18 March 2020

Digital workplace series part 3: digital workplace collaboration

By Andrew O'Hara

Being able to collaborate more effectively has proven benefits for organisations, including improving performance and productivity. There’s a wide variety of tools and techniques for digital workplace collaboration, from enterprise social networks to document-centric collaboration tools.

Collaboration’s all about working together to create something, whether it’s brainstorming new ideas, developing strategies or achieving goals. Effective collaboration lets everyone bring their unique strengths and insights to a project, which means you can achieve goals more quickly while meeting the needs of everyone involved.

Many of the tools I mentioned in last week’s blog let you collaborate digitally with colleagues, but, while Skype calls and shared documents are useful, they’re only one part of a successful digital workplace.

For example, document management software lets everyone find the documents they need, as well as being able to approve and acknowledge the documents they’re responsible for, wherever they are. Document review software brings comments, suggestions and conversations together in one place, letting you wave goodbye to having to trawl your email for multiple attachments and then collating all the changes.

Software that enables better collaboration is key to creating an effective and efficient digital workplace. However, such tools aren’t intended to replace brainstorming or working together in physical spaces, but rather to complement the way we work and open up possibilities to work more effectively with people remotely. This is particularly useful for people whose jobs don’t involve being in an office all the time.

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution for creating a digital workplace, nor should there be. Instead, like the organisation itself, the digital workplace is a complex system of complex systems, all of which have to be aligned and synchronised, as well as to be appropriate for their intended purpose.

Feasibility

Make sure everyone involved understands the risks associated with a digital workplace project. A robust risk assessment should be part of planning any project and its outcomes should be built into the strategy, as well as being considered as part of ongoing governance and compliance.

Viability

Make sure that your digital workplace strategy and business strategy are linked. To get buy-in from top management, a digital workplace project must be founded on real business benefit. It’s therefore crucial to clearly show the business objectives and the potential that a digital workplace offers in meeting them.

Scalability

Start small, but with software that’s designed to scale. A crucial factor in scalability is the alignment with other related systems and the ability to synchronise and communicate on more than just a superficial level. During the planning stage, look for software that enables broad and deep connections and that has inbuilt compatibility.

Usability

Ease of use is closely related to physical and technical scalability. Adoption is key to success and shouldn’t be hindered by technical ability. To aid adoption ahead of putting any software in place, the project team should share the objectives of the project with everyone in the business. If everyone can understand or at least see the big picture, this should help to reduce any initial change resistance.

In addition, before implementing any software, make sure as much of the infrastructure as possible is in place. This can be advance training, identifying ‘champions’ or ‘super users’ or project team members being available for and able to answer questions.

The benefits of a digital workplace are established and very real for those organisations that make the most of them.

But being able to realise these benefits takes more than just putting new technologies in place – it requires a real shift in thinking and a clear focus on creating an agile and adaptive organisational culture. To do so, everyone must be supported by the right infrastructure and have the tools and techniques to hand that can make the digital workplace collaboration work for them.

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