Fascinating digital workplace trends to inspire your 2017

Our Consulting team work with a diverse, ever-changing set of organisations with completely different needs and requirements from their digital workplace. This gives us tremendous insight into the trends that start to form within the enterprise, helping to shape our intranet offering, Unily.

A group of friends happy about enterprise trends

A look at enterprise trends

Our Consulting team work with a diverse, ever-changing set of organizations with completely different needs and requirements from their digital workplace. This gives us tremendous insight into the trends that start to form within the enterprise, helping to shape our intranet offering, Unily. As 2017 kicks off, our Consulting team sat down to compile some of the trends that we see getting bigger and bigger in 2017. If you have any part in your company’s digital workplace initiatives, here’s some fascinating themes you should be aware of.

An agile approach is the only way for digital workplace success

In 2017, if you are embarking on a new digital workplace or a refresh of a current one - you need to think agile. Agile is often an overused term but approaching all elements of your intranet in this way can improve its impact to the business, taking a more flexible approach to allow your digital workplace to develop and grow as your organization does.

The benefit of being agile is speed to market - launch your intranet quickly so can start to see how the end-users will really use it. In our experience, getting the core functionality to the business should be the first priority, get your people directory in shape, your communication platform in place and get users engaged.

Once you have people using the platform you can utilize feedback and analytics to see where to improve next and to help plan out a roadmap. Use champion networks on the ground to gleam information, speak to leadership on their priorities and draw up a content plant that is constantly improving.

Depending on your business, phase two could be piloting collaboration tools, integrating social or working on knowledge management initiatives. The benefit of being flexible is you can prioritize and focus on key areas of functionality.

They key thing is you can’t tackle everything for your initial launch (unless you want to be waiting 18 months!). Identify the initial need and then have a plan in place to keep the digital workplace ‘living and breathing’. Over the past year we have seen many of our clients succeeding with this project approach and we envisage this becoming more popular during 2017.

One intranet product does the work of multiple platforms

We are frequently being asked to define which intranet features of our Unily product fit to specific organizational needs. However, the reality shows that is rarely straightforward to define. We’ve found that one product with the same set of functionalities can be positioned very differently and deliver different benefits depending on the business that takes it on (or even which part of the business manages the project).

We have customers who invest into the intranet solution for a business-wide communication platform and to promote engagement and social interactions. We have customers that use our intranet product to drive efficiency in their business, and focus on bringing all day-to-day tools to their employees’ finger-tips. Some customers focus on knowledge management and structure the intranet around their organizational knowledge bases in order to enhance the findability of subject matter experts within their business.

Year on year, the approaches that drive our customers grow. In 2017 we want to explore these scenarios further to see how one product can be used in a variety of different scenarios depending on the business needs it aims to solve.

Intranet solutions will need to focus more on transactional tasks

With the rise of intranet as a service solutions and an ever-increasing focus on the user within intranet and digital workplace solutions, we see solutions centered on simplicity, design and ease of use. This has inevitably changed the way the market now views intranet and digital workplace tools, and by extension whom the owners of said platforms should be. More frequently now at Unily departments like Comms, HR and Marketing lead on new digital workplace initiatives, as opposed to IT.

It seems that with the rise of lightweight and rapidly deployable solutions, many of which require a lot less technical skill and knowledge, the complexity and to a certain extent the capability of these new platforms is not being exploited. As intranets-as-a-service become a market norm, the new question in 2017 will be “how do we complete more complex work, tasks and actions within our digital workplace?” In Clearbox Consulting’s 2017 Intranet-in-a-Box report, only 23% of 26 solutions offered sufficient transactional functionalities. Here at Unily we see a move towards ever more transactional solutions, which not only support the completion of day-to-day business tasks, but also form a further level of user engagement, above and beyond what great design has to offer. This new direction will be directly building on our definition of a digital workplace as a tool that aggregates and supports the completion of many different forms of work from one location, with increasing requests for platforms like Unily to support workflow, forms and task management.

As-a-Service solutions need to be customized and integrated

2016 saw some awesome innovations from Microsoft including Teams and Groups to name just a couple. As Microsoft continues to release new products for the digital workplace, as well as every other software vendor, it’s becoming more and more important to grow your digital workplace on a platform that allows for integrations and customizations. Enhancing the base platform for specific client needs e.g. connecting further with Office 365, direct links with applications, consuming information from a custom data feed or end point, third party application integration and hybrid search integration. These are becoming commonplace customizations for our intranet-as-a-service product Unily, allowing enterprises to use the platform as a central point of entry for the global workforce.

In 2017, we’ll see more and more organizations customizing out-of-the-box platforms to enhance connectivity and a growing importance on solutions being agnostic, for example integrating with Dropbox over OneDrive.

Why content curation will be more important that machine intelligence

The promise of artificial intelligence is affecting all aspects of how we live and work. In our workplaces — whether you are a legal secretary or in customer support — machine intelligence is making considerable inroads into automating often repetitive tasks such as processing insurance claims or helping triage callers support queries with the right answers.

We can expect many more examples in 2017 of how machine intelligence will play an ever-greater role in how many organizations get to benefit from using huge amounts of data in order to glean key insights of how their customers, markets and systems are interacting with them.

However, while the potential of machine intelligence is not to be dismissed, its mistaken to believe that computing power will replace human decision-making. Asking a robot to be creative or make a judgment will be like asking it to take a leap of faith into the unknown. How it 'thinks' will only be as good as the algorithms that a human has programmed make it understand a problem.

Compared to a machine, what humans are especially good at is our ability to curate and hold multiple ideas all at once. And then to draw them together in new ways. For example, when it comes to deciding what to do next, the smartest machine will at best reveal an answer solely based on what it already knows: from patterns in the data. However, it will never be able to infer new ideas or draw different conclusions that may be the result of ignoring the evidence and deciding to try something new.

That requires more than certainty. It requires imagination, ingenuity and creativity. Only humans can do that. So let's use machines to process the data. But when it comes to curating new ideas, lets leave that up to us.

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