The 2018 Wizdom Conference on “The value of the digital workplace” was recently held in the beautiful setting of Copenhagen’s Tivoli Gardens. With some incredible sunshine and a friendly crowd of 140 digital workplace professionals, here are some of the main themes explored over two days of inspiring presentations and conversations.
The digital workplace is all about “human to human”
The first day of the conference started with a warm welcome from Wizdom’s CEO, John Wainer. John reflected on how the digital workplace should be about making the working day easier, making employees more productive and making our colleagues happier. If the digital workplace can deliver this – even just a little – then we have succeeded.
This idea about the digital workplace being focused on people rather than technology was also touched upon in a fascinating and lively opening keynote session from Morten Albæk, Creator and Executive Director of Voluntas A/S.
Morten is a frequent and well-known international speaker and author. His powerful presentation delivered a strong message about how work must be meaningful. So many people say they regret spending too much time on work, but Morten’s personal management KPI is to make sure that anybody who works under his leadership does not regret their time working. Morten also reminded us that too many people are feeling stressed or anxious from work and this is on the increase.
Morten dwelled on the importance of “meaningfulness” and how organisations can help employees find meaning in their work. Delivering a sense of purpose, receiving guidance from strong leadership and a strong sense of community can all support employees feeling differently about their work. In turn, having more meaningful work can lead to a more innovative, creative, loyal and productive workforce. Morten’s observation that B2B and B2C approaches were in the past, and it was all about H2H – Human to Human – resonated with the audience.
Security and compliance are critical in the digital workplace
One of the great things about this years’ conference agenda is the variety of different topics being covered. One key theme was the importance of security and compliance in the digital workplace.
Rory Fitzpatrick, Senior Communications Manager at pharmaceutical company Acino International, told us how a virus attack had impacted virtually all the company’s computers, temporarily preventing access to operational files. Although the business recovered quickly due to our excellent IT team, this incident was the catalyst for the company’s move to Office 365 and the cloud where all the files would be backed up and accessible. It also kick-started an intense twelve-week project to build a new intranet.
It was great that Acino International now has a robust, secure and compliant digital workplace, but it was also inspiring to hear how the new intranet is also helping employees to communicate and collaborate and feel part of one company. This is extremely important for a company where there are often acquisitions.
We also had another excellent (and very timely) presentation from Ole Kjeldsen, Director of Technology and Security for Microsoft in Denmark. Ole gave us a very level-headed view of GDPR which comes into full effect in a few days time. While explaining we don’t need to panic, organisations do need to do some work to achieve compliance, and Ole’s presentation was full of resources and useful tips. It was also a warning not to be complacent. No product can deliver GDPR compliance, but platforms like Office 365 can help you get closer to it. Another interesting observation was that GDPR was all about good data governance – something which we all should have been doing for years anyway!
We’re moving from the digital workplace to the integrated, intelligent workplace
Another key theme of the conference was the digital workplace’s potential to become a truly intelligent workplace, with data and insights which help employees find things, get things done and make decisions.
Implement Consulting Group is already on that journey. We heard from Morten Rye Christensen, CIO, about how the company has built a data-driven, integrated digital workplace with different elements including Office 365, a Wizdom-based intranet and a learning portal. Perhaps most impressive was a project portal where critical client and project information from the company’s ERP systems is readily available. Whenever a new project is set up a project site or an MS Teams site can be created to drive collaboration and document sharing. Bringing all this information and content together through the digital workplace and via a mobile app was helping consultants to deliver great outcomes for clients.
The integrated digital workplace is also set to become ever-more intelligent. Jess Lassen, Wizdom’s CTO, delivered an exciting presentation on AI and bots. Jess established that AI is already a big part of our lives through using Amazon and Netflix. He also admitted that when he says good night to Siri on his iPhone it turns all the lights off in his house! Jess also painted a brighter picture of the impact of AI than some believe, arguing it will create more jobs than losses and will transform every aspect of our lives.
Organisations need to start acting now to gain advantage from AI. Jess gave the audience some tips including the importance of having the data to power AI, thinking about security and assembling the right team. The potential for AI is huge and could be a “secret weapon to success”, truly disrupting businesses and allowing smaller players to compete with much bigger companies.
