In a time when having an actual physical office space is no longer a necessity, making sure employees feel connected and engaged is becoming more and more relevant. The digital workplace is growing in popularity to answer these shifting trends, and to reframe organizations with a flexible, adaptable structure and premium employee experience.
So what is a digital workplace, and how can you adapt your own organization to the modern way of working? The digital workplace is a broad concept, and there are probably as many definitions as there are experts in the field. The key idea to retain is that it’s more of a strategic vision than a single software product. It’s a vision on how to use technology to create a virtual equivalent of the physical workplace for team collaboration, agilized business processes and collective knowledge.
This complexity and the potential impact on so many fronts, often means it’s a daunting initiative to set in motion. So how to go about bringing them to life? At Amplexor we’ve been working on digital workplaces and intranets for more than 15 years now. Working every day alongside organizations of all sizes, we hear first-hand about the challenges in rethinking traditional processes to increase efficiency. Based on these experiences, we compiled the do’s and don’ts, best practices and pitfalls in intranet implementations, in the form of ten commandments.
The digital workplace should empower every employee in your organization to achieve more.* This means the whole platform and business tools should be geared to help employees do their work more efficiently. Employee experience should be your core driver in every aspect of digital workplace design. For each update or new feature, ask yourself: how does this help my employees to engage more or get their work done? A few examples:
Sometimes small technical details can have a big impact. For examp le, single sign on (SSO) can seem a minor technical detail for the project team, but will have a great impact on the users’ experience. Once the user has logged in, he should be able to access any tool and system he needs to work on. Another irritant is duplicating tasks in multiple systems such as holiday requests. Not only can it lead to inconsistencies, but it also consumes the time meant for productive work.
It can be menu options for different HR policies or just local content on office rules, but something that’s relevant for one team or region should not appear to the others. At the same time, having direct access to personal tasks, meetings and recent documents is a considerable productivity booster for most employees.
You should manage the digital workplace or intranet the same way you would do with a website: continuously monitoring real usage and experience to pinpoint best practices and areas that need improvement.
We are working more and more remotely, with colleagues and customers in different time zones. We constantly need to collaborate digitally wherever we are, on any device. This modern workstyle is not a push to work harder or outside office hours, but it’s rather about making people more efficient. Flexibility is more important than ever, and many companies are adopting the “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD) policy to allow employees to access corporate resources with their own devices.
If you’re considering this approach, you might want to jump to commandment #9 for the security provisions required. Having the right tools saves everyone a lot of time and generates efficiency gains. For example, when you’re out with a client you should be able to book a meeting room in the office on the spot and not wait until you’re physically there. If you store documents on cloud content management systems, you share them with other people if you’re in meeting or even on holiday, as opposed to if they were only stored in your individual PC.
Enabling workflows on mobile devices so that anyone can approve requests quickly regardless of where they are also prevents work from getting stalled if someone is not behind a computer screen. In one of our clients, enabling people to request holidays in a mobile way led to game changing results in productivity. A high percentage (50%) of requests were done outside business hours, representing time that’s no longer spent with administrative tasks in the workplace.
The digital workplace is such a broad and complex concept, that its implementation cannot be seen as a quick sprint, but as a marathon. In other words, the digital workplace roll-out is not a single project, but a continuous program consisting of multiple projects. Our guideline is to “dream big, deliver often” – even if you have a roadmap for 3 years, keep the project alive with improvements and phased developments at least every 3 months.
The key to achieving project success leads us to a common pitfall – we often use the “the blind men and the elephant” parable as a metaphor. Six blind men meet an elephant for the first time and each touches a different part of the animal, making predictions about what it looks like, but none could imagine the elephant as a whole. This can be compared to departments or teams pushing their own agendas for the digital workplace, without considering the big picture.
Problems arise when there is no leadership and management allows each department to set their own agenda and even choose their own tools, which might not even be designed to integrate with each other. You need someone with the overview and ownership of the whole digital workplace project, to manage multisided pressures and take the lead. In this year’s State of the Digital Workplace report, we see the biggest digital workplace challenges are all related to different teams’ pressures and lack of ownership, leadership and strategic vision to actively fight tunnel vision.
If there’s anything worse than not having an intranet, it’s an intranet with no or outdated content. You can have a brilliant digital workplace with access to all business applications, but if content is static, redundant or outdated, employees will end up losing interest. When organizations focus on the intranet launch without a proper content management plan, there’s also a huge risk to provide the wrong instructions to products/services, for example. Take advantage of your organization’s assets and knowledge to push different types of information - news, guidelines, policies, as well as user-generated content. But keep it simple and consistent! Too much information and/or a too complex structure will frustrate users and damage the intranet experience.
