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PHOTO: Djim Loic on Unsplash.

There's no time like the present to take a hard look at your digital workplace strategy. With much of the world still in lockdown from the COVID-19 crisis, many businesses have been forced to move to a remote or distributed workforce, change their business models, and overhaul the way they work.

Technology companies have been proactively finding ways to help businesses operate while under duress with new software tools and new features added to revamped older tools. The focus during the early days was sustaining business. Now, it’s time to review and update the digital workplace roadmap in order to remain profitable and be ready for the next hurdle that comes along.

“This mass trial for work anywhere, whether home or office, has fundamentally changed the way we work forever, forcing companies to re-evaluate their current digital strategies to ensure they can still achieve their goals and objectives while working remotely," said Lisa Dodman, chief people officer at Unit4.

Revisiting digital workplace strategy now gives organizations a chance to learn what others have done to improve, revise and revamp their digital workplace strategies.

Why Digital Workplace Strategy?

Just what is meant by the term digital workplace? The Gartner group defined the digital workplace as something that “enables new, more effective ways of working; raises employee engagement and agility; and exploits consumer-oriented styles and technologies.” As that definition highlights, digital culture permeates society.

It’s hard to imagine a business today that does not have a digital element. Whether a business is strictly online or brick and mortar, there is always a technology infrastructure that forms the backbone of that business, and every employee is a part of the digital society that we live in. They use mobile phones to communicate with business associates, family and friends. They subscribe to streaming music and video services, social media and use apps to pay their bills. Technology is a normal part of their lives.

It’s not just enterprise businesses that should have a digital workplace strategy that covers software, hardware, digital culture, policies, onboarding, employee experience, corporate social responsibility policy, customer experience, ongoing employee learning, social interaction, web presences and every other aspect of digital transformation and the people who interact with a business.

Related Article: The Digital Workplace Accelerates

How Often Should Businesses Revisit Digital Workplace Strategy?

It's not surprising that business leaders have their own opinions on revising their digital workplace strategies, but what is surprising is that the leaders varied so widely in their opinions on the frequency. Here is a sample of responses from leaders in the United States, the UK and Australia:

  • “I feel like they should be kept updated and should be revisited every month.” Andrew Roderick, CEO of Credit Repair Companies.
  • “I personally feel that it is best to revisit your digital workplace roadmap at least twice a year simply because a lot can change in six months.” Matthew Dailly, managing director of Tiger Financial.
  • “I say visit your digital workplace strategy at least once a week to keep track of how your business has been doing every day, then motivate yourself to set expectations and goals from it.” Laurie Wilkins, founder of Call Outdoors.
  • “Companies should revisit their digital workplace strategy yearly.” Max Harland, CEO of Dentaly.
  • “I’d recommend revisiting your digital workplace strategy on a monthly basis.” Fraser Wilson, head of marketing at AnswerConnect.
  • “These strategies and their effectiveness should be monitored day-to-day, but really reviewed on a quarterly basis.” Josh Koenig, co-founder and head of products at Pantheon.

There is no hard-and-fast rule that applies to every company and each business should evaluate their requirements and decide for themselves how often they need to take a look at their digital workplace strategy. For some, the process happens yearly. For others, it's bi-annually or quarterly while other businesses may find that monthly or even weekly strategy sessions are in order.

“Digital workplace strategies in the future must be as dynamic as you want your business to be," Koenig said. "Growth requires action.”

Related Article: Who Owns Digital Workplace Strategy?

Be Proactive with Digital Workplace Strategy

Being proactive means not waiting for a crisis or problem to address issues. In the digital workplace, that means ensuring employees have the tools they need to get their jobs done, that the system is running smoothly, and there are no security issues.

Amy McWaters, CEO of The Hamper Emporium, an online gift hamper retailer out of Australia, said she makes security a priority. “Our IT manager does penetration testing on our network every six months," she said. "Any critical update to our infrastructure, software or policies entails additional stress testing. Network security is the foundation of a healthy digital workplace. As CEO, I regularly check the soundness of our network and make adjustments as needed.”

The employee journey is also important to McWaters. Although she does not believe in fixing something that is not broken, she actively listens to employees, especially regarding the software they use. “On at least a yearly basis, I gather formal feedback via a survey on our company-wide digital tools and communication platforms," she said. "I am also always keeping an ear out for anecdotal feedback and having my IT manager do the same. In either case, I'm seeking to understand how I can leverage digital tools to help my employees best do their jobs.”

