If you’re an intranet professional, have been investigating a new intranet product, or are working on an Office 365 roadmap, you’re likely to have come across the “digital workplace”. It’s a term and a concept that’s been steadily growing in popularity over the past three years and have now entered the mainstream.
Originally, “the digital workplace” was used as a term by some of the leading players in the intranet and collaboration world such as the Digital Workplace Group and Jane McConnell. That growth has extended to organizations such as Microsoft, Accenture, and Gartner. It’s now often used within organizations to describe functions, roles, and even intranets.
Defining the digital workplace
Defining the digital workplace isn’t as straightforward as it might seem, and there is no consensus about exactly what it is. It means different things to different people, and use varies across different organisations.
In our experience, there are three over-lapping definitions:
- It’s an experience. The digital workplace is the employee experience of all workplace technology, covering a wide portfolio of applications, the relative interfaces, the hardware in use and so on. It’s the digital equivalent to the physical workplace.
- It’s a specific environment. Some see the digital workplace as a specific digital ecosystem a company provides where there is some integration and the employee can access a wide series of applications. Usually the intranet acts as the “front door” to the digital workplace and will be a significant part of it
- It’s a concept or a mindset. Others view the digital workplace as more a way of thinking – a holistic and strategic way of looking at the employee experience of technology at work.
In reality, these three definitions are strongly interlinked as the concept emphasizes the importance of the experience which leads to development of specific environments!
The intranet as the key channel in the digital workplace
Although some organisations have chosen to re-brand their intranet as a digital workplace, we view intranets as being distinct and different. The digital workplace has a wider focus, while the intranet is usually the most important channel within it.
There are several reasons why the intranet is the key channel within the digital workplace:
- The intranet is the perfect starting point for employees to access the wider digital workplace, a gateway to other systems and apps.
- Intranets can usually be accessed by all employees so they are the logical channel to be the focus for any integrated experience.
- Intranets have evolved to include new capabilities such as collaboration, so many essential digital workplace tools are already included in the intranet.
- Intranets are flexible so new links and features can be added, keeping up with the ever-expanding digital workplace.
- Intranets can be used to communicate the how and why of using wider digital tools – critical for digital workplace adoption and giving context to all the tools and apps in use.
- Many organisations are using Office 365 as the center of their digital workplace and an intranet is a great vehicle to leverage your investment with Microsoft.
Four positive trends from the rise of the digital workplace
The rise of the digital workplace has been great for intranets and the teams behind them. Here’s four key trends which we see happening with our clients and beyond.
1. Intranets are becoming more essential
In the past, some intranets have typically been regarded as “nice to haves” and not essential to everyday working. This is changing.The digital workplace emphasizes the importance of having an integrated, high quality employee experience of workplace tools. Intranets are stepping up to the plate to be the natural entry point into the wider digital workplace, as well as the place to complete tasks. Intranet software providers are making it easier to deliver key apps and features and integrate other systems so that the intranet is truly the “go to” place for employees to get things done.
2. Senior stakeholders are seeing the strategic importance of the intranet
The digital workplace encourages a more strategic view of technology, emphasizing its importance in digital transformation, employee engagement, and more.With the intranet as a central part of the digital workplace, senior stakeholders are more likely to take the intranet seriously and see its true potential.
3. There are new opportunities for intranet teams
Intranet teams are sometimes misunderstood or under-appreciated within the organizations they serve. The teams are also small so the opportunities for career advancement may be limited.The digital workplace offers an opportunity for intranet teams to lead the way in a new and growing area, work with a wider set of technologies and make a real difference. This exposure and focus can lead to new challenges and opportunities for intranet professionals.
4. Organizations are moving forward with the future of work
Because the digital workplace promotes a more holistic view of workplace technology, it often means different stakeholders from across your organization will work together to move forward in a coordinated way.Hopefully, they are uniting behind a shared vision of the future of work within your organization.This is great news as it can help intranets to evolve too as the modern, essential interface for employees, enabling new ways of working and working in harmony with other applications.
Raise a glass for the digital workplace!
The digital workplace concept is here to stay and intranets will benefit enormously. We’re already starting to see more interest from senior leaders, better career prospects for teams, and vastly improved intranets.Naturally, there is a still a long way to go, as the digital workplace concept is still young. However, we’re confident that the next five years or so will prove to an exciting time for intranets and also the people who manage them.
The original article was published here.