digital workplace
All workers today want flexibility, benefits and recognition for hard work. PHOTO: Tim Gouw

If the ongoing discussion about the digital workplace has focused, to a large extent, on global workplace strategies and implementing polices to ensure that work does not get fragmented, enterprises will also have to decide how they are going to tie everything together, what apps they are going to use and whether they will use those apps in the cloud or keep them on premises for the sake of security.

Intranets And Digital Workplace

The problem is akin to the problems posed by the emergence of intranets in the 1990s, which gave workers a single access point to apps used across the business and in doing so made internal communications between teams relatively easy. Today's digital workplace goes beyond what intranets were designed to offer. A well-built digital workplace allows workers to communicate not just across the enterprises, but with external workers, partners and customers as well. Web-based technologies have significantly evolved to support these new scenarios and attempt to manage new needs as they emerge. 

According to Jeff Corbin, CEO and founder of APPrise Mobile, having the appropriate communications technologies in place both between employer and employee as well as employee and employee is key to a productive digital workplace. However, it's not about the number of technologies implemented, but rather their effectiveness. “A few things to consider in this regard; first, the end-user experience is of utmost importance and the old adage, less is more is critical to developing successful tools for the digital workplace. Second, when considering the many communications tools and platforms currently available in the workplace — messaging, collaboration, VoIP — it's not about being diplomatic and giving your employees a choice. Rather give them what they want with an improved experience,” says Corbin.

He also points out that as content is at the center of everything in the digital workplace it’s unlikely that there will be just one content platform that will satisfy all of an organization's needs.

So what do you need to build a digital workplace? There are clearly dozens of different apps that could be deployed. Ultimately, though, it depends on what you want to do. That said, a number of technologies are consistently mentioned when enterprise leaders start talking about digital workplace. Here are some of the most commonly cited elements of digital workplaces that mentioned when talking to enterprise leaders.

1. Strategy

While forming a strategy may not be a new form of technology in itself, having a good one laid out is imperative for making a success out of your business. This means doing market research, understanding what your goals are regarding the use of new technology as well as defining how it could actually help specific areas of your business and how you’d be able to implement it. Strategizing will affect the outcome of everything you do in business, so be sure to focus on this before you do anything else, as it drives business more than technology in reality.

2. Discussion platforms

The advent of the internet and modern technology has allowed companies and businesses to reach out to their clientele or general market more than ever before. Using discussion platforms on social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook or on your own website means that you can now change your strategy or approach more effectively than ever before. It also means that you can market new services or technology directly to your market and receive feedback through the same channel.

3. Project Management

Once an enterprise has figured out what it is going to do and which industry or specific work-related apps are needed, it is important for enterprises to focus on accurate project management. Ensuring that your team is running on schedule and that you’re meeting your required goals or targets effectively is important for ensuring that your business survives in increasingly competitive work environments.

4. Electronic Accounting Services

This may not sound like something that most businesses take into consideration at first, but having an automated ledger of all your costs and incomes, as well as being able to set up automated payments or place penalty fees on late payments, etc., can save you a great deal of time, money and stress.

There are a number of relatively cheap packages on the market at the moment, which can do a wide variety of accounting-based tasks. Many are offered in both cloud-form (online) or can be installed on your work machines independent of the internet.

5. Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence (AI) chatbots can help power essential business processes like HR, IT and Sales, and can be a beneficial tool for any enterprise or business in the digital workplace, according to Ravi N. Raj, CEO and co-founder of CEO & Co-founder at Passage AI. “While many suggest that AI bots take jobs away from workers, automation helps the workforce focus on more engaging tasks and eliminate repetitive ones,” he says.

6. Chatbots

Raj added that the most obvious use case is for customer service. A customer service chatbot, deployed via the website most often, is ideal for answering repetitive questions, those frequently asked questions that have been already answered earlier. In many cases, questions asked by customers have typically been asked before. In situations like this, a chatbot is able to immediately respond to customers questions, while reducing the workload on customer service agents. “A customer service chatbot can always handoff a customer’s request if the bot is not able to answer it or a customer can opt to go to a live agent and wait for the live agent to respond. This way of human augmentation is far more useful if a bot to service customers’ requests immediately, 24X7 and in a high quality manner," he says.

7. Collaborative Culture

Latane Conant is CMO at Indiana based, global tech services company Appirio. She believes that companies that make investments in CRM systems, like Salesforce, tend to have a more collaborative culture and are better able to enable consistent business processes. “Having enterprise technology in place like mobile apps and a social intranet help keep workers engaged. Collaboration tools like Chatter, Salesforce’s enterprise social network, are a great way to not only improve employee engagement, but also serve as a way for management and HR to keep a finger on the pulse of the business,” she says.

8. Security

The Content Marketing Manager at San Francisco-based Beekeeper, an organization that builds a range of apps for non-deskbound workers, Alexandra Zamolo, told CMSWire that content security is key for any digital workplace. "Securing company data means adopting sophisticated firewall protection, high-caliber encryption, and budgeting in regular security audits. For dispersed workforces, making sure your digital workplace tool functions across a wide variety of devices and allows for real-time communication are two crucial steps to keeping up retention and engagement,” she says.

Other engagement tactics include using a Single Sign-on (SSO) so that employees can log in across a variety of tools at the same time with ease, as well as creating open communication channels where employees at all levels can have their voice be heard.

9. Cloud Infrastructure

Jim Somers VP of Marketing and Collaboration at LogMeIn, a Boston-based company believes that specialized communication and conferencing software, as well as  customer engagement applications are the great enablers of digital workplaces.

He pointed out that businesses can save a lot of money by adopting the cloud to buy applications and systems as services, rather than investing in expensive in-house infrastructure. “The cloud is becoming an essential component for businesses converting to a digital workspace. This is because a cloud platform enables employees to access documents, data storage, and collaboration tools from wherever they may be based, at any time of day,” he says.

10. Video Conferencing

He also believes video conferencing capabilities ensure that employees who have a remote digital workspace can still have face-to-face time with team members. These collaboration tools can also save money and help to develop better relationships with customers and clients as your staff can hold virtual meetings outside of traditional working hours, and without the time and costs associated with traveling.