A manager presenting a chart explaining the results of their intranet roll out and adoption to his team.
PHOTO: Shutterstock

Organizations that want to establish benchmarks for their digital workplace must first assess how much work is digital, what metrics matter most and what communication method will work best, according to digital workplace pundits. Why do these types of insights on your digital workplaces matter? They can confirm improvement areas and toss at you some surprises, too, perhaps signaling things for which you’re not ready. A Gartner survey earlier this year concluded that only 7 to 18 percent of organizations possess the digital dexterity to adopt new ways of work (NWOW) solutions, such as virtual collaboration and mobile work. 

So where do you begin benchmarking your digital workplace? Here, experts share their tips on the best way to get started.

1. Identify What’s Digital in Your Organization

Andrew Filev, CEO of Wrike, said organizations should first benchmark the percent of the work in their company that is digital before they even begin to establish benchmarks. “Workers on a manufacturing line probably don't spend all day checking their emails,” Filev said, “so figure out who your digital workers are, and what percentage of their work exists exclusively in digital.” Understanding their workflow is critical, he added, especially when it comes to how much time they spend searching for information, instead of having easy access to it.  

Then, determine if there is a single source of truth for all projects and teams. “It's critical to understand,” Filev said, “how digital workers find and access the information they need to work, as well as share updates with others.” 

Can you track the progress from front-line workers through the organization and up to the c-suite, to see how it impacts the strategic goals? “The c-suite shouldn't be on an island outside your digital workplace,” Filev added. “They should be actively engaged to get value from it.” 

Related Article: Benchmarking the Digital Workplace

2. Analyze Your Communication Efforts

Getting a baseline understanding of your communication efforts is both a cultural and technical issue, according to Robby Macdonell, CEO of RescueTime. The easiest place to start, he said, is with pure usage numbers. How many collaborative tools are you using? And how much of someone's day, on average, is spent dealing with them? 

Next, look at your team's communication habits. Do they default to email, IM, Skype or in-person meetings? Do they "cc" everyone on everything? Send emails late at night? “Even the smallest optimization of your time spent communicating,” Macdonell said, “can open up hours a week for more productive work."

Related Article: Don't Make These Mistakes When Benchmarking Your Digital Culture 

3. Determine Which Metrics Matter

Chris Havrilla, VP of HR technology and solution provider research at Bersin, Deloitte Consulting, said organizations are no longer assessed based solely on traditional metrics such as financial performance, or even the quality of their products or services. She cited the 2018 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends report (PDF) as evidence to the fact. “Rather,” she added, “they are increasingly judged on the basis of their relationships with their workers, customers and communities, as well as their impact on society at large. We refer to this holistic view as the social enterprise.”

That said, get a clear picture of where your organization stands today on the metrics that matter for your business and where you want to be. That, Havrilla said, is the starting point for not only benchmarking, but plotting a transformation journey that will center around going from a business enterprise to a social enterprise.

Related Article: Move Beyond Social Media to Benchmark Your Digital Workplace Performance

4. Understand Work Patterns

Benchmarking should begin by baselining the team and understanding how work happens, said Khiv Singh, head of marketing for Sapience Analytics. “In most companies people do not have data of the ‘as is’ state [defined],” Singh said. “Any journey to the ‘to be’ state won’t be easy if the ‘as is’ is not clear.”

Companies need to understand work patterns of the team and compare it with productivity, Singh added. If they are satisfied with the productivity/output then the current digital workplace is fine. "If they are not happy with the productivity then they can look for details of lack of productivity in the work patterns," he said. “From the work patterns they can identify if it is a process problem, tool problem or lack-of-clarity problem. Based on the problem, a new digital workplace strategy can be implemented.”

5. Define the Business Goals

To get started, find the right definition of what "digital workplace" means for your organization. No company should try to tackle digital just for the sake of doing it, according to Katie Fabiszak, Riversand's global VP of marketing. “Define the business goals and how it will be embodied in the organization,” Fabiszak said. “Next, strong executive support and leadership is required. You must have buy-in and participation at the top.”

As for your definition of the digital workplace, ask yourself some questions: Is it the sum total of all the various apps and programs being run by different people and teams across different regions of a company's geographical footprint, together with all the data being produced? Or a workplace that has been redefined and harmonized with the use of a system-wide easily accessible digital work-grid, made up of compatible technologies and information sharing practices for handling the data output?  

"To be successful,” she said, “a digital workplace has to be the latter, and that’s where the benchmarking would come in.”