05 Jul The Digital Workplace is Not About Software
A New Way of Working and Keys to Success
If you enter “digital workplace” into a search engine, you’ll find some links to vendor pages as well as articles that touch on the different software needed to create a digital workplace. If you really dig, you may find some good information that goes beyond the technology, but I think organizations are still missing the mark. A digital workplace is not about a set of tools you put in place, but about providing a new way of working. This results in employees that are more engaged, efficient, and productive, which in turn makes for satisfied customers and higher revenues.
In fact, the digital workplace is becoming the new reality. More people are working remotely, and with the gig/freelance economy on the rise (now 35% of the U.S. workforce), investing in a digital workplace is win-win. This creates a framework to accommodate this new way of working and resourcing work.
What does a Digital Workplace Look Like for a Worker?
I’ve had the benefit of working solely this way for the last nine months, and I want to share some of my experience and learnings. I started working with Enterprise Strategies last fall, and I’ve yet to meet more than half of the team in person. Yet as a team we still managed to form, storm, and norm the way an onsite team would.
We’re wrapping up a nine-month client engagement with a large insurance firm and I have only met half the client team in-person once during the kick off meetings. Our joint team worked from five states and one other country to collaborate and deliver. Over that time, I worked from my home office (and occasionally couch), at a coffee shop, at a friend’s house, and from family’s houses while visiting them. I took a month-long trip with my family to Europe and while I purposely took the first 10 days completely off (unplug, please!), I was able to work from our hotel in Venice, villa in central Italy, apartment in Paris, and flat in London. Work from anywhere is a real thing…
Keys to Success in the Digital Workplace
Working this way does take some planning, thought, and self-discipline. And yes, some tools. This is what I’ve found as key to my success in a digital workplace:
- Clear expectations and goals set up front: Define a clearly written scope of work, project plan, and check-ins on priority with both my internal and external teams.
- Establish communication norms: Decide which topics will be held for status calls and scrums, and what will be done asynchronously. There are also many ways to streamline the whole process by using services that improve your communication methods, increasing team collaboration.
- Work out loud: Working in a transparent way is different. You develop new habits of sharing out what you’re working on and lessons learned, and requesting feedback and help when you need it.
- Lose the fear of failing and just do you: In order to effectively work out loud, you need to be willing to put yourself out there and not let fear stop you from stating your opinions and messing up in front of others.
- Get to know your team: Take the time, as you would in person, to ask your colleagues (both internal and external) how their weekend was, where they’re going on vacation, and simply, “how are you?”
- Do your homework: Absorb client or project info not just from the team, but from their intranet, collaboration environment, and document library.
- Have the hard conversations “in person:” As with everything, you’re going to hit bumps, and discussing them via email, Lync, text, etc. leaves too much to interpretation. Pick up the phone or schedule a web conference (even better… turn on video!).
- Oh yeah, use your tools: Use whatever works for you or you have access to (I typically adopt whatever my client is using). Some examples of what I’ve used include:
- Collaboration and conversations: Yammer, Messaging, sharepoint tools, proprietary intranet software
- Web conferencing: GoToMeeting, WebEx, Join.me
- Documents: Web Apps (MS Office tools like Word, Excel, PowerPoint), Drive, SharePoint Library, Yammer
- Notes: OneNote, Evernote, Notes
- Email: Gmail, MS Outlook, Webmail
As you think about your digital workplace (and I hope you are indeed doing that right now!), consider what you need to be successful. Are the right company policies and norms in place so you clearly understand what’s expected of you and your colleagues? Which jobs are a fit for remote working, and which aren’t? Almost everyone works on the go, even if it’s on the train ride home, or after the kids go to bed. Do you have a digital workplace setup to let you be effective, efficient, and engaged? If not, think about what the ideal scenario looks like, and what you need to get you there.