With an increased number of remote workers, sometimes scattered across the globe, and a vast choice of technology available to use, it’s getting more challenging to unite your enterprise's people, technology, and knowledge. Silos rise between teams and a multi-platform approach eats away at productivity gains. It becomes frustrating for all workers to be held back by inefficient technology and processes, when technology should really be the enabler of potential in the workplace. So what does an effective digital workplace look like?
At Unily, we’ve helped countless global enterprises to unite their workforces since 2006. We know how to use technology efficiently to empower employees to unleash their potential by using a powerful digital workplace. Let us show you what it’s all about.
Simply put, a Digital Workplace is the virtual equivalent of a physical workplace. It’s an ecosystem gathering digital tools, technology, and platforms that people use to do their work. A good Digital Workplace is an environment where workers can access everything they need quickly and easily to do their best work. No more disjointed tools which create silos between teams, inefficiencies in processes and frustrations in our day-to-day work.
"A digital workplace is the virtual equivalent of a physical workplace. It’s an ecosystem gathering digital tools, technology, and platforms that people use to do their work."
The term digital workplace first appeared in the book The Digital Workplace: Designing Groupware Platforms by Charles Grantham and Larry Nichols in 1993. Back then, digital workplace was still a concept reserved to academics and researchers only. Today, however, it’s very well democratized but not always used efficiently.
That’s where digital connectivity comes into play, bringing together all internal and external digital operations into a single coherent strategy. The digital workplace is there to unify business operations and communications with one common platform or via a set of tools and services. When planned and managed correctly, this process enables better staff engagement, operational efficiencies, improved product delivery and increased customer satisfaction. It brings people and tools together efficiently whilst uniting them under the company culture.
Many use intranet and digital workplace interchangeably but they are slightly different. An intranet is a platform which corresponds to one aspect of the broad suite of digital workplace technologies. It’s one tool within the ecosystem that is the digital workplace.
Intranets are usually used for employees only, bringing internal communications and a few tools in one place. It’s a gate to access what employees need to do their work. A digital workplace is the ecosystem and broader strategy around this. It brings internal and external activities together. An intranet can be part of a digital workplace, but you can also have a digital workplace without an intranet. It’s all about your business strategy.
What is the difference between a digital workplace and an intranet?
It may not be an age-old question, but it's certainly one that puzzles a lot of people. What exactly is the difference between an intranet and a digital workplace? Unily has taken this opportunity to define the two and explain why you need both an intranet and a digital workplace platform to get the best out of your employees.
A well-designed and planned digital workplace can help organizations in many ways:
Using technology more efficiently means that you can also reach staff more efficiently. Your digital workplace can have different channels to communicate through but will allow for a unified, consistent messaging as well as a personalized message depending on the occasion. You can therefore choose the best channels for each message and each employee whilst conveying company culture and tone of voice consistently, even when personalizing information.
Unified technology, easy access to tools and documents, and seamless communications tools make collaborating a breeze. Whether it’s within a team, between remote employees, between departments or even countries, the technology within your digital workplace enables collaboration instead of restraining it.
A good digital workplace should provide outstanding user experience. Providing employees with the tools they need, easily accessible, will make their lives so much easier, improving their satisfaction. Giving them personalized content and messaging will also increase their engagement at work. It’s a win-win!
All your organization’s knowledge in one place, easily accessible via powerful, smart search and tagging functionalities, how does that sound? The digital workplace unites knowledge whilst keeping sensitive information secure with user permission and data protection capabilities. This enables information sharing across the whole organization, breaking down silos and opening up opportunities and innovation.
Having all the tools they need at the tips of their fingers, employees can focus on doing what they’re best at. They become more efficient and productive since they don’t waste time trying to find stuff. The easy access to communication and collaboration promotes agile working, making the whole organization quicker to react to change, even for large, global enterprises.
A digital workplace should be built based on these four pillars:
Large scale technology platforms are now cheaper and faster to achieve thanks to cloud-based technology. It can also really speed up the process of solution delivery. Cloud based solutions are also critical because of the way they can enable connectivity between systems and knowledge. When looking at digital workplaces you need to think how it connects with other systems most of which are now cloud based. You need to have a solution that has pre-existing connectivity to other important systems or APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) that allows connectivity. You cannot achieve the level of connectivity and efficiency with on-premise solutions.
