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PHOTO: Jukan Tateisi

The phrase "digital workplace" has become so common in the modern business environment that we may not fully understand the actual concept or how to achieve it. This level of confusion has led many to write it off as just another buzzword. That said, the digital workplace is real and can be easily defined. Here’s how Gartner describes it:

A digital workplace enables new, more effective ways of working; raises employee engagement and agility; and exploits consumer-oriented styles and technologies. It is based on the assumption that engaged employees are more willing to change roles and responsibilities and embrace new technology, enabling organizations to capitalize on the creativity of their workforce and deliver better business outcomes.

But What Is the Digital Workplace, Really?

The digital workplace is not necessarily a replacement for a physical office. It covers a broad range of devices, software or platforms that employees use to do their jobs. These digital tools are designed to align technology, employees and business processes to achieve a variety of benefits, including:

  • Improving operational efficiency.
  • Reducing overhead costs.
  • Achieving better collaboration between departments.
  • Promoting a healthy work-life balance for employees.
  • Discovering new business insights.
  • Allowing critical information to be accessed remotely at any time.
  • Increasing employee retention.

Additionally, a digital workplace is flexible in size and shape. This means you have the freedom to start with smaller steps as you work your way towards a fully modernized workplace.

Here are a few examples of digital workplace initiatives that can nudge you in the right direction:

  • Make your office paperless by replacing paper processes workflows on digital devices.
  • Use digital information tools, such as cloud file sharing and electronic archives.
  • Implement record management software that can replace the physical filing process.
  • Look into adopting conference room booking or videoconferencing software.
  • Take advantage of online calendars that can integrate with multiple accounts or platforms.
  • Replace complicated logins with streamlined single sign-on (SSO) features.

Those are just the basics. Here is a four-step program to kick-start your digital workplace initiatives.

Related Article: The Digital Workplace Defined

1. Don’t Just Think You Know What You Want to Achieve – Have a Plan

Start your digital transformation journey by setting a goal for your organization to reach. Remember effective digital transformations may include multiple goals.

Next, identify which technologies will help you reach each goal. If you're looking to discover new business insights, for example, you'll want to explore analytics software solutions. Alternatively, if you're looking to improve collaboration between departments, deploy collaboration and communication software.

Once you've figured out what kinds of technology you need, choose specific software solutions to fit your requirements. When considering apps or platforms to use in your organization, ask yourself:

  • Does this app include intuitive features that will help reduce the learning curve for my employees?
  • Does our IT department have the resources to implement and maintain this technology?
  • Is our IT staff properly trained to implement and maintain this technology? If not, how can that be remedied?

Related Article: Forget Digital Workplaces, Build a Digital Ecosystem

2. Eradicate Silos

Tools alone don't make the digital workplace. In fact, the first step is largely about effecting organizational change, it’s about people and process. If you can’t get your team aligned, technology will not be as effective. Leadership must also take an objective look at what’s currently working and evaluate how adding a completely new technology solution — or building on legacy systems — can improve business operations and provide better outcomes.

It’s also critical to eradicate silos across your organization before making any investment in digital workplace technologies. Silos can come in all shapes and sizes. Some are tangible, others are intangible. Find out what and where those silos are and then ask:

  • What’s holding people back?
  • Are physical cubicles hindering communications?
  • Is it a lack of tooling?
  • Is it a lack of training that’s keeping adoptions of those tools low?

Ultimately, it can be a combination of these factors. 

Silos have become the enemy for many organizations. That’s why we so much written about them and why new startups pop up every day to solve this issue for various use cases. You have customer data platforms that stitch siloed data together to uncover target audiences; AI platforms for sales that pull data from disparate sources to better forecast quarters; digital asset management platforms that help uncover online and offline sources within a company for easier use/access; I could go on. The point is to get yourself out of the silo rut if you’re in it. 

Related Article: There's No Need to Be Haunted By Silos

Step 3: Embrace Best-of-Breed Collaboration and Communication Tools

It's critical to preserve employee communication, especially when creating an increasingly digital environment in the workplace. And this shouldn’t be difficult today. We have an application for virtually every use case. We have Slack and Microsoft Teams for chat; Zoom for video conferencing; Asana and Trello for project management; and many more.

You even have platforms that enables HR to anonymously collect feedback from employees to continuously gauge workplace health. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. 

Related Article: Don't Blame Slack for Ruining Your Work, Blame Your Manager

Step 4: Continuously Improve (and Purge Unused Platforms)

Tech can be the answer to many productivity issues, but only if employees actually use the applications shared with them. It’s also important to understand if employees are having difficulty adopting any one platform because they have too many to choose from. It’s no secret the SaaS stack is exploding at many organizations today. 

It’s critical for IT and specific departments to continuously get feedback from employees about their application use and determine which applications they find most useful, which can improve, and those that serve no purpose. It’s useless to keep technology around that no one cares for or uses. It's just common sense to get rid of them.

Transforming a traditional office into a thriving digital workplace can initially seem like an overwhelming task, but starting with these four steps can set you on the path to drive amazing change within your organization.