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11 areas where you can improve your digital workplace PHOTO: Jon Rawlinson

Digital workplaces, and by extension, digital transformation, are not just about technology. They are about fundamentally changing the way we work.

At the Gartner Digital Summit in London this September, Gartner VP Matthew W. Cain and Gartner research director Helen Poitevin outlined seven existing and emerging trends that would shape digital workplaces in coming years.

While the two said precise predictions were impossible, one thing they were sure of: the world of work and the skills we will need in 10 years will bear little resemblance to work as we understand it today.

Businesses are tasked with overcoming the associated problems and challenges associated with developing an ongoing digital workplace strategy. Many are pushing forward using a mixture of tools, applications and strategies. We canvassed multiple companies and C-suite executives to find out what they identified as the key elements of a successful workplace. We uncovered 12 recurring themes:

What it Takes to Build a Successful Digital Workplace

Collaboration Experience

Paul Watson is Senior Vice President at Hartford, Conn.-based software development and technical advisory vendor SenecaGlobal. He said a collaboration framework, feedback loop and user experience design are key.

1. Collaboration Framework

An essential component of an effective Digital Workplace, Watson said, is a well-designed collaboration framework. It is unadvisable to leave collaboration to chance. Don't leave the mechanism for contacting, sharing information, documenting ideas, solving problems and communicating decisions to personal choice.

Define which tools suit the above needs and communicate and reinforce this message through consistent use by team leaders and management. The number of tools you use to create this framework is up to you and your organization's needs. Options include Slack, InVision, GoogleKeep, Trello and more.

2. Defined Feedback Loop

While feedback solutions such as SurveyMonkey, Hively, Promoter and IdeaScale are effective mechanisms for companies who want to understand their customers’ opinions, they may be overkill for internal teams. However, organizations should still consider how they will gather feedback from your employees who operate within your digital workplace.  This feedback is essential in quickly understanding what’s working and what isn’t across collaboration and work delivery solutions. 

People First

Patric Palm, CEO and co-founder at cloud-based agile project management collaboration app provide Hansoft believes it all starts with people.

3. Employ the Right People

He told CMSWire that employing people with the right attitude and talent is the centerpoint of collaboration and digital workplace success. Employees must have a positive attitude and mindset that accepts all communications must be executed digitally.

Additionally, employees in a digital workplace must have the collaboration skills needed to work seamlessly across teams. These digital collaboration skills more often come naturally to introverts, rather than extroverts. That said, a digital workplace is an environment where introverts can shine.

4. Implement Policies

Make sure the right policies are in place to ensure the longterm success of employees and the business. For example, create policies for how to interact in online meetings. Setting clear guidelines for tardiness, muting one's line, connectivity issues and more can help video or conference meetings go smoothly. 

5. Adopt Agile Tools

Every functioning digital workplace is supported by agile tools to boost productivity and collaboration. Many of these modern tools are designed purely for the digital workplace. Again, approach tool selection with a people-first mindset, so that the job that needs to be done guides the decision, not a fancy functionality set.

Make Meetings Work For You

Zach Holmquist, co-founder and chief of workplace experience of Salt Lake City-based digital workplace management developer Teem believes improving the efficiency of holding meetings is a key to any digital workplace as well as having a central location for content.

6. Video Conferencing

Emails, instant messaging platforms and even conference calls can make it easy for miscommunication to occur in the workplace. Because visual cues play a major role in effective communication, video conferences offer a major advantage for a workplace in ultimately reducing misunderstandings and seamlessly connecting coworkers in different locations.

7. Collaborative Content

Organization can be half the battle for workplaces and it is easy to lose track of materials necessary to its overall operation. When a company has multiple teams, projects and initiatives, having a unified platform for all files and documents is critical to keeping the team running smoothly. Workplaces should invest in a cloud-based file storage platform to keep content in a secure, central location for easy access.

Workplace Integration

Mike Hicks is VP of Marketing and Strategy at Kitchener, Ontario-based Igloo. Hicks said application integration and digital destination are among the most important element of digital workplaces.

8. Workplace Integration

Digital workplaces need to integrate with existing tools and systems of the organization, at both a personal productivity level and enterprise system level, including your CRM, human resources information system, enterprise resource planning and other enterprise apps. When a digital workplace platform complements those systems, it helps remove data silos and in many cases, saves costs by eliminating the need for point applications that aren’t integrated into the broader workflow.

9. Workplace-Focused Technologies

Purpose-built digital workplace solutions, designed to address challenges related to communication, collaboration, knowledge sharing or culture and engagement move beyond the traditional generic intranet to address real challenges at both a line of business level and corporate wide.

10. Digital Destination

The final key element in Hicks's book is giving employees an inspiring digital destination. It’s provides the glue for the previous two elements and acts as the front door to your digital workplace. This is where employees will go to start their day and where they return to throughout the day to get their work done. Think of it as a digital representation of your culture — give it a name, make it social, engaging and interactive.

Artificial Intelligence

And finally, no digital workplace list in 2017 would be complete without a nod to artificial intelligence (AI). David Kerr is CEO at Octiv, provider of a document workflow platform. Like many, Kerr cited AI as a key requirement of the digital workplace. 

11. Artificial Intelligence

AI has steadily moved from existing as just a topic of academic research to mainstream business communication, Kerr told CMSWire. Even with its increasing popularity,  some businesses are hesitant to adopt AI features like chatbots and digital-first documents as part of their sales process.

He said while the human touch is an important part of the sales process, chatbots can provide a 24/7 communication option. They should be used to deliver more qualified leads to sales reps further into the sales process, answering initial questions from new prospects and acclimating them to the service or product.

If you’re missing any of these elements, then your initiative will most likely fail. When organizations get it right, they spark innovation and productivity and add tremendous value to the growth and evolution of a company’s culture.