airplane flying near large cloud as sun is setting
Over 700 digital workplace enthusiasts gathered in London for Gartner's Digital Workplace Summit PHOTO: Cristian Baron

Two themes emerged on the first day of the Gartner Digital Workplace Summit in London. First, enterprises are still unclear what a digital workplace means

Second, digital workplaces have more to do with the people working in them than the technology they use.

Simply put, building digital workplaces is about building enterprise strategies.

Welcoming Automation Into the Digital Workplace

With the more strategic approach to technology procurement, businesses are looking for tools that free up employees' time for more challenging, non-routine work.

Matt Cain, VP and distinguished analyst at Gartner, spoke about these drivers behind the growing move to the cloud.

He said many organizations are already in the cloud and many more will join them soon, driven by the desire to use internal resources on new capabilities that support employee engagement.

Enterprises, he added, would rather use their resources, both financial and human, developing workers’ digital dexterity:

“[The move to the cloud] enables IT to focus on other things [than on-premises tools]. IT can start looking at the digital dexterity of the workforce. This will be helped using personal assistants. We anticipate that personal assistants will be able to help with routine task so workers can focus on higher work,” Cain said.

Bob Hafner, a managing vice president in Gartner Research, also argued for the automation of routine work during his session.

He pointed out that in 1975, 60 percent of work was routine and 40 percent non-routine. That ratio has since flipped, with current work now 60 percent non-routine and 40 percent routine.

“We need to optimize for non-routine work. We need to boost employee engagement. We need to offer more tools. The digital workplace is about finding a way. It’s not about tools though. It’s a strategy,” he said.

Supporting Employees With the Right Tools

Tools act as the support system which drives the digital workplace strategy and aids employees. Seth Patton is general manager for Microsoft Office 365, which includes OneDrive, SharePoint, Outlook and Yammer. He discussed the low levels of employee engagement with digital tools.

The changing demands of work is requiring people to collaborate in ways they didn’t before. Fifty percent of the workforce is millennials and people are working in twice as many teams as they did five years ago.

In these circumstances, Patton said, the challenge for vendors is to provide enterprises with tools that enable them to work and engage within these new digital workplaces. Those tools, he said, are best provisioned from the cloud, which takes the burden of development and management out of the hands of IT.