Key things to consider in setting up a successful digital workplace strategy

All too often we focus attention on the devices, services and locations that merge to create a comprehensive digital workplace ecosystem – but we must not forget the employee experience which is the real purpose of the project.

There is much discussion about collaboration platforms, intranets and connectivity, but what matters to the person using it is their personal experience.  Can they get their job done effectively and productively and enjoy it at the same time?  The latter is a key motivation for using the system.  You can invest heavily in a digital workplace, but if no-one uses it - it is a pointless and expensive exercise.

The digital workspace pillars
The distinction between our professional and personal lives is blurring, thanks to 24/7 connected lifestyles. Employees are communicating and collaborating in new ways which demands a re-think of the traditional office environment.

Simple, flexible, open, social, customizable and secure; these are the six basic pillars forming the foundation of the digital workspace of the future.  These also need to balance the privacy of customers and stakeholders with operational risk. This requires IT departments to start thinking outside the box.  Looking at technologies that were born in the consumer space for their usability and agility that may be now – or in the future - gaining traction in the business world. Skype, for example, started out as a consumer app - is now a valuable business resource.

Staff themselves can make a compelling business case for the digital workplace, according to a report by Deloitte.  These include increased employee productivity and satisfaction together with the ability to attract and retain talent. 

Segment based on usage not job title

The first step to creating a practical roadmap to plan a digital workplace is to find out how employees are using technology right now and what tools they expect to use to perform their daily tasks.  This may seem obvious, but there is sometimes a gap between what the management says and what is happening in the field.

Just like marketing defines customer markets, IT has to work out a segmentation based on how technology is used which is more relevant than a traditional segmentation based on job title and management line. Key employees are interviewed in each management line to find out what technology they use, if they are in the field or office based, what they find difficult about the applications/solutions at present and what they would like to see being deployed. This bottom-up approach is combined with a top-down vision of the strategy of the company, to make sure that everybody is aligned.

Once the segments are defined, it is important to describe the 'persona', the typical employee of a given segment, and to place it in the dynamic of a day. For instance, a field operations person is not always in the field all day. He or she can start their day at the office, drive to a location, meet with a customer, attend training meetings - and then perform an operation in the field.

Better understanding

By creating an employee journey through segmentation, it enables the CIO and senior management to understand business needs better, validate inventories, and help the IT department learn what everyone does. It is also a great opportunity for employees to provide feedback and advice on the evolution envisaged for the digital workplace.  For instance, is it appropriate to provide rugged, basic mobiles  to field operations staff if most of them confess to using their own smartphone with the corporate SIMcard in it?

Creativity sessions can then be performed with IT to work on the products and solutions that would best suit each worker’s needs, following the findings of the digital usage segmentation.

With a target set for each segment, a gap analysis allows for the expansion of a Digital Workspace roadmap, covering organizational, legal, IT and financial impacts. This enables queries around how to migrate important assets to the cloud and what new contracts will be required to be best answered.

With this information, organizations can start to answer the bigger questions such as do they buy in new services or opt for a flexible buy-as-consumed route into cloud. The digital roadmap is a powerful tool to share a vision within the company and to pull together the various line of business.

It also provides management and IT with a full understanding of what people do and if they have the right technology for the job. Instead of IT starting with the devices, they can now see the value of beginning with usage. For example, are people in the field given USBs in certain roles when what they really need is remote access.  It also enables them to work out a plan for reaching out to employs that are currently non-connected, such as warehouse staff, for example.

Empowering people
It is important not to forget that the digital workplace is about empowering everyone in the workforce.  You can make a very big investment in technology, but ultimately, people are your biggest asset.  A training and change management program is therefore essential to a successful digital transformation strategy, as well as a sound communication.

Change management needs to focus on the business processes but needs to put the users and customers at the center of everything.  Orange Business, for example, includes support via a full user adoption program and social learning tools as part of its contracts because it understands how fundamental people are to achieving successful digital transformation. 

Physical workspaces need to be adapted
Workers are no longer tethered to their computer and sat in one place for long periods of time so it’s important to consider how the physical workplace impacts the digital workspace.

A whitepaper by flexible workspace designers Haworth believes that we will see sensors embedded in the office space to help people’s “well-being, engagement and effectiveness”.  But Haworth warns against getting intoxicated by new technology for technology sake. “The real test: does any new technology help people?” should be the litmus test it says.

New trends are emerging such as smart interaction with places i.e. smart buildings and offices, together with smart assistants and robots.  Humanyze, for example, is a start-up focusing on ‘people analytics’. The social sensing and analytics platform, developed at MIT, enables companies to quantify social interactions. The sensors can work out when and where an individual is most productive.  The best ideas may come from a discussion in the coffee room, for example.

Orange Business is aware of the importance of the changing office space and how the ‘organic workspace’ is key to responding to people’s needs.  We work closely with office designers to ensure the physical space works with the technical solutions. We've developed a complete ecosystem of solutions to simplify life in the office. These include using NFC on mobiles to access buildings, securely print documents, pay for lunch, book meeting rooms and report incidents.

The digital workplace is a moving feast and future employees, millennials, are expecting their employer to be digital. New technologies are coming down the pipeline and will enable exciting new usages. By mapping out a strategy for the digital workplace and deploying it now, organizations can support their global digital transformation, attracting new talents and setting up the ground for new business opportunities.

This article was co-written by Olivier Vicaire and Guillaume Freyburger 

Find out more about Orange Business’ digital workspace solutions and how they fit into the digital workplace ecosystem here.

Olivier Vicaire
Olivier Vicaire

Olivier Vicaire has been a business consultant for more than 10 years in Paris and London and is a specialist in digital transformation. With a telecom engineering degree and a Masters in marketing, he manages innovation, digital workspace strategy and user adoption programs to drive digital transformation for the employees of Orange Business customers.