Workplace technology still lags behind consumer technology trends — no surprises there. 

But the impact this disconnect is having on employees should cause any business manager to take note. 

A recent research collaboration between Dell and Intel backs up with data my own observations in the field that employees “are becoming increasingly dissatisfied” with the technology capabilities in their workplace. 

Employees Remain Desk-Bound

While the consumerization of information technology is nothing new, employees are still more likely to “use desktops more than laptops or tablets and landlines more than smartphones” compared with personal use. The emphasis on desk-based working contrasts with what we know about knowledge workers' work styles.

For example, property and infrastructure company, Lend Lease, recently moved staff into a new activity-based working office in Sydney’s Barangaroo development. In the announcement it shared some statistics about how the company works, describing a typical pattern where people are away from a desk 60 percent of the time and do half their work collaborating with others.

Unfortunately, the emphasis on desk-based computing and communication continues in the digital workplace. 

While digital workplace discussions focus on the user experience, in practice its limited to the narrow view of a computer monitor and occasional attempts at augmenting enterprise tools with mobile apps. 

Creating an integrated desktop experience is a worthy goal — employees still need to work with a keyboard and screen — but it risks becoming an unsustainable distraction, because of the increasing fragmentation between work styles and the technologies that support them.

Get it Together, Digital Workplace!

Most people value reliability and coherence over an elegantly constructed enterprise architecture. As Dell’s research highlights, half of employees identified administrative tasks and slow or glitchy software and devices as the biggest time-wasters. This insight should concern us, because it's becoming increasingly apparent that new technology does not appear to help people work more effectively.

Is it time for the digital workplace to shape up or ship out?

The problem dogging the digital workplace is it's still unclear what problem it's trying to solve. One idea: Let's stop worrying about creating delightful experiences for employees and turn our attention to designing solutions that work. Easier said than done, but it's a start. 

Two Areas for Improvement

Moving forward, all organizations should be developing two important capabilities to enable an effective digital transformation.

1. Identify the root causes that affect productivity in the workplace and apply appropriate technology solutions to the problem, rather than addressing the symptoms. For example, a solution called Pinipa helps organizations with the substantial problem of collaboration oversight and coordination at scale, rather than adding yet another platform to support collaboration.

2. Integrate so-called “Shadow IT” into the enterprise architecture. This doesn't mean allowing employees to use anything they like, but rather involves changing your mindset, using situational awareness of the technologies in question to make better-informed choices. In other words, abandon the traditional “freeze” and “unfreeze” approach to change. Wardley Mapping is a practical technique to support this.

People want better digital workplaces, where technology solves real problems and enhances their experience as an employee. A pretty intranet portal alone won't provide this. For digital workplaces to thrive, we must develop new organizational capabilities, not just upgrade tools.