IDCs Look at the Future of Social Technologies

The term digital workplace, though still relatively new, is already evolving as a number of digital tools have become easily and cheaply available through the cloud. In fact, it is arguable that the term itself is misleading as work has moved from a place we go to something that we do. This is an important shift for businesses looking to future-proof their enterprise, especially as more digital natives enter the workforce.

According to recent Workforce Futures data from Fuze, employees are challenging established working practices with 79 percent wanting to work outside of the company office. The majority of workers are willing to make sacrifices for more flexibility, with more than half saying they will leave a job in order to gain greater flexibility in where and when they work, said Eric Hanson, vice president of market intelligence at Fuze.

You Must Empower Employees

However, in order to build a successful, digital-first enterprise that is resilient to the evolution of the future of work, companies must empower their most essential assets — their employees — to do their best work whenever and wherever. This is a bigger shift than a typical enterprise-wide IT project — it has to be treated  as a business transformation initiative, with sponsorship from the C-suite.

It is, in fact, this balance between technology and human needs that will future-proof the digital workplace, according to Bill Docherty, managing director of Deloitte Consulting. “Companies need to balance both technology and their human workforce to find an equilibrium. By employing digital strategies, leaders can prepare employees for tomorrow's changes, along with the challenges and opportunities these changes bring,” he said.

Adapting forward-thinking and innovative mindsets is crucial for keeping workforces intact during this time of digital change, he said. Leaders should redistribute and re-skill employees to help bring positive growth and innovation, which starts by investing in the right learning and training opportunities. More to the point, organizations need to realize that digital means more than just implementing new tools and software.

Technology alone doesn’t translate to “digital.” Being digital is a mindset shift that requires raising the collective "digital IQ" — where organizing, operating and behaving in a culturally digital way become the true marks of a digital organization. “Technology is one enabler of digital. Companies should be creating a digital experience by combining technology and other equally important factors, such as employee satisfaction, flexibility, development opportunity, agility, collaboration and communication,” he said.

Organizations can use digital platforms to help their workforce access what they need, when and where they need it. A number of platforms incorporate robotics or chatbots to engage their employees in high-quality ways that haven't been possible in the past, given previous technological limitations. Smart organizations will be the leaders here as they will shape the marketplace and employ digital thinking while mastering the employee experience every step of the way. Ultimately, the successful deployment of digital strategies will create more productive and satisfying places to work.

Related Article: 10 Trends That Will Shape the Digital Workplace in 2019

Collaboration Transforming Work

For the future, collaboration tools have the potential to completely transform the way we work, and not having a team collaboration strategy will become a competitive risk, argued Jonathan Christensen, Symphony’s chief experience officer. It should be noted here that Symphony is a social media management tool for businesses that use images on social networks.

As team collaboration moves beyond chat, workflows become digitized and automated. Firms that do not have an extensible collaboration platform will fall behind competitors, Christensen said.

“The changing workforce and widespread adoption will make team collaboration central to modern work. With early adopters, chat-based collaboration is already surpassing email usage and workflows. Many early adopters are betting on their collaboration platform as the cornerstone for digital transformation. We already see companies integrating Symphony with existing systems to create digital workflows that are faster and more accurate,” he added.

Jibestream CEO and Co-Founder Chris Wiegand argued that as a result of the many dynamic elements surrounding digital workplaces, including a shifting generational workforce and a plethora of available technologies, the best thing an enterprise can do to future-proof their investments in digital transformation is ensure that they’re keeping scalability top of mind in their vendor evaluation criteria and processes.

“Enterprise requirements evolve over time, and no one platform is going to be able to deliver on all of the potential use cases your enterprise will need to implement,” he said.  “That’s why it is imperative that the technologies you select are scalable, extensible and have an open architecture to enable seamless integration with third-party solutions, mitigating the risk of vendor lock-in.”

Related Article: What a Digital Workplace Is and What It Isn't

Simplified Future Workplace

This will increasingly be the case in the future as employees look for the technologies they use in the home in the workplace, according to Shankar Iyer, general manager and senior vice president for end-user computing at VMware.

People inherently want to simplify their lives and so when technology brings improvements to home life, it is only a matter of time before they explore how it might improve work life. We saw this happen over the last several years when employees started to use their mobile phones to access work applications such as email. Today, we are seeing rapid growth in the use of workplace Internet of Things (IoT) devices — such as smart printers, smart boards and voice assistants — and wearables.

“Employees are finding ways to use wearable technology to optimize how they work. From accessing work applications from their smartwatch to using smart glasses to design and develop new products, we are seeing employees innovate with workspace IoT technology — including wearables — in a variety of ways,” Iyer said.

Employers are also realizing the benefits of implementing IoT technology to create smarter workspaces. For example, some employers are doing away with access cards and instead encouraging employees to download a sensor app on their mobile device. To get into any company building, employees just have to have their phone on them, and the building will verify their identification through the app — no more digging through bags to find an access card.

As with any device that employees use to access company apps and data, it’s important to ensure workspace IoT devices are secured to better protect against data leaks or hacks. “IT teams should utilize a unified endpoint management platform to monitor, update and secure all devices accessing company data — including mobile phones, desktops and IoT devices like wearables — to deliver the best workspace IoT management capabilities possible,” he said.

Digital transformation in large organizations is just as much a cultural change as it is a technical change. The ability to successfully navigate the challenges of digital innovations and shifting business dynamics will not be defined by technology, but the internal skills to carry initiatives forward.

Because there is a virtuous cycle between the emergence of new technologies and having a properly skilled workforce, leadership must have the ability to define and manage the roles and skills needed to maximize their organization’s investment in the cloud and navigate the challenges of a digital workplace.