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PHOTO: Steve Snodgrass

How do you define digital workplace success?

To me, a successful digital workplace is one that helps us get jobs done. 

The idea of the digital workplace emerged from the content-centric world of intranets, as people began to recognize there was more to work than intranet content alone. The expansion of intranet to digital workplace has largely been driven by an acknowledgement of people-to-people connections and the collaboration that these connections facilitate. 

In fact, some have argued that content alone generates no business value unless put into action. And increasingly those actions need to happen with a collaborative, more than individual, approach. But collaboration alone also does not guarantee business value

Just like success, digital workplace maturity is tied closely to how it helps us get our jobs done. 

Taking Care of Business

The business rhetoric around 'show me the ROI' on collaboration is problematic. Few of us work in jobs that have a direct and measurable cost/benefit result. 

Clayton Christensen, the Harvard professor who brought us the theory of “disruptive innovation,” developed the "getting jobs done" theory as a pragmatic means to assess whether business value is being generated or not. 

"Getting Jobs Done" can provide a pragmatic label for value generation and the digital workplace. We also chose this label to describe the most mature stages in enterprise social network (ESN) maturity, a model we believe could be applied more broadly to the digital workplace. 

The model conflates two existing models — one published by Siemens covering the 'Platform' to 'Connecting' stages and Simon Terry’s 'Connections' to 'Innovating' stages — to support the full ESN journey. 


Mapping Your Digital Workplace Maturity

To apply the model within the context of the digital workplace, we break it down by the three broad categories, which includes six phases:

Maturity Phase Key Performance Indicators
1. Social Media: Digital Tool Adoption Percentage of staff use of digital workplace toolsets
2. Social Media: User Engagement/Content Consumption Proportion of content accessed and consumed
3. Social Networking: Connecting Number of online connections between staff, percentage of reciprocal connections
4. Social Networking: Sharing Public vs. Private sharing channels
5. Job Fulfillment: Problem Solving Percentage of response rate to problems posted
6. Job Fulfillment: Innovating Percentage of connections spanning formal lines of business; cross-membership of diverse ESN groups; connectivity of implementation teams

Social Media

The 'Social Media’ phase maps to content repositories like existing intranets, document management systems, data warehouses, blogs and the like. 

The first basic measure of success here is the level to which these digital workplace tools are being used. Another measure is the amount of content created and consumed. 

However, it can be a large gap between making content accessible and getting jobs done, especially when these jobs are interdependent. So measuring tool adoption and content consumption as predictors of job fulfillment is somewhat tenuous, making it all the more important that we articulate maturity phases that reflect how people connect and collaborate — whether focused on content or not. 

Social Networking

The first critical transition point occurs when organizations understand that measuring tool adoption and content consumption alone is not enough to predict collaboration-driven business outcomes. Invariably people will need to connect, collaborate and cooperate in order to deliver business value. 

Businesses can assess the degree to which staff are connecting and sharing using social networking measures, such as the number and density of network connections being created and the degree to which connections are reciprocated. Measuring the proportion of public (e.g. ESN, blogs) versus private (e.g. email, private chat) sharing taking place is a good indicator of whether knowledge sharing is increasing or not. 

Job Fulfillment

As Terry points out, sharing is not enough. A critical transition step happens between ‘Sharing’ and ‘Solving,’ where we migrate from the intangible to the tangible. We used the term ‘Fulfillment’ for this stage, to recognize that jobs can be functional (e.g. delivery fulfillment), but also 'soft' leadership job fulfillment (e.g. building a passionate and cohesive team).

By matching ‘Solving’ and ‘Innovating’ with ‘Jobs Fulfillment,’ we frame useful jobs in terms of the problems they solve, or new capabilities they deliver to your customer. 

Many examples of problem solving websites on the internet. For example, Stack Overflow is a problem-solving community for over seven million software developers, where more expert developers freely volunteer problem solving support for less experienced developers. Many ESNs aim to offer similar problem-solving facilities inside their firewalls. 

Measuring the response rate for questions posed on the ESN is a practical way to measure the degree of problem solving going on.

On the innovation front, we know that innovators require a diversity of thought, connections and experience. Measuring the degree that staff connections bridge the formal lines of business, and/or the degree to which staff participate in multiple ESN communities/groups, can offer good proxies for diversity. When paired with the degree that implementation teams are internally connected, we have measurable predictors for innovation success.