In the name of digital transformation, companies have invested in numerous applications and systems to boost productivity and employee engagement. However, what actually happens is that companies purchase and force employees to use lots of tools without proper integration into existing systems and processes, training, or documented best practices.
While digital transformation focuses on processes and tools, digital workspace focuses on the employee experience. It provides employees with a platform that makes it easy for employees to get the most out of the new tools of digital transformation.
In a world where apps are the latest new tools and gadgets that do all kinds of fantastic things, think about the digital workplace as your workbench to organize the tools and workspace so that you can still efficiently leverage their capabilities.
In my view, a digital workplace is a simple, borderless, single interface between a person and their applications. This might seem like a simple definition, but let's drill into some of the details.
First and foremost, a digital workplace is for the people.
When we talk about enterprise systems, they are not designed for the employees. They are designed for the company - for company data, company processes, and company requirements. On top of this a user interface is then designed to make it easier for employees to use the system.
With digital workplace, the employee - the person - is front and center. A digital workplace is designed with the user in mind - for users' data, users' processes, and users' requirements. On top of this, interfaces are built to connect the digital workplace to the enterprise applications and data.
With the number of productivity apps available today, each one with their own web address and login information, a digital workplace must service as a single point of entry to the user. Once I have logged in to my portal, everywhere I go from there, through my digital workplace, my credentials are passed on as needed.
Furthermore, all the productivity tools I require and are part of my enterprise suite, must be reachable easily through my digital workplace.
A very simple way to picture this; after logging in to my portal, I have a menu of apps available, including my ERP, CRM, CAD, HRM, and other productivity tools such as Trello, Confluence, etc. Selecting the app opens it in a ready-to-work state.
Back in the pre-internet days, our physical cubicles served as a de facto limit to our professional life. Once we left our computer terminal, phone, and filing cabinet behind, we were unable to perform almost any work-related function that was required. Naturally, that has changed dramatically with the internet, laptops, and mobile devices. However - this still isn't truly borderless. A true borderless digital workplace should be one where, regardless of which of my many devices I use, I can access exactly where I left off on another device.
Imagine this: you're working on your laptop docked to your monitor, on a presentation for a new widget you've designed in your CAD software. Instead of taking your laptop to the meeting room, you grab your tablet and access your digital workplace, which shows you the same cad design you had open. At the meeting room, you cast your tablet to the screen to share the design details, making notes from everyone's feedback. Back at your desk, you enter your digital workplace and continue working with all the changes noted, seamlessly.
The next day, you're working from home and join the conference call with the engineering team, sharing your design concept through the digital workplace, so that each of them can pick up their components and complete the detailed engineering design.
In other words, a digital workplace is not about giving the user access to company systems from their home, hotel room, or café; it is about delivering on one platform everything the person needs for productivity, regardless of where they are, what they need to do, or what device they use.
I have to admit, "simple" might be, well, oversimplifying the point. The key thing here is to be consumer simple. You have to create a digital workplace that is elegant and functional, that people want to go to, whether it is to find files or read the latest company news. If your digital workplace is essentially an intranet site with some basic document libraries, it isn't a digital workplace.
How easily can a new employee log in and find their org chart, HR documents, and start accessing training material? How quickly can a project leader set up a project team and share documents? From a UX design perspective, a digital workplace has to be slick, there is no other way.
A digital workplace is NOT another tool added to your applications list, it is an expansion of your intranet. It is about turning a fragmented IT landscape of applications into a unified end-user experience. It is the digital hub for communication, collaboration, and governance.
If you want to reach the stratosphere with your digital transformation project, make sure you have a solid plan for a digital workspace.