Kevin Olp and Sue Weinlein
Kevin Olp of the Digital Workplace Group (DWG) and Sue Weinlein of Northwestern Mutual at the Digital Workplace Experience. DWG provided digital workplace "diagnoses" to attendees at the conference in Chicago last week. PHOTO: Dom Nicastro

Remember the web content management space 17 years ago?

Everyone trying to figure out what it means to have an “online presence,” grappling with SEO and home page banners.  

Well, we’re seeing a lot of parallels with the current state of the employee experience and digital workplace space. 

Early Days for the Digital Workplace

OK, so maybe digital workplace technologies aren’t as nascent as WCM was in 2000. But for those championing digital workplace strategies, it sure “feels” like we’re in the early days.

“There are a lot of similarities between WCM and this,” said Ed Rogers, CEO of Akumina. “It’s like what you saw in the customer experience space and what now needs to happen in the employee experience space .… The thing I see so similar is where the clients are. They’re still trying to figure this out. They know they need to do it."

Websites then were an IT project. Nowadays, marketers pretty much own WCM. 

Who owns the digital workplace in an organization? Do senior leaders believe in digital workplace and employee experience investments? 

These questions and challenges came to light at last week’s Digital Workplace Experience conference put on by Simpler Media Group, parent company of CMSWire, and Digital Workplace Group (DWG).

We got this “early days” feeling as we mingled with those attending the inaugural conference at the Radisson Blu Aqua hotel in downtown Chicago. They want to invest into their employees but have to work at getting support from leadership.

“We heard an awful lot of how can we measure and demonstrate the value of my success of the digital workplace to leadership so we can secure funding?” said Kevin Olp, digital workplace consultant for DWG.

We caught up with some attendees of the Digital Workplace Experience last week in Chicago, asking their thoughts on the state of the digital workplace.

Jeff Willinger, VP, Digital Inspiration, Rightpoint

Jeff Willinger
Jeff Willinger

I think the common theme is driving engagement and adoption and then strategies around it. What I’ve been finding is sadly, a lot of the companies are leading with the technologies. They’re like, “Hey, we have Jive or we have Office 365 or we have Yammer. What do we do with it all?” 

Thankfully that’s what I do for a living. I help companies get their arms around how to make the best use of their technology. Too many times we don’t answer the question why are we doing this to begin with. 

Let’s figure out some milestones. I’m a big crawl-walk-run guy. Believe it or not I’m a marathon runner. I like to eat a lot so I see value in running. If people don’t see value in going to the intranet or their digital workplace, they’re never going to go.

Our jobs as internal communicators is figuring out what’s in it for me as the end user and how do I get people to make it part of their everyday life, sort of like Twitter, Facebook or whatever your favorite social network is. And build on that.

Each company is trying to benchmark off the other but I don’t think there is one single best digital workplace. To me the best one is the one that works for your company. 

Sue Weinlein, Senior Business Product Manager, Northwestern Mutual

Sue Weinlein
Sue Weinlein, Digital Workplace Senior Consultant at Northwestern Mutual
A lot of it has to do with sustainability: year two of your new intranet and your digital workplace. We had a successful launch last year and now we want to make it an easily manageable and sustainable environment. We’re looking at a lot of things like governance and content management, now that we have translated over most of those sites from the old platform to the new. 

The other aspect that I’m really interested in his how do we begin looking at a digital workplace product? We had restructured organizationally to foster that but our users don’t all think of it as a product. Where can we create efficiencies by handling curation, for instance, across all of our different components of our digital workplace? How can we create curators who also handle digital signage information in addition to their intranet pages?

Kevin Olp, Digital Workplace Consultant, Digital Workplace Group

Kevin Olp
Kevin Olp of Digital Workplace GroupPHOTO: Jeff Callen
So many people that are here are experiencing growing pains. So they’ve started their journey but now that they’re doing it it’s about scaling it up and reaching out to touch more parts of the organization. 

We’ve heard about content migration and cleanup before folks have launched their intranet. We heard an awful lot of how can we measure and demonstrate the value of my success of the digital workplace to leadership so we can secure funding.

The most challenging thing is coming up with a single vision and strategy for their digital workplace as opposed to a half dozen groups around the organization trying to connect with each other. 

Summer Meyer, Web Product Manager, PeaceHealth

Summer Meyer
Summer Meyer

I’m getting the sense that I’m in the same boat as everyone else. That’s reassuring. Nobody’s really got it figured out. Everybody’s still exploring. 

There are so many options, and I think what I’m coming away with is it comes down to the organization and the business and what actually do the leaders want to accomplish. It’s about humans and technology. It’s about culture. How do you network that together, digital with the culture? How does it work? What does that look like?

It’s connection: how do all of these business apps and tools and different things actually connect?

We don’t have one single document management system that the organization has said, “We use this.” It doesn’t exist. How do you network all of those things and bring them together in a seamless way that doesn’t take too long for people to get up to speed and onboarded?