Evolution of the digital workplace

By Stephen Duncan

The concept of a fully enabled digital work environment, or digital workplace, has been a hot topic over the last few years. This concept of individuals moving around their offices unencumbered and working externally without barriers is becoming more and more a reality.

Driven primarily by the advancements and commercialisation of digital platforms, organisations have never been in a better position to digitally transform their information, operations and work environments to support digital workplaces.

The question for many organisations is how do you sustain organisational control, or business continuity, for example if people are working remotely? Or how do you ensure processes are maintained so staff and managers can contribute as effectively and efficiently as if they were located in the office. 

Let’s start by defining ‘what is a digital workplace?’ A number of experts have described it as a virtual equivalent to the physical workplace.

Others will go on to say it provides an ecosystem of digital services enabling users to get their tasks done more efficiently, regardless of where they need to be performed. From a corporate perspective, it extends the organisation’s ability to effectively transact with partners and customers to provide better services. 

For some industries, transforming the organisation into a digital environment has become less a choice than a necessity. Particularly where customer expectations are driving the evolution. The retail industry for example, has consumers asking for instant access to competitive information via smartphones and web apps. This has placed pressure on bricks and mortar retailers to move into the digital age, so they can respond to the clock speed of the customer.

Retailers are also discovering new ways of stepping away from their traditional sales counter model and finding technology to service customers on the floor.

Regulated industries

But what about those industries that are highly regulated such as government agencies. Many are feeling the pressure of digital customer expectations with the demand for better and more efficient digital services.

Their unique challenge is how to implement a more digitally enabled environment without impacting the security or information governance of the content they manage. 

For regulated industries, particularly those without comprehensive IT infrastructures or CIOs to oversee the transition to digital work environments a comprehensive digital transformation project might appear overwhelming. These organisations generally have digital work environments that are overly complex, if not completely fragmented and disconnected with a variety of user interfaces and experiences.

But there is a path forward, as AIIM highlight in their recent whitepaper Digitally Transforming Government with Good Governance – ‘Governance provides the foundation supporting digital transformation, and in turn, governance becomes the foundation upon which the information ecosystem is built and grown’

A logical start would be to evaluate the Enterprise Content Management (ECM) System. With a robust ECM system, established digital policy and integrated systems, information governance becomes simply something that happens without impacting the flow of information.

This means that organisations can focus on their digital delivery platforms with confidence as they transform in a digital workplace.

For example:

  • Users of SharePoint might start to explore how they can access and work on content from multiple devices and in different formats, depending on their tasks.
  • Microsoft Office 365 becomes a tool to increase productivity without impacting the governance of information as users start to access applications via the cloud?
  • OneDrive and OneNote application toolsets can be confidently deployed to extend the portability of the workforce while ensuring good governance.
  • Line of business applications and even other information repositories can be integrated to form a single source of the truth

The reality is everyone is already part of a digital workplace – even if it’s just using email or shared drives. The issue is a lack of an agile model around how to extend these and provide an ecosystem of security, control and governance that makes the wider environment easier to use and provides the context, security and governance many organisations require.

The goal is to have a strategic plan, one that involves all areas of the business and is supported from top down. A digital workplace can ultimately means that employees can be more productive, which leads to agility and better customer service.

Stephen Duncan is Product Marketing Manager at  Objective Corporation.