Those businesses that prepared for a crisis before COVID were miles ahead of those that didn’t. Those who already had a remote workplace strategy were ready to jump in with both feet, others struggled to adjust to the new normal. Josh Koenig, co-founder and head of products at Pantheon, a WebOps platform provider, said his company's resilience was based on being proactive with their digital workplace strategy all along. The company has focused on cloud technology and platform agility, making the transition to remote work relatively seamless. 

“This enabled us to remain focused on supporting our customers and partners, who were themselves going through a significant period of upheaval," Koenig said. "During this period we were revisiting our remote work policies and approaches on a weekly basis to stay ahead of the curve.”

Koenig stressed that if a business hasn’t already put a digital workplace strategy into action, they should not wait. “Any company without a strategy to support a remote workforce, cross-functional collaboration, continuous delivery, iteration and measurement should revisit their strategy now,” he said.

Related Article: Who Is On Your Digital Workplace Dream Team?

Make Decisions Based On Data

With new software being released every day and updates on a regular basis, it’s tempting to jump into a new suite of tools or a digital experience platform, or DXP, because they seem like a one-stop solution. But leaders need to ask themselves if it’s actually required. Businesses run the risk of not thinking things through based on their real needs.

"While the idea of obtaining a single software suite or DXP might seem appealing from the ‘one throat to choke’ perspective, that prioritizes risk aversion over growth and innovation," Koenig said. "In a fast-moving disrupt or die environment, playing it safe can be the riskiest way to go.”

Data should play a role in decision-making with key performance indicators attached to the tools you're looking to deploy. "With all metrics, it’s important to establish a baseline in order to make a good decision, which typically takes at least a few months, so it’s unlikely you would iterate faster than that,” Koenig said.

Further, that data should be linked to company performance, team productivity, and employee engagement, he said.

Ivan Kot, senior manager at Itransition, said it’s crucial to constantly analyze the data about platform usage. "Yes, a digital workplace strategy should always align with the overall business goals," he said. "However, any decisions on workplace platform refinement should always be based on insights sourced from user engagement data. If you want to see ROI, make routine data analysis a fundamental part of your digital workplace strategy.”

Related Article: Connect Digital Workplace Strategy to Employee Experience

Can Employees Find the Information They Need?

One sign that it’s time to revisit digital workplace strategy is when employees can’t easily find information they are looking for. According to research from digital literacy expert Elizabeth Marsh, 21% of employee productivity is lost through the process of locating and managing information. Managers themselves spend two hours per day searching for information.

Kot said it's on leaders to ensure employees can easily access the information they need. "An average digital workplace user spends about 20% of their time navigating through often chaotic and complicated intranet trees, which decreases efficiency and increases frustration," he said. "While a complete revamp of the system is a very ambitious idea, start introducing minor improvements that rationalize workflows and enable a more consistent digital workplace experience.”

A chaotic or unorganized intranet is only part of the problem. Being unable to locate information is doubly frustrating for employees because most people consider themselves to be effective data searchers. They do it on Google all the time. Google has redefined user expectations for search, but unfortunately, it creates an unreasonable expectation.

“Users are not good at searching and neither are they trained to do so," said Chris Tubb, digital workplace and intranet consultant for Spark Trajectory. "Google does not train them to do so because they are usually searching in non-domain topics and are easily satisfied."

Compounding the problem is that much of the data is not accurately defined by metadata, making it hard to locate. It all comes down to what Tubb refers to as findability. Enterprise search often fails because business data can’t be easily found. "My current feeling towards enterprise search is that most organizations are not able to implement it in an economically viable way as employees aren't able to describe their contributed content to the extent to make it findable," he said.

Changes that make information easier to find do not and should not be drastic or all-encompassing. Even minor improvements make a difference. “While a complete revamp of the system is a very ambitious idea, start introducing minor improvements that rationalize workflows and enable a more consistent digital workplace experience,” Kot said. 

Business today changes on a weekly or even daily basis. In response, digital workplace strategy must be agile, with the ability to adapt along with the needs of the business, its employees and its customers. “To keep up and provide our people the support they need, digital workplace strategies must be extremely dynamic, responsive and agile,” Koenig said.