Ship’s wheel from Shutterstock
The “digital workplace” concept is taking off with a rush at present, with discussions being heard in every corner of organisations.
While interest and talk are good, the digital workplace must go beyond words to become a strategic direction for organisations as a whole. Only then will the full benefits of the vision be realised.
For that to happen, there must be strong leadership of digital workplace strategy, and the programme of work that follows from it.
But who should play that leadership role?
One concept, many interests
There are many groups that have an interest in the digital workplace:
- IT is responsible for changing technical platforms, such as moving towards cloud-based productivity tools.
- Intranet teams manage the ‘enterprise front door’, and are actively involved in making collaboration and social tools a success.
- Web and digital teams are responsible for customer-facing online experiences, often in conjunction with a broader customer experience team. It is widely recognised that a great customer experience requires changes to internal tools and working practices.
- Internal communications has a responsibility to reach out to all staff, is often a leader in staff-facing initiatives and is commonly the overall owner of the intranet. [Editor’s note: added after excellent feedback on the post]
- Knowledge management looks at wider working practices, and how silos can be broken down or bridged.
- HR is responsible for the working practices of staff, including the shift to remote working and flexible working (in its many forms).
- Facilities is transforming the physical working environment, in conjunction with innovative architects and interior designers.
- Last but not least, senior leaders are driving the overall direction of the organisation, and the degree to which the business must be reshaped or transformed.
It seems unlikely that digital or intranet teams can encompass the change in working patterns, or the reworking of physical office spaces. Equally, architects surely can’t lead adoption of collaboration and social tools. IT plays an important role, but would generally stay clear of driving workforce changes.
A guiding coalition
This is, of course, a trick question.
The digital workplace is too large to be owned and led by a single group within organisations. Instead, as outlined in John Kotter’s Leading Change, a “guiding coalition” must be established at the outset.
This can take many different forms, depending on the organisation. It could be a steering committee or working group, an enterprise ‘initiative’, or even a community of practice.
Whether formal or informal, this group must work together to create a consensus vision, and then to make it into reality. Each member, whether it’s HR, IT or facilities, then takes responsibility for driving their corner of the digital workplace activities, aligned with the others.
The stronger this group, and the better it can work together, the faster the business will create a true digital workplace.
Having spent a few days in Geneva in the recent weeks, we’re already hearing about UN agencies making headway with their digital workplace community of practices. Other firms are taking a more formal approach.
What will work in your organisation? We’d love to hear from you.