pile of tools
The advent of the cloud made it easy for teams (and individuals) to buy workplace tools without IT approval. Now companies are left to unravel the confusion PHOTO: Ashim D’Silva

Over the past five years, we've seen a definite shift in how organizations implement workplace tools. In the past, when a department or team wanted new software, the CIO and IT department would recommended solutions and finalize all purchasing decisions. With the introduction of the cloud, procuring and acquiring new workplace tools has become easier than ever. Now, any team – or even a single employee – can hop online and purchase a tool with a credit card. 

While their intentions are usually to enhance workflow, productivity or collaboration, this often results in more silos within organizations. Ironically, many communication and collaboration tools don’t integrate seamlessly with others, so finding content or experts often becomes both difficult and time consuming.

Business or IT leaders who are concerned their employees use too many different, fragmented tools should evaluate their internal tech landscape and look for opportunities to improve the flow of information. 

Why You Should Declutter Your Digital Workplace

Below are three reasons your organization should make the effort to declutter its digital workplace:

1. Cost Control: Getting a Handle on Budgets

Any company that cares about profitability is disciplined about controlling expenses. However, the more groups you have using different tools, especially ones that don’t scale, the more money you’re spending. Despite the benefits of a bring-your-own-device (app, tool, you name it) approach to IT, it’s important to understand how the many disparate technologies that teams may be using across the organization affect your bottom line. By taking inventory of the various applications in use and understanding where you might find economies of scale, you can better manage and curb unnecessary spending.

2. M&A: Blending Multiple Digital Workplaces

Digital workplace clutter is often compounded during mergers and acquisitions. Newly combined organizations find they have multiple tools for internal communication and collaboration, and employees quickly become confused about which tool to use when. While your first instinct might be to simply force your existing digital workplace and culture on acquired teams, doing this could result in a missed opportunity to identify and blend the best of both worlds into a combined digital workplace.

To get buy-in from the employees of both companies and help colleagues connect across organizational boundaries, companies must approach the digital workplace as more than just technology: it’s an ever-evolving strategy and culture that should empower employees to communicate and collaborate anytime, anywhere.

3. Talent Retention: Managing Employee Engagement

Employee engagement is another important reason to declutter your digital workplace. Gallup’s State of the American Workplace Report found companies with more engaged employees have higher productivity, sales and profitability. On the downside, however, Gallup also states that only one-third of the working population reports feeling engaged at work.

Technology plays a large role in employee engagement. A clean collaboration landscape can ease the employee onboarding process and increase retention because it streamlines often mundane processes and enhances employees’ workflow. However, when tools don’t integrate and employees constantly have to bounce between solutions, their focus and productivity are hampered, which, in turn, negatively affects their overall experience at work.

How to Break Down Information Silos

McKinsey found employees spend 20 percent of their work week searching for documents or experts. To minimize these time sucks, many organizations are turning to tools that foster more seamless communication and collaboration across teams, departments and offices. Many are turning to interactive intranets as a gateway to organizations’ most important assets — their people and knowledge — so employees can spend more time getting work done and less time looking for needles in various haystacks.

NBC Universal’s use of an interactive intranet, called NewsConnect, is a great example of this. NewsConnect links thousands of editors and journalists around the world and enables them to share information and publish content quickly and easily. With NewsConnect, NBC Universal has centralized its information and reporting, empowering teams to communicate and collaborate effectively. This is a necessary component of any collaboration technology, because when only a few people or a single team use a siloed tool for document sharing or communication, it defeats the whole point of the digital workplace.

Elevating Your Game with a Personalized Experience

Implementing a collaboration solution as a hub for your digital workplace is only one step in decluttering the workplace. Once your content across various enterprise systems is streaming through an interactive intranet, preventing information overload sometimes becomes even more important. 

It’s crucial to present employees with only the information they need to see, from the applications they want to use, exactly when they want to see it. Interactive intranets can accomplish this dynamically based on users’ historical activity, roles and personal preferences, reducing the amount of time needed to sift through content and increasing the amount of time available for actual work. Employees receive this kind of personalized experience through social media 24/7, so why not meet that same expectation through your intranet?

In addition, human resources and corporate communications leaders need to take a deeper dive into understanding who their organization’s influencers are and what the overall sentiment toward the company is. They should determine what matters to specific groups or individuals, and what they don’t care for. With this insight, they’ll be able to serve relevant content to employees and make the workplace experience even better.

Fine-Tune Your Digital Workplace

The proliferation of digital workplace tools and the ease with which employees can deploy them has created a perfect storm for many organizations. From draining budgets and complicating the merger and acquisition process to impacting employee engagement, clutter in the digital workplace has far-reaching side effects. That’s why it’s important for organizations to reevaluate their internal technology landscape and find ways to fine-tune and enrich the overall experience. Just because a tool was designed to enhance productivity or communication doesn’t mean it’s a fit for your organization. 

Understanding what your purpose is and the key metric you’re trying to achieve will help you determine which tools you need, how to connect them within a seamless digital workplace and which ones you can eliminate.