The digital workplace is the eco-system of enterprise platforms and services

In preparation for the IOM SUMMIT, we spoke with , one of our keynote speakers. Jane gives us an insight into her speech and her views on the digital workplace:

Jane – as a specialist on Intranet and Digital Workplace strategies you are sharing some insights from your digital workplace research at our upcoming IOM SUMMIT in June. Can you please outline your talk with three tags!

The title of my talk is “The digital workplace: a transformational framework”.

The 3 tags are

  • framework
  • transformational and
  • change facilitation.

What is your definition and concept idea of the digital workplace?

 I define the digital workplace as the eco-system of enterprise platforms and services that enable people to work, collaborate, communicate, develop services and products and better serve customers or the public.

The digital workplace is multi-dimensional:

  • The managed dimension includes business applications and validated, authoritative, reference content. It is primarily internal but extends partially into the client-partner sphere for inter-enterprise projects and processes.
  • The structured collaborative dimension involves teamwork on projects with specific goals, deliverables and timelines. It also extends into the client-partner sphere.
  • The social collaborative dimension is self-organizing. It includes social networking, micro blogging, community-building and other social features such as UGC (user-generated content). It extends from internal into the public sphere.

I recently published a new diagram and wrote about 5 fundamentals for the digital workplace.

The digital workplace concept provides a framework for organizations. It is a transformational framework because it transforms

  • how people work
  • management practices
  • how business value is created

I will talk about the change facilitation challenges organizations are facing today as they go through different phases of transformation. This is often referred to as “change management” but I prefer the term “facilitation”.

From the background of your research what is the motivation of corporations turning towards the concept of the digital workplace and who is driving the idea?

 I’m seeing the change primarily in large organizations. They have special challenges because they are made of up of different business units, agencies or brands located in different places often in different countries. The diversity and geographical spread are two drivers for change.

There are two main types of change triggers:

The first is organizational and strategic. Today, more and more large organizations have “one company” strategies where they are implementing global processes across their different entities, encouraging cross-organizational collaboration and so on. That naturally leads to re-thinking their digital platforms. A landscape of multiple intranets, collaborative spaces and diverse social tools is not conducive to a “one company” strategy. It’s also counter productive for people including management and the workforce. That’s when thinking starts about how the different intranets, collaborative spaces and social tools should fit together to make a coherent digital workplace, one that makes sense from the people viewpoint and the enterprise viewpoint. Enterprise management is driving this change, mainly senior and line management. Middle management tends to be out of the loop, unfortunately, in many cases.

The second change trigger is a combination of new ways of working; in fact I’d say new ways of living! Smartphones, tablets, teleworking, flexi-time and so on. People are driving this change. They are demanding the right to work using the same or similar tools as in their personal lives.

What are the key challenges in realizing a digital workplace initiative?

Change management, or, my preferred term, “change facilitation”. Change facilitation is needed at all levels including senior managers, middle managers, line management and the workforce. It’s one of the things I’ll be talking about at IOM.

So – in order to be successful with the digital workplace we have to start “at the head” – and get the management support and understanding of a new digitalized sharing culture within the enterprise?

 That’s right. There needs to be a sense of urgency. Urgency in a positive sense, not rush and panic. There needs to be a shared vision of how the enterprise needs to change and why it must happen. This understanding needs to exist at the top level and within a distributed community of leaders throughout the organization. The faster critical mass is reached, the more likely change will succeed. I’ve seen many promising starts where the sense of urgency was not shared. The initial energy and enthusiasm was not enough. These projects failed. People got tired and went back to old ways of working.

As a closing question – is the digital workplace the end of the intranet?

No, not at all! The intranet is part of the digital workplace. We’re talking vocabulary here. If “intranet” refers to the managed dimension I described earlier, the difference is that it is becoming a much smaller part of what people need to do their jobs. Proportionally speaking, the social and collaborative dimensions are growing in importance and in volume of information and data.

Five years ago, in 2007, I gave a talk in Frankfurt titled Intranets tomorrow – a glimpse into the future. My key message was that intranets tomorrow will be much more than they are today. Now, 5 years later, that is clearly the case. I know several leading organizations that use the term “intranet” to encompass all three dimensions: managed, structured collaboration and social collaboration. So, again, it depends on how you define the word “intranet”.

There are two key things that are really important:

1. Build a vision of a workplace that extends beyond the office, the computer and the enterprise firewall.

2. Agree on vocabulary within your own organization. Whatever you decide to call it, having common language will save time and help people overcome many obstacles that are sometimes real, but often just a question of understanding.

Jane’s keynote will be on June 19th at 5 p.m. at the session Gestaltung des Enterprise 2.0 Kulturwandels.

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