Digital Workplace Platform Components
PHOTO: Unsplash/Calum Lewis

With digital transformation either initiated or completed in most enterprises, many are looking to consolidate their gains with a digital workplace platform. There are many different elements to consider, such as what enterprises should be looking for in a digital workplace platform and what they should expect to achieve with it. In the middle of last year, the Gartner 2018 Hype Cycle for the Digital Workplace (subscription required) listed six technologies that are set to reach mainstream business adoption in the next 2 to 5 years, and a seventh, speech recognition, that will reach a plateau of productivity by 2020.

The Hype Cycle identifies 40 key technologies and describes how they will impact business performance in the digital workplace during the next 10 years. Topping the list are:

  • Chatbots
  • Virtual assistants
  • Augmented analytics
  • Personal analytics
  • Adaptive learning platforms
  • Citizen data science (where insights from data science are more accessible)

The Role of Digital Platforms

Gene Farrell, chief product officer at Smartsheet, said that from an enterprise perspective, organizations should be looking for digital platforms, not individual tools or applications, and these platforms should enable everyone in the organization, especially non-technical users, to improve how they work. “Workers are already overwhelmed with the amount of information, decisions and people they need to collaborate with. The goal should be to empower them,” he said.

In terms of specific functionality, the platform should provide a single source of truth, sync in real-time with other systems of record and give everyone from a project manager to a senior executive a clear view of what’s happening across the company. It should free people to do more strategic, high value work by automating repetitive tasks. And it should make it easier for people to collaborate, but with the kind of clear accountability that builds a culture of ownership. “When you look at the pace of change today, I also think it’s important to pick a platform that’s flexible enough to evolve as the organization does. Transformation happens in unpredictable ways — the last thing anyone wants is to implement technology that fits the way people work right now, but can’t handle tomorrow’s use cases,” he added.

There are a wide number of tools that these platforms should offer. As the main working environment, though, security has to be high on the list of needs. Mike Frane, vice president of network, security and digital experience at Windstream Enterprise, said digital transformation is an expensive undertaking, Gartner predicts businesses worldwide will spend $3.85 trillion on IT in 2019.

Here are nine things enterprises should consider when picking a platform.

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1. Software-Defined Wide Area Network

Software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) infrastructures and services are more flexible and scalable than traditional wide-area alternatives. These offer a virtually always-on, cloud-driven network operating model as well as a platform for incorporating new user-focused intelligent services that harness the power of machine learning and artificial intelligence.

2. A Unified Digital Experience

A multi-platform centralized interface that offers visibility and control over digital and network assets improves reporting and analytics, giving enterprises access to a comprehensive dashboard anytime, from anywhere, with any device.

3. Security

With increased network traffic and a greater volume of data, enterprises must invest in the security of their network infrastructures with tools such as multi-factor authentication, firewalls on-premises and in the cloud, distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) mitigation and end-to-end encryption.

4. Cloud Access

To enable the development of superlative, secured digital experiences, Christian Lund, co-founder of Templafy, pointed to the importance of providing enterprise cloud access that offers multi-device support and third-party software integrations.

Cloud software, he said, allows workers to work from anywhere without the need for remote desktop sessions. If the enterprise operates across multiple physical locations, cloud software allows workers to manage your work with access to documents no matter what your location is.

Companies should be able to access the same documents via multiple devices, this allows for employees on the go to easily manage and distribute their work. Working from more than one program on your desktop can lead to frustration, third-party software integration is possible through a template management system that integrations with third-party apps. “If companies implement these three changes to their digital workplace platform, they will allow for employees to have a more cohesive experience and make it easier for remote workers to be aligned with company messaging,” he said.

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5. Structured Processes

Given that a digital workplace' is largely understood to be a virtual equivalent to the physical workplace, it is logical to assume that the key elements to digital workplaces include insightful planning and structured management processes, said Khiv Singh, senior vice president of global sales and marketing for Sapience Analytics. Needless to say, Singh is an advocate of introducing workforce analytics in the enterprise to understand what is happening in the workplace. 

There are three key metrics that need to be available in order to keep the digital workplace functioning.

6. Measuring Productivity

To get a true measure of productivity for knowledge workers, managers must take into account the input (regarding the tasks and collaboration efforts) required to bring about a particular outcome. However, acquiring this input data is sometimes a problem. The key to solving this problem is to automatically capture employee input data, which can be done by deploying automated effort tracking tools within the workflow processes.

7. Keeping Workers Engaged

Workforce engagement is more of a top-down approach — the starting point is the corporation — and the mission, values, vision, culture and goals attached to the company. The goal is then to assess — how are employees aligned or emotionally subscribed to these goals and values? How does the workforce fit into the structure that is developed and handed down from the highest reaches of the company?

8. Employee Experience

Employee experience, on the other hand, is a proactive and bottoms-up approach — that seeks to understand from the employee’s perspective: What do employees have to deal with on a day to day basis to do their work, and are companies giving them the right tools, the right amount of collaboration, and a conducive and supportive work environment free from distractions to do their work.

9. Adaptable Platforms

As a final word, LumApps CEO Sébastien Ricard argues that enterprises should look at platforms that are adaptable and can integrate with existing technologies, so that the platform can adapt and grow along with the enterprise.

Decision makers, he said, should prioritize platforms that given them the ability to control over what kind of information is shared and how it is shared, all while encouraging collaboration and engagement. Finally, decision makers should look at platforms with analytics that offer insight into user activity, in order to measure results and understand the impact it’s having on employee engagement.

In the end, the success of a digital workplace platform in engaging employees highly depends on leadership’s involvement. The more company leaders share in a platform’s social channels, the more their peers will follow suit.