12 Dec Putting new tools to work: striking a balance between best-practice and best fit
With the number of apps we’re using at work growing by the day, what’s the big deal about adding another one into the mix? When new tech comes with a step change in how we go about our work, it’s both a challenge and opportunity for employees and those leading the charge.
Power Platform is the tech bandwagon everyone is jumping on right now. At Eighty20 we’re seeing it play a big part in the workplace and digital transformation plans of almost all our clients. But turning your workforce into citizen developers takes more than access to the right tools for the job along with some training. As we saw with the widespread deployment of Teams in response to COVID, getting employees comfortable and productive with a new technology takes a more tailored approach.
COVID: a collaboration game-changer
As the biggest workplace transformation we’re likely to see this decade, COVID and work from home orders triggered a boom in collaboration technologies. While Zoom was fast out of the gate in the early days of lockdowns, it’s Microsoft Teams that reigns supreme, thanks to its seamless, out-of-the-box integration with MS365 and Office apps. From around 20 million users in late 2019, Teams is now the meeting tool of choice for 270 million employees and growing.
As Teams gained traction, it also evolved into much more than a meeting platform. As the strain of remote collaboration began to show in other areas – such as access to documents, brainstorming and simple ‘water cooler’ conversations between project and team members – Teams has picked up the slack (no pun intended!) with new features and tools. With the Viva suite now available in Teams and MS365, it’s a powerful toolkit with potential to support employees with their wellbeing, learning and knowledge needs, whether they’re collaborating or working independently.
Matching Teams training to ways of working
As with any technology tool that’s as widely used as Teams, there’s an assumption that everyone knows how everything works. The truth is that you’ll have users operating at all sorts of levels of proficiency. The potential uplift in productivity and engagement of a more mature Teams user is significant but what ‘maturity’ looks like won’t be the same for every organisation and every user. Tapping into the power Teams has to connect employees with people, resources and tools and make their workload faster and easier to get through is the destination. Getting there takes two things – understanding what’s possible and mapping these possibilities to organisational processes and workflows.
In other words, a solid Teams skillset is a worthwhile investment for your workforce but there’s no point getting every user up to speed on every single feature and function. This is something we put into practice as we delivered Teams training to a financial services client in the early days of the pandemic. The journey started with foundation training for every employee to make it simple for everyone to use the fundamentals of Teams fluently. These were supplemented by extra voluntary sessions, giving our experts and the clients’ employees a forum to workshop which Teams feature best support and improve their ways of working. This enabled us to continue targeting training to behaviours specific to the organisation and its people so they can feel comfortable knowing the technology serves them and not the other way round.
Stepping into the unknown
While organisations continue to manage impacts of the pivot to remote and hybrid working – security, cloud adoption and more – many are also adding another major item to their transformation agenda. Using low code app platforms like Microsoft’s Power Platform to upskill employees as citizen developers can do a lot for innovation as well as filling digital talent gaps.
As a change in how employees perform their role and their work, the Power Platform requires a big shift in thinking and behaviour. It’s not a case of substituting a digital process for an in-person one as Teams has for meetings. Coming up with use cases, prioritising development effort, building prototypes and running pilots all takes some getting used to. Microsoft’s recent report on low code trends highlights the challenges of this unfamiliar territory for employees and business decision makers. Around three-quarters lack awareness of potential use cases for Microsoft Power Platform.
A steady start for faster adoption
This confusion about what Power Apps can actually do for teams and their processes is one obstacle that can stand in the way of success. Other stumbling blocks can come from a siloed approach to app development, with business unit teams working in parallel and in isolation. With the duplication that results from this, many of the efficiency and productivity benefits coming from Power Apps are lost. And without appropriate governance and frameworks in place, the efforts of citizen developers are potentially creating security risks as well as technical debt.
This is why Eighty 20 recommend a centre of excellence approach as a safe, cost-effective way to accelerate Power Apps adoption. It takes more investment in discovery and planning upfront but creates the foundation for scaling up Power App capability and benefits far more quickly and effectively. Starting with small wins also creates a virtuous circle of reinforcement that supports the human side of adoption. Individuals get to see their efforts rewarded by team success, building their confidence and creating positive stories to showcase PowerApp benefits for developers, app users, teams and the business as a whole.
Moving towards maturity with confidence
This foundation stage is time and effort well spent to set up the pockets of success that prove the case for Power Apps. When it comes to rolling out a Power Platform capability more broadly and upskilling your people, it takes a tailored approach and cadence to guide the whole business towards maturity without risking overwhelm and disengagement from too much change all at once.
The lessons learned as we guided clients in their mastery of Teams to the level that suits their operation have been invaluable as we help them develop and manage their progress with Power Platform adoption. While Level Five in the Microsoft Power Apps Capability Maturity Model might be in the sights of some, others will need far more time to focus on nailing Levels One and Two if they’re to build awareness and momentum to make the most of their investment over the short and longer-term.