A man and a woman sitting at a table with laptops on it.
PHOTO: David Boyle

Who should own the digital workplace? No one, according to Gartner. Well, not no one. But it's no one particular group or individual’s responsibility to help employees get the most out of their digital workplaces, according to the Gartner Hype Cycle for Digital Workplace, 2017. "Humans will still be at the center of work, even as intelligent software and machines become our co-workers," said Matt Cain, vice president and analyst at Gartner, in a release. “CIOs must anticipate how trends in business, society, technology and information will converge to change where, when, why and with whom we work. CIOs must expand their charter to include workforce digital dexterity."

So if no one in particular should own this massive responsibility, who should help? We caught up with some to discuss the role of the digital workplace in organizations and who should be involved ensuring organizations get the most out of their digital business.

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HR Owns Culture, IT Delivers on Vision

“The digital workplace touches every part of a company, from departments and projects, to the equally important non-work channels that allow people to bring their whole selves to work,” said Ryan Ansley, director of technology at Culture Amp. Ansley said it doesn’t make sense for only IT or HR to oversee how it’s run and to set best practices. IN a perfect world it's more of a partnership between the two. “We believe,” Ansley said, “a digital workplace deployment works best when IT and human resources work closely together.”

And that breaks down to HR owning the culture component, where they establish usage guidelines on everything from channel purpose to tone and even emojis. On the IT side, Ansley added, they should be working to empower HR's vision through the available technology.

Create a Networked, Distributed, Strategic Group

Cerys Hearsey, principal consultant at POST*SHIFT, said a digital workplace can no longer be owned by a single role or department. “It is a core platform for the digitization, optimization and transformation of the organization,” she said.

Hearsey finds a more sustainable approach to ownership is a networked, distributed, strategic group. It would span, she said, IT, HR, communications and line of business representatives. “This network must,” she said, “provide the level of sponsorship needed to catalyze the transformation of the organization.” The network has oversight of the future digital capabilities needed to drive strategic transformation and should understand how the employee experience of the digital workplace delivers into that strategic vision.

“For employees, the highest value experiences come from specific use cases embedded in their processes and practices,” Hearsey said. “Decisions taken by owners of the technologies that make up the digital workplace can have a big impact on these crucial ways of working if line of business localization is not adequately represented in the ownership network.”

The networked ownership’s reach is important when considering the scale of change that a digital workplace can enable. Change can be owned, managed or influenced, Hearsey said, using a distributed network giving each of these layers more reach and impact.

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The Best Person For the Job

Debbie Qaqish, principal and chief strategy officer for The Pedowitz Group, has a simple answer to who should own the digital workplace: Anyone, so long as they do it well. “The owner of this initiative should be anyone who can get the job done,” Qagish said.

As chief strategy officer in her company, Qagish owns this initiative. In a program the company calls TPG Virtual Workspace, it has identified all the tools consultants need (about 21 in all) and have a required virtual training and testing series to ensure they know how to most effectively use the tools. “Effective tool use drives improved communication, collaboration, time management and quality of client deliverables,” Qagish said.

She added the digital workplace is about more than just tools; it’s about process and culture. Their team has developed a series of videos in which some consultants talk about working from home. They actually shoot a video from their home office and discuss their home office setup including use of different systems, time management and how they manage their work day. “Our newbies love these videos,” Qagish said, “as it gives them a realistic view to their digital work space.” The company also produced a series of videos called “A Day in the Life” starring employees in different roles. It provides a view into how and what they do in a particular role in a virtual environment.

“By standardizing every aspect of the digital workspace from tools, systems, processes and cultural norms,” Qagish said, “we have created an environment in which our employees can thrive, our business continues to expand, and our customers stay around longer.”