The evolution of the digital workplace: driving transformation through a user-centered approach
The Digital Workplace Dinner took place on 1 May 2018 at the Mews of Mayfair. It was held in partnership with Microsoft Surface and Computacenter, with the goal of defining what the digital workplace is and identifying challenges of transforming into a digital workplace.
Computacenter offers advice on how to optimise performance through technology. Their goal is to empower users to achieve business outcomes faster.
Microsoft provides tools to support the transition to a more modernised workplace, to bring real productivity, morale and retention benefits to an organisation.
Conversation topics included:
- What are the main features of the digital workplace?
- How do you build a business case for workplace transformation?
- What are the risks as the digital workplace evolves?
- How do you ensure a consistently user-centered approach across workplace transformation initiatives?
Features of a Digital Workplace
1) The digital workplace is more automated
Automation, artificial intelligence, and innovation in general, are changing work. Jobs which have traditionally been done by humans are being replaced by machines (for example, self checkout options at your local grocery store) and even reluctant organisations are investing in technology to avoid competing with organisations with lower operational costs.
While there is obviously a huge technology component in the transition to a digital workplace, the role humans will have in this new work world may be of higher importance.
2) The digital workplace is pan-geographic
Virtual representation of a physical workplace which enables individuals to work from any location. Video chat is one feature of the digital workplace that can truly revolutionise working habits. By incorporating this tool, an organisation could cut down on travel time and expenses, while still getting the benefits of face to face contact.
3) The digital workplace seamlessly integrates tech
It is also essential to have a seamless employee user experience. One attendee mentioned the true digital workplace would be one in which employees don’t even think about technology; it should so easy to use that it doesn’t require any additional work on their side. Frustrated employees don’t make for productive outcomes.
Keeping employees on board
One thing vital to successfully transforming the workplace is repeated engagement with employees. Change is rarely popular; it’s human nature to resent its imposition; but once you realise the convenience something like self checkout brings, it becomes easier to accept. Make sure you invite regular staff feedback.
One attendee even suggested spelling out to employees ‘what’s in it for them’ so they understand the value they are getting out of digital transformation and will be more committed to implementing it successfully.
It’s important to not only provide workers with the tools they will need to effectively compete, but also ensure they understand why this is best.
The specific elements of a digital transition will vary from business to business. But one thing is universal; the need for cultural shift within the workplace. No matter how innovative a new strategy is, the chances of it failing are significantly higher if it doesn’t fit into the current workplace culture.
This implies that a cultural shift should take place before digital transformation begins. In most organisations, there’s most likely a disconnect between agile evangelists who embrace change, and those that feel ill at ease with new technologies.
One way this disconnect can be bridged is through the right language. Express your organisations' ambitions clearly, and then demonstrate how they benefit the entire team. Do not try to transform your organisation by stealth. Express clearly and try to attract people to your ambition for the company culture.
It’s also important to bear in mind that ‘transforming’ is nothing new. Companies have been innovating and changing for years, and the challenges surrounding a transition to a digital workplace are probably issues organisations have faced multiple times over. For example, securing funding and support, as well as maintaining stakeholder consensus and involvement are not unique to digital transformation. Companies are better equipped than they realise to overcome many of the the challenges around this type of digital transformation.
However, this doesn’t mean that introducing a digital workplace will be a seamless journey. New challenges are likely to arise around data security and management, but leaders will be better equipped to deal with these pain points quickly and effectively if they’re aware of them from the beginning.
Automation has been the main tool changing work as we know it, but self checkouts and CRM software may be the first examples of a big change. Meanwhile, augmented reality may further change work; this could totally revolutionise both an employee and customer journey by providing them with the ability to not only get the information they need, but also to feel and experience it.
AR may be the next big addition to the digital workplace, but there are probably many more tools that we’re not even aware of yet which will have the potential to fundamentally transform how we work.