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Work is not a place where we go, it is what we do. However, when we think about the workplace many people and employers still visualise this as a physical office, when in reality this is rarely the only place where we actually work.

Jacob Morgan from the Future Organisation has an interesting diagram that depicts the evolution of the employee. It contrasts how employees have worked in the past with how they will work in the future and some of the examples illustrate that the future is already here. We used to work 9 to 5, we now work anytime. We used to work in a corporate office, now we work anywhere. We used to use company-provided equipment, now we use any device including our own, and we used to hoard information, now we share.

The list goes on, but the pertinent fact is that employees are digital and the reality for employers is that they need to accommodate this with a digital workplace.

The Challenge for Employers

Working styles are changing so employers should embrace this and provide an environment that does not restrict this but encourages it. Employers need to support virtual work environments that enable people to be productive wherever they are. Mobility is key, but it needs to be seamless, secure and compliant. Get this right and you will be much better placed to win the war on talent.

The Value of The Digital Workplace

In terms of a simple definition, the digital workplace is the collection of all the digital tools that allow your employees to do their job effectively. There has been much talk about the fact that the technologies used in the workplace are far less sophisticated than those used by employees outside of work. So it is not surprising that there is a deliberate move by software vendors and IT teams to deliver a more consumer-like computing environment, one that supports innovative and flexible working.

These environments can deliver significant value to businesses. They foster greater collaboration between employees, drive productivity, support a better customer experience and have a positive impact on employee engagement.

Focusing on Workplace Transformation

According to research by Dimension Data, only 40% of organisations have implemented components of a digital workplace. However, a further 39% of organisations have a defined digital workplace strategy, and a further 17% are looking to put one in place within the next two years.

As always, there are many barriers to positive transformation. Current IT systems and infrastructure restrictions, organisational structure and work practices, compliance, staff resistance to change –  the list can be endless. However, the value of getting the digital workplace right far outweighs the effort required to overcome these obstacles.

The main goal of creating a digital workplace is to increase employee engagement and productivity, but achieving this requires far more than simply deploying technology. It is about having a digital workplace strategy that is capable of driving true cultural change, from strategy through to employee experience and engagement.

Gartner has an eight-point model for delivering a digital workplace which focuses on the alignment of business, people and IT. In terms of Business Alignment, it recommends that organisations have a defined value proposition for the digital workplace, have a strategy for effective execution of this vision, and metrics to measure success and return on investment.

At the core of the Gartner model, which I believe is essential, is the emphasis on employee experience to achieving the required organisational change and alignment of processes. This is where the positive impact is created, changing the way people work to deliver improved outcomes.

The final element of the Gartner model is the alignment of IT to the above. It is how data and information is delivered in context, and how technology is deployed to create a more collaborative, mobile and agile digital workplace.

Regardless of the extent to which you develop a digital workplace strategy, it is crucial to think about technology from a different perspective. We should no longer select technology solely for the task or function we want to be delivered. We should be thinking about how it contributes and adds value to the work environment. Will it bring positive change to how people work, will it increase employee engagement, will it drive productivity and will it create the digital workplace of the future?

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