The requirements for a digital workplace are manifold, as are the ways in which they are implemented. When a digital workplace is introduced, the digital tools are crucial because they can enable employees to work faster and more productively – or they can hinder them in their daily work tasks if they are chosen incorrectly.
Five requirements for a digital workplace
The term “digital workplace” describes our modern working world like no other, but it also makes it clear that digitization does not stop at the marketing and sale of products, or at the customer experience. Rather, it is also about the digital “employee experience”, i.e. companies should not only look outwards, but also inwards – at their processes and workflows and how employees handle them. According to experts, five requirements for a digital workplace are decisive for its successful establishment:
The first requirement of a modern digital workplace should always be that it should simplify. Traditional organizational models, business software or workflows are often unnecessarily complex and multi-layered, often resulting in inefficiencies and long learning curves. A so-called digital workplace should promote the responsibility and autonomy of employees and this also means avoiding unnecessary and slow bureaucratic hurdles and eliminating work that does not add value for the desired result.
2. social networking
Social media have changed the way we connect and network with other people, the way ideas spread across the world. In-house social applications also allow employees to network with each other and share ideas and thoughts. This in turn leads to hierarchical structures being broken down and work processes taking place much more naturally.
Openness and transparency are important factors in creating a modern digital workplace and something that employees expect: Who works, when and with whom, and on what? Blocking and withholding information does not work if the rate of change is otherwise so high. Digital workplaces are fundamentally about enabling the free flow of information and thus strengthening the exchange of ideas and information across traditional silos and departments.
Advances in the areas of machine learning or artificial intelligence are happening at breathtaking speed today and this also means that new practical applications for the digital workplace are constantly being created. But progress is not just about intelligent technologies: Attitudes need to change and people need to embrace change so that the world of work and the way we work can actually change. Smart workers who perform smart processes, supported by appropriate intelligent applications, will be the driving force that will ensure a further increase in productivity.
Mobility is a core component for the modern employee and a requirement for a digital workplace. Today’s world is moving forward at a rapid pace and today’s workforce must therefore be independent of the traditional workplace configuration, which ties the employee to a fixed desk, in front of a fixed computer monitor. An effective digital workplace must adapt to more flexible working conditions where the worker and the work to be done determine how, where and when that work is done – whether it’s actually in the office, on the tablet on the way to a meeting or even from the home office.
Mobility is an important point and should therefore be examined a little more intensively than the other four aspects: When we talk about mobility, we are not just talking about native apps for smartphones and tablet computers, but about a broader question, namely the human component, how and where people work and what role mobile and fixed computer solutions play in this. Hardly anyone, for example, will enjoy coming into an office in the morning just to start work on a small smartphone – instead of a comfortable, large monitor. So not everything that is mobile makes sense.
To take a look at current trends: Today, most people still access corporate networks from a desktop computer – in contrast to the private context, where many users prefer a smartphone when it comes to using the Internet. A second trend is important here: smartphone and tablet users spend around 80 percent of their time with apps instead of using mobile web browsers, which companies should consider when providing internal services.
Mobile devices complement the digital workplace
However, as noted, this does not mean that mobile devices will completely replace desktop and laptop computers. Only a very small proportion of users use mobile devices exclusively. The vast majority use a combination of both – depending on the context of use, task and corresponding functionality. It can therefore be assumed that both will continue to coexist in the future: Native apps and browser-based applications will be part of the digital workplace for many years to come.
The intranet will also continue to play a role as a central requirement of a digital workplace. So far, there are actually no approaches to convert the existing intranet into an app form and abolish the browser. However, as with normal Internet use, apps will play an increasingly important accompanying role. Modern intranets, for example, place greater emphasis on visual presentation, which allows mobile access. So-called Enterprise Social Networks (ESN) also have an influence on traditional intranet concepts. ESNs prepare a platform for a more organic flow of information based on the activities of their users – depending on what they “like” or what connections they make. ESNs are more dynamic and social in design. In the future, usage may indeed shift towards ESNs and away from traditional intranets. In many cases, however, both will merge into a common platform that seamlessly combines the capabilities of both to bring out the best in each other. Together, ESN and intranet will create the core of a typical digital workplace.
The right strategy combines desktop computing and mobile apps for the digital workplace
One thing should have become clear: Anyone working on a strategy for coping with the demands of a digital workplace must not ignore the “mobile” aspect. Too many employees are already no longer working permanently at a fixed workplace in the office because their job demands it. Just think of consultants or salespeople who have to work a lot while on the road. Technology is also making continuous progress. So it doesn’t help to simply pre-plan for traditional desktop computing – and completely forget about mobile applications. The minimum is to ensure that the intranet is “responsive”, i.e. that it can be accessed and used on mobile devices without display problems. It would also make sense to think about native apps that allow and bundle certain functions: Reading news, looking up people in the company or booking a conference room directly from on the road. Anyone planning for the future should therefore know who the employees are and what their needs and devices are, so that the digital workplace can be tailored accordingly.
The limits of what is possible are constantly shifting, and so the digital workplace will have to keep evolving in the future. Companies must take this into account and address mobility accordingly: through “responsive” designs, native apps and hybrid approaches. The desktop computer will not disappear at first. In the foreseeable future, the digital workplace will continue to combine fixed workstations and mobile applications – and this must be taken into account in any strategy for the mobile workplace.