A digital workplace is an internal system, so how much should you invest in branding? There’s no “one size fits all” mold, but the following three rules of thumb will help give your intranet a strong sense of identity:
Since social networks have become a part of our daily lives, the question to use or not use social features on enterprise level platforms arises. Intranets should be social, but there’s always some kind of fear when it comes to implement social features to employees - comments, ratings and feedback are generally sensitive topics on the corporate environment. However, allowing people to exchange ideas, give feedback and socially collaborate is proven to have good results for both employee satisfaction and management overview. These channels can also be a valuable way to accelerate discussions, generate new ideas and help companies move forward.
Innovative technologies such as chatbots, artificial intelligence, augmented and virtual reality are very appealing, especially for organizations that aim to stay at the forefront of the latest trends. Before you rush into a new app or gadget, consider your business requisites and ensure you have a valid use case. Some trends are set just as a marketing gimmick and bring no added value apart from the eye-catching publicity.
It can look very easy on the outside, but often the technical complexity is underestimated and the feasibility is
overestimated. A good example of this is chatbots, which often don’t really add value to the company’s service or internal operations, but just showcase a “what’s possible”. In HR, chatbots are coming alive to answer questions about the policies implemented. But when you want them to go into more concrete questions such as the “number of remaining holidays I have this year”, it becomes more complex because it needs to integrate information from many systems in the back-end.
Microsoft also launched recently the SharePoint Spaces, a mixed reality rendition of your Team Sites. Users can explore a 3D space with news, list and libraries. It can sure sound “fun”, but does it really add value to everyday work? In most use cases it will probably not.
The access to business resources anytime, anywhere, on any device can sometimes collide with IT security policies and restrictions. Some concessions need to be made to open access not to the whole network and every system, but only to those that are more relevant. Not doing so can inadvertently lead to higher risks for organizations, in terms of security and inconsistency in business information.
If employees introduce shadow IT as a turnaround to transfer and manage working documents from outside the company premises, there will be multiple versions of a company resource scattered around personal emails and file shares, instead of a unique, secure, centralized one. And if you’re preventing staff from effectively communicating with customers or partners, you’re not allowing the company to compete and innovate.
The introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in May 2018 raised public awareness over data protection and compliance. The topic of data compliance became high on the agenda in many organizations, especially with the surge of cloud providers which also raise more and more concerns. It goes without saying that issues such as authentication, authorization, encryption, secure sharing, mobile device management, compliance monitoring, etc. are key for digital workplace implementations, and should be addressed with an integrated solution.
Microsoft is one of the technology providers that integrates all these security aspects into platforms such as Office 365. All data in the digital workplace is secure through a range of integrated tools which allow, for example, automated document classification of your documents based on sensitivity and specification of policies to disallow employees from locally saving/sharing them. If you succeed in empowering your teams to share information effectively and securely, you can consider your digital workplace as a cure for shadow IT.
Digital workplaces can easily turn into collaboration enemies, so governance is instrumental to bring in order before there is chaos. An uncoordinated environment of enterprise collaboration tools, multiple content contributors and administrators creates complexity, redundancy and frustration. On the other hand, it can also lead to regulatory and legal issues, including accessibility, privacy and security. Your governance strategy should be an operating model and a culture for integrity and productivity that reduces these inadvertent barriers to collaboration.
Introducing a small set of “golden rules” with the main guiding principles is probably a better practice than a long document that people tend not to read. Cover rules and standards for collaboration, community management, social capabilities, content ownership and publishing responsibilities, overall decision-making processes and generally what can be done and how it should be done.
You can go more granular in your intranet training materials - which normally generates more awareness - for example creating “how to” guides for content writing and branding guidelines. A key topic to address is the content lifecycle and content protection initiatives. These include review and expiry, and they often involve legal and records management requirements from industry or business operations. Define when documents should be archived, deleted or even automate content governance by, for example, automatically applying the correct retention policies based on document types.
Technology is becoming so embedded in day-to-day business that it’s changing the nature of work. Additionally, work and decision-making are also evolving to become more cross-functional and data-driven.
Workplace teams are not limited to corporate employees anymore. Team members can drift from customers,
partners, suppliers and other stakeholders outside the enterprise walls. This is why digital workplaces are no longer “the future” of workplace collaboration, they constitute an unavoidable step of successful digitization strategies. Our tips should help you get your digital workplace strategy on the right path to change the way people work, foster transformation of your business processes, make employees more agile and engage clients in a more efficient way.
Traditional intranets are shifting rapidly. Today’s workforces demand dynamic and personalized environments. Modern businesses need intelligent workspaces that connect people, information, tools and culture. Amplexor Next-Generation Intranets take internal communications to a new level: from ready-to-go intranets to fully tailored collaborative ecosystems.
This free ebook covers the essential rules to get your intranet strategy on the right path:
✔ Employee experience
✔ Mobile productivity
✔ Internal communication
✔ Content management
✔ User adoption
✔ ...and more!