workers in a digital workplace
Digital workplaces enable new, more effective ways of working as well as raise employee engagement and agility. PHOTO: CityofStPete

"Forces colliding in the workplace are putting stress on the traditional ways of managing and structuring work. 

"New and emerging technologies are transforming the type of work employees perform, as well as where and how work gets done."

Wow.

That's quite a lot to digest about the effects of technological, cultural and demographic changes on workplaces of all kinds — and it comes from no less of an expert than the Gallup organization, which has been providing data-driven news based on polls, daily tracking and public opinion research since 1935. 

In a February report, Gallup noted the American workplace is changing at a dizzying pace.

By all accounts, the change goes far beyond the US borders: Worldwide, companies and individuals alike are muddling through the realities of new and ever-changing digital workplaces. 

We've asked you before, but feel compelled to ask again:

Is your workplace ready? Do you have the tools, the technologies, the strategies and, perhaps most importantly, an intrinsic understanding of concepts including agility, flexibility and collaboration?

Digital Workplace Experience

This June, Simpler Media Group, Inc., publisher of CMSWire and creator of DX Summit, and strategic partner and boutique consultancy Digital Workplace Group (DWG) will present Digital Workplace Experience. The three-day event will run June 19 to 21 at the Radisson Blu Aqua hotel in Chicago.

The two organizations just recently opened early bird registration on the event's newly launched website at www.dwexperience.com.

Digital Workplace Experience (#DWEXP17) features a unique agenda of interactive workshops, live tours by real organizations and technology-driven breakout sessions led by practitioners, analysts and industry experts. Digital Workplace Experience will help attendees understand how others are meeting the challenges and effectively guide a seamless digital transformation.

Breakout sessions will take deeper dives into subjects within the four conference themes of culture and change, employee experience, intelligent workplace, and strategy and governance. Pre-conference workshops on Monday, June 19, will offer interactive, hands-on training on engaging modern workplaces, planning social collaboration projects and the future of intranets.

We hope you'll plan to attend — because we all have a lot of collective work, thinking and brainstorming to do.

The Advantages of Digital Workplaces

In a recent report, Gartner pointed out that we are entering a new era where employee-facing technologies and enhanced digital dexterity within the workforce will generate significant competitive advantages. As Gartner notes, digital workplaces enable new, more effective ways of working as well as raise employee engagement and agility.

But what are those technologies? How are they being used? More to the point, how do we even define a digital workplace?

At the moment the term "digital workplace" appears to cover a broad swath — underscoring the importance of a conference created specifically to address it. But for now, let's take a step back and ask some experts, including a few who are scheduled to speak at DWEXP17.

The Question

What are the defining elements of a digital workplace?

The Answers

Sam Marshall, owner and lead consultant at ClearBox Consulting

Sam Marshall is the owner of ClearBox Consulting and has specialized in intranets and the digital workplace for nearly two decades. His current activities focus on intranet and digital workplace strategy, the business side of SharePoint, and the use of social tools for collaboration and internal communication. He is a regular speaker at international conferences. He has an MSc in Artificial Intelligence, an MA in Psychology and more bicycles than shoes.Tweet to Sam Marshall.

Think of your digital workplace as providing a set of services or capabilities for the organization. At ClearBox we talk about five core dimensions:

  1. Communication and engagement, including formal top-down communications, two-way exchanges and access to reference information on how business units interact
  2. Collaboration, including support for big projects, small teams, communities and ad-hoc discussions
  3. Finding and sharing, including search but also how information is managed, curated and pushed out at the right time
  4. Business applications that people use to make their work happen. Digital workplaces need to factor in how things like CRM for sales, CAD for engineers or an integrated development environment (IDE) for developers fits in this new ecosystem.
  5. Agile working because a good digital workplace frees us to work anywhere. Organizations need to think through the impact this has on how office space is used, the devices they issue and the skills people need for virtual work.

You also need to get the management basics right, like good user experience, a focus on adoption, governance and adequate people resources to run things day-to-day.

There’s no "must have" technology in any of this. The capabilities might be delivered by different technologies over time, and each organization will have different emphases.

Right now, people often talk about mobile, consumer-like user experience and social tools as defining characteristics of the digital workplace. I see these more as the current trends in where digital workplaces are changing rather than essential parts. If your digital workplace doesn’t have them, it’s still a digital workplace just as an office is an office, even without the beer fridge and air hockey.

Paul Miller, CEO and founder of the Digital Workplace Group

Paul Miller is CEO and founder of DWG, the producer of Digital Workplace Experience. His latest book, The Digital Renaissance of Work, which he co-authored with Elizabeth Marsh, was shortlisted for the CMI Management Book of the Year 2016 Award. Paul's previous book, The Digital Workplace, helped to popularize and explain the term “digital workplace.” He has given many talks on the digital future of work for audiences at Microsoft, IKEA, Google, Accenture, Harvard Business Review, Cisco, European Commission, Adobe and Oxford University. He hosts industry podcast “Digital Workplace Impact.” Tweet to Paul Miller

Right now there are three defining elements of a powerful digital workplace.

Digital presence: This means a set of diverse services, devices and tools that allow people and content to be available wherever we are. That means our ‘digital presence’ can be felt through the digital world of work for any organization. This covers me the individual, teams, colleagues and partners generally — but also the content anyone or any system generates. For example, right now inside Digital Workplace Group on Yammer, I can share a comment or helpful insight for our 80-person team, for 1,000 clients and more broadly into our industry through social channels from wherever I am. This capacity for content and people to be digitally present is an essential.

Speed and efficiency: Organizations of all sizes and sectors must work well to thrive. Today that means the digital workplace must amplify productivity, efficiency and intelligence. And this must happen at speed. So a well-running digital workplace removes duplication, resolves errors, streamlines processes small and large and does so rapidly. For example, logistics chains in DHL enables in near real time for staff to know where packages are, where they will be and re-orders the routing to optimize efficiency. This data is available through devices in the hands of staff partners.

Governance: Now the boring bit. Collaboration, content, conversation, ideas, processes, systems, knowledge, people ... that all requires clear policy, practice, strategy and governance. Who owns what the organization knows, does and uses. To avoid a digital cornucopia of whatever anyone "feels like using and doing" there must clear management and governance. For example, we wouldn’t allow the HQ building to use new energy sources or sanitation providers just because a member of staff’s brother-in-law says "this new widget is terrific." Standards and systems help manage the HQ and so it should be in your "digital HQ."

(Tomorrow: Insights from three more digital workplace experts.)