Organizations of all shapes and sizes, no matter what their line of business, have implemented some technology to ensure smooth running of their processes. In current times, technology is the driving force of pretty much every business, whether it is a paper manufacturer, a hotel owner, a law firm or a software provider.
A lot of these companies may have a number of applications they use to conduct everyday business which need to be consolidated into one digital workplace solution.
There is a fundamental shift in the workplace due to forces that cannot and must not be ignored, and these factors are what make it necessary for implementing a comprehensive digital workplace on Office 365.
- The deepening generation gap – the workforce today is more diverse than it has ever been before. It is made up of different generations, who have different attitudes, work ethics and work styles. A digital workplace must be able to satisfy the needs of this workforce.
- Increasing use of personal devices – almost everybody carries a smart phone or tablet and like to use it for work. We all access email from our devices and sometimes even review a document or read up material on our way to work. This makes it important for business applications to work seamlessly on all devices and platforms.
- Growing fragmentation of the workplace – there are more and more employees who prefer flexible, work-from-home arrangements and a lot of companies which are onboard with providing this flexibility. Employees should be able to work from anywhere and at any time without any restrictions.
- Intensifying talent war – most young workers are always looking for better opportunities and the average tenure of an employee is shrinking considerably. It is becoming difficult for companies to retain young, creative talent unless they are technologically in sync with their work style.
The 7 Must-Haves
1. Knowledge Management
The Latin saying “Scientia potentia est” means “Knowledge is power”, but it is also true that shared knowledge can be so much more powerful for an organization. For this, content needs to be stored in an organized manner, in a central location where everybody can access it easily; while still keeping it secure.
With Office 365 you can organize your documents in libraries that are associated with their departments and projects. These document can be anything; from project plans and department structures to policies and employee handbooks.
You can classify documents by assigning tags, keywords and categories to each. Once safely stored and centralized, files can be edited, compared, archived, and, of course, easily searched. Another advantage of storing documents in the cloud is that they are accessible from anywhere and they don’t leave when their authors do.
Lew Platt, former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, once said: “If HP knew what HP knows, we would be three times more productive.”
This goes to show the importance of knowledge management in discovering information and the people who have the information. It boosts productivity and saves time in reinventing the wheel.
In a traditional work environment, it is easy to bring teams together, have a brainstorming session, collaborate on authoring documents, have daily scrum meetings, or coordinate a meeting with a colleague. But how do we accomplish all this when the team is scattered?
In the digital space, a team may be made up of:
- employees that are on-site, remote or part-time,
- employees operating from a different office in a different city or country, and
Collaboration needs to be thought out and designed carefully. The digital workplace on Office 365 serves as a hub that brings people, work and conversations to one central location; and it must do so seamlessly. With Office 365, you can create department, team, and project spaces where the participants can “gather” to share ideas and information, view and update tasks, connect with team mates through voice and video calls, and get access to news and notifications.
3. Social Engagement
The last decade has seen a tenfold increase in the use of social networking sites. Nearly two-thirds of American adults use social networking sites and thus, incorporating a social feature in an organizations’ business processes has become crucial. In fact, having social features in an intranet is just as important as promoting a positive company culture to keep employees satisfied and engaged.
Social engagement is one of the six “must haves” without which a digital workplace cannot be successful in achieving its objectives. It gives employees the opportunity to be truly engaged with their department and team mates through blogging, sharing, chats, video conferencing, and discussion boards. They can also communicate with individuals to discuss ideas, troubleshoot or get expert opinion.
A digital workplace on Office 365 can also provide dashboard views of projects where individuals can see and be aware of each other’s tasks and their due dates, and step in help complete an overdue task. When employees can share their knowledge, provide comments, and publish content to recognize the work of others, or which their team mates find useful and valuable; they become more socially engaged in their digital workplace. This is ideal because a research conducted by The McKinsey Global Institute has found that a social intranet increases employee productivity by 20 – 25%.
