The digital workplace: a vision rather than pure technology

Digital

There must be about as many definitions of “digital workplace” these days as there are digital workplace experts. However, a common misconception is that it is a product, a ready-made software you can buy and install. Although technology is an important element, the reality is a digital workplace is not a product, but rather a broad concept or vision that comprises the realignment of internal culture, operational processes and technology with the aim of getting things done digitally. And the difficulty in describing it roots from the wide range of needs it must address. The visual representation below mirrors these different layers: a myriad of strategic priorities, business functions, expected results and also areas of concern.

Defining the Digital Workplace

The State of the Digital Workplace 2018 by SMG/CMSWire and Digital Workplace Group. Available online.

For management and leadership, the primary concern for workplace transformation is its impact on economical outcomes, which can point in as many different directions as sales growth, employee productivity, time-to-market or lowering costs. For the digital and HR teams, the priorities would be about communication channels and improving interactions with the employees of the company.

Another part of the puzzle is that, from an employee experience perspective, the digital workplace should be the virtual equivalent of the physical workplace. It has an important role to play in employee retention and engagement, as well as improving the way of working. In fact, one of its core drivers is to enable employees to get work done in a location-independent way. You should be able to virtually attend a meeting via e.g. Skype or consult all project documentation from any location on any device. Sometimes you should even be able to participate in “coffee machine discussions” via social networks such as Yammer or Slack. These new ways to interact help to virtually eliminate time and costs of travelling as well as preserve and disseminate information easily, instead of it only being accessible to the 2 or 3 people who participated in the discussion.

The digital workplace positioned as a “digital hub” also presents a disruptive opportunity to completely rethink business processes. Traditional processes are often focused on the non-digital world. Going digital gives you the opportunity to redesign processes to cut out the middle men, eliminate non-value adding administrative tasks and increase overall business efficiency. These become automated workflows and integrations that move information and tasks between people and across systems (CRM, ERP, etc.), generating real-time analytics so that the effectiveness of operations can be tracked and continuously optimized.

If we translate all these business expectations into technology, the digital workplace can obviously range from business process management (BPM), case management and content collaboration to unified communications and intranet functionality. At that point it becomes clear that there’s no single platform - not even a broad platform such as Office 365 – that’s able to fulfill all pieces of the spectrum of a digital workplace. And important matters such as security and compliance aspects and how to avoid shadow IT are not even considered in the discussion.

Conclusion

Although the digital workplace is largely dependent on technology, there’s no “one size fits all” formula or a single product that completely captures the complete digital workplace vision. It touches all parts of an organization and you need to plan what tools address your organization’s diverse needs, how processes translate into digital, how functionality will interact and a user experience that wins over employees. As a consequence, the true digital workplace cannot be centralized on a single business function, but assumes an organization-wide program involving a multi-functional team with expertise in areas such as (but not limited to) IT architecture, employee satisfaction, internal communications, UX design, facilities management and business transformation or change management.  

If you’re planning to kick-start the digital workplace project for your company, don’t let this complexity dissuade you. A smart way to set your project for success from day one is by selecting a partner with extensive experience strategizing and implementing collaboration ecosystems for clients in your industry. They will have the right know-how to tailor a digital workplace solution to your organization’s needs and to design a holistic strategy that promotes effective user adoption and “buy in”.