What is a Digital Workplace? Actually, the Digital Workplace has been with us for quite a while. It had its earliest beginnings when business applications replaced clerks and ledgers, when email replaced interoffice memos. The digital workplace has constantly evolved though the years with the adoption of intranets and extranets for communication and collaboration, and the use of knowledge repositories to capture intellectual capital. It continues to evolve today with telephones being replaced by voice over IP capabilities through unified communications, and more recently with disruptive technologies like mobile, social, and consumer-like apps being embraced by business. The digital workplace essentially replaces the physical tools of business with their electronic counterparts.
Next, let’s define a relatively new concept, the Digital Workspace. Although business has been operating in the digital workplace for some time, what is changing is how those tools and capabilities are made available to employees, or more accurately, how they are tailored to create the employee’s personal Digital Workspace.
The employee’s workspace must be driven by a strategy that guides where and how their applications and tools are delivered and used. Just a few years ago, the traditional workspace usually consisted of one device, a PC, with a standard corporate image used by everyone. However in today’s environment with workers’ use of multiple devices such as smart phones, tablets, as well as the PC, coupled with the popularity, ease, and convenience of consumer apps, workers are demanding a new, more flexible workspace. Technologies like Office 365, Dropbox, and a multitude of applications available through public and private clouds are gaining a significant market share in terms of defining the enterprise digital workspace.
At its core, this new, flexible workspace is about people: providing and managing the technologies, often packaged in a virtual wrapper, that supports the ability to untether the execution of one’s ‘job’ from the physical and temporal constraints of using a single work PC. The outcomes of this new digital workspace are productivity and employee engagement. Research, analysis, decision making, collaboration, sharing, connection, and all of the duties that define one’s job can be accomplished anytime, anywhere. Since a workspace is ultimately about people, a successful implementation must be built on a strategy that first defines personas to group and align capabilities to workers’ needs and then deliver those capabilities to meet workers’ expectations.
Finally, what is Social Business? Social is one of those disruptive technologies that has made its way from our personal lives into the business world. Social business is about people: collaborating with co-workers, clients, and partners, transparently sharing knowledge and ideas (in real time), and communicating or connecting with others on a person to person level. To be truly successful and provide value, social business must be integrated with the daily workflow and habits of each employee. Certainly there is technology involved to facilitate this collaboration, sharing, and connection, but it’s who uses it and how it’s used, that drives business value.
With these definitions in mind, let’s consider the role of social business in the digital workplace and how it is actualized in the digital workspace. In our definitions we have noted a common denominator that focuses both on people, and their interaction with one another, to get work done. In the traditional workplace, people worked at their desk or in their office, communicated and collaborated in meetings, in offices and hallways, or used email and a desk phone during their daily 9:00 to 5:00 routine.
However, to be competitive and to attract and retain the right talent in today’s world demands a different paradigm. It demands an approach and capability that supports how people need to work, when they need to work, where they need to work, and often with the tools, technologies, and functionality used in their personal life outside of work.
Social business satisfies these requirements by providing a digital channel to easily collaborate, share, and connect without limit to physical location or being bound by time. Social newsfeeds allow you to pose questions to a global community and readily share information with your colleagues. Communities allow you to connect, collaborate, ideate, and learn from others with like interests and professional goals. Profiles and presence (chat, video and on-screen sharing) allow you to quickly find, connect and collaborate with knowledgeable resources that can help you accomplish your goals. More and more, people use these social technologies and capabilities in their personal life and they expect to use similar capabilities in their professional life as well.
In summary, the new digital workspace provides a tailored, agile environment to deliver the people-centric tools and technologies demanded in today’s business economy. Social business, as a key capability of that digital workspace provides the engine to drive innovation, agility, and competitive advantage by tapping in to our creative energies fueled by our human social nature.