Most organisations express the need to modernise the way people work, and to move people to ‘work like they play’. Unfortunately, there are scant few organisations that have a clear understanding of what it means to operate as a ‘digital workforce’. The focus is all too often on technologic solutions to bring about the digital workplace (technology in the workplace), rather than on creating the conditions that will ensure organisations have a ‘digital workforce’ (digitally-enabled employees). This article looks at the disparate digital states inside and outside the organisation and highlights the importance of taking a people-first approach.
The challenge is to ‘work like we play’ Outside the organisation the digital experience is rich and amorphous. Applications distil and combine content. A rich network of conversations are carried out over multiple devices, often with two or more on the go at the same time. Content consumption habits are increasing in sophistication and smart phones are at the centre of this. News aggregators pull in from multiple sources, allowing the consumer to select the feeds and subjects of the most interest to them. People connect with each other through a range of applications, such as Facebook Messenger, Viber, Skype, LinkedIn and the in-built texting on phones. Smart phones provide information in-context and facilitate the completion of tasks anywhere and at any time. This is a digital experience of choice - not of limitation. It allows people to choose and; presuming there is little-to-no cost implication, why not take the same approach inside the organisation?
People are accustomed to moving from a phone to a tablet, laptop or desktop machine in a seamless way. Permissions are remembered, recent conversations appear and so on. In the background, machine learning works away to create the best experience for any given individual based on the places (digital and physical) visited and the preferences made.
People are the digital workforce Devices and applications connect people with information, and also provide a new, rich network of people. It is the combination of the two, that sets the conditions necessary for ‘serendipitous discovery.’ From gaining reassurance that the upcoming product purchase is best, or getting the latest cute animal meme to share; people play a significant role in turning us onto online experiences that we may have not otherwise found. These experiences come pre-qualified (a friend, or a friend’s friend twice removed recommended it), and it is therefore more likely to suit. Passive intranets compound poor productivity
Organisations struggle to bring a modern digital experience inside the organisation and to make current systems and technologies suitable for the new digitally-savvy employee. Intranets are usually passive. They are conceptualised as ‘an internal website’, and conceived as an isolated piece of technology. Users have no option other than to go in and seek out the required information. Most provide a poor experience (if any) on mobile devices, removing any opportunity for in-context experiences.
Intranets have a starring role to play in the modern organisation The intranet is the key interface to the expanding digital working environment. As new and varied technologies are introduced to organisations, the intranet provides the opportunity to deliver a cohesive experience for staff and a point of integration regardless of device, or location. It is the rich digital ecosystem (chat, video, social, commenting, content mashups, real-time working, personalisation, search, mobile, etc.), that progresses intranets from their current static and under-utilised state.
Creating a digital workforce is a culture change and capability-building exercise. The technology aspects are, by comparison small. Large formal projects that are mobilised to bring about a modern, digital workforce invariably fail. Successful initiatives deliver small, incremental improvements to remove barriers and meet the needs of staff. Small shifts minimise the disruption to both end-users and supporting teams; making it easier for them to quickly leverage enhancements and at the same time minimise the required change management effort.
Shaking off the organisational ‘laggard’ mentality As focussed as they are on delivering to the end customer, organisations overlook the importance of growing a happy, internal digital workforce that can deliver outstanding customer service offerings. The focus on bringing the workplace up to the level of digitisation that individuals are now accustomed to in their private lives is not easy to achieve… even for those organisations that have identified the need.
Investment outside technology is required to realise benefit Organisations are missing the necessary investment to bring about a digital workforce. As a guide, organisations should take their initial investment in technology and apply at least double that investment to the culture and capability building activities. There are proven gains for organisations that meet this challenge.
According to the Forrester study into O365 implementation, the total benefit to organisations resulted in a net present value (NPV) of $5.6 million (total benefits of $8.8 million versus total costs of $3.2 million).
Those organisations that continue to lag behind; or to imagine a new future that is born of legacy thinking will fail. These organisations will quickly find themselves replicating the same, old intranet experience that will continue to underwhelm staff and erode confidence in the organisation, and its ability to deliver.
Some definitions Digital Workplace In the digital workplace, content is provided contextually and in the way the end-user prefers to access it.
Content is often housed in a number of different systems, that have their own authentication. The underlying complexity is ‘hidden’ from the end user and activities such as ‘social’ and ‘collaboration’ are baked in, and hidden away from users. In the digital workplace, there is no need to talk about collaboration platforms. Collaboration will just become part of the way people work, and there will be no need to visit a specific destination for this. The digital workplace presents a more pervasive way of working and accessing information.
Digital Workforce There is, or at least should be a move from the physical and technical environment (digital workplace) to one that focuses on the people in the (digital) workplace. This new focus has been coined the ‘digital workforce.’ Keeping end-users top of mind, and understanding how technology can support ways of working, will ensure that the digital workplace of the future is informed by, and designed for the actual, real needs of the end-user.
Intranet Historically intranets have been conceived as an ‘internal website’. In this definition, the intranet is a single, bounded thing comprising a set of content usually published via a single content management system. Intranets have a history of existing in isolation from other corporate systems, with little or no integration. This practice is out-dated and intranets now play a vital role in the broader digital environment. In addition to their role managing content and operating as a communications channel, intranets have become the front-door to the digital workplace. This means that not only is the intranet an access point to other systems, but more importantly it is the place of integration of data from multiple sources. As a result, the modern intranet has a more interactive role to play in the online environment within an organisation.
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