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PHOTO: Tom Grimbert

As our world becomes more connected, digital workspaces will define the way we will work in the future, advancing productivity and making it easier for businesses to expand.

Not only can a digital workspace free employees from the shackles of the office environment, allowing them to work in any location, at any time — it can also drive innovation. With the right tools, workers will be more engaged and more eager to collaborate on the next big idea with colleagues near and far. That type of engagement will enable enterprises to gain a competitive edge in the digital economy.

By breaking down organizational silos and opening up the business infrastructure, a digital workspace brings all employees into the same innovation ecosystem and thereby fosters knowledge-sharing, empowers users and improves the efficiency of work processes.

To reap all of the benefits digital workspaces have to offer, you need tools that are intuitive and easy to use — like the consumer applications employees use in their personal lives. It is imperative to choose apps that employees want to use, and to let them use the devices of their choice. If you don’t, workers may end up engaging in shadow IT schemes, where they use their favorite applications on their preferred devices anyway, in defiance of corporate rules about what they should or shouldn’t be doing.

Digital workspaces must be agile and able to adapt to the changing technology landscape while allowing knowledge to flow throughout the entire organization. This all requires a shift in boardroom thinking and corporate culture.

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A Vision of the Digital Workspace

Central to any digital workspace strategy is an agreed-upon vision for what the digital workspace will look like and how it will function.

The first step in defining that vision is to decide what you want to accomplish by deploying digital technologies. Simply put, you must identify your key goals — be they increased productivity, better collaboration or enhanced innovation. You must also review your organization’s current IT infrastructure and figure out which components and functionalities are crucial to your business and your employees. Keep those in mind when reshaping your digital strategy.

Make sure your digital workspace infrastructure can be easily extended via APIs and connectors to ensure that you can keep up with technological changes. That way, you won’t have to re-create a new digital workspace every time a new technology comes along. You can just upgrade what is already there and stay up to date without major effort.

In a forward-looking enterprise environment, employees will be more engaged, productive and mobile — able to easily access information and collaborate with colleagues and external partners no matter where they are or what time of day it is. One of the advantages of mobile tools is that they can streamline workflows and speed up decision-making.

Deploying a digital workspace may require your company to re-engineer business processes — a challenge that requires you to engage in careful analysis of how things work now and then devising a step-by-step approach to carrying out necessary changes. Among other things, you will need to determine exactly how employees currently work and then identify tools that could be used to digitize those processes.

When you’re developing your vision of the digital workplace, it’s very important to get all stakeholders involved. Open up the floor to discussion, and work closely with the human resources department, managers of the affected business units and, most importantly, the employees themselves. Find out what they want and what they expect from a digital workspace.

The feedback you get from your colleagues will give you a starting point, and from there you can begin to work out what is feasible and how various technologies will impact current business processes. But only when you have listened to everyone’s ideas and considered all of their opinions can you start to formulate a strategy and think about the technologies necessary to achieve the collective vision.

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Prepare for a Culture Change

Building a digital workspace that fulfills your vision and actually delivers the benefits you expect will require a new approach to the business and its content and processes. The key is to ensure that the right employees will have access to the right knowledge so they will be able to be more productive and more innovative. You will need a digital workspace that can bring all your data together and make it available according to context.

Employees also need to feel supported and truly connected via the digital workspace, wherever they are in the world. One size does not fit all, and employees will only engage with a digital workspace if they feel comfortable with it and determine that it will actually improve their daily work lives. You may find that you need to address individuals’ special requirements with custom tools or add-ons.

Of course, no matter how carefully you choose the tools you want to deploy, getting the company up and running in a new digital work environment will require some behavioral changes. That starts at the top. Leadership must be willing to adapt to changes in the way work is carried out. For example, if the purpose of the digital workplace is to support seamless, ongoing collaboration, company executives must recognize that it will now be much easier to disseminate data across the enterprise, locally and globally at all levels.

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Ease the Transition With a Step-by-Step Approach

Do not contemplate building a digital workspace from the bottom up. You will get caught in a net of complexity, and you will end up pouring a lot more time and money into the project than you expected. Look for systems that can be customized to accommodate your specific business requirements. Don’t go for a big bang, either. Choose a platform that addresses your most pressing business needs first, and move on from there. A phased approach makes managing a digital workspace rollout easier, both technologically and culturally.

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A Focused Approach Is a Winning One

Without a culture that supports a digital way of thinking and working, and without agreed-upon policies as the foundation of your initiative, the whole concept of the digital workspace can backfire, leading to a decline in employee motivation and engagement — the opposite of what you were hoping to achieve.

With an intelligently thought-out vision and a measured, step-by-step approach to the deployment of tools and platforms, your enterprise could benefit from a digital workspace that makes your employees more mobile and agile. This will inevitably boost the bottom line through cost savings and increased productivity while supporting previously unattainable levels of business flexibility.