How to Reinvent Firstline Collaboration with Office 365

Post Date: 10/11/2018
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Firstline workers are the backbone of many industries. They’re the ones who often make first contact with customers and field any questions they might have. Being the face of the company, it’s essential that these employees have the technology they need to do their jobs as efficiently as possible. Kimberley Morrison and Dux Raymond Sy used their Ignite session “Improve Firstline Workforce Collaboration with Office 365” to go in-depth on how employers can achieve this through the power of Office 365.

What Issues are Firstline Workers Facing?

Dux opened the session by explaining how valuable the firstline is. They’re the most customer-facing part of many businesses, be it on the shop floor, the road, or anywhere else. Due to the nature of their positions, however, It’s not likely that they’ll spend a substantial amount of time in front of a computer using SharePoint, Teams, etc.

This leads to some key challenges specific to firstline workers. They are often…

…disconnected from the team and company.

…behind on the latest training, practices and procedures.

…given outdated and obsolete tools and manual processes.

…slow to receive information, resources and expertise.

…working with uneven security practices, policies and governance.

Dux explained that all too often the information worker gets the latest and greatest technology while the firstline worker gets left behind. This is at odds with various statistics indicating the benefits of developing your firstline workforce.

Empowerment with Office 365

The rest of the session was broken up into five distinct sections going over how Office 365 can significantly increase the impact of firstline workers.

Foster Culture and Community

According to Dux, fostering a strong culture and community results from:

  • Coordinating distributed teams with a hub for teamwork
  • Sharing and finding best practices across the company
  • Building inclusive communities of interest

All of these points line up perfectly with the capabilities of Microsoft Teams. Though they won’t be spending their time in front of a computer, Teams provides an effective way for firstline workers to interact with information workers and even the value chain related to their respective organizations.

Dux mentioned that as part of Microsoft’s firstline worker strategy, Staff Hub as a solo product will be going away. Instead, Teams will gain its capabilities. This will enable firstline workers to access features like clocking in and out from their phones, checking their schedules and more all from their Teams mobile app.

Train and Upskill Employees

Kimberley stepped in for this section to explain how Office 365 can play a role in teaching both new and existing employees. It’s able to do this by:

  • Distributing onboarding material and training to any supported device
  • Sharing dynamic, role-based content and video
  • Enabling employees to find and build on the work of others
  • Retaining and managing institutional knowledge in one place

She asserted that anytime an employee has a question on the firstline, it’s key that they’re able to ask it and get a timely response. Similarly, it’s important to ensure that firstline workers have all of the latest policy updates.

One of the ways they’re doing this at Kimberly’s company, Arriva, is through SharePoint Online. Each station manager has a tablet on them, and through SharePoint Online they have a system where they can access Q&A’s as they come up at the station. They also use SharePoint Online to crowdsource ideas that come from firstline employees.

Digitize the Business Process

Dux boiled the process of digitization down to two main points. These included the ability to:

  • Automate everyday activities and workflows
  • Easily build apps for any device

While SharePoint Flow is a great solution for automation, Kimberley went a bit more in-depth about how firstline workers can take advantage of PowerApps to build apps without needing to know code.

She gave the example of how bus engineers used to have to fill out a form, take a few pictures, input the info into an online form, upload the pictures and then finally email them for submission. This process not only took a long time, but it also increased the likelihood of a loss of info.

With PowerApps, a former firstline worker was able to create an app where current bus engineers can 1) See a bus’ specific route, number and track via GPS and 2) Input damage report information onsite.

Deliver Real-Time Expertise

When customers have a pressing issue or question, who else would they ask but the person behind the counter or in uniform? Office 365 can help firstline workers provide answers with speed and accuracy. Dux emphasized that it can help by:

  • Crowdsourcing new ideas and solutions
  • Working in context across physical and virtual space with mixed reality
  • Connecting across remote sites on any device
  • Tapping available talent when and where it’s needed

He mentioned that Yammer and SharePoint Spaces are each particularly useful:


  • Easy to share and communicate information
  • Gathering a variety of knowledge is a quick process

SharePoint Spaces

  • The ability to integrate Mixed Reality with SharePoint is perfect for firstline workers
    • Administrators can build training scenarios for workers without the risk or expense of putting them through real training
  • Firstline workers can:
    • Interact with 3D models, become familiar with products and equipment
    • Visualize and interact with sets of data
    • Have virtual tours and experiences

Minimize Risk and Cost

To close, Dux went over what is perhaps the most important facet of Office 365 implementation to many businesses: the risk and the cost involved. He described four specific ways Office 365 can benefit firstline workers in this area:

  • Streamlining management across devices, including kiosks and signage
  • Securing firstline access to corporate apps with identity-drive protection
  • Meeting evolving workplace regulatory requirements
  • Accelerating GDPR compliance

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As the former Content Marketing Specialist for AvePoint, Brent led the strategy and direction of all AvePoint's blog properties.

View all post by Brent Middleton

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