The digital workplace : a reality, a scorecard and many challenges

The 2014edition of the famous Jane McConnell report on the digital workplace has just been issued and is available here. In my opinion it’s a major edition and a turning point in the history of intranets and digital workplace.

Moreover the report is not named “Digital Workplace Trends” anymore but “The Digital Workplace in the Connected Organization”. What an evolution since the editions focused on intranets. But it’s the reflection of a new reality : the digital workplace is not a nebulous futuristic concept anymore but a reality in a growing number of organizations as shown by the results and practices of the 20% most advanced ones among the 314 surveyed.

The digital workplace : at the crossroads of people, organization and technology

First thing : what is the digital workplace ? This year Jane McConnell shares an accomplished and exhaustive definition.

Digital workplace is a blend of people, organization and tools. It must be looked at from three perspectives:

Capabilities: where people and tools come together serving the purposes of individuals, business and the enterprise.

Enablers: where the organization and tools come together in structures and processes, facilitating change.

Mindset: values, expectations and ways of thinking that determine how people and organizations act


What leads to a first comment that, from my point of view, helps to understand the difference between early adopters and tools. Considering the digital workplace from a technology perspective only makes it look like a nebulous and poorly understandable concept and often leads to failure. Of course there’s a technological side but it’s not sufficient to change the way people work, behave and live together at work. Thinking that behaviors and work will change under the impact of technology is a mistake. Things change under the impact of the three dimensions mentioned in the report. Change is the cause, not the consequence.

An original scorecard to drive and measure a Digital Workplace initiative

Another major thing in the report is a brand new original scorecard built upon the characteristics of early adopters than can help to assess one’s project, benchmark and measure the progress made.



Then the study focuses on how to progress in each part of the quadrant based on organizational maturity.

Among the 9 key findings of the survey, I’ll highlight that :

• one of main characteristics of early adopters is the use of collaboration for business purposes. If communities are a part of the organisational design, early adopters integrate collaboration in the flow of work, in particular in project management.

• the digital workplace favor agility and flexibility to serve customer orientation. One more proof that’s it’s easier to drive internal change when it’s pulled by customer facing activities.
• The involvement of operational managers is key to digital transformation. Behavior of operational managers is rated as a key “change drivers” at 17 percentage points higher than 12 months ago. One more evidence that the operational side is key, 50% of early adopters have deployed enterprise-wide business processes to make employees use the digital workplace in their daily work.

• Mobile services will be deployed in 50% of organizations by the end of 2014. Evidence that the digital workplace should not be designed for laptop computers only and need to fit mobile employees needs.

No Digital Workplace without digital working

The report also identifies a couple of implementation scenarios based on the addressed business need.

Then come a series of insightful deep focus on major trends. As a matter of fact this year’s report goes far beyond tools to focus on what’s rather an HR, managerial and operational reality. The overall idea could be that “there’s no digital working without digital workplace”. So the report explores what I’ll call the building blocks of digital working.

• Customer orientation : while customer facing activities used to be siloed in their own applications, they now integrate more and more in the common work environment, giving employees new opportunities to mobilize the right resources to better serve customers.

• Working out loud. Employees share what they do, their activities, concerns. It’s a great way to trigger collaboration because it’s impossible to help people without being aware of their current situation. It also helps to locate people who have faced similar challenges in the past and ask for help and feedback. Last, it help employees to save time by making a part of reporting activities useless. But, in my opinion, businesses should also be aware that working out loud comes with risk and can be time-consuming if not automated by applications. It can also be noisy if the work environment does not make it possible to filter all the signals.

• A new organizational structure : networks and communities are now a part of the organizational design and are the way work is actually done.

• Humanizing the enterprise : employees have more options to decide how they get their work done. BYOD policies, remote work, video which make interactions more authentic contribute to enterprise humanization. It’s also about new ways to learn in a social and collective fashion, embedded into the flow of work.

• Agility : it mainly depends on the ability to locate and mobilize information and people across the organization and is consequently highly related to how content is managed and shared as well as search capabilities.

• The mindset. It’s the critical  side of the digital workplace. It’s a matter of leadership, culture and stragetic assets. If few businesses are managing their digital workplace as a strategic asset, it seems to be an emerging trend. What characterizes early adopters is a strong leadership at the top, a participatory management model (even from HR and communication departments) and a culture that favors teamwork and initiatives.

• The physical office is also changing. If remote work is far from being mainstream, physical spaces become more open and less proprietary to fit with new work models. The physical office also includes the rules that structure work : after having focused to much on technologies, the most mature companies understood that they had to adapt their processes and the way of doing work.

One more evidence that the digital workplace is at least as much a way of living together and a vision of work that a technology matter and that the real challenge is about digital working.

The report also comes with many case studies (23) showing concretely how leading organizations have made progress, based on the digital workplace scorecard.

The Digital workplace in the connected organization” will not only help organizations to elaborate their vision and ambition, benchmark their initiative and measure their progress. A must read.

Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler
Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler

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