Which Concept of the Digital Workplace is Best for You?
The digital workplace is here to stay. But what exactly does the term ‘digital workplace’ mean? Is it in danger of becoming a buzzword? Is there a meaningful definition that works best for your business, or, by incorporating elements of several definitions, can you develop a concept that brings clarity and simplicity to your digital workplace and intranet software strategy?
The concept of a ‘digital workplace’ originated in 2008 to describe the huge changes impacting on the workplace, and it is often used in preference to the somewhat more staid ‘intranet’. Intranet software is still a huge part of how the digital workplace functions, but the concept is still emerging and morphing with time. So which version of the digital workplace is the one your business is working towards?
The intranet plus other connected software
Traditionally, the intranet has been the repository for company information. Neither particularly inspiring or dynamic, the “intranet plus…” concept embraces the way the traditional intranet links to HR systems, RSS feeds, internal social media, and other collaborative tools and how all of that is encompassed in the digital workplace with Google docs, MS Office, web conferencing, email and other productivity tools. But the digital workplace is often much wider than simply being intranet led.
Company provided digital tools
By focusing on the way that employees increasingly rely on digital tools to do their job, this is probably the definition that applies to your digital workplace, particularly in a large organisation. However, by being unboundaried, it’s difficult to measure the impact of those tools on the workplace.
The technology you use to get work done
This concept is closer to what happens in companies where there’s a bleedthrough between office and home work. By focusing on the individual, it recognises the way we all customise tools to get the job done, working on a range of devices. The digital workplace is different for everyone, yet this definition can fit a freelancer or the head of a big corporation. More complex than the idea of a company led set of tools, this definition comes closest to the way we work now – on work PCs and home tablets, with appropriate tools for each physical workplace.
The digital workplace as the intersection between individuals, organisations and technology
This definition recognises three things: that technology is at the heart of the digital workplace, that organisational development is key to that concept, and that people are at the very heart of managing the digital workplace.
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It’s an ecosystem
If you ask most people to define “digital workplace”, this is where the conversation would start. It’s a definition that accepts that we all work in a different place now – not a physical office but a virtual one. It’s a definition that Microsoft are keying into with their new virtual workplace where real people can interact in a virtual space. The idea of the digital workplace as a place where people interact, just like the office, is interesting because it plays into two key ideas – that the digital workplace is something that employees ‘consume’ and that it’s not a fixed place but an evolving concept. The digital workplace as an ecosystem is based firmly on the idea that this is somewhere that people physically ‘go’ to work, to share information and to collaborate, just as they would in the real world.
Somewhere in the ether
This is about the social concept of our use of the digital workplace – that we are all, at any time, able to connect to each other through technology. Not only can we work from anywhere, but we’re changing our behaviour, the way we connect to one another, and the way we understand the concept of work as the economy is changed by the great digital current we all now swim in. The fluidity and dynamism of this definition comes closest to our lived experience of the digital world, but if your company is only starting to implement a digital workplace, and remains intranet software centred, this one is a tough sell for managers for that very reason.
The experience of work delivered through software and connected devices
If you’re a digital workplace manager, this is likely to be the most workable definition for you. This definition is focused on delivering a content rich environment for users, in the same way that you might rebrand marketing and customer support under the umbrella ‘customer experience’. This definition attempts to measure the meaning and impact delivered by technology, and the way the concept of the digital workplace can move beyond intranet software and the IT department to embrace Human Resources and internal communications to a wider sense of your organisation’s culture. It acknowledges the broader impact the digital workplace can have by building on employee engagement and collaboration through a user focused approach.