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A guide to the digital workplace: How to make it dynamic, secured, connected – and successful 

Summary

Explore the 4 pillars of the digital workplace and how to build a strategy

Time: 5 minute read

As much of the workforce has gone to remote work, devising solutions for fluid communication, collaboration and data security are now a top priority for many companies.

For most companies, that means building or expanding their digital workplace.


So, what does your digital workplace look like? 


The question may sound counterintuitive. After all, we experience our “digital world” through the screens of our PCs, laptops, and mobile devices. The reality is, the design of your digital workplace plays a big role in customer response and employee engagement. And it’s essential to business success today.


Yet, for as much interest as there now is in implementing a digital workplace, the idea isn’t new.

Search volume trend
The pandemic of 2020, however, reframed the idea (not to mention creating an urgent demand for businesses everywhere to develop and implement digital workplaces to keep their people connected and productive).

Meeting and videoconferencing platforms like Zoom™ may have initially seemed like a solution. A look at this chart of searches for the term “videoconferencing” suggests an urgent need for digital communications. It wasn’t long before it became apparent that a digital workplace needed more. Automated processes and security tools were two of the big demands.

 
In this article, we will answer some of the most common and pressing questions surrounding the digital workplace, specifically:

  • What exactly is a digital workplace?
  • Why you need to expand the definition to stay competitive.
  • The role of the remote workforce and how to support them.
  • What 4 elements constitute a digital workplace.
  • The key components of a practical digital workplace strategy.
  • The 10 barriers you may encounter.
  • How to plan and implement a successful digital workplace for your company.

What is the digital workplace?

The answer to this question depends on who you ask.

  • Gartner’s Information Technology Glossary defines it: “The Digital Workplace enables new, more effective ways of working; raises employee engagement and agility; and exploits consumer-oriented styles and technologies.1
  • Deloitte states: “By integrating the technologies that employees use (from e-mail, instant messaging and enterprise social media tools to HR applications and virtual meeting tools), the digital workplace breaks down communication barriers, positioning you to transform the employee experience by fostering efficiency, innovation and growth.”2
  •  A 2014 article on CMSwire offered the following definition: “The digital workplace is meant to be a virtual equivalent to the physical workplace, which requires strong planning and management due to its fundamental role in people's productivity, engagement and working health.”3 A December 2020 update to the article retained this definition.4

And previously noted, you may find companies that talk about digital workplace in terms of a platform. 

In our experience, the digital workplace includes all of these elements. In our own offerings, we have been evolving digital workplace solutions for more than a decade.

From supporting thousands of organizations like yours, we define the digital workplace as follows:

The digital workplace brings people together by leveraging technology to empower integrated, secured communications, employee productivity, and competitive advantage to create seamless employee and customer experiences, enhance business agility, and drive business forward.


Green arrow traffic light

Do we need to expand our definition of the workplace?

The pandemic had a huge impact on how we all do business. In many ways, every organization must embrace digital workplace practices now. 

Hybrid offices – those that blend digital and traditional workspaces – offer immense benefits for those businesses that need employees physically present. A hybrid office:

  • Combines the best of digital and physical workplaces.
  • Creates agile spaces for a remote or distributed workforce.
  • Fosters organic, human interaction.
  • Features technology that enables engagement with remote workforces and supports the health and safety of onsite employees. 
  • Enables head offices to represent your values and culture without making it a bottleneck for activity and decision-making.
The challenge for many businesses is where to start. In some instances, you may easily realize a glaring gap that must be filled. The March 2020 surge in searches for videoconferencing solutions suggests as much. However, beyond urgent and clear needs, identifying the best areas or needs for digital transformation can prove difficult. To facilitate your effort, we have identified and defined four pillars on which the digital workplace rests. 


The 4 pillars of the digital workplace

To build and support a digital or hybrid workplace, you need to address these four areas – or pillars. We define them as follows:

Cloud and IT infrastructure

Your technology infrastructure connects your people to each other and to the information they need to do their work. And as many quickly discovered with 2020’s rise in ransomware attacks, it must also protect employee and customer information outside of traditional network environments.

