It’s a given: thriving companies in the global marketplace need a high-quality digital infrastructure to sustain and scale success, yet internal user experience (UX) is often an afterthought.

Why? Maybe because we forget the most basic reason why digital infrastructures need to exist. At the root of all information exchange is: connection. At the root of all connections are: human beings.

As sophisticated as systems can ever become, their use and impact are limited by the extent to which people adopt them. Employees are people, ergo: they’d better be enthusiastic adopters of your systems, or else! Fortunately, connection appeals fundamentally to most people. Digital workplace systems must make it compelling, intuitive and relatively easy to connect people with others (including customers), information, ideas and even a sense of community.

Culture Is In Charge, Not Strategy

Said the great Peter Ferdinand Drucker: “culture eats strategy for breakfast, technology for lunch, products for dinner and soon thereafter everything else too.” This statement brings with it a delicate problem: how to align your tech strategy with your company culture so it doesn’t get chewed up and spit out? More subtly, how do you avoid the pitfall of system avoidance or under-utilization that prevents your company from getting a decent ROI (Return on Investment) on your overhead IT costs? First, know and remember no company is exempt from these risks.

Start With Internal Customer Experience

You can’t build your brand upon delivering extraordinary experiences to your customers if that’s not what your employees are living too. Flashes of brilliance can always happen with hard work and a great team, but it’s your team’s day-to-day experience that shows through to the customer, especially in those longer-term relationships you want to cultivate. Consistency is key. Your brand isn’t just what you say it is, it’s what’s consistently true about what you deliver. Start thinking of your employees as customers, and ripple effects are guaranteed. What can you give them? Good process management.

Smoother process brings a more frictionless work experience, which makes everyone happy. Don’t rely upon any digital system to solve problems that are systemic within your organization.

Ask yourself: would you feel good about recommending your current internal processes to a customer? If not, what are your concerns? Is your current software being utilized to its full potential? If not, why not? Do your systems mesh well together? Are users well supported? Any grain of sand in the machine is important to notice and address. Friction undermines success every time.

Analyze and Maximize

Invest time in the iterative process of inquiry, reflection and documentation to evolve workflow-related processes to ensure company resilience and sustainable success. IT systems can support this effort, but people need to drive it. For example, teams could document new best practices and lessons learned in a shared knowledge base at the conclusion of every project. Employees well-suited to a learning culture tend to appreciate the integrity of this type of commitment to continuous process improvement. This also helps make the most from any existing IT infrastructure.

When a company expects rapid growth, keep in mind the scalability of the digital workplace. A platform that unifies communication systems with other necessary applications in a digital suite, while enabling remote logins (like Microsoft Office365) can answer that need. Implementing an internal social networking application can be a great culture-building tool, but even more, it can become a compelling and dynamic collaboration tool among project teams, in-office or remote, irrespective of geography. Host events like an International Ugly Sweater Contest, counting "likes" as votes as a fun team-building exercise. A specialized performance management system, to cascade and manage goals and all employee performance-related information, can be a great asset too.

Rules of Thumb

Systems must not add more complexity than they solve. We know simplicity takes more mastery to achieve on the programming end of things, so bells and whistles don’t sell us on anything. Try to keep learning curves as small as is reasonably possible.

Frustration at very early stages of a new system implementation brings a strong risk of rejection. Designating a point-person who is a subject matter expert on a specific system or process can be very helpful in rollout initiatives. Also, proactively gathering user experience feedback helps organizations stay connected and clued-in.

A Job Well Done is Never Done

So, how do you manage the internal customers’ experience in an evolving digital workplace? Never consider the job "done." Ask employees how you are doing overall, every week in a quick survey, and in larger surveys periodically. Create "stoplight" scorecards from the results: green, yellow, red. Fix the red issues first, then the yellows.

A digital workplace allows companies to be much more connected and responsive to the human element, but you should never lose sight of the human behind the machine.