Building a successful digital workplace. Step 1: Create a strategy

It’s wise to put some time into planning before you start laying the foundations for your digital workplace. It will pay in the long run. To build a successful and sustainable digital workplace, you’ll need to formulate a strategy that meets both present and future needs and scenarios.

In this first posting in our new blog theme Building a successful digital workplace, we’ll provide you with some tips and advice on what to think about when creating a strategy for your workplace.

What’s the purpose of your digitalization?

The first question you need to ask yourself is why you want to build a new workplace. Is it to enhance productivity, sharpen efficiency and internal collaboration, or simply to improve work flexibility? Or are there perhaps other reasons?

If the main reason for your digital quest is to create a workplace that facilitates flexible and remote working, then the mobile experience is of crucial importance for your choice of platform, user interface and functionality. But if it’s more to do with boosting efficiency and teamwork, your focus should be more on the tools for communications, project management and collaboration.

It goes without saying that it’s not a good idea to build a digital workplace without first having a strategy in place. You otherwise risk creating a space no-one will visit, with poor results as a consequence.

Which services and tools should it include?

The success or otherwise of a digital workplace is highly dependent on its services and tools. If it’s virtually synonymous with an intranet, it will normally comprise news and publication services, user profiles, search functions and office, communications and collaboration tools.

To choose the right platform, you need to thoroughly explore its compatibility with the services and tools you want to integrate, as well as its capacity, adaptability and development road map. But don’t forget to build for the future and not only to meet your present needs. To do this, you’ll require a platform that’s in sync with today’s fast-moving technological and dynamic user trends.

Unquestionably the best choice is a platform that has an open architecture and powerful API’s and is constantly attuned to ongoing technological and user-driven developments. Such a solution will enable you to easily integrate the future new services and tools that you’ll need to meet ever-changing user demands, without having to invest time and money in building the necessary connectors. Open architecture and a wide range of API’s also make it a lot easier to adapt the platform to accommodate special functions not included in the standard configuration. Though hardly necessary to point out, the efficiency of your organization is totally dependent on the speed, safety and stability of the platform and its capacity to load and support your services and tools. So do take a long hard look at its performance specs!

You’ll also need to decide which of your current tools, online services and work processes to take with you into the new digital workplace. This could in fact be an excellent opportunity to re-evaluate and revamp some of your solutions and processes, or perhaps even swap them for something better, creating a more efficient and user-oriented workplace in the process.

If, for example, you’re thinking about migrating to Office 365, it can be a good idea to explore how the system and its family members, like Microsoft SharePoint, Teams, Planner and Stream, are all integrated. Maybe you also use or are planning to use external web applications such as Trello, Yammer, Slack and Facebook Workplace. In that case, it’s important that you ascertain whether there are out-of-the-box connectors that will enable them to be integrated on the platform and thereby accessible to your employees from the very start.

Who should do what?

It’s tempting to allow for unlimited publication and user access rights for everyone, but anarchy of this kind can all too frequently lead to chaos. Sensitive information might well get into the wrong hands and uncontrolled communications will inevitably drown out the most important messages. For there to be order and control in the workplace, it’s necessary to have built-in support for role-based and user-restricted functions. There should, for example, be restrictions on the right to publish news and selected documents as well as access to classified information. You might even want to limit access to certain tools and forums.

Role-based access control also goes hand-in-hand with task-oriented navigation, i.e. navigation based on the user’s position, role and work tasks. Combining these user-access functions can be instrumental in helping users more readily find what they are looking for, thereby boosting the efficiency of the whole workplace.

It can, therefore, be useful to give some thought to how the resources and critical information of the workplace can be structured in line with users’ work roles, tasks and information requirements.

Avoid growing pains and language barriers

Today, your organization may only communicate in one language. But this could quite possibly change. Companies and organizations evolve, expand, merge and move. In a few years, you might be communicating with a subsidiary on the other side of the world. It can, therefore, be good policy to keep your mind open to all possibilities and future scenarios and plan for multiple language support, even if there’s only a slight chance of your ever needing it. It is always a lot more expensive and complicated to add it to the platform’s structure later on.

Even if your business is small and homogenous today, it can also be sensible to prepare the platform for a future diversified enterprise, comprising a multitude of subsidiaries and brands. This may require a separated information structure, with individual segments of the workplace in which only certain resources are shared. A common challenge in a complex structure like this is determining how to handle and adapt global versus local information.

Your digital workplace will no doubt expand very quickly, with a steady flow of new web pages, documents, blog posts, applications, workgroups, projects and external services. To counteract growing pains, you need to formulate a well-defined governance and maintenance plan before the curtain goes up on the new workplace. Powerful and proven governance tools will help you keep your workplace streamlined, updated, future-oriented and efficient.

Finally, don’t forget to do the numbers before you start building your digital workplace! When all the above has been checked and double-checked, you should get started on the production of a business case that summarises and analyses your costs of development and governance plus your expected return on investment.

Checklist

This is how to create a strategy for a successful digital workplace:

1. Define the operational requirements of the organization, together with its present and future information and business structure.
2. Formulate the goals and purpose of the digital workplace.
3. Spell out how the goals are to be achieved through the use of the services, tools and processes offered by the digital workplace.
4. Establish KPI’s, routines and responsibilities for measuring the progress, health and success of the workplace.
5. Select a platform based on confirmed user needs and approved processes, goals, services, tools and future scenarios.
6. Create a maintenance plan and governance strategy.
7. Build a business case for evaluating the long-term effects of the investment.
8. Produce an implementation and roll-out plan, in which your solution areas are prioritized.

Keep an eye out for our next blog post in this series, in which we’ll discuss how you can structure your digital workplace to boost efficiency!