Purely on-premises applications can put a strain on IT resources, especially with distributed workforces. Manpower may be limited in hybrid settings. Hardware and software require maintenance, updates, and backup and disaster recovery solutions. 

Plus, with employees working almost anywhere, supporting connectivity can prove a challenge.

Opportunities where companies are finding Cloud and IT solutions include:

  • Managed cloud services. Workflows, access, and communication become simpler and streamlined for remote and office workers with public, private, or hybrid cloud implementations along with disaster recovery as a service data protection.
  • Managed security. Businesses can protect employees, wherever they are working, including containing and protecting against increasingly common ransomware outbreaks.
  • IT support & management. Managing the digital workplace can strain traditional IT resources where an IT support partner can offload time-consuming tasks such as service response, inventory management, and minute-to-minute monitoring.

Remote workforce

Remote workforce solutions involve much more than enabling work from anywhere. It’s true, a remote workforce needs the right tools, information, and systems – but that isn’t all. 

Just as important, an organization needs to keep employees engaged and foster those organic “water cooler” interactions, even if people are sitting in home offices miles apart. Getting work done should also be a seamless, rather than a frustrating, effort.

And we can’t forget about the top priority – maintaining a positive customer experience.

Cloud and IT infrastructure plays a role here with secured access to applications, device support, and communication and collaboration tools like Microsoft Teams™

The next pillar, process automation, also plays a key role in improving the movement of information, documents, and data through digital workflows.


Process automation

Paper workflows may work in traditional office environments; they don’t work in the digital workplace. 

Scanning and creating digital versions of paper can solve the issue of sharing but leaves manual tasks in place that can impact customer service response and employee efficiency. Automating workflows through integrated tools and applications can eliminate bottlenecks, ensure secured access to information anywhere, and supply valuable data to inform decision-making.

Benefits our customers experience after implementing process automation solutions include:

  • Maintaining critical business processes in both remote and hybrid environments.
  • Improving visibility and control of approval processes through digital “routing” of documents. (The documents don’t move. Rather, appropriate stakeholders are notified at each step of the approval process.)
  • Reducing paperwork. 
  • Increased accuracy in data entry and transmission.
  • Improved business agility as work can be done anywhere with increased information accessibility and security.

Smart and safe workplace

For some organizations, remote work may be possible for a large percentage of staff – but not for everyone. Here, the physical and digital workplaces overlap, where digital technologies help to provide a safe and adaptive workspace that enables a hybrid workforce. 

Digital technologies provide solutions for a smart and safe workplace through:

  • Employee and visitor management, where individuals can complete online forms.
  • Reduced touch workflows, such as using voice commands or mobile apps to operate print, scan, and workflow operations at a device, limiting employee contact with devices, and introduce touchless, secured print job release.
  • Print management services and applications, to convert paper to digital documents and workflows, creating a seamless, integrated hybrid environment that connects your onsite workers and remote employees. 

 

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The benefits of a digital workplace strategy

You can find a host of platforms and tools to build a digital workplace.

Adding them ad hoc, however, runs the risk of creating inefficiencies due to incompatibilities.

Ideally, you want to take a strategic approach to building your digital workplace. 

 

Taking the time to create a digital workplace strategy helps to ensure your efforts will lead to:

  • Increased employee productivity – your workers will have the tools and access to information that they need, keeping them engaged.
  • Measurable processes – digital systems offer detailed reporting that you can use to identify gaps and opportunities for process improvements.
  • Greater efficiency – digital workflows move at the speed of a “click” and can be accessed from anywhere, making work less dependent on physically limiting elements like place and paper.
  • Competitive advantage – the flexibility to work anywhere and more efficiently improves customer service response, employee satisfaction and may even lower infrastructure costs.
  • Improved business agility – integrated systems enable employees to stay connected and keep business moving forward, enabling adaptability to unexpected changes to work environments.

The 10 barriers to a successful digital workplace

In our work with businesses implementing digital workplace strategies, we have identified 10 common barriers.