Communication is central to any organization. Where there are people, there is a need to connect, share, and converse. The interactions of every business may be different but it is important to meet those needs and offer the workforce different tools to communicate.
Communications can be formal or informal, one-on-one or across a group, in writing or via a phone call. A digital workplace must provide all these means of communication so that staff can reach across borders and connect across any platform with ease. The communication tools should also be able to fulfill different circumstances and objectives of communication.
Communications also include surveys and polls, which gives your staff a voice to convey their perceptions of the work environment, culture, technologies used, etc. Surveys can be made such that the replies are anonymous and can ask some pertinent questions to gather important information.
Office 365 has the capabilities to make communications easy and intuitive. It provides:
- Exchange online: which is used for formal email communications
- Yammer: which can be used for group chats
- Skype for Business: for phone and video calls, meetings and conferences
- SharePoint Online: which can be used to create surveys to keep your employees engaged and involved
The internet is permeable and so is your digital workplace environment. The merging of cloud technologies, social media, and digital solutions has security implications which affect pretty much everybody. The recent Ransomware hacks made this threat very real and many businesses were scrambling to recuperate from these attacks.
It is imperative that your digital workplace be secure. After all, it is the place where you store all your documents, contacts, project related data, email, etc., everything you need to accomplish work.
A digital workplace on Office 365 offers a secure area in the cloud where employees can store information and access it from anywhere, from various devices. It is secure because unlike a website that is open to all, the intranet is only accessible to your staff through user authentication. This makes it less exposed to external threats.
Also, Microsoft takes security very seriously and provides data security at multiple levels.
- At the infrastructure level, the Microsoft cloud is highly secure and meets all security protocols and standards.
- It provides data loss prevention and disaster recovery systems
- Your data is encrypted
- Office 365 Administration Center provides a Security and Compliance module which logs every action of a user and audit reports can be easily generated and reviewed.
6. Flexibility and Growth
The digital workplace is a reflection of the physical workplace and it must have the flexibility to change, evolve, and grow just as its physical counterpart. A workplace is never static. There are constant changes in demographics, business processes, use of applications, communication needs, etc. The digital workplace should be able to adapt to these changes easily.
For example, can your digital workplace adapt to these changes:
- a business expands its operations from one to multiple locations
- a company decides to have 25% of its employees as remote workers to save on office rent
- a company with multiple locations wants language compatibility for their employees
A digital workplace on Office 365 can scale up and down, provide your employees the mobility and flexibility of working from anywhere, at any time, integrate with external business application like ERP and CRM systems, and provide multiple means of communication. This helps to create a central hub for all work.
Support is crucial to the success of a digital workplace. As detailed in the previous point, a digital workplace will transform and grow with the organization. You will need support in the form of help and training in the initial stages. Later this will take the form of implementing new functionality, customizing the solution, or integrating with new applications.
Oftentimes companies continue to use their outdated, disconnected solution because they are not sure how much technical support they will receive from the new provider when they upgrade. They are afraid they will be left in a lurch when emergency strikes or that they will not receive adequate or timely support.
When testing products to see how well they match your needs, it is also important to find out what kind of support the vendor provides. Every company needs a little hand holding and maybe regular well checks.
To conclude, a digital workplace is where employees can get information like updates to corporate or departmental policies, new recruits, training materials, etc. They can track their tasks, set up reminders, attend meetings, author documents, store contact information, and update project deliverables. They can also communicate with other users via different channels – instant messaging, discussions, email, and phone/video conferencing to brainstorm ideas, get feedback, and solve problems collectively.
A digital workplace is where users come to be productive and meet their goals. To build a cohesive digital workplace you will need a platform that is successful (like SharePoint and Office 365) and a vendor who can help you implement a solution that fits your needs.
If you are on Office 365 and want to consolidate all your business processes under one roof, or you are looking for a turnkey solution that can enhance your current digital workplace offering, we can help. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and our representative will get in touch with you.