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Karen Cleale
Sept. 24, 2018


We’re working with Public Health England to develop a Digital Workspace. At the heart of the new space will be PHE’s intranet information combined with the collaboration tools they need to support Digital working.

One of the challenges has been identifying the right collaboration tools to integrate into this space. PHE was formed from amalgamating many organisations, so it’s no surprise that they have many collaboration tools used by pockets of their workforce. These pockets mean that there are many tools to choose from and PHE are open to selecting the best ones for their workforce, validated through user testing.

So, I started exploring… initially looking to understand API availability of the tools PHE are using and to identify how each could fit. Then, looking more widely at tools in PHE’s future landscape and eventually, I discovered an absolute gem! 

Before I tell you the great idea, I’ll start by explaining that I’m not a stalwart Microsoft fan. A few years ago, I used to indoor rock climb weekly with a guy called Russell — he worked for Microsoft and would regale me with stories about his children and about working at Microsoft; he made Microsoft sound amazing and even unintentionally converted me to buying the first surface pro. Russell couldn’t convert me 100%, and I kept my iPhone, addiction to Apple Apps and ease of dictation typing.

Within Difrent, we use a range of collaboration tools, my favourite of these are Google Docs, WhatsApp, Skype and Confluence and Jira; we also, of course, use MS Office. We’re also all Apple MacBook Pro users — in fairness, moving to the MacBook Pro had an adoption curve, but I’m through that now and fully converted and definitely an advocate.

Back to the idea…
It pains me to write it but, this gem is about Microsoft, or rather the Microsoft Graph API. I put a call out for anyone who had integrated Microsoft Teams in a way that was really effective and drew a bit of a blank; potentially because organisations have implemented the capability without being structured in a way to maximise user adoption — this leaves users to figure it out and creates a barrier to change.

Not one to be perturbed, I continued searching, trying to understand how the capability really worked, how it could be structured to meet our needs and what users could do with it; so I kept digging.

A few hours/days of research revealed the new instance of O365 Teams and the Graph API. Microsoft has made it possible to consume the O365 services in chunks. We can integrate directly with PHE’s OneDrive — giving the equivalent of Google docs functionality in situ is within the intranet, link to the office 365 Active directory and O365 profiles, skype, yammer, planner and even Power BI — each as isolated chunks that we can use in our service at the point of use in need rather than integrated into the bundle ‘teams’.

What does this mean?
We’re building using open source Wagtail as the CMS and, alongside our intranet building blocks, we’ve already developed some collaboration capability such as the ability to create content and the ability to filter views using tags. We’re going to add to this by consuming Office 365 APIs.


Ultimately, we’ll be able to deliver the right content alongside the right tool, at the right time, for users. For example, if a new project or team is being created, it may be best to have a full MSteams instance, but there are other times, like soliciting feedback from across the workforce, where a new ‘MSteams’ instance would be cumbersome. Instead, we can offer a Word Doc linked to the OneDrive, enabling multi-tenant editing, and the ability for company-wide updates onto the home page based on information tags. Also, all this, alongside capability such as Skype calls, yammer instant messaging and the ability to link site content to OneDrive folders. 

We think, if integrated right, this will make an exceptional user experience.

Watch this space.

Written by Karen Cleale — Delivery Director

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