  1.  Force-fitting technology solutions.
  2. Adopting cutting-edge tech that’s not fully mature.
  3. Building out your own cloud infrastructure without sufficient capabilities.
  4. Initiating big-system replacement programs.
  5. Focusing on architecture and tooling improvements without enhancing process and delivery discipline.
  6. Focusing on outputs rather than business outcomes.
  7. Managing IT purely for cost.
  8. Investing in developing new platforms without involving the business.
  9. Outsourcing your core value streams.
  10. Building up an army of managers rather than developing an engineering culture.

Any one of these 10 can have a negative impact on the efficiency, communication, and overall success of your digital workplace.


Man holding a lightbulb

How to plan and implement a digital workplace

You probably already have many components used in a digital workplace already in place.

That doesn’t mean, however, that you are already along the path. 

If these components were added as needed rather than as part of a larger digital workplace strategy, you could still benefit from starting with step one in the planning phase.

This exercise can help you identify current gaps and opportunities. (You may find that some – or all – of the applications you have in place can stay.) 

Here are seven basic steps you can follow to plan and implement a digital workplace strategy:

Step 1. Define your vision

You want to start by defining what your digital workplace looks like. At a minimum, it should:

  • Align with your business goals
  • Improve your customer service delivery
  • Enhance the employee experience
  • Make your business more agile
  • Empower remote work
  • Reduce physical infrastructure
  • Increase employee efficiency

By clearly defining your vision for how your employees will work together to deliver an exceptional customer experience, you’ll make the following steps simpler to do.


Step 2. Set S.M.A.R.T. goals

Once you know where you want to go, it’s time to set the goals for the planning and implementation phase, as well as what outcomes you expect your digital workplace to deliver.

We recommend setting S.M.A.R.T. goals: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. 

This approach helps keep your stakeholders engaged, gives focus, and makes every task a contributor to goal completion.


Step 3. Identify the people factor

Your digital workplace should increase customer satisfaction as much as it makes your business agile and enables your people to work anywhere. All of this revolves around your people.

Implementing technologies that your people can use is vital. Taking stock of your employees’ capabilities helps to define which solutions will work best for your business. To oversimplify a bit, you want to know if you need push-button simplicity or an advanced business platform with all the “bells and whistles.”


Step 4. Build a roadmap

With a strong vision, goals set, and an understanding of what your employees (and potentially customers) will need, it’s time to start the implementation process. At this stage, you may be researching services and technologies to fill gaps, meet identified needs, or replace the temporary solution implemented in response to a sudden need.

Your roadmap differs from your goals in that you are identifying the specific components that will be implemented at this point.


Step 5. Find a partner

Services play as much a part in your digital workplace as technology. As you built your roadmap, you may have identified areas – your mailroom, for example – where a need was identified. The solution may be mailroom services instead of a digital platform. 

Many cloud and digital solutions are offered “as-a-service.” A partner that can help bring them all together into a single business ecosystem can save you time and give you the flexibility to add or remove services as needed. A single partner may also be able to implement seamless integrations with what seem like otherwise disparate systems.

Finding the right partner can help accelerate your progress along your digital transformation roadmap.

Step 6. Train your teams

New technologies or services mean a new way of working. A big advantage of integrated and cloud technologies is faster onboarding and implementation, bringing a faster ROI. Yet, to realize your targeted ROI, your people need to get the most from the tools they have, as fast as possible. 

Integrated technologies and a pre-planned change management strategy can help smooth the transition. Yet, even while these help reduce the learning curve, training is vital to ensuring your people are comfortable and competent with the new tools they will use.

Article: The 3 most common change management problems

Step 7. Analyze

A big benefit of all digital technologies and services is the data they produce and report. You can use this data to analyze service or platform use, identify areas where training may be required, and inform decision-making.

By implementing these seven steps, you will find it easier to properly plan and implement your digital workplace strategy in an effective way in order to create an agile, seamless, integrated experience for customers and employees.


 
 

Have questions about your digital workplace strategy? Our workplace professionals can help.

 
 
 

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1https://www.gartner.com/en/information-technology/glossary/digital-workplace
2https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/mx/Documents/human-capital/The_digital_workplace.pdf
3https://www.cmswire.com/digital-workplace/what-a-digital-workplace-is-and-what-it-isnt/
4https://www.cmswire.com/cms/social-business/what-a-digital-workplace-is-and-what-it-isnt-027421.php
 
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