power of email. The simplicity of chat.” Therein lies the first surprise, the way they convert email threads into a chat-like look and feel.

But it’s way more than that.

It’s also a very credible note taker. I have tried and use tons of note taking tools from Evernote (now replaced by OneNote) to Outlook Notes, Apple Notes and IA Writer, to name but a few. This is one of the finer alternatives. Most of the simple gif above shows the note functions.

I also love the way it integrates the many email addresses I have into one simple unified feed. And setting them up was no problem at all. I normally use Outlook Web App (in the browser) for work but I have lots of different email accounts on the Microsoft and Google platforms and Spike made short work of bringing them in. Since I do so much work in the browser, I didn’t want to have to open new Tabs for each of my email accounts. I was using the Windows Mail App but that was causing lots of problems with my many accounts.

All in all, email needs disrupting and this tool comes the closest I’ve seen to doing just that. Spike also does a great job of setting you up for success from the get-go with super simple in product guides and communicated instructions.


Migration hell

This is not so much about a feature or tool but more about a technology (platform) selection. For many years I’ve run email with my own domain on G Suite with Google for free. Now that the freeloading has been stopped, as part of a revamp and renaming exercise (to Google Workspace), I’ve had to consider my options.

And it’s how the companies facilitate the consideration of options that has been a bit of a nightmare and distressing to say the least.

Some of the challenges I’ve faced:

  1. Do I stay or do I go. If I want to stay on Google Workspace, do you think they make it easy to establish the cost of the alternatives – short answer, no. You have to go into your account as an administrator and go through the upgrade process and after only a few steps do you find out. The free alternative that I did have insight into does not include email with your own domain which is why I started exploring.
  2. Migrating to M365. I pay for Microsoft 365 already and use email from that subscription with another domain already. My first thought was, can I add a domain to the account after using the handy migration tool Microsoft set up: Perform a Google Workspace migration to Microsoft 365 or Office 365. I had known about the migration tool and thought the automated option would be pretty straightforward.
    1. A question of domains. However, on the questions of domains, although you can add as many as 900 domains to an M365 subscription without paying extra, what I could not find an answer for was whether I could send and receive email from the added domain.
    2. Using domains in email. I use that domain address for many accounts so it was imperative I could communicate with it exactly as it was. Firstly I could find no formal Microsoft documentation that verified I could. And then I found lots of forum topics that said it was only possible to send and receive email from the default domain which I was already using.
    3. Documentation distress. Also in the forum threads, I read that an alternative was to create a shared mailbox and set up the shared mailbox address with the newly added domain – this would allow one to send and receive with that domain email address.
    4. Support heaven. It sounded complicated so I decided to create a support ticket from my Microsoft 365 admin interface. Here was one bright spot – the response was almost immediate and I received a call. It was verified that a shared mailbox was the best way to set things up if I wanted the email address to show to the receiver in its original form (otherwise it will show as being sent from the default address). We tested this on the call and it worked. Here is some detail on how.
  3. In conclusion. Now that I had established I could use my domain, I went back to the migration process. It seems not to be so straightforward and I will likely have issues and spend more time on it than I care to. Not anyone’s fault, it must be complicated. For now I’ve decided to pay for one year of Google Workspace (Business Starter edition) which was discounted for me. I will try and migrate all the accounts with which I use the address with and then stop using that domain for email since its not my primary email.
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Starting a business remote first – 10 priorities

I mentor startups from time to time, in my spare time. I am doing so at the moment with one. I am bringing my past experience to bear starting and working in startups and I’ve also written an eBook on a related subject. In the current case though, it’s more my current experience I am advising and focusing on based on my professional work at Microsoft (disclosure). This is around the use of the Microsoft 365 platform (mostly) to support collaboration and productivity.

First some assumptions to be clear on:

  1. Remote first. The team members are all distributed and not all in the same country. So far, so normal 🙂
  2. Side job so multiple other tools. Some of the members have other jobs and so there is a question of competing and even conflicting technologies that need to be considered.
  3. Early stage. This is a very early-stage startup with founders just starting to work together on this – hence the need to start from scratch.

Then here is my list of top 10 things I am focusing on – not that they are necessarily the most important, just what I can and need to prioritise for the team now:

1 Create a new Microsoft 365 account and license the users. Just because I work with this tech, I did not want to push it. Many of the members have familiarity with other platforms and this needs to be considered. In the end, after some discussion (and I presented the case in a DanelDoodle), we agreed on M365. I chose an M365 Business Standard option and here is a handy guide when setting up for the first time if needed.

2 Assign a domain that can be used in email and beyond. The team already had a domain, I was given access to manage the domain through GoDaddy, the domain registrar. Assigning it was a doddle.

3 Create a Team for internal collaboration. I started with a great template for project management. More about Team templates here. We are using this for all collaboration naturally, asynchronously and through Teams Meetings on regular sync calls.

