“Digital Workplace Trends 2013,” a report based on surveying 362 organizations worldwide, shows that digital workplaces are in very early days.

shutterstock_112142450.jpgAn effective digital workplace enables the workforce to communicate, collaborate and conduct business efficiently wherever they are -- at the office, on a customer site or on the road. Employees need to connect to other co-workers, find information and access enterprise services. In other words, they need social, mobile and the cloud.

Concern about information security is one hurdle. Middle management resistance to social collaboration is another. Yet, the vision of a seamless, social, mobile work environment has seduced many organizations.

Potentially Transformative

The digital workplace is not just for desktop-based knowledge workers. Thirty percent of organizations with a majority of the workforce on the floor or in the field have a specific program dedicated to the digital workplace or have integrated it officially into a company-wide transformation program.

When asked about the impact of the digital workplace on his organization, Brian Holness, participant in the Digital Workplace Trends survey and Information Manager at GDF SUEZ Energy International says:

We are starting to see bottom line impact. An example is gathering and presenting insurance underwriting information that is fundamental in driving for a reduction in power station insurance premiums. This is due to improved operational risk management based on better information management.”

Beginning the Journey

Seventy percent of organizations say top goals for their digital workplace initiatives are to “increase organizational intelligence” and to “achieve efficiency and cost savings.”

Digital managers report varying states of progress towards an effective digital workplace inside their organizations: 25 percent are “thinking and talking about it,” 40 percent are “moving in that direction” and 33 percent are “beginning implementation.”

Erik S. Meyers, survey participant and Head Global Online and Employee Communications of BASF SE offers advice to companies starting the digital workplace journey:

There are two keys to success in my opinion. Recruit the CEO or another Board member as a sponsor and demonstrate business value. You need to link it to strategy over and over and over again.”

Middle Management Resistance

Whereas 60 percent of the majority of companies are struggling to gain traction in their social collaborative initiatives with their top management, the early adopters have passed this milestone. Their pain point is middle management: 55 percent cite middle management when asked: “What parts of your organization demonstrate the greatest hesitation or resistance to integrating social collaboration into the way of working?”

This is not surprising because once the top people are on board, the hard part begins: integrating social collaboration into activities and processes across the organization. That’s where middle-level managers have their role to play as change agents and so far this is not yet happening. Although 22 percent of early adopters say: “We are rethinking how we do things in many areas,” only 3 percent of the majority make the same statement.

Disruptive and Slow to Take Off

Certain social capabilities disrupt the way organizations work, challenging hierarchical management. HR no longer controls the definition of expertise: experts emerge in discussions in internal social networks. Communication no longer completely controls the message, the target and the timing: employees share information and make announcements spontaneously in blogs and discussion groups.