woman blowing colorful confetti out of her hands
PHOTO: Erik Brolin

I am going to go out on a limb here and say that there's no lack of excellent tools available to support your digital workplace. So what's really important for your digital workplace in 2022 is … your imagination.

Whether your organization runs on Google, a full Microsoft stack, or maybe Slack and Notion, or even an in-house intranet platform built from open-source tools, there are so many good options from a technology standpoint. I am convinced you can find something that will fit your purpose and your budget, and that will work the way you need it to for your organization. This is simply a reflection of the ongoing maturity of the technology sector, plus of course the additional impact of two years of working from home (or some other remote location). One thing I should note: if a specific tools does not live up to the hype, remember that perfect is the enemy of good enough, and if you can get your tools to 75% to 80% good enough, in most cases you will carry the day.

Exploring the Possible With Your Digital Workplace

With the technology side settled, that leaves the other two parts of the triangle: people and processes. You might be like me and add a fourth dimension — information (or knowledge) — to the mix, but that depends on your organization and context, so we can deal with it later.

So what has changed for you as we move into 2022 with respect to how your digital workplace enables your people to do their jobs? I suspect you might be looking to turn a temporary policy developed for COVID into the new normal: things like better supporting access to your digital workplace from wherever your people might be, or broadening the number of processes people can access.

Depending on your business and organizational context, your digital workplace may require a laptop and a VPN connection, or it may be accessible on iOS and Android mobile devices. Wherever you are on that spectrum, is there room for improvement? There might not be, and there is nothing wrong with that. Your organization may not require access from a personal mobile device, perhaps due to security concerns, or an organizational culture that does want you easily accessing work 24/7.

It's difficult to understand why certain business processes might be excluded from the digital workplace. While I have a fair bit of experience, I don’t know everything about how everybody works, so you may have good reasons (beyond time and budget) for excluding some processes from your digital workplace. For example, a legal department has good reasons to not provide a self-service capability to create new draft contracts via the intranet or other digital workplace tools. But what it could allow is creation of a new digital form with a workflow so that legal knows you need a new contract and can assign someone to work with you.

But enough about what you might not want to do with your digital workplace. What do you want to do? There's an open playing field for you to let your imagination rip! No …?

OK, so you are further constrained by organizational strategy and high-level strategic objectives and major initiatives — or are you? If you are workshopping the art of the possible for your digital workplace, forget any constraints and do some blue skies thinking. Once you have completed your truly imaginative ideation, you may need to then bring it back to the world of project plans, budgets and implementation schedules, but that shouldn't stop you from going wild in the first place. Whiteboards and sticky notes, online sessions with your colleagues, just go for it — because you might uncover an awesome idea, which does not fall foul of budgets, technology limits or implementation issues when you bring it back down to reality. Ideating without constraints can help you uncover something of great value which previously escaped notice as you were heads down working on your day jobs.

Let's stick with the legal team example above: someone suggests during a whiteboard session that it would save a lot of time to have self-service generation of draft contracts, using a digital form to capture content that is added to an appropriate document template. On discussing the idea with legal, it turns out they really like to speak with people to understand exactly what they need, especially when the use cases are complex. But they also think the idea could work well for simple non-disclosure agreements. So the outcome is self-service NDA creation — more specific and target than the original idea, but an efficiency win nonetheless.

Related Article: The Invisible Components of Digital Workplace Success

Bringing Your Digital Workplace Vision Into Reality: Further Considerations

So you came up with some great ideas to add value to your organization, to create efficiency savings or to make things better for your colleagues. How do you estimate the costs, develop ROI and present a business case to … wait, who do you present your business case to? Governance is a key aspect of the holistic digital workplace. Hopefully you have a good governance structure in place, with the committees and ownership sorted out, so you know who to take a great idea to. If that's unclear, make sorting out your governance structures your first priority.  

With your governance in place, next up is to decide which business processes your digital workplace upgrade will support and enable. We don’t have digital workplaces for the sake of it, just like we don’t employ new technologies for the fun of it (OK, some of us find it fun). Everything we do should have a clear business focus. The outcome of your ideation exercise could be applied across your whole digital workplace to enhance all supported processes, or it may focus on one particular process. Either answer is fine. Different organizations have different budgets, resources and risk appetites where it comes to what you can take on in 2022.

Next up, the fourth dimension I mentioned earlier: information. How much emphasis you place on information access and retrieval within your digital workplace depends on your industry and your organizational context. However, search is an important part of nearly all digital workplaces, whether you are searching for forms or apps to allow you to actually do something, or dashboards and reports for decision support, so I would suggest keeping that extra dimension in mind.

Related Article: Technology Alone Is Never the Answer

Set Your Imagination Free

The technology is available to let us create and maintain really great digital workplaces. That means we can focus on people and process. We can let our imaginations run free, and ignore any constraints while imagining what comes next for our digital workplaces. Whatever you want to do, you will be able to find the tech to do it, so what is it you really want to do? What is going to move the needle for your business?

I hope you can find an exciting way to advance your digital workplace, and I hope you have fun doing it.