The digital workspace: leadership and the human factor

Technology has helped us create the digital workspace, where employees can work on their terms using the devices, tools and apps that make them most effective and collaborative.  Unified Communication and Collaboration (UC&C) tools are central to this, but to maximize the digital workspace, the right leadership, cultural and behavioral changes are required too.

The 2017 State of the Digital Workplace report by SMG/CMSWire and Digital Workplace Group showed that while 95 percent of organizations agree a digital workplace is important, only 44 percent of organizations already have digital workplace programs in place. So how do companies connect the dots?

Leadership starts at the top

The line between the CEO and the CIO/CTO has now blurred, and historically the IT department was generally considered “just” the domain of the CIO/CTO. Today the CEO and entire management team must lead from the front, using digital collaboration tools themselves and by being a champion for the digital workspace. This can let them provide an example of the benefits of digital tools and have a knock-on effect to encourage employees to want to use digital tools themselves.

The human-centric approach

Further to the leadership issue, enterprises should focus on giving workers an end-user experience comparable to their personal, everyday lives. Some people have worried that the digital workplace could create barriers between workers, making the workplace less “human” and too impersonal. It does not need to be that way.



How can the CEO lead the way?

For a CEO who wants to drive a company forward towards the digital workspace and enjoy the efficiencies, productivity and workplace transformation available, here are some pointers to consider.

1. Be a visionary. The digitally leading CEO must outline a vision for the future of their organization’s digital workspace, and encourage all employees to strive towards it. More than that, the CEO needs to make themselves a digital champion - previously the remit of the CIO/CTO - and convince employees that changing established ways of working will benefit everyone.

2. Don’t be afraid of change. Overhauling traditional ways of working brings a fear of the unknown with it, so the CEO must lead the company forward through that. Transforming to a digital workspace requires one to be bold! According to McKinsey research, companies that do best follow bold, disruptive strategies, make major shifts to new technologies and business models and encourage ambition: the progressive CEO can set the example again here. If the CEO is stuck in their old ways, the entire organization will remain stuck too.

3. Pursue impact obstinately – “resolute determination”. The digital CEO must be seen to roll up their sleeves and get personally involved, which is best illustrated by the CEO using UC&C tools to engage with their own senior management team. This in turn will filter down from senior managers to their teams, and eventually between teams. As employees across different departments begin to realize the ease of communication and collaboration that UC&C tools bring, they will begin to appreciate the value of such tools – and use them more.

4. Ensure a human-centric approach. While the digital workspace can transform the way people work for the better and will require them to make some adjustments, the CEO should ensure that ultimately it is tailored for the people, and not the other way around. Ways must be found to integrate UC&C and other digital tools with existing workflows that will enhance the user experience. If the CEO finds them cumbersome and counter-intuitive, chances are others will too!

5. Leverage existing expertise. The CIO/CTO remains a powerful adjutant to the CEO in driving the digital workspace forward, and the CEO and whole senior management team should engage with the CIO or CTO regarding strategy, planning and effective roll-out of UC&C tools and digital workspace philosophy.



Creating the right culture – digital concierge to support adoption for the CEO and anyone else

One quick way to encourage transformation is to appoint a digital concierge. CEOs and indeed the entire management team and other staff can have a digital concierge to help them adapt to digital working more quickly. Workers should be encouraged to experiment with the new digital tools knowing there is help on hand should they need it.

As mentioned before, the CEO must take the lead, and this also holds for transforming the company’s culture in the adoption of UC&C and other digital tools. CEOs may want to consider having an intern, who is a Millennial or digital native, to work alongside them. Their next generation habits and approaches, more in tune with using digital tools by default, can help CEOs quickly get up to speed to set the tone and direction for the rest of the organization.

According to the SAP Digital Transformation Executive Study “4 Ways Leaders Set Themselves Apart”, 84 percent of CEOs say digital transformation of their workplace is critical to their survival in the next five years – yet only 3 percent have completed any company-wide transformation efforts.  In Asia Pacific, according to a new PwC report, “Shaping a smarter workplace”, only 56 percent of Asia CEOs rate their organization’s ‘Digital IQ’ as strong: that is the company’s ability to harness and profit from digital technology. Next generation companies employing next generation workers will need next generation-thinking CEOs who can foster the new digital workspace with a human-centric approach. To not embrace digital now and begin driving its benefits risks being left behind.

To read more about changing the culture of an organization and driving the digital workplace, download the PwC report*, Shaping a smarter workplace, today.

* Commissioned by Orange Business in collaboration with Cisco

Mark Tan

Mark Tan is Vice President Global Solutions & Marketing, Asia Pacific at Orange Business and has more than 20 years of experience in ICT across Asia Pacific supporting global organizations in their IT transformation journey.
At Orange Business, Mark is responsible for Global Solutions and Marketing in Asia Pacific, covering Universal Communications & Collaboration, Enterprise Integration Services & Service Management and the security portfolio offered by Orange Cyberdefense. Before joining Orange, Mark was APAC CIO for Publicis Groupe.