We were in the middle of piloting the Digital Workplace of a department at one of our customers, a church administration in the south of Germany, when the Corona crisis slowly but surely hit Germany. At that time, not only many companies but also the church were faced with the ultimate challenge: How do we enable our employees to work from home?
New ways lead to Rome
The Corona crisis affected not only our customers, but also us. However, since we were already used to working from anywhere, we were able to adapt to the new conditions in a very agile way. Our task now was to define new ways of collaboration with the individual stakeholders of the customer (IT, administration, department management, key users) in the shortest possible time. The new challenges were: location-independent work, collaboration, working together without sitting together, and (new) communication. There was also the question of how to make training available on the tools at hand. Our solution – an early total roll-out of Microsoft Teams .
From problem to solution
The first step was to create a public team in Microsoft Teams and a communication website in SharePoint. This site was added as a tab to the previously created team. To add value for end-users, this site was enriched with an FAQ section, use cases, training materials, and an online Teams training registration form.
Since Microsoft’s booking tool was not yet available to us (and actually does not work very well until today), we had to come up with a workaround for the registration process for about 550 employees in the various parishes and church administration. Since training becomes difficult above a certain number of participants, but we needed to reach as many people as possible as quickly as possible with a limited budget, we had to break the training down to 6 dates with 100 participants each. A SharePoint list was created with these 6 dates (incl. time) and the limited number of participants. Now the user could choose one of the six dates from a second list and send his registration. With the help of PowerAutomate, the number of participants was reduced by one for each registration. As soon as this number jumped to 0, the training date was hidden from the registration form.
After a short info to all employees with a link to the page and a hint to the registration form, the registration list was filled quickly. Subsequently, the dates were set via teams and the participants from the registration list were invited.
Learning by Training
The Teams training included all the functions that the users needed in order to independently (video) chat with their colleagues, make phone calls and set up Teams appointments. The training was recorded so that it could be made available to users on the information page afterwards. Of course, the permission of the users was requested. In order to keep the internet connection stable (which was probably the biggest challenge at that time), all users except the trainer had turned off their microphones and cameras. Questions that arose during the training were asked in the meeting chat, which was read out by the project leader. After the training, the recording was edited, then uploaded to stream and linked on the information page.
Taking a closer look at the journey in retrospect, it is clear that the customer has achieved much more than recorded in the lines above. Not only is Microsoft Teams now used as a central medium for internal communication, but a community has been established within the organization that is independently helping and serving and supporting a much larger group of people. Furthermore, community outreach teams were integrated to include volunteers in the day-to-day work. But the most significant added value was actually the tips and tricks for everyday work as well as the joint celebration of quick successes and lessons learned.
Change of perspective
Even though we like to stick to our strategies, sometimes crises force us to rethink and speed up some things a bit in order not to lose employees completely along the way. These exceptions are necessary in such situations, but should be thought through just as strategically.