Digital Workplace implementation and challenges

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In modern day work environment, employees crave to have the same user experience at work that they generally get in their personal life with the use of technology. Lately, all organizations have started acknowledging the fact and that is major driver behind adopting the Digital Workplace strategy which majorly focuses on driving productivity along with being flexible, giving more space to employees to operate.

This article is based on the experiences that I have undergone working with the Digital Workplace program and the challenges we faced that believe would be common to a similar program in any other organization with a global set up. Something that organizations aspiring to implement Digital Workplace program can take a cue of.

  1. Simple architecture addressing complex problems-
    • Simplicity at the fore-front with a complex back-end set up- As we grow our technological landscape to incorporate more and more diverse technology and make integration more seamless, the technology at the back-end gets more and more complex. This is all done to satisfy the end user desires of simplicity, automation and seamless integration. I see this getting addressed gradually by the introduction and an increased use of Artificial Intelligence, emerging IoT and data transformation capabilities.
    • Application integration- The main theme of the Digital Workplace strategy is to help employees be more productive by allowing them to work at their desired time, with their device of choice and from where they wish to. Which means they would like to access the organizational information from a central application. One application that helps them reach all the applications they are expected to use to accomplish their daily job. It translates into a more seamless integration between applications they generally work on and the Digital Workplace application. However, considering the variety of the technology and respective support systems, it is not that easy to weave all the applications in one bundle. APIs can be useful but proprietary applications, especially the ones made for banking domain may not be that integration friendly. I see a great opportunity area where Digital Workplace enabler within the industry needs to work together to evolve the situation in the future.
  2. Secure use- Things may get tricky especially when your Digital Workplace application is meant to surface content from various other platforms.
    • Security- When we talk about application integration and sharing content with external partners, the landscape to cover for Security gets even larger. I see this as an ever-evolving area where tech companies have already taken a cue and have accomplished great feat to make collaboration more secure in turn making them more confident to make the best use of the cost-efficient cloud infrastructure.
    • Governance- Governance around the use of all content available on the Digital Workplace platform, may not always have a very well-defined policy. It’s essential to take the extra efforts to define such usage policies around, governance, due diligence and compliance towards appropriate use of collaboration spaces, content management, process automation and customer and partner engagement.
    • Regulatory Compliance- For organizations with global set up, it’s important to actively engage the local legal team to understand the use of the application is compliant to local and global government regulations. SOX and GDPR are two of the strongest drivers within this space. However, the focus should not be limited to the compliance of only these two regulations.
  3. Relevant content-
    • Targeted content and the ability to customize- The needs of users vary from person to person, role to role, team to team and region to region. The tools adopted with the Digital Workplace program should be open to end-user customization and global content should be targeted based on the employee’s role, department/team and region. This would require a more in-depth knowledge of how the organizational workforce is distributed and what global content would be more appropriate for them, alongside local content.
    • Most Up-to-date content- In a global set up, the content needs to be kept up-to-date. If not work-application related content, the translations need to be updated. There should be a dedicated region-specific team/s to keep the content/metadata/translations up-to-date. It may be difficult for the Product/Project Managers to negotiate for additional budget from the sponsors if it was not already agreed before.
  4. Enterprise search- Search should be seen as enabler to find the most appropriate content with least amount of time. With evolving digital work culture, we have continuously created content which for various diverse needs, are saved at different locations- local drives, various cloud-based applications, various on-prem applications. To unify all of them and provide a holistic picture of the search results to the end user has always been challenging. Within your organization, if you analyze the past usage trends of the usage of Intranet, the most startling revelation would be that in comparison to any other individual feature of your site, the search bit was the highest used feature. Surprising? I believe there’s a lot of sense in that usage trend, I’ll try to explain that user behavior in a separate article. Moreover, the Workplace applications that live up to this expectation of the end-users are the real winners. They need no rewards at star-studded ceremonies.
  5. Support for Adoption-
    • Training and Knowledge base creation- A more conventional and time-tested way to promote adoption of the Digital Workplace tool/s is to provide easy access to training and support materials for the end-users. However, this strategy may not be too successful with big enterprises and with new generation of workforce. The new breed of workforce likes more to use the time to explore their creative self and be productive at work, rather spend the time in training classes.
    • Intuitive interface- We trace the origination of the term “Intuitiveness” in the IT industry by the Sales team that used this term to effectively bring down the solution cost for their clients. The idea was to cut down the cost generally incurred on Change Management, communication and training. Making the tools more intuitive needs more pragmatic approach towards understanding the user requirements. Specific user journeys using User personas would be helpful. However, the bigger the enterprise is, it becomes more challenging to adopt a uniform approach towards making the tool intuitive. Global organization with diverse cultural workforce may face lot of challenges in this area which may not always be due to users diverse understanding of the tool, but also we must not ignore the fact that organizations are still learning to invest more time and dedication to the in-house UX teams. We can compare any commercial application to the enterprise applications. Most of the enterprise applications would fare minimally on the UX parameters. The enterprise applications are not too intuitive, hence the longer learning curve. Organizations should understand this area can no longer be ignored. If they do not possess the in-house capabilities, they must out-source UX studies to make the application more intuitive, a more effective alternative to providing trainings.
  6. Precision usage analytics- The success of your program will highly depend on how sooner and efficiently you learn about the use of your application and challenges in the user journey. This can be done by implementing a robust analytics system for your tool. Unfortunately, in most of the large enterprises, the respective security teams are not keeping pace with the technological advancements of the organizations owing to which integration with application that are meant to be the content source and integration with readily available analytics tools are still a dream. The security hurdle needs to be cleared as soon as possible to make your Digital Workplace program a success.
  7. Automation- We still have a big chunk of technology freak employees who fear job loss that can potentially be caused by automation. They see such technology as a threat to their jobs. Per a study from Gartner, AI is expected to eliminate 1.8 million jobs world-wide by 2020. At the same time, it would create 2.3 million new jobs. This fear may be similar to the one we saw during the adoption of computers. Now, there’s nearly no one who doesn’t own a computer or it’s sleeker version- the smart phone. I foresee this fear getting eliminated soon and employees realizing the benefits of AI adoption would grow drastically in the near future. Organizations needs to run special communication campaigns to educate employees about the advantages of automation.
  8. Process reengineering- Since Information Technology domain is too dynamic and ever-evolving, the Digital Workplace needs of enterprises cannot always be as it was defined at the time of its inception. The fact that many organizations believe in one-time solution for their Digital Workplace set up will be one the challenges that the evolution of the enterprise Digital Workplace strategy will face.

Game changers- The future looks brighter!

Currently, the industry spends around $500 billion on actively disengaged employees. The need of running employee engagement programs within the organization has increased manifold. We can take a look on some bright ideas to drive Digital Workplace programs within our organizations.

  1. Gamification- Gamification strategies such as accumulating status, achievements and rewards, should be used to encourage workers to prioritize collaboration and productivity.
  2. Social integration- I presume, the next level of maturity of Digital Workplace strategy would be to enhance their ability to integrate with Social channels. If played correctly, social media platforms can enhance talent, experience & knowledge-sharing drastically. Per a study, employee retention increased by 87% when employee engagement was introduced in an organization.
  3. UX study driven intuitiveness promoting adoption of the tool.
  4. Increased use of AI, AR and promote the technologies in the user base.

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