A team of workers celebrating a completed project
PHOTO: Shutterstock

The term “digital transformation” (DX) is frequently used to describe efforts surrounding the modernization of business communications infrastructure, and most organizations I talk to generally agree that they know they should be thinking about it, but they aren’t quite sure where to start, or what their efforts can yield.  

In fact, according to an IDC whitepaper commissioned by Avaya, Digital Transformation: Insight into Getting it Right, a disconnect between concept and reality exists. Even if companies do start down the DX path, success isn't inevitable. The whitepaper, which is based on a global study featuring insights from nearly 800 enterprise companies across 15 countries on DX and modernizing business communications, highlights that only 19 percent of companies believe their digital transformation efforts are resulting in market disruption. That means organizations may be spending millions on digitization, without reaping the full benefits, largely due to lack of clarity around what true transformation entails.

What is clear is that businesses need to shift their approach and make DX more than just a buzzword. They must fully understand and embrace the notion of what’s possible — and the steps necessary to enable this transformative change. By definition, it’s not simply about doing the same thing in a different way; it’s about reconsidering the ways and the "whys" of the things being done, and leveraging technology to enable this transformation for meaningful impact. Businesses need to also understand that DX is a journey and most have only just started on the path. True transformation occurs when digital technologies create new business models or change markets, and that kind of impact takes time.

Related Article: Change Management For Digital Transformation

Employee Experience

But what kind of impact, exactly, are we even talking about, and how can it become real? I believe it should start with employees — your agents of change for meeting organizational goals — and their experiences in the workplace. That’s largely because the lines between different experiences, communications and transactions are disappearing. People are always on, always available, and businesses must be, too.

Meeting the expectations of employees requires new technologies geared toward experience, just as companies are investing in customer experience. Employees may come to work bracing for complex communications experiences that are unlike the simple mobile experiences they have in their personal lives. It shouldn’t be that way. Instead, communications technology can transform workplace experiences and foster greater collaboration — establishing the primary foundation of DX efforts. And let’s be clear, a disengaged workforce puts the success of your digital transformation strategy at great risk.

Providing employees the tools and technologies to meet their changing expectations around experience is a critical step in a company’s DX evolution. The previously mentioned IDC whitepaper shows enterprises support this idea in theory, with 91 percent of those surveyed indicating they believe embedding communications is important for employee productivity and collaboration. Let’s examine what these tools are, and how organizations can use them to shape better employee experiences on their DX journey — and for bottom-line benefits.

Related Article: How to Structure Your Digital Team: 16 Critical Roles

Unifying Factors

Think about how we regularly engage: For most, our smartphones are always within reach, and we’re a swipe or two away from calling up everything from a car service to groceries. We’re constantly transitioning between platforms and moving from laptop to mobile phones and back again. Communications technology for work should be the same way, especially considering the workplace is “always on” for many people, with the boundaries between work and the rest of our lives blurred.

Organizations must acknowledge this shift and the accompanying employee expectations for when and how they can work. This includes investing in the right technologies to provide employees the flexibility to work when and how they want — and to collaborate with others in a seamless manner.

Increasingly, unified communications (UC) technologies can serve as the hero, or springboard, of an organization’s DX journey in engaging employees and meeting these changing expectations and workplace practices. To ignore the importance of UC platforms in the DX evolution is to miss establishing the primary foundation from which companies can innovate and grow, and empower employees along the way, meeting them where they are and giving them the tools to do their jobs on their own terms.

That’s where UC comes in. To accommodate this new normal of “always on, always available,” businesses must implement technology that enables employees to collaborate and connect with colleagues, while also managing multiple workflows, multiple points of contact and streamlining a multitude of data. Organizations must adopt communications platforms that provide an intuitive experience across digital channels and devices to drive more efficient and responsive operations, improve workforce productivity and mobility, and enable employees to securely use a variety of devices and channels to communicate and collaborate.

Architecting Collaboration and Communication

These platforms should be flexible and deliver consistent communications capabilities through cloud, on-premise or hybrid architectures. This eliminates the complexity, security risk and expense of managing multiple communications and collaboration point solutions — some official and some not.

Ultimately, with the right flexible and scalable architecture, UC platforms can make it easy for teams to communicate and collaborate from any location, and on virtually any device, and with the ease of use found in consumer applications that employees expect. Calling, messaging, conferencing and other capabilities all come together under one platform to foster deeper levels of team collaboration. Key features that enable this collaboration can include:

  • A single app for all communications and collaboration that requires only one login and one system to manage, eliminating the need for multiple communications and collaboration point solutions.
  • An intuitive, consistent user-friendly and mobile-first experience that makes it easy to view things like upcoming meetings, recent messages and calls and top priorities, all from one screen, and across devices. This sort of experience can feature voice, video, messaging, meeting and collaboration capabilities available with a single touch.
  • Web-based applications that provide feature-rich communication, collaboration and meeting capabilities, along with virtual work spaces. This includes messaging, file-sharing and audio, video and screenshare capabilities, enabling people to essentially work and collaborate seamlessly from anywhere on any device.   

Foundation for Future Transformation and Success

Leveraging communications technologies to enhance workforce productivity and collaboration isn’t just a nice-to-have ideal. Instead, it’s been shown to drive real productivity and satisfaction gains among employees. Taking steps to engage employees also matters, according to Gallup’s 2017 Employee Engagement survey, disengaged employees cost businesses $7 trillion globally. Experience matters — and that includes the experiences you provide your employees.

Overlooking how technology impacts employee experience means overlooking new areas and opportunities for business value — and potentially stalling out your organization’s DX journey. Business leaders who are eager to start their DX transformation should look no further than within their own walls as a starting point.