Digital Workplace in brief: 5 fundamentals

February 15, 2012

Thoughtful dialogue leads to good decision-making.

The purpose of this diagram is to trigger thoughtful and actionable conversations among senior management and digital managers. It is designed to make it easier for people to talk about the digital workplace, come to agreements about high-level governance and define business strategies.

Although every organization is different, five fundamentals are relevant for everyone.  We are in an area where technology, organizational politics and business objectives converge, and sometimes collide. Clarifying what you are talking about is the first step to coming to agreements.

Digital Workplace Diagram

The five fundamentals are:

1. The digital workplace stretches across three worlds: internal, semi-internal and public.

2. Different  dimensions within the digital workplace serve different purposes and have different “rules of the road”.

3. The three dimensions overlap and intertwine as the organization becomes more “enterprise 2.0″ enabled.

4. The digital workplace requires a holistic approach at the highest management level.

5. The digital workplace is driven by people-oriented strategies.

Continue reading to see facts and figures around these five fundamentals.

1. The digital workplace stretches across three worlds: internal, semi-internal and public.

The traditional internal-external distinction blurred long ago. The “semi-internal” world of internal plus partners/clients has long existed through project collaboration and sharing of extended enterprise processes.

What’s new today are the information flows between the center and the edge, i.e. between the workforce and the external public. External social networking, teleworking and mobile devices are all relatively new factors that have strongly shaped this evolution. IT and Internal Communication managers can no longer “contain” the flows and toolsets as they could until fairly recently.

2. Different  dimensions within the digital workplace serve different purposes and have different “rules of the road”.

  • The managed dimension includes business applications and validated, authoritative, reference content. It is primarily internal but extends partially into the client-partner sphere for inter-enterprise projects and processes.
  • The structured collaborative dimension involves teamwork on projects with specific goals, deliverables and timelines. It overlaps with both social collaboration and the managed dimension.
  • The social collaborative dimension is self-organizing. It includes social networking, micro blogging, community-building and other social features such as UGC (user-generated content). This dimension  stretches the furthest into the public world and is deliberately drawn off the chart because it is the biggest unknown today and triggers the most apprehension in management.

3. The three dimensions overlap and intertwine as the organization becomes more “enterprise 2.0″ enabled.

The managed dimension becomes socially enabled as business processes begin to include social features. A simple starting point is letting people comment on official articles published on the intranet by management.

A more advanced example is when the structured collaboration dimension intertwines with the social collaboration through networking and what Andrew McAfee calls “Enterprise Q&A“.  Additional research reported on Why Project Networks Beat Project Teams on MIT Sloan Management Review compared the results of different project teams working with goals, deliverables and deadlines. They concluded: “After controlling for project characteristics, size of core project team and other factors related to participation, the number of noncore contributors was a positive and significant predictor of success.” In other words, the most effective teams were able to easily reach out to their own networks around them to obtain information, tap into knowledge and get feedback at different points along their project timeline. (Subscription required to read full article or pay 6.50 US$ for pdf)

4. The digital workplace requires a holistic approach at the highest management level.

Traditionally, enterprises have many different IT, digital, collaboration, Sharepoint, etc. steering groups, each with its own scope. One of the fundamental challenges in governance anywhere is that different well-meaning groups across an organization make conflicting decisions, and implement strategies that do not fit together. There are power struggles and land grabs in the enterprise digital workplace. I’ve recently seen a lot of struggles between Communication and IT when Communication “owns” the intranet and IT “controls” collaboration. I’ve seen many organizations where the buzz around social has created competition and infighting between departments over who “owns” social.

5. The digital workplace is driven by people-oriented strategies.

It is commonly accepted that employee engagement is a key factor in business performance. Back in 2009,  I took the list of the Global Intranet Trends survey participants and identified all of those whose companies were on one of the Best Places to Work lists from many countries. I then looked at the degree of use of the intranet and social tools in the “best places to work” companies and compared them to the survey average. Some examples:

  • Social media “spaces” existed in 39 percent of the “best places to work” participants but in only 17 percent for the survey average.
  • Social networking was self-assessed to be “optimized” in 12 percent of the “best places to work” compared to the survey average of 4 percent.
  • Online internal communities existed in 65 percent of the “best places to work” compared to the survey average of 45 percent.

 Building blocks for the digital workplace

I will soon be writing about digital workplace building blocks, but in the meantime I’d love comments, questions and challenges about the five fundamentals.

 

 

 

 

 

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Jane McConnell

Gints, I’m glad it helps. Let me know if you have any comments or questions if you present it in your own organization.

Gints

thank you for the post. its a great overview of the concept. it will be an easy to use source material for presenting the concept of Digital Workplace for corporate stakeholders in any organization