Recently I had the opportunity to create a digital workplace solution using the Powell Software suite and it’s high-time I shared my opinions. It’s worth noting that this opinion piece is exactly that. An unsolicited, unbiased, non-sponsored opinion piece. Spoiler alert: I had more fun with this stuff than I would want to admit to my boss.
Up until recently I had never heard of Powell Software and looking back, I’m genuinely embarrassed to have been so naive. Powell Software has been providing digital workplace solutions for companies like UEFA, Lacoste, and Zeiss since 2015. I’ll spare the sales pitch and jump straight into what their products do and whether it’s worth the investment.
The Powell Intranet product is an upgrade to the vanilla SharePoint platform. It simplifies the development process for an intranet, while upgrading the visual aesthetics at the same time.
- Creating content like calendar events or news items is handled by using a widget that appears at the bottom of all pages. It takes less than 5 clicks to create most things in Powell Intranet.
- Search and refine your colleagues with the people directory. There is also a built-in org-chart tool that shows when you click on people from the directory.
- Each part of the site pages can be customised to show whatever information you can imagine.
- FAQs hub with categorisation.
- Analytics pages that are easier to find, and provide more granular reporting compared to vanilla Office 365 analytics.
- Works on any device and automatically adjusts the aesthetics for different screen sizes.
- Multilingual site deployment is mostly automated. Powell manager takes care of 80% of the work for you.
- There is a Branding/Communications hub for storing all your marketing or communications materials in one (searchable) place.
- Job listing hub for advertising open positions.
- Staff Marketplace.
- News hub.
- Gamification of social network engagement. You can score points for sharing company news on social media and have a leader board with prizes.
- Many, many content searches options. Each intranet hub (marketplace, news, people) includes its own search filtering.
- Events hub for advertising and documenting company events like Christmas parties or work scavenger hunts.
- Integration with ServiceNow and FlexDesk
The Powell Manager product is used to build and deploy Powell Intranet sites. The most useful feature of Powell Manager is the ability to separate an intranet build into a development site, a testing site, and a production site. This feature works very similar to a code repository and allows for small pieces of an intranet to be deployed and tested one at a time.
Once the sites have been built and deployed from Powell Manager, the sites can either be maintained from the management portal or from the site itself. The intended purpose of Powell Manager is to use it for all development work throughout the entire life of an intranet. If a customer requests for a full hand-over and they do not require the management portal, then Powell Manager can be used as a backup system.
- Can be used as the central development area or as a backup service. It is highly recommended to use the Powell Manager service as the dev portal because some of the Powell Intranet features require Powell Manager to build/maintain them.
- Allows for easy transitions between your dev, testing, and production environments. Each environment is separated in the management portal. The process for shifting content between the environments takes roughly 15 minutes of effort.
- Syncing changes is a breeze. Every webpart, page, list, library, and site have its own sync button. Powell Software’s attention to detail in the many sync options mitigates most of the extra work attached to having a development area outside of SharePoint.
- Site templates can be used to speed up deployment times.
- Webpart aesthetics can be customised using basic HTML to show whatever extra information you want.
The Powell Teams product is an enhancement for MS Teams. It takes some of the more advanced functionality and features already provided by Microsoft, and bundles them into a neat, user-friendly package. For example, Microsoft have already made it possible to create team templates and automate the team creation (and approval) process. Powell Teams reduces the work required to implement these types of features from a few hours down to a few minutes.
Powell Teams also includes some innovative features to provide businesses with an area for their staff to chat, meet new people, and relax.
- Provides a button to easily find and view the business intranet site without leaving MS Teams.
- Templates for teams allow for new teams to be deployed quickly and help streamline business processes like employee on-boarding.
- Virtual coffee machine
- Invites are randomised to promote staff networking.
- Tag your teams for refined searches and for promoting certain teams to your business units.
- Automations/flows for team creation, team approvals, and team decommissioning.
- The sales team at Powell Software are extremely tenacious, yet genuinely humane. Normally I would view tenacity as awkward when it comes to IT sales but in this case, it works in everyone’s best interest. The Powell sales team take the time to listen to each customer’s story and then they will make sure their product and price is the best fit.
- Powell Software is well-aware of other digital workplace enhancement products on the market. This works is the customer’s favour. The combination of supply and demand alongside Powell Software’s aggressive pricing model makes me think that a lot of people are going to get great package deals.
- Powell Software offers more features per dollar for their Teams and SharePoint enhancement tools compared to any other products on the market. Although, if you are not going to use half of the features then you will not get your money’s worth.
- The Powell Software learning center has a “have your say” section with prizes and a voting system. The most up-voted ideas are reviewed and usually implemented by the Powell dev team.
- The Powell Software account managers go above-and-beyond with keeping their customers happy. They proactively schedule fortnightly catch-ups with their clients to make sure everything is okay. The account managers also make themselves available on MS Teams every day for any quick questions (or for the occasional chin-wag).
- Powell Software is never satisfied with their product and they constantly innovating. For example, their Virtual Coffee Machine feature in Powell Teams. Powell Software identified that people working from home has limited the randomness of meeting new people in the office kitchen. They found a way to encapsulate that same random networking with their ‘Virtual Coffee Machine’ feature.
- The Powell technical support team always make time to help. I might get our support guy in trouble by saying they have a “fix first, support tickets later” mentality.