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Four steps on the journey to a digital workplace

by Eric Stavola
 

Businesses that use traditional workplace models are quickly falling behind as they struggle to keep up with the digital curve. This is due in part to the proliferation of technological conveniences — employees and customers have come to expect similar conveniences when they do business.

Challenges that the traditional workplace model introduces in today's digital world include:

  • Frustrations and potential loss of business when information is difficult to access and deliver
  • Inaccurate information sharing due to data redundancies that result from fragmented information that's spread out across multiple departments
  • Lack of space and high costs that hinder business growth when paper is abundant and servers are stored onsite or in a local data center
  • Unnecessary travel expenses for executives and sales reps when collaborative solutions that mimic live meeting rooms are highly effective, affordable and easily available

These are just a handful of the many challenges that businesses with traditional workplaces are running up against. We'll look at four steps that can set you on the path to overcoming these challenges.

 
 
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1. Establish a new mental model

Everywhere you look, you see people using smart devices to communicate, schedule their time and help them with daily personal tasks. As people become more and more used to this way of life, their desire to have this functionality and convenience in the workplace increases. Unfortunately, too many executives at too many companies lack the necessary mentality to drive a digital transformation that can effectively utilize technology in a way that keeps employees as happy and productive as possible.

The only way to move ahead of the digital curve is to change how we view the workplace by opening our minds to new possibilities. We all have a mental model, or framework — based on our experiences in traditional workplaces — that shapes the way we believe the workplace should look and feel. When thinking about the workplace, you might envision an office, corporate park or high rise versus employees working remotely. You might imagine file cabinets full of paper and folders rather than ones and zeros in the cloud.

To break the pattern, you first need to understand your own mental model. This can start with a simple question: “What is a workplace to you?" Ask this question, and images, assumptions and stories that represent what a workplace is to you will naturally arise. These unique perspectives about the workplace have been ingrained in our minds over the years, making it difficult to see past them. The idea is to blow them apart, so you can start to think about the workplace differently. Then you can open your mind to the changes you need to make to be successful now and in the future. This open way of thinking about your business needs can help direct you to the technology that will work best for you and your team.

Carol Rozwell, vice president and analyst at Gartner notes, "To be successful, a digital workplace can't be built in a vacuum. It must be part of a wider business strategy that seeks to boost employee agility and engagement by developing a more consumerized work environment."1 In other words, you can't view digital workplace technology through the lens of an outdated mental model. You need to make meeting your business needs and goals your highest priority, then seek technology that best fits those needs, and look for ways to make that technology available to all of your employees — both onsite and remote — so they can collaborate more effectively, increase productivity across your organization and better serve your customers.

2. Adopt a digital workplace strategy

Gallup notes that only “one-third of U.S. employees are engaged" at the workplace.2 This is a big problem when you consider that engaged employees are a necessary element when it comes to improving customer relationships and staying ahead of the competition. Optimizing connections between business, people and technology to enhance the workplace and make employees more efficient is a good way to get them more invested in their work. Here are a few questions that can guide you in the process and help you define a digital workplace strategy that makes sense for your business:

  • Where do business, people and technology meet in your current workplace?
  • Is it possible to make these connections more fluid and easier to access?
  • How can you work with these connections to prepare your company for the future?

By answering these questions, you can start to gather the data you need to get buy-in — a crucial step in adopting a digital workplace strategy, as you need executive support to enable your digital transformation. A word of caution: When approaching other executives about adopting a digital workplace strategy, it's common to find some resistance. Everyone has his or her own unique mental model about the workplace — changing these perspectives can be challenging. Focusing the digital workplace conversation on business needs rather than available technology will help stakeholders understand the importance of a digital transformation. Otherwise, you could find the discussion being pushed out to IT and interrupting any real progress.