People are used to having access to technology anywhere. Providing access to your digital workplace on any device can make a huge difference to your employees’ engagement with it. When you look at mobile access it must be full access, not a stripped back version of the digital workplace on mobile. People want to use their smart phone to do everything they might want to do on their laptop or desktop computer. This isn’t simply a luxury, it is necessity as many of your employees may not have day-to-day, hour-to-hour access to anything other than a smart phone.
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Privacy and security are top-of-mind for most people nowadays, and more so for businesses. Your digital workplace needs to follow data protection best practices.
Don’t expect employees to use your digital workplace if it’s not easy to use. You need to provide simple, intuitive user experience to make their lives easier and make the platform useful.
Beyond the hype: AI and the digital workplace
Will AI take over your job? Or is it changing the fundamental nature of the digital workplace? Together with AI experts from Microsoft and ClearBox's Sam Marshall, Unily aims to dispel popular myths surrounding AI in the digital workplace and bring you real-world examples of how you can employ AI technologies in your digital workplace.
As for many things, all digital workplaces are not created equal. There are a few things to look out for when choosing yours.
Bringing all tools together means that they have to integrate seamlessly within your digital workplace. Having a bunch of tools out of reach defeats the whole purpose.
Customers expect you to know about every interaction they’ve had with your brand. Being able to share customer data intelligently between departments will improve your customer relationship massively.
EX = CX: why you’ll never achieve great customer experience without great employee experience
Virtually every leader understands the importance of top-grade consumer experience. But what about employee experience? While EX might have been overlooked in years past, modern workplaces now recognize the value in offering employees the consumer treatment and are reaping widespread benefits as a result.
There are now so many apps on the market that you don’t need to be stuck with one that doesn’t really do what you want. Instead, ensure you’re working with what you need.
How will you know if your digital workplace is a success? Ensure you can measure the metrics and information that count for your organization. These will be defined in line with your business goals.
If you’re an international organization with teams across the globe, this will come handy. Having a consistent, unified message will be much easier if you can get it translated in the languages of your employees.
Building a digital workplace takes preparation and pragmatism. What you need will highly depend on where you're starting from and where you are aiming to go.
Don't build a digital workplace for the sake of it. Clearly define how it will help you achieve your broader business goals. Identify the problems you're trying to solve to keep you focus on the technology and processes that will help you solve them. Look at both short- and long-term strategies to ensure your digital workplace will evolve with your organization.
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Build personas to understand how people will use the platform and ensure that the technology you'll be using will serve them. Ensure you take into account how your choices will affect the users.
Don't try to force people to use the Digital Platform, it can backfire badly. Instead, provide users with direction such as useful use-cases or examples of what can be done.
There's no point trying to do everything at once. Start with the technology that will best serve your main goals first and allow time to evolve later.
You will need to work hard on your adoption strategy, user support, and communication pre and post launch. Don't expect people to magically adopt it, it will be easier to convince skeptics if you have prepared for it.
10 tips for achieving sky-high intranet adoption
A digital workplace is meaningless if employees aren't engaged with it. Gartner reports year on year growth for IT spending, indicating an arms race amongst enterprises striving to empower their workforce with innovative technology.
Ensure you can analyze relevant metrics to your goals. You will need to report on performance and ROI to the business so make sure you can identify if you're contributing to the overall strategy.
Contact our team for expert guidance on building a digital workplace that is right for you. If you'd like more information on getting employees to buy into your platform, download our digital workplace adoption guide.
It's about time technology stopped slowing you down and actually empowered your employees to do their best work, united by a powerful digital workplace.
Digital workplace adoption guide: everything you need to know
Intranets (as one aspect of the broad suite of digital workplace technologies) tend to suffer from low levels of usage once they’ve been launched, when the initial period of excitement has ebbed away. Download our 12-page guide as we dive into digital workplace adoption, helping you to understand how to plan for it, measure it, and put a strategic plan in place.
Reinvent your intranet for the employee experience era.