Would you ask a plumber to fix your watch? How about a voice coach to teach your kids soccer? It’s amazing how often organisations expect existing team members to run a Digital Workplace project despite having never had the opportunity to gain relevant experience. Traditionally we see all these kinds of initiatives falling to IT, they're just expected to do everything. IT’s remit has expanded so much in the last number of years and keeps expanding. If you can plug it in, then it's with IT.
These guys are usually super busy maintaining operational systems, trying to put out fires, then suddenly they're told "Create this fantastic digital workplace that everyone's going to love and engage with. It needs to transform how everybody works.”
To develop and launch a successful Digital Workplace, we can’t just leave everything to IT. The right team is crucial to launching an engaging, productivity-enhancing intranet. One that delivers what the users need, which is not always exactly what they say they want.
Who should be on this team? Glad you asked.
1. Project manager
A good project manager is the glue that holds your whole mission together. Creating a realistic project plan, tracking timings, managing slippage and communicating effectively with stakeholders about progress or issues… the project manager must wear many hats. As a neutral party, the PM is in a position where they can manage internal expectations and ensure that requirements are clear, promoting harmonious decision making and minimising scope creep.
2. Tech Lead & Developers
In conjunction with the Project Manager, your Technical Lead is responsible for delivering the solution within agreed timeframes. Once requirements are gathered, the Tech Lead is the person who will design the solution and manage the developers to build it. He or she thus requires a strong understanding of the architecture, security implications and related systems as well as the latest technology developments. Usually then you would also have other team members actually building the solution, the often under-appreciated developers. These guys are often less visible but truly lie at the heart of the project. The most valuable developers should not just build what is requested, but use their technical knowledge suggest improvements.
If you do not have such resources internally, a Digital Workplace designer can be more easily outsourced than, say, the tech lead. The challenge to create an effective digital workplace design can be making sure the designer is aware of the technical boundaries of your platform. SharePoint is a highly flexible tool but it does have limitations around what can be displayed where. Make sure your designer has been fully briefed on the platform, potentially using wireframes, and that they are conscious of requirements around mobile responsiveness.
Often the one that's missing is this consultant who will ask the right questions to get a good understanding of what the business wants and translate that into technical speak. For example, the business says, "We want a database, and we want to put this front end on it." Instead of just accepting that that's what the business wants, a good consultant will probe deeper. "Why do you want that? What's the reason behind that?"
When you're trying to push out these technologies, the best thing is to be able to speak to the end users and the business in their language about their pain points. Understand what they're struggling with. Then position it for them in a way that it's all about them. It's not about the technology. The technology consultant needs to do this, and to be able to do it effectively, they have to understand the tech inside out so they can come up with ideas for the right solutions.
Your digital workplace is a big deal. It has the potential to transform the way people work and engage with each other and the organisation. You really need to have the right mix of skills and awareness in your team to ensure the project achieves its goals. If you don't have it in the organisation, then its worth looking externally to ensure the people delivering your Digital Workplace are the A-Team.