4 Orientation page or description with clear outline of purpose. In the General Channel for the project management Team I set up, I created a simple wiki page in a Tab with pointers to everything they needed to know to get started and up and running. It also collates links and info on the function of each Channel and the tools available in each Channel.

5 Simple Task Planning – Planner in Teams is the perfect lightweight option to get started with. Members access it from a Tab in the Planning Channel in the Team that was set up from the template. Tasks are listed by sprint buckets.

6 Viva Learning and powering a growth mindset. Setting up a Tab in a Channel is straightforward and other than to bring in content covering Teams and the broader M365 platform, you can choose from the 125 free LinkedIn courses to driving learning in other important areas to fill any skills gaps.

7 Automation for competitive intel – Power Automate. One simple automation I have started with (based on a template) is to bring in tweets with relevant hashtags related to competitive activity. Will be looking for more and much of these kinds of templated flows plus many you can build come free with the M365 license (but beware of the limitations).

8 Marketing – start a website prototype. I had already started working on that and I documented that in this post: Content management with WordPress evolved – full site editing 1. This covers both the content management and website creation side of things as well as eCommerce.

9 Forms for surveys to get feedback on prototypes and other things. Microsoft Forms which comes with the license is a simple and useful tool.

10 Chat Bot in Teams (employees), later for website (customers) using Power Virtual Agents (PVA). I started with a simple pre-made BOT to support understanding of Teams. It’s snappily called the Teams Training Assistant App – you can watch it in action in this video here. I’m not actually sure it was built on PVA but regardless, it is useful for the Teams newbies. I will look to build a customer facing BOT later using PVA.

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Navigating the modern work landscape – impact and effort

As things have shifted so dramatically over the last few years and there is no sign of it abating nor of going back to normal, I wondered what that meant for modern work. Time for a DanelDoodle. This is a really high-level view and naturally I will have missed key elements. But I just wanted to map the landscape (the important factors being effort and impact) and then plot some elements I thought worthy. Some notes after the doodle.

What’s needed to get ahead at work in the next 10 years

Pick one or two at most, because you cannot excel at all.

  • Business Outcomes Achiever. My views on this are no secret, I’ve written countless posts with the tag. It is the most powerful of the activities in my view. If you can show how you are driving the company forward and to success, you will be successful. But it’s not easy.
  • Innovator. How are you thinking differently, doing things differently? This requires equal parts creativity and execution capability. Do it right and you will be rewarded handsomely because competition is so high and change so fast.
  • Productivity Pro. Because being able to withstand the pressures of distraction and so many things to do and focusing on the things that matter, matter. Not hard work but the right work.
  • Technophile. If you don’t master technology, it will master you. And get it to work for you, that’s why it is positioned as high impact and low effort. As every company becomes a software company and automation takes off, this becomes key.
  • Sense Maker. Navigating the onslaught of information, challenges and opportunities out there and making sense of it so you and your company ultimately make the right decisions.
  • Collaborator. As we work more from home and use tools to connect this becomes ever more important but it has always been. Because you go further together than alone.
  • Authentically Nice. Because you don’t have to be an arsehole to win. But it does have to be genuine.
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Microsoft Teams and CRM for Sales Productivity

Bringing CRM tools into Microsoft Teams makes sellers more collaborative with the intention of making them more productive, ultimately to drive top line growth. Microsoft where I work (disclosure) positions this as collaborative Apps that keep you in the flow of work. I’ve already written about the work I am doing with customers on this here, including other technologies: Microsoft 365 customer questions – Sales Productivity. In this post I wanted to zoom in a little with a demo video I created around some new Salesforce and Microsoft Teams integrations just out and some of what others are doing.

Salesforce and Microsoft Teams

This demo goes through the standard Salesforce and Teams integrations to date but recently the functionality has been extended for Teams Meetings and so this video covers that in a little detail.

Q!kom has extended the standard integration further, powered by Microsoft Graph API. This video explains how and shows the possibilities of extension and customisation.

Microsoft Teams integration with SAP Sales and Service Core

SAP Sales is not necessarily one of the powerhouse CRM platforms out there, but they are showing innovation by focusing on this integration with Microsoft Teams

With monthly active users in the hundreds of millions, Microsoft Teams cannot be ignored.

As a core platform where work happens, integrating your solution with Teams is a great way to enhance its use.

Dynamics 365, Context IQ, Loop and Teams

You would expect Microsoft with its own CRM platform Dynamics 365, to be driving this integration too.

In this video (time stamped to start at the right time) you see it being incorporated into Microsoft Teams but also other technologies like Outlook alongside Loop and Context IQ (new AI based technologies being developed and released at present). The video is from recent announcements at Ignite – a Microsoft conference.

On the integration of D365 with Microsoft Teams Meetings, I don’t have a video to show but this is all being worked on – see documentations here: Drive seller productivity with a seamless experience between Dynamics 365 and Microsoft Teams meetings.