3. Assess your company with a digital maturity model

Once you get buy-in for the adoption of a digital workplace strategy, the next step is to assess your company's digital maturity and identify gaps in your current technological infrastructure. Ask yourself how your company is leveraging technology today. Have you recently started digitizing paper documents or have you already transformed business operations by leveraging various digital technologies? When it comes to empowering people, processes and technology with a digital transformation, how far along is your company today?


For a deeper dive, consider partnering with digital transformation experts who can assess your maturity level more objectively by helping you answer the following questions:

Four Strategies for Transforming to a Digital Workplace — Ricoh Table Talk

Watch episode 1 of Ricoh's table talk series, "Four Strategies for Transforming to a Digital Workplace," to learn more.

 

  • Does your company currently view technology as a strategic asset, a way to cut costs or both?
  • How effectively does your company use customer and business data to measure success and impact business strategy?
  • What is the current level of user adoption throughout your organization when it comes to emerging technologies?
  • Is your company aligned to support digital strategy, governance and execution?3

4. Keep your focus on the employee and customer experience

Two critical assets should drive your digital workplace strategy: your employees and your customers. Considering these two assets when defining your digital transformation process can have a wide-ranging, positive impact on people, processes and technology. For example, if you see a need for employees to meet with customers on a weekly basis, you may roll collaboration solutions into your digital workplace strategy to reduce time and travel costs while supporting this need — empowering your team to improve customer relationships by enabling them to share ideas more easily and effectively.

To help you design a digital workplace that fits your organization's unique business needs, you must consider how a digital transformation will affect your employees and customers. Here are some actions you can take to help you make the process easier for everyone:

  • Develop a common organizational language that will help facilitate, protect and encourage collaboration and information sharing.
  • Set your company up to adjust to, adapt to and overcome the process of change — allowing your organization to grow and evolve as the business dictates.
  • Empower your employees to work anywhere, anytime, on any device — giving them the ability to act and make decisions with speed and precision.
  • Shift the way end users think about technology — helping them move from reactive to proactive approaches when problem solving.
  • Leverage information and technology in ways that help free your IT department to focus on strategic business initiatives and innovations.

 

Ultimately, the journey to a digital workplace should create digital dexterity — "a multifaceted endeavor spanning many areas that help make your employees more collaborative, analytical, mobile, innovative and creative."4 By working toward digital dexterity throughout your entire organization, you stand to significantly improve both the employee and customer experience while making a smoother transition to a digital workplace.

 
Eric Stavola
Eric Stavola, Director of Ricoh IT Services, Ricoh USA, Inc.

Eric Stavola serves as Director, Enterprise Services Sales for Ricoh USA, Inc. In this role, Stavola leads a pre-sales team specializing in services that meet customer needs while working with sales leaders to grow Ricoh's services business.

Stavola brings more than 20 years of experience to the role of implementing technology business systems and customer-friendly processes while reducing costs, boosting employee morale and lowering turnover in under-performing organizations. Developing successful growth and digital transformation strategies highlights his extensive track record.

Prior to joining Ricoh, Stavola was CIO for a regional professional services company on the west coast.

Stavola has a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California, and two master's degrees in Education and Computer Information Systems. He has earned MCSE, MCSA, CDIA+ and N+ certifications, and has had multiple articles published on technology and digital transformation.
 
 
1"Gartner Highlights Eight Critical Components of a Digital Workplace." Gartner, Inc. August 22, 2017. https://www.gartner.com/en/newsroom/press-releases/2017-08-22-gartner-highlights-eight-critical-components-of-a-digital-workplace
2“State of the American Workplace." Gallup, Inc. 2017. https://s3.amazonaws.com/external_clips/attachments/2131671/original/SOAW_Report_GEN_1216_WEB_FINAL_rj.pdf?1538591582
3Gill, Martin and VanBoskirk, Shar. “The Digital Maturity Model 4.0." Forrester Research. January 22, 2016.
4Cain, Matthew W. and Woodbridge, Michael. “Hype Cycle for the Digital Workplace, 2017." Gartner, Inc. July 26, 2017.