collaborating
Digital workplace tools require regular review to ensure they are meeting the needs of your employees PHOTO: college.library//Greg Anderson

How many applications, platforms or software tools make up your business technology stack? Ten? Fifty? Over 100? 

The days when organizations could rely solely on one solution for business needs are well and truly behind us. Increasingly, the digital workplace is a complex web of specialized tools or applications, designed to meet the needs of a diverse range of employees. 

Technology evolves at a rapid pace, as do our organizations. Many tools have a relatively short life span. Without continual review, they quickly become redundant. 

And as the digital workplace plays a vital role in attracting and retaining talent, streamlining business processes and improving efficiency, ensuring your business remains digitally relevant and supports strategic goals is an ongoing process — and it needs to center on your employees. 

4 Steps to Build a Digital Workplace Foundation

1. Identify your communities and their needs

The first step is to look at the diverse range of communities within your organization. These employee groups each have unique goals and needs, requiring different tools. Most commonly we see: 

Communities of purpose: Individuals working towards a shared objective, including project teams, committees or perhaps a tender team. Typical tools they need include document collaboration, calendars or task management.

Communities of practice: Communities connected due to a shared profession or expertise, who collaborate to share best practice or experience. They require tools such as forums, social tools, and areas for questions and answers

Communities of interest: Employees connected over a common interest like charity work or sport. Tools for these groups focus on sharing, such as blogs, galleries or social conversations.

Event communities: Connecting due to a physical or virtual event, this group has specialist requirements to achieve their goals — such as forms and workflows, calendars, or social tools to connect prior and after the event. Examples include conferences or training courses.

Once you understand the unique goals and objectives of your communities, you can assess the viability — and gaps — of your technology stack. 

2. Balance flexibility with control

Security and cyber risk remain a concern when assessing digital workplace needs. All you need is one rogue application without the necessary certifications or controls, and your organization may unintentionally give out an all-access pass to its data. 

This often leads to tight controls, with IT locking down devices or developing watertight usage policies. Responsibility for technology needs falls on management or the IT department. However all these restrictions may hold your business back from adapting to change. 

Employees know their own needs better than most. As digital natives, many already utilize different apps or tools in their day-to-day lives. Embedding an ideation process that allows employees to shape their own digital workplace by putting forward suggestions for tools — while retaining a layer of control and sign-off — will support your business in innovating and meeting needs. 

3. Place user experience at the top of the requirement list

Usability is key to the success of the digital workplace. An application that claims to solve your every business need with a long list of features may look like a holy grail. But if your employees don’t get the same experience they see in their day-to-day lives, it’s doomed for failure. 

Look to consumer technology trends, such as social tools. Ease of use, personalization, instant communication and accessibility are just some of the key considerations to shape a positive experience. Employees also expect to be connected: a growing challenge thanks to the rise of remote working and globalization. Your digital workplace should facilitate this, not hinder.   

Applications also shouldn’t be considered in isolation: they form just one small piece of the overall digital workplace. If they don’t work intuitively with other business tools, they will hinder productivity, cause frustration and ultimately become redundant. Selecting technologies that integrate seamlessly is essential. 

4. Audit and assess your technology stack regularly 

Building the digital workplace is not a one-off project: it is a constant and evolving process.  Thanks to the pace of technological developments, many tools and applications become obsolete quickly. 

Establishing an audit and evaluation process for your technology stack is vital. Make use of analytics to identify usage patterns or areas for improvement. More importantly, establish two-way dialogue with your employees. Using forums or discussion boards, ask for users to provide feedback, suggestions or highlight any gaps.   

Employees First

The evolution of the digital workplace is an opportunity. Thanks to the diversity of technology available, we face seemingly endless possibility and choice in tools, from intranets to collaboration tools and document management. However, mismanaged or left to chance, technology also makes us vulnerable. 

It’s natural to cling onto control in a bid to avert risk. However, our employees are not only the end user and major beneficiary of technology — they are also our greatest resource to shape it. Maximize your success, and take an employee-first approach.