Having a well-thought-through and comprehensive digital workplace strategy and roadmap is now a must-have. If you want to develop a coherent and consistent digital workplace experience that will help both employees in their everyday work and also achieve organisational goals, then you need to have some kind of plan in place.
Without a strategy it is very difficult to work out the best way forward in deploying Microsoft 365 tools, in achieving digital transformation, or even how you can use your digital workplace to best support employees through the ongoing challenges caused by the pandemic.
We often get asked by customers what should be included in a digital workplace strategy. While there are no set rules for this and certainly no set format, we consistently see a number of elements within a strategy that always prove to be useful.
At this point it is worth saying that strategies come in all shapes and sizes. We have seen documents that vary between two and a hundred pages. A strategy may be a PowerPoint deck; we’ve even seen one in a video format! The format of your strategy is up to you and may be dictated by standard formats you use in your organization, department or team.
A strategy also has some overlap with a business case, although we regard them as separate. A strategy usually precedes a business case, with the latter making the case for investment to help execute the strategy. However, some organisations will blend the two.
Here is our view of eleven essential elements to include in a digital workplace strategy.
1. A vision for the future digital workplace
It really helps to have a clear vision for your digital workplace and what you want it to look like in a few years. This can be quite aspirational but can also be very specific and should not only include the “what” but also the “why” – detailing some of the envisaged benefits. A future vision helps to make abstract concepts more tangible and can engage your stakeholders to drive buy-in.
It also really helps to know where you are heading to, meaning you can design the steps that you need to get there. Accompanying a future vision, may need to be an assessment of where you are today. (See user research below.) A future vision for your digital workplace should be a key part of your strategy.
2. A mission statement or strapline
Having a mission statement or even a strapline as part of your strategy supports buy-in and drives awareness; it can help you to spread the word and even get people excited about your plans. A strapline needs to be engaging and encapsulate the value and direction of your future workplace in a sentence or two. Although a mission statement is always an over-simplification of your strategy, in our experience it has real value.
3. Alignment to other strategies
Because the digital workplace strategy positively impacts your whole organisation and overlaps with the aims of various different support functions, a good digital workplace strategy needs to have close alignment with your overall organisational strategy and other relevant sub-strategies and roadmaps. It is also very likely there will be several dependencies to be identified from these sub-strategies.
If your CEO is committed to digital transformation, then this needs to be referenced in your digital workplace strategy. Similarly, it will be difficult to fully execute a digital workplace strategy and get the necessary buy-in if it does not align to your overall IT and digital strategy or your people and HR strategy. It helps if your strategy also aligns to other important initiatives like your values.
Generally, we have found that the more explicit and obvious the alignment the better, showing that the strategy is highly relevant to overall organisational objectives and goals.
4. Key organisational agenda items
Any digital workplace strategy needs to address key organisational areas where the digital workplace makes an important contribution. Currently, some of these are likely to be in reference to the present challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Key areas include supporting remote teams, new ways of working, plans for the physical office, business continuity and the digital employee experience.
A digital workplace and its related experience have the potential to be all-encompassing. It is good to be ambitious, but a strategy also needs to be achievable. A strategy must address the scope of what you are trying to achieve. What applications and channels does it cover? What is the extent to which it envisages controlling the experience? Does it impact all employees? Without some kind of clarity on scope it becomes very difficult to plan and implement the roadmap for your strategy.
6. User research and data
Intranet and digital workplace strategies need to be based on a thorough understanding of user needs, usually derived from user research. This is an essential precursor to any strategy. Without this a strategy may be based on assumptions that will make it less successful; the subsequent business case may also struggle to get buy-in. Any strategy should include reference to the findings form user research, for example the pain points and issues that the new digital workplace strategy will address.
7. Guiding principles or pillars
It really helps to have some central guiding principles or “pillars” of your digital workplace strategy. These might be between three and eight main ingredients, elements or founding principles of that reflect your main priorities but also hint at the benefits. For example, a guiding principle might be to “Transform digital collaboration across our locations through a new collaboration and social networking platform.” Sometimes these principles may align with the major workstreams on your eventual project plan.
8. Change management
A digital workplace strategy is effectively a business change strategy. You will need to consider change management plans in order to deliver on the strategy. Change management can take many forms from communication through to training to using champions to targeting use cases to ongoing support to fully blown digital literacy programmes. Change management takes in both adoption and the best use of tools to increase the knowledge and confidence of users in relation to digital workplace tools.
Depending on how detailed you want to be, your strategy may also want to list some of the tactics and approaches that you intend to employ to carry out to execute the strategy. This may also include details about governance, for example the creation of steering and operational bodies to help guide and implement the strategy.
It may not be necessary to go into too much detail here but listing some of the specifics can make a strategy more credible by allowing stakeholders to clearly see how you plan to get from “A” to “B”.
10. A high-level roadmap
You will absolutely need a high-level roadmap to include in your strategy that will feed into a project plan. This may be as simple as three phases each with a year attached to it. At this stage, a roadmap can also be highly aspirational. It can also help to keep this vague as to not to set an unrealistic timetable on a strategy that still needs far more detail to commit to a timeline.
11. Criteria for success
Many teams do not include criteria for success in their initial digital workplace strategy but establishing these from the outset helps to keep projects focused on strategic outcomes, and also helps plan for more detailed measurement. All too often metrics and success factors can become divorced from the original strategy; setting these up at the beginning helps teams to stay aligned to their original aims.
Need help with your digital workplace strategy?
We hope you have found these tips on what to include in your digital workplace strategy useful! If you need with your digital workplace strategy or would like to discuss any aspect of it then please get in touch!