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Ensuring a smarter workplace - how NFU Mutual is leveraging its Microsoft stack

Mark Samuels Profile picture for user Mark Samuels June 7, 2023
The insurance firm is partnering with the consultancy to allow its employees to make the most of a broad suite of Microsoft services.

NFU Mutual

NFU Mutual wants to become a smarter workplace and is modernizing its Microsoft stack to to meet that goal.

The insurance firm has already moved data into cloud, rolled out modern devices, and use d Microsoft tools to boost worker productivity and efficiency. Now, Robyn Furby, Technology Adoption Manager at NFU Mutual, and her team want to move to the next stage:

We're looking to become a smarter workplace. We want to use the tools to work smarter, to become more efficient and to upskill our business, so that we have an intelligent workplace. We’re using WM Reply as a trusted partner who can provide guidance and, when needed, extra support to speed up our transformation.

The firm is working with WM Reply, which is a consultancy that specialises in Microsoft SharePoint and Microsoft 365, to make the most of a broad suite of Microsoft services, including the Viva experience platform, the Workplace Insights recommendation engine, and – potentially – the Artificial Intelligence (AI) assistant, Co-pilot, Furby says:

The business problem is about understanding what these tools are and how we go about implementing them. Because WM Reply has got industry knowledge, they can bring some gravitas to what we’re saying internally, and they can also explore and challenge our ideas.

Introducing fresh experiences

Furby argues that the partnership with WM Reply is a step change in digital transformation, not just in the way that NFU Mutual introduces new technologies, but also in terms of how the technology is explained to the people who will use it every day:

In the past, it sometimes felt like workplace tool changes were done to the business. And we were really keen to get the businesses engaged as part of the changes that we were considering. It’s really helped to get people involved in the transformation.

The consultancy provides assistance in two key ways. First, understanding capabilities and thinking about how applications can be implemented. Second, providing adoption services, including events and campaigns, including running a series of workshops with business stakeholders, which helped bring them on board with the transformation agenda and setting the wider roadmap and strategy around tooling.

NFU Mutual is at the beginning of its Viva deployment and is rolling out a SharePoint-based intranet service. Furby’s team is considering how to implement various Viva components. When it comes to Insights, Furby says the business is exploring its options:

We've done some awareness and education sessions for our business leaders around hybrid working. WM Reply brought some of their industry knowledge to that process. That's raised awareness around the challenges of hybrid working and we can then connect with the tools that can help us.

Educating the business

Furby attends WM Reply events and takes techniques back to NFU Mutual to run her own education sessions. She ran an internal event recently called A Smarter Workplace, which helped inform people around the business about the benefits of embracing digital transformation:

WM Reply gives us an insight into some of the wider trends and we can take that knowledge back to the business and apply it in our sessions.

NFU Mutual can call on the consultancy for assistance across a set number of hours and days each month. More generally, Furby is in regular contact with WM Reply’s experts, as are her team members:

My role is to drive adoption of workplace technology within the organisation. We have a Teams chat with WM Reply, where I can bring up key questions. We can message them anytime we’ve got a query. They’re good at responding to questions and pointing us in the right direction. I have 13 people in my reporting structure and I've got more technical members on the team who've engaged with WM Reply, too.

Building a bond

Furby says the biggest benefit of working alongside a trusted partner is access to outsider knowledge that can be used to bolster internal expertise. When new ideas bubble up, she has the connections in the technology industry to check whether the approach might work:

It isn’t one of those arrangements where the outside experts come in and they want to do all the work. It feels like much more of a partnership and they’re a complementary team. I feel like I've got a partner that I can scale up when I need to.

The biggest challenge comes from managing the commercial side of the arrangement, according Furby. Building a close bond with an external partner means you need to ensure that close collaboration doesn’t lead to the team using up their contracted days too quickly.

When it comes to the future, Furby wants to work with WM Reply to think about how her organization might use AI, including Copilot:

Our focus is very much on how we use AI to remove inefficiency and focus on more valuable tasks. We've got some groundwork and basics to do. But we want to explore use cases where we could create some efficiencies through tools like Co-pilot.

She advises other digital leaders to find a consultant who provides a strong fit with their internal capabilities and digital transformation aims:

I think boutique consultants can really complement your team if you're using them to help scale and increase knowledge across your individual team. So, I would say use a consultant as a partner rather than a replacement for your team.

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