barrel of monkey toys holding hands against a blue sky backdrop
PHOTO: Park Troopers

The road to the digital workplace has been an ongoing journey that started two decades ago. During the late 1990s, we got our first glimpse of the digital workplace once the idea of going paperless became a possibility. As electronic documents and files rose to prominence in the early 2000s, businesses began exploring new ways to organize and control their rapidly growing stores of digital information. Today, businesses are digitizing not only their information but their processes and workflows as well.

The original push towards a digital workplace stemmed from the promise of greater productivity and connectivity. But that nice-to-have transition is quickly becoming a need-to-have requirement with the inordinate proliferation of digital information today, at the rate of 2.5 exabytes of new data worldwide per day. To put that number in perspective, that is the equivalent of 530 million songs, 150 million iPhones or 90 years of HD video. Furthermore, the amount of information a worker encounters in the daily workplace doubles every 18 months.

In this environment, it is imperative businesses transform to a digital workplace to maintain relevancy and compliance in today’s rapidly evolving world of technology. But becoming a digital workplace is no longer achieved simply by going paperless. Instead, businesses need a robust blueprint that creates a digital bridge to all information across the workplace with three key elements: mitigation of data migration, easy access to all systems, and automation through artificial intelligence.

Keep Workers in Their Comfort Zone

According to an Association of Intelligent Information Management (AIIM) study (registration required), 50 percent of workers use at least three or more information systems. These systems vary, from legacy on-premises solutions to modern cloud applications. On top of this, each worker has his or her own preferences on which systems to use. So when a company attempts to adopt a brand new system and migrate all its workers to one plot of common ground, the odds of 100-percent user adoption are not exactly in the company’s favor.

One of the first steps to building the bridge to the digital workplace is to keep workers in their comfort zone by letting them use the systems they’re comfortable with. Workers, especially since the onset of bring-your-own-device (BYOD) practices, naturally gravitate toward the systems and technology that are the most natural fit for their respective workflows and the types of data they’re working with. So rather than wholesale replacing existing systems, businesses can use connectors to different systems, repositories and other locations in which data is stored to build a repository-neutral bridge that isn’t defined or reliant on one specific system. 

While the connectors will make sure that various systems can talk to each other, metadata will act as the superglue that relate all the various pieces of information in the digital workplace to the more meaningful bigger picture.

Related Article: How to Build a Blueprint for Your Corporate Memory

Easy Access to all Systems and Data

It is one thing to have connectors integrate with various systems, it is another thing entirely to have them all play well with each other. As there’s less of a physical hub in the digital workplace, businesses need to maintain the same level of collaboration that an office would provide. Physical offices afford more opportunities for impromptu discussion, task management and problem solving. This informal, ad hoc cooperation keeps processes aligned, which keeps the company running. Since these informal interactions are so integral to the physical workplace, the digital workplace requires an equivalent level of connection, if not more.

It is therefore crucial for digital workplaces to offer access and visibility to all systems — from on-premises to cloud, from legacy applications to the latest and greatest “next big things.” Digital workplaces that can do so allow workers to share and collaborate across different systems, creating a bridge of shared information and workflows. Additionally, business-wide visibility streamlines productivity and security by cutting down on the production of duplicate copies of the same information.

AIIM research has revealed that, without business-wide visibility, two out of three workers find different versions in different locations, and four out of 10 workers have difficulty even confirming if they’re working with the latest version of a file or document. When handling sensitive information such as customer data, business-wide visibility is especially vital to maintain compliance with regulations such as GDPR.

Related Article: The Hills and Valleys of a Digital Workplace Roadmap

AI Tools to Automate Information Management Workload

Even with connectors to systems and system-neutral collaboration, manually managing information across the business is still an extremely labor-intensive task. This alone may deter workers from adopting their digital workplace, instead resorting to their own systems and falling back into the information silo trap.

Artificial intelligence (AI) goes a long way in automating the otherwise manual labor of storing, sharing and managing business information. Advancements in natural language processing and understanding enable AI functionality to automatically provide context to a piece of information, tying it to related workflows and looping in the people needed to move the workflow along. With AI, workers don’t have to worry about the additional workload caused by more and more information that needs to be processed. In addition, they can enjoy the full advantage of the mobility and accessibility the digital workplace brings to drive toward larger business goals.

As businesses explore the possibilities of going digital, workers will demand a workplace that doesn’t lock in on a specific system, provides easy access and visibility across all systems, and offers immediate benefits without data migration. However, by sticking to a blueprint that addresses these needs, businesses can streamline the transition to the digital workplace to effectively manage the growing amount of information today.

Related Article: How Machine Learning Will Tame the Explosion of Unstructured Data