The workplace is changing – and at its heart, it’s the decoupling of ‘place’ from ‘work’ which is driving this revolution.
The sofa at home, the window seat in the coffee shop – even the deckchair at the holiday home – have all become as likely a location for productive, creative output as the traditional office space.
However, creating a Digital Workplace is not simply a matter of providing your people with the latest software on the market. It represents a step change in the way we work, collaborate and respond to customer demands. Let's explore further.
Placing Digital Transformation at the heart of the business objective, with top-down recognition of the benefits is key, as senior management teams need to proactively embrace and promote new work practices, ensuring that those down the management line follow suit.
Although still a relatively new concept, there are clear themes emerging around considerations when creating and nurturing a Digital Workplace.
- What technologies will need to be adopted?
How do different departments contribute to creating a Digital Workplace?
- What additional pressures will be placed on in-house resource?
- Implications for those companies who fail to move on from old world working practices.
Cloud-Based Office Suites
From Adobe to Zoho, there are a wide range of licence and subscription-based tools available to help us achieve a Digital Workplace. Practically a byword for Cloud-based applications, it’s Microsoft that continues to lead the field with a range of plans to suit all businesses and budgets. Recent additions to the Office 365 Business Premium suite now offer businesses seven new applications to help grow: Microsoft Connections, Microsoft Listings, Microsoft Invoicing, together with Microsoft Bookings, Outlook Customer Manager, and MileIQ, are all managed from one central app, the Office 365 Business Center.
Enterprise Content Management
With traditional methods of storing data being phased out, Enterprise Content Management (ECM) allows for the digital capturing, storing, retrieval and sharing of documents. Storing documents on the Cloud removes many of the problems associated with paper, such as large and clunky storage units, labour-intensive handling, slow distribution and the risk of loss or damage.
ECM is critical for companies that have more than one office, allowing documents to be shared between different sites. It is also essential for remote workers who need to access documents quickly, removing the need to wait for them to be sent from a different location.
The Association for Information and Image Management defines collaboration as, ‘a working practice whereby individuals work together to a common purpose to achieve business benefit.’ Globalisation in recent years has led to many businesses having teams spread across more than one location. It is extremely difficult to work effectively with someone you don’t know or haven’t met.
Today, there are a host of collaborative applications that facilitate collaboration. Microsoft’s document management system, SharePoint, allows employees to store documents on an online platform and share them with colleagues. Working together online improves transparency, as employees can see what their colleagues are working on, and version control on documents means that they can see changes as they happen.
Similarly, companies’ Intranet are increasingly being used to collaborate, with tools such as Yammer and Teams keeping people informed and connected. Meetings are also moving online, with improvements in broadband speed enabling better Skype connectivity, and people can instant message each other at any time. Mobile connectivity is set to take a giant leap in the next couple of years, with the advent of 5G mobile data, which at 10Gbps is more than 1,000x faster than 4G.
As with all journeys, the route to the Cloud needs careful planning. The increased reliance on IT infrastructure is placing unprecedented demands on in-house IT resource. This is highlighted in Chess’ recent Taking the Pulse of the IT Nation survey which also reveals the degree to which those who feel most stressed also feel the least valued, with 52% stating they felt IT was not a respected department in their organisation.
A strong working relationship between IT, HR and other departments can help identify where increased support or simply more acknowledgement may be required. For example, more flexible use of technology, including outside of traditional office hours, may result in a need for extended help desk support.
There’s no ‘one-size-fits all’ Digital Transformation solution and outsourcing some, or all, of the process reduces the strain on in-house resources, minimising disruption to daily, business-critical, activities and providing specialist, expert advice as and when required.
Learning new processes and applications is a requirement in Digital Transformation and ensuring widespread user adoption is a key. Collaboration can only be successful with the support of all stakeholders.
A company wide learning culture, embracing all areas of Continuous Professional Development helps in the creation and nurturing of a Digital Workplace. For many companies, this includes a mentoring programme, where more experienced users can pass on their wisdom to the newer staff members.
People who feel their company is investing in their training and knowledge are less likely to move on – reaping rewards for those businesses that can avoid the increasing struggle to recruit skilled staff.
A Digital Workplace culture impacts all departments and policies, and an effective HR function is central to achieving Digital Transformation.
Flexible working hours, coupled with a benefits package that promotes a positive work-life balance rather than simply bolstering salaries, are as much characteristics of a Digital Workplace as online tools, apps and processes.
The hiring process will need to ensure new people are a good fit for a Digital Workplace culture. The youngest recruits to an organisation are often the most enthusiastic advocates of a Digital Workplace, as it’s a natural extension of how they organise and lead their personal lives.