people in a meeting with laptops
Gartner analyst Monica Basso shared survey results which showed CEOs and CIOs committing to digital transformation, without even realizing it PHOTO: rawpixel.com

CEOs are building their digital workplaces without even knowing it. 

Monica Basso, research vice president at Gartner delivered that message to Gartner Digital Workplace Summit attendees during a session titled "Driving Business Success With a Digital Workplace."  

Gartner conducted a survey at the end of 2016 into the priorities of CEOs and CIOs. Basso said when asked about their priorities for the next two years, many senior executives did not mention digital transformation or digital workplaces.

"When we you asked them about the digital workplace many of them did not prioritize the digital workplace,” Basso said.

“However, the survey also showed that their priorities for the next two years included business growth (58 percent), technology and the purchase of new technologies (31 percent) and workforce evolution.”

Investing in a Digital Workplace, Without Even Knowing It

The findings demonstrate once again that there is a basic misunderstanding of what a digital workplace means. They also show management focussing on three key elements that underpin digital workplaces. 

“Growth means finding the way to grow in a digital market,” Basso said. “To do this they need to buy new technology and ensure that it is aligned with objectives." 

“They [the enterprises] also need the employees to align with that technology. The more they evolve technology the more the workforce evolves, the more growth there is. The technologies that are driving growth are the ones underpinning the digital workplace but they [management] don’t associate them with the digital workplace.”

There are many nuggets to be drawn from these findings:

  • Successful digital workplace strategies depend on technology, people and processes
  • All these elements need to be aligned to the same vision or strategy
  • People need to feel part of the digital transformation process and be allowed drive it with ideas and skills
  • Users need to be at the center of digital workplace development.

IT's Pivotal Role in Digital Workplace

Probably the most important change for the enterprise, though, is the role of IT.

IT leaders, Basso said, are now expected to drive the technology management and development that is pushing business growth. A confluence of three trends is forcing this shift: the contribution technology makes to promote employee engagement, technology as a pivot to a much more dynamic work environment and the consumerization of technology.

“CIOs all expect IT people to become real business partners here to make sure there is worker engagement and that users have the best software to keep the digital light on. CIOs are expecting more and expecting them [IT] to help develop the digital workplace," she said.

Now that cloud-based tools have relieved IT of some of the routine technology development and management tasks, the department is tasked with driving digital engagement enterprise-wide and pulling different stakeholders together.

IT should now drive the digital workplace vision and involve the different stakeholders in building it, Basso continued.

An Ideal Workplace Scenario and the Reality

Any digital initiative needs to be enterprise wide. Any digital workplace strategy should start with a dialogue between employees, IT and management. But according to Gartner research, that ideal is still a long way off.

Of a survey of 3120 enterprise workers, 52 percent said they use very little digital technology, 41 percent said their digital skills have no impact on business success and 36 percent had never been asked their opinion on digital technology use.

The research also showed many managers actively discouraging workers from using technology: 44 percent of respondents said they were discouraged from using technology to improve business outcomes and a further 42 percent said their managers showed no interest in using technology to improve outcomes.

From these figures, Basso, said, the role of senior IT people is not just about technology, but about engagement with technology.

Selling and Then Adopting a Digital Workplace

The introduction of metrics can help demonstrate the business value a digital workplace provides and encourage adoption as a result. 

Basso shared four key areas to measure:

  • Financial
  • IT Alignment
  • People Alignment
  • Business Alignment

So what should those interested in moving towards a digital workplace do? According to Basso, it is all people-driven and occurs in three different stages:

Immediate: Call a meeting of HR, IT and business owners. This core team will be responsible for building a roadmap and digital workplace strategy that is aligned with business goals.

Medium-term: Develop a shared vision by putting together a digital manifesto that outlines benefits and business priorities. This should be open for discussion across the enterprise.

Long-term: Once this is done, managers need to implement digital workplace initiatives drawn from the first two steps that will drive digital transformation. This should be monitored using established metrics. The final step is evolving employee-facing IT services into a portfolio of digital workplace strategies.