StitchDX hosted Digital Workplace expert Matt Weston, Powell Software, and two StitchDX clients for a Digital Workplace Summit on Thursday, October 21. The two hours were dedicated to how the digital workplace landscape is changing and the challenges those changes present.
While the summit was filled with good insight and lively discussion, three particular threads of digital workplace challenges (and opportunities) emerged: technological, organizational, and human.
Keynote: Too many tools with too much data in too many places
Lead Powell evangelist Matt Weston kicked off the summit with insightful keynote remarks describing the dramatic changes in what “being at work” looks like. I was particularly struck by his understanding of the complexity of what we consider the “hybrid workplace.”
Busting apart the typical office dichotomy of “remote” or “in-office,” Matt delineated a range of work situations. He wisely pointed out that many employees have an ideal home set-up with excellent WIFI and few distractions while other employees are juggling kids, pets, people at the door, and other interruptions. And those returning to the office may face a modified or reduced office footprint, different protocols, or, simply, less people around.
The thing that unites all these different types of workers is that no matter their situation, they have to connect with each other using digital workplace tools – tools that may be inadequate, new, or designed for a different situation.
The Data: Challenges facing many of us
Discussing some of the key findings in our recent State of the Digital Workplace research study, Brian pointed out that the data supports what Matt was describing. Companies are struggling with how to adapt to the many shades of the hybrid work debate. Some are going back full-time; most are delaying (60%) or have gone fully remote.
Luckily, as Brian pointed to, many companies see investing in their digital workplace as a key part of their strategy (78% said incorporating communication and collaboration tools into their digital workplaces is somewhat or very important). We see this as a critical piece providing both a business edge and a recruiting/retention advantage over companies that are merely “making do” with the technology and approach they implemented on the fly as the pandemic struck.
Technology: True innovation for hybrid work
Anthony McGinnis and Philippe Gomes of Powell Software (our intranet and Teams software partner) described how Powell has focused on identifying challenges businesses were facing and trying to solve them. This is drastically different than just replicating something from the physical world in the digital world.
For example, they demonstrated the various ways Powell Software can help organizations standardize business processes, provide clear governance, and reduce wasted time spent on looking for the right resources.
One clear way they demonstrated this value is through the use of templates for Microsoft Team creation. Providing a well-designed template can allow end users some control to create the teams they need (reducing the drain on IT to do it for them), while providing the guardrails to prevent the sprawl that happens when teams proliferate without oversight.
The Users: “We are not a technology company; we are a company that uses technology for business”
To illustrate how the digital workplace can be successful for two very different companies, Erick led a conversation with Bassam Alqassar of Princess House and Lindsey Walker of ApiJect Systems Corporation.
Princess House, a kitchen good retailer, has a 55-year history and strong tradition of everyone working in the office. When Bassam notes that they were “not a technology company”, he means that his employees had a range of digital skills and comfort levels. His challenge was truly both a technological and a human one.
We helped him solve both through our “MLP” approach. We utilized his investment in O365 and Powell Software but mapped out an incremental approach that helped smooth the transition to the new tools and increase adoption.
ApiJect, a healthcare startup, tells a different story. Although ApiJect was relatively technologically savvy, a migration from Slack and Zoom to Microsoft Teams gave them a “steep learning curve.” For ApiJect, the challenge was not so much in setting up the tools or even employees to use them, it was a challenge of information architecture and governance. Where should they go for what? What tool should they use for which purpose?
The MLP approach provided ApiJect with a different key to success. With so many people using Teams for so much, we are providing some much needed focus. As Lindsey pointed out, “MLP allow us to focus on adoption first. Reducing clicks…Giving people time back is a great way to be loved.”
Three Keys to the Digital Workplace
Given what we heard today from Matt Weston, Brian, Powell Software, Erick and our customers, It’s clear that the importance of the digital workplace is growing by the day. As Erick pointed out, it has transformed the business landscape much as 9/11 transformed the travel landscape.
Understanding that now is the time to get it right and hearing what has worked for others, I see three key elements to a successful digital workplace:
- Templates for repeatable actions
- Good UX
- Useful and relevant information
Templates for Repeatable Actions
No matter whether you are implementing a full-blown intranet, optimizing your use of Teams, or a combination of the above, these elements — plus employee adoption — can help ensure success.
Throughout history, technology has been incredibly good at making repeatable actions easy and efficient. While dramatic leaps in computing power are broadening the scope of what technology can handle, templates still provide real value in handling busines processes. Powell Software demonstrated the use of their Powell Teams templates and ApiJect is using departmental templates to quickly spin up new department sites as they go through a corporate restructuring.
Good UX is Critical
While the technical aspects of a system like SharePoint are powerful and worthy of our time and attention, it is the UX that can make or break a digital workplace. If a system is designed with the end user in mind and aims to solve their problems, it will have a much better chance of succeeding. This includes making the design clean, simple, and intuitive. You can see this in Powell’s approach to things like FlexDesk and the social sharing tools.
Useful and Relevant Information
At the end of the day a digital workplace is only as good as it is useful. Simply put, a digital workplace cannot compete with everything that is asking for employees’ time and attention unless it is making their jobs easier. One of the key questions we get time and time again during our proprietary Discovery Workshops is “how do we provide this useful (document, resource, news story, form, etc.) to our employees so it is right where they can find it when they need it?” If a digital workplace provides information that is useful and relevant, people will use it.
The Summit Was Just the Beginning
There was so much to take in over the two hours, I have really only scratched the surface. Watch for yourself here, or better yet, reach out to us to talk through how a digital workplace can help you meet your challenges. Contact us here or click the orange chat button in the lower right corner.