The digital workplace needs both robust foundations and delightful touches
In the last presentation of the day our very own John Scott, User Experience Director at Content Formula, walked us through some of the ways you can delight users of your digital workplace. John introduced concepts such as “Surface Delight” (smaller flourishes and design touches which impress users), and “Deep Delight” where more fundamental user needs are met.
John also talked about a hierarchy of user experience needs where ‘functional’ needs sit at the base of a pyramid, with further layers ensuring the digital workplace is ‘reliable’, then ‘usable’ and finally ‘delightful’. Citing a series of examples inspired by movies from the eighties and nineties (and giving us a hint of John’s taste in movies!) John’s presentation was a salient reminder that to deliver a great user experience we need to focus on some digital workplace foundations such as performance and governance and that we need to have a deep understanding of users. But we can also add delightful touches such as using tasteful animations, and beautiful images.
John’s session echoed some of the other themes of the day. Yes, we need to worry about fundamentals like security and compliance, but the digital workplace is also about smaller, everyday things and about being human.
The digital workplace has outgrown the confines of the traditional intranet
While we all love intranets we’re also excited by the future possibilities of the digital workplace. Many companies are using the intranet as the “front door” to the digital workplace and the Office 365 universe, but several of the case studies at the Conference show how the digital workplace is starting to outgrow the confines of the traditional intranet.
It’s also a trend which is reflected in the future developments of the Wizdom product, all of which reflect the feedback and request we receive from our clients. The opening session of the day, a joint keynote from Jess Lassen, Wizdom’s CTO and Flemming Goldbach, our Vice President of Product, was titled “The digital workplace of the future in a Microsoft universe” and covered the principles which inform Wizdom’s product roadmap. We also got to see sneak previews of some of the cool features in the pipeline.
While many of these new improvements and capabilities focus on the intranet – such as better content targeting, support for multi-language intranets and even nudges and suggestions for content owners, there were a number which expanded access to the digital workplace beyond the intranet. One of these is a new Wizdom mobile app with a beautiful user experience and expansive capabilities, ensuring work can be done from anywhere. The app features access to news, the phonebook, links and has Yammer integration. There is also the ability to create mobile-specific pages which can be targeted, for example, to employees in the field.
There is also an exciting “Power Panel” which is a toolbar which can be accessed not only from within the Wizdom intranet but also other parts of SharePoint, the Office 365 and even potentially the wider Microsoft universe. The Power Panel can be configured by each client to meet their needs and allows you to access and create pages and content, get relevant links to critical services and navigate around. It is extremely powerful as it can be targeted to different users and even be contextual, based on where it is being accessed from. The Power Panel also has an in-built bot who can make suggestions and nudge users into actions. It was clear from the demo that it will be both a gateway and a digital assistant which surfaces the wider digital workplace from anywhere.
The best digital workplaces place the user at the centre
A principle which also informs everything that Wizdom builds is to put the user at the centre of the digital workplace. What is built must provide value or users will just simply go elsewhere and use a different tool. The best digital workplace implementations we’ve seen also follow this principle.
At the Conference we had a strong presentation from Mads Boldsen, Lead Business Consultant, Ørsted A/S. Ørsted is a Danish energy company committed to green energy that recently has gone through a period of intense change with a new name and identity. There is also a brand new digital workplace. What was very challenging for the project was that it was already underway once the decision to re-brand the company had been made, and the project team had to navigate the issue of keeping this confidential while also working closely with users to ensure the digital workplace met their needs.
What’s fantastic about Ørsted’s digital workplace is that it is truly centred around user needs and daily work. This has been achieved through extensive user research and testing, delivering an intuitive information architecture and an approach to content migration with the deletion of many pages which were not delivering value to users.
The team also carried out a very detailed user satisfaction survey both before and after the new environment was delivered. Perhaps surprisingly the feedback was similar across both surveys but given the scale of changes in the company (and change can be difficult) it was actually a positive trend and gives insight into future improvements to make. At its heart the digital workplace implementation was community-driven project, and the result is a community-driven digital workplace.
