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Microsoft Workplace Analytics for Office 365: Boosting Employee Productivity?

Employee productivity can be a difficult thing to measure within most businesses. Especially with a workforce that can be spread out in various locations, or a staff that is rarely at the office. Yet, productivity is the number one concern for many managers. A recent Forrester report claims that increasing employee productivity is the number one priority for C-level executives, with 96 percent of respondents citing it as a critical or high imperative.

With those considerations in mind, Microsoft has developed and released a Workplace Analytics Add-on for Office 365. The new development is expected to generate plenty of buzz at this week's Microsoft Inspire 2017 partner conference in Washington, D.C.

Workplace Analytics uses the information it gleans from Office 365 email and calendar metadata, including to/from data, subject lines and timestamps, to compile data about how the organization collaborates and spends its time. It turns this digital exhaust—the data that comes naturally from our everyday work—into a set of behavioral metrics that can be used to understand what’s going on in an organization, Microsoft claims.

Microsoft Workplace Analytics: How it works

With Workplace Analytics managers could see how the organization spends time and collaborates internally and externally with insights from Office 365. The data can give business leaders actionable behavioral metrics about time and networks to help them make strategic decisions like teaming models, resource allocation and Workplace Analytics gives business leaders dozens of actionable behavioral metrics about time and networks to inform a variety of strategic decisions, including teaming models, and resource allocation, the company claims.

  • Sales productivity example - A sales organization in a Fortune 500 company used Workplace Analytics to identify the collaborative patterns of top performers. The company then used that information and scaled those behaviors to the broader sales organization, which increased sales. The insights into the amount of time spent with customers produced expected results, but the size of the person’s internal network was an unexpected factor that could indicate the ability of a salesperson to assist customers better, Microsoft says.

Make data-driven decisions

Workplace Analytics provides objective data to make better business decisions, the company claims. Dashboards are available to highlight potential issues, and flexible queries can help businesses answer targeted questions about hiring strategies, new organizational structures, and business programs.

  • Customized queries - Organizations can create their own custom queries within Workplace Analytics to help answer questions unique to the company. In addition to the metrics on activities and trends within the business, including time spent in email, time in meetings, after-hours time and network size, analysts can also create custom queries and filter to aggregated population subsets including regions, roles and functions.
  • Building a digital, data-driven enterprise - At Microsoft the HR Business Insights group is using Workplace Analytics across a variety of initiatives—from understanding the behaviors driving increased employee engagement, to identifying the qualities of top-performing managers who are leading Microsoft’s cultural transformation from within.

Drive organizational change

Companies can use the behavioral data generated from Workplace Analytics to change initiatives and measure the success of programs over time.

  • Manager effectiveness example - Freddie Mac used Workplace Analytics to drive a cultural change with managers. In looking at how time-usage metrics are related to engagement and retention, they found that the behaviors of managers were pivotal in determining employee engagement and retention. Behaviors, such as 1:1 manager time, level of leadership exposure given to employees and the degree to which work can be distributed evenly across an organization, are measurable through Workplace Analytics, Microsoft stated.
  • Space planning example - The collaboration insights from Workplace Analytics assisted CBRE, to plan their workspace. They analyzed the metadata attached to employee calendar items to calculate the travel time associated with meetings. They found that as a result of the relocation, each employee reduced their travel time to meetings by 46 percent—resulting in a combined total of 100 hours saved per week across all 1,200 employees involved in the move.

Privacy and compliance built in

Some employees are concerned with the kind of privacy violations this kind of data will produce. Microsoft has thought about this issue and provides privacy controls to meet the needs of your company, the company claims. Customers can decide which populations to analyze and maintain control over data aggregation and de-identification standards. Data viewability and aggregation levels are based on role and customer preferences.