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November 13, 2017updated 20 Jul 2022 7:37am

The Digital Workplace Philosophy: It’s about the journey, not the destination

Paul Bray takes CBR inside a digital workplace - the foundation to a successful business strategy.

By Ellie Burns

EB: What is a Digital Workplace?

Paul Bray, Chief Technologist, Computacenter

PB: A Digital Workplace brings together both the physical world, the working environments of the modern mobile user, alongside the virtual world, comprising the digital capabilities upon which modern user engagement is based.  Many organisations are currently striving towards the notion of delivering a Digital Workplace, perceiving this to be a tangible solution, however our view is that the Digital Workplace is more a philosophy of continuous adoption and exploitation of technologies which are rapidly evolving and changing – and as such we speak of an ongoing journey rather than an absolute destination.

EB: How can it increase productivity?

PB: Digital Workplaces allow users to be productive at any time, from any location.  At the simplest level it allows users to be more connected and available than they have been before.  More subtly the Digital Workplace empowers users through automation, intelligent systems and self-service.  The philosophy of a digital workplace is based upon a premise of a “consumer like experience” – meaning capabilities and interactions that resonate with users based on their experiences with technology in their home life.  The application of this increasing digital literacy into the modern workplace helps promote adoption and drive productivity and use of the modern Digital Workplace portfolio of tools.

EB: Why are people the most important element in the Digital Workplace?

PB: Our industry has been premised upon the concept of dictate and control, and until recently the voice of users has not been heard.  IT would seek to presume the needs of the users and provide capabilities and solutions that were based upon an IT perspective of cost minimisation and standardisation, thereby reducing the empowerment and enablement of the user base.  We have seen this backfire in recent years as users have become more “enlightened” through their home technology experience and as phenomenon such as Shadow IT have emerged.  The Digital Workplace recognises that enablement and empowerment of users is key to success. By providing effective IT solutions to users we can gain greater customer intimacy, improve collaboration and maximise productivity. These outcomes can only be achieved when thinking about the user perspective and how, when and why they interact with the technologies and services within the Digital Workplace.

EB: What challenges do CIO’s face in implementing one?

PB: There are many challenges in implementing a Digital Workplace.  Firstly, Digital Workplaces are not a specific “thing” – they are an ongoing strategy and endeavour to cultivate the outcomes of user productivity, business performance and collaboration within your users and your customers.

Specific challenges do exist though, “Legacy Debt” is a key challenge that we often talk to customers about.  Do you abandon the platforms and tools that have served your business historically and build modern new platforms, or do you invest in the uplift and migration towards a future vision? How do you promote digital literacy across your users and assure adoption of the tools and capabilities that exist? We all know that approximately 20% of functionality in any given system is used regularly, so how do you close the gap on the other 80% which may deliver material changes in ways of working or business processes?

There is also the issue of the business case that under pins Digital Workplaces.  There are tangible benefits, but there are many other soft benefits that are hard to quantify.  How do you substantiate a meaningful business case to promote the changes that are required to transform your business?  The final aspect relates to organisational culture.  We see many businesses that are “born in the cloud” yet many of our large customers are institutionalised businesses based on traditional business models and complex core systems.  Timing is critical and it is not for these organisations to simply invoke a “revolution” to Digital.

 EB: What will the Digital Workplace look like in 2020?

PB: Strategically the Digital Workplace of 2020 will be far more intelligent and contextual than the workplace of today.  Solutions such as Virtual Personal Assistants will rise in prevalence, performing functions that enhance our user experience and optimise our effectiveness and productivity.  We will continually be exposed to increasing amounts of digital interactions, from sensors, beacons and other technologies, the data and insights from which will all be aggregated and surfaced to us to provide insights relating to customer behaviour, process optimisation or revenue generation opportunities.

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We also expect the 2020 Digital Workplace to be far more contextual in nature, supporting access from a range of locations and devices and securely providing relevant content and data as aligned to the time and nature of the request.

Your interaction from service perspective will also differ.  Support interactions will be self-serve, or fulfilled by bots or automation routines, reducing the cost of service and the extent of human and physical interaction, but importantly providing an enhanced user experience.

Practically speaking however our customers are facing more imminent challenges. The transformation to a Digital Workplace starts with modernisation of the core and endpoint platforms.  Windows 7 will only reach end of support in January 2020 and customers are racing to adopt Windows 10 and transform to an evergreen service philosophy.  There are challenges in modernising and digitising applications and digitising business processes to be mobile first, as well as exploitation of cloud technology such as Software as a Service.  We strive for the vision of 2020, whilst recognising the need to evolve both our platforms and our users’ engagement and adoption of critical technologies to improve business performance.

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