Another organisation that created a highly user-centric digital workplace was GEA Group, a German technology company with 17,000 employees. In a joint session from Christian Larsen, Director of Internal Communication & Corporate Events, and Claus Ole Hasle, Wizdom’s COO, we heard how
GEA has created a task-based intranet which is driven by a solid understanding of user and stakeholder needs. Successful approaches included taking time to truly understand the tasks employees need to complete and finding the right content to meet these needs. The team also conducted extensive user testing of their information architecture and refined it accordingly ensuring strong usability. Christian’s point that user testing creates buy-in, saves time, removes the emotion from decision-making and forges better results was spot on.
Successful digital workplaces focus on collaboration and productivity
Two of day two’s case studies reminded us how the digital workplace must make collaborating that bit easier for employees and start to unlock productivity and efficiency.
We had a very interesting session from Ute Aggensteiner, Project Manager for Intranet & SharePoint at Stadtwerke Lübeck Holding GmbH and Torsten Schlueter, HanseVision, GmbH. Stadtwerke Lübeck Holding’s award-winning digital workplace project has three main components– Information & Communication, Collaboration and Workflow & Digitalization. With a complex organisational structure and many employees who don’t sit at desks this is a considerable challenge. The team has made significant process in using workflow and forms to digitize 88 processes and integrate these into the intranet, resulting in significant ROI.
The team has also given employees the power to collaborate both internally and externally and has made this much easier by creating a compelling collaboration area which listed relevant sites for each user, as well as aggregating tasks and documents from each workspace. They also created site templates for different use cases such as sharing documents externally or running more complex projects. This was a true digital workplace which exposed employees to a range of different tools.
Ramboll, a global engineering and design consultancy headquartered in Denmark, is also bringing collaboration to the centre of its new digital workplace. Poul Hededal, Group Director, Knowledge & Innovation at Ramboll told us the story of the new digital workplace which includes several different components.
As well as compelling new global intranet (brilliantly named “Rambla”) there is also an expansive and ambitious project portal. Poul explained how Ramboll is a very project-orientated company and has a staggering 40,000 projects ongoing at any one time with a dedicated project space for both very small and absolutely massive projects and all in-between. The project portal aims to make these spaces more efficient and accessible for employees, integrate information from other systems, and will help to fulfil the team’s vision:
“to create an integrated digital environment, Digital Workspace, that allows employees to communicate, collaborate and deliver excellence, whenever and wherever they may be working.”
From this the digital workplace aims to become a “transformational lever” and change the way people work.
Office 365 has a range of excellent collaboration, productivity and project management tools on offer, but sometimes a more engaging interface or approach is needed to help drive adoption and bring these tools into the everyday flow of work. Both these case studies show how integrating information from other systems and creating a central portal that aggregates data can provide real value for employees and organisations.
Digital workplaces must continuously improve
Everyone in the world of intranets and digital workplaces knows that they are never truly finished. There is always more work to do on then. Continuous improvement, working on driving adoption and change management are a must.
This is a theme which perhaps permeated almost every presentation on day two. Paul Linde, Founder, Mindfire AB, gave an interesting presentation about some of the trends he was seeing in the digital workplace. He talked us how intranets had evolved from being “megaphones” for management to take in formal collaboration and then more social capabilities. User needs have also evolved significantly, but a key to getting success out of the digital workplace is to ensure there is good adoption. Paul ran us through several approaches including the importance of continuous improvement.
Many of the case studies were also investing in driving adoption and improving just after launch and beyond. At GEA Group there was an organised programme of after-project governance and maintenance. At Stadtwerke Lübeck the team continue to add processes to their digitalization programme. Many of the features of Ramboll’s digital workplace are still very new and will continue to evolve. And Ørsted are finding out their views of their users to improve the digital workplace. Each had also invested heavily in communication and engagement, running road-shows, producing attractive marketing, making videos and using champions and gamification to inform and engage users as seen with Implement Consulting Group.
Of course, continuous improvement is also an important part of the way Wizdom works. We are always adding new features, listening to our clients and making the digital workplace work better.
It’s been an excellent conference
This year’s Wizdom conference was excellent. The venue was great, the speakers were illuminating, and the attendees provided us with lively debate and feedback. We’re already looking forward to next year. See you then!