Change managed poorly: A man on wood boat in a dried up lake bed
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While the digital workplace is here to stay, change continues all around us. The changes companies must manage and adapt to in a digital workplace are impacted by many internal and external factors including technology, budgets, business model, politics, location, processes, leadership, legal and tax barriers.

In their 2017 digital workplace trends study, the Digital Workplace Group (DWG) describes seven dimensions of which companies should take note when trying to determine where they fit as a digital workplace. These dimensions are:

  • Communication and business intelligence
  • Collaboration and community
  • Services and workflow
  • Structure and coherence
  • Mobility and flexibility,
  • Strategic alignment and management
  • Organizational readiness

Effectively managing change requires a clear understanding and thus the first step is to complete a full assessment of the state of your business. These techniques listed here can be used to effectively manage change.

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Recognize Change Must Be a Big Part of Your Strategy

From the leadership team to the front line, it’s vital people recognize that change is important and necessary. Change plays a key role in strategy and is vital to establishing and maintaining a sustainable competitive advantage. “Technology adoption is faster than ever. Jobs are being replaced by automation, AI, and robotics —change is coming. Seventy-one percent of industries and leaders expect widespread adoption of AI and robotics in the near future,” said Mika Kuikka, President of Arcusys.

As the nature of work changes, organizations need to accept that change is an inevitable risk and put in place a strategy that reacts quickly to change. Flexibility is key. Change avoidance or reluctance puts companies at a disadvantage in relation to competitors and creates an environment of stagnation. In the digital workplace where the pace of change is accelerated, the need to expediently managing those changes is amplified. Change management experts, project management office (PMO) leaders, and CIO’s need to be in sync in how and when to approach and address change. They should all play a key role in strategy and attend related planning sessions to avoid costly oversights.

Related Story: Why Some Businesses Thrive in Times of Constant Change

Don’t Just Embrace Technology, Pursue It

In almost every aspect, technology is transformative and enables the digital workplace. Technology is infused in every aspect of communication, collaboration, messaging, financial reporting, banking, and resource management, amongst many other areas.

To give an example, customer relationship management (CRM) is one of the primary areas that has changed significantly over the years, with many successful digital workplaces automating a significant portion of this customer-centric role. This change has allowed companies to leverage cloud-based CRM tools like HubSpot and others to accelerate formerly manual face-to-face time-consuming tasks.

From the start of the sales pipeline to handling all customer interactions, these tools streamline the customer relationship management process and release resources for deployment elsewhere. Changes are more readily managed through technology instead of manual processes.

Technology has also advanced other key areas like financial reporting from being just crunching numbers to providing customizable high-value insights that leaders can use to make better, quicker decisions. Many companies are investigating and using cloud-based financial reporting tools like Intacct and others to help them transition to a digital workplace environment. “Today, new technology takes the mobile world completely for granted. The cutting edge of innovation around machine learning, analytics and edge computing is built on top of that advancement — and many others — as a deep foundation,” says Ross Smith, Chief Architect at PITSS. Accepting or embracing technology is no longer sufficient: companies looking to transition to a digital workplace or more effectively manage change in a digital workplace will need to actively pursue technology that enables strategic goals.

Assemble a Digital Workplace Task Force

A successful digital workplace is unlikely to have emerged by chance if some areas of your business are digital and others rely on manual processes. Transforming an entire company to a digital workplace requires intentional effort across the board. This means assembling a digital workplace task force that is responsible for working with all levels of your company to plan, execute, monitor and control digital initiatives and policies. Its focus should be on why, when, and how processes, technology, and resources will get the work done to enable company-wide goals.

This task force should consist of cross-functional team members who can provide a 360-degree view of the business and reduce the chances of any blind spots. Smith explains a digital task force can, “drive digital change back into your operations and your bottom line. If you don’t make it an organizational priority to create such units, then you are leaving the opportunities of new technology on the table.”

Build Your Culture Around Your Vision For a Digital Workplace

Having only a digital workplace task force is also not sufficient by itself. Business leaders need to gain buy-in from all levels of your business. Transitioning to a digital workplace and managing change is unlikely to be successful if the general business culture does not support it.

Employees at all levels will need to be on board. This is where leaders and change management experts can help to communicate, monitor, and manage the impact of changes on employees and processes. But saying “leaders” does not automatically equate with senior management — senior managers may be as resistant to the changes necessary as anyone else. Building a digital workplace culture works well when all employees have an understanding of the benefits to themselves as well as to the company.

When it comes to building a culture that embraces the digital workplace, eXalt Solutions founder and CEO, Leslie Swanson says "don't worry about failure, it's part of innovation. Risk taking must be encouraged. Cultivate a "fail fast" culture". Quickly determine what works and what doesn't and move on".

Conduct Frequent Process Reviews to Establish Best Practices

Transitioning to a digital workplace and effectively managing it are two separate things. This is not a “set and forget” exercise. Changes are always occurring due to the factors mentioned previously, and these changes can create additional obstacles or risks. To address these, it is vital your company conducts periodic process reviews and establishes best practices to get ahead of any looming issues.

The benefits of a digital workplace are many, provided your business can accurately conduct a maturity assessment and be successful at developing strategies to effectively manage change.