The term ‘Digital Workplace’ was first coined by Paul Millar, CEO of Digital Workplace Group (DWG) in 2009 as “… the collection of all of the digital tools provided by an organisation to allow its employees to do their jobs.”
Definitions have evolved over time, and the one I like to use is more focused on the outcomes: “a core platform where you can perform work, collaborate with colleagues, access the information you need to do your job, and find out what’s going on within the organisation.”
It should be a central hub that provides a go-to destination for your working day.
Too many systems
Of course, the Digital Workplace can also be a hub for links to other systems. Often, the IT solution to a problem is to build a system to fix it. Then another system for a different problem until no one knows what to use when or even how to get there. However, in this digital age a more integrated approach is needed – and that is achievable with a Digital Workplace. The best solution is a one that takes a broad approach and addresses most people’s needs without sacrificing simplicity and usability.
Exactly what’s in a Digital Workplace?
The answer to this question depends on who you ask, but here’s my interpretation.
• The Intranet, containing news, staff directory, image library/videos, blogs, knowledge base, policies/procedures, templates, a projects hub and potentially more.
• Web-based applications that integrate with the intranet.
• Collaboration tools and web-based business communication tools like Skype, Yammer, Teams, Slack or Confluence.
• Online processes and task management systems, e.g. Microsoft Planner, Trello or Asana.
• Documents accessible from a browser.
• Online dashboards
So, what isn’t part of a Digital Workplace?
Again, the answer can vary, but I’d say:
• Large systems like SAP or Oracle.
• Common client applications (i.e. not the web-based versions) of software like Excel, Word, Access and Photoshop.
• Client-server applications (again not web-based).
• File shares.
• External websites.
Why should I have a Digital Workplace?
The old saying that “the whole is greater than the sum of the parts” is obvious when it comes to sports. Collaborative sports teams produce extraordinary results, while teams that don’t work well together can’t get to the top no matter how talented their individual members are.
It’s no different in organisations. Teams that work harmoniously together, where everyone’s on the same page and it’s clear where any given project is at – who celebrate each other’s wins – will always outperform those without the tools to support collaborative working.
There are many benefits – both hard and soft – to a Digital Workplace:
Increased profit: Digital Workplaces can create substantial financial benefits by both reducing costs and increasing revenue. Insights can be hard to quantify, but are still important to track, given the tremendous benefits to every organisation.
Productivity: People can achieve more with less effort. Rather than spending the day replying to emails, they can actually get on with their work. Information is easily accessible, which vastly reduces the need for email.
Enhanced culture: When everything flows smoothly, people feel a sense of achievement. Everyone is clear on the company’s purpose and how they fit into it. Management is transparent over social collaboration, which creates a great sense of community.
Knowledge sharing: People find the information they need and record their own knowledge for the benefit of others. This happens easily between millions of people throughout the internet, so why not between the hundreds or thousands in your organisation?
Insights and ideas: Fostering a collaborative culture brings out the best in people: they’re unafraid to share their insights and can start to contribute together, leading to increased profits, improved culture and other benefits.
Quick answers: Calling colleagues, searching through documents, and trying to find ‘a needle in a haystack’ is inefficient. What if you could post that question and have it answered in minutes? And what if the answer provided insights to many others in the organisation for months to come?
Morale: When your people see their workmates supporting each other publicly, it creates a great shift in the culture. They start to think, ‘Hey look! The people I work with are helpful and kind, and they go out of their way to support each other. This place is great.’ That makes them are more likely to respond the same way in return. And what CEO wouldn’t want that kind of culture?
But how do you become a liberated organisation where everything flows effortlessly? It’s not easy, of course, but it is possible.