x-Early Perspectives

Digital Workplace Trends 2012

…… Part of The Basics series. First published in November 2011 ……


This year’s report – a milestone in the evolution towards the digital workplace

Our surveys and reports, started in 2006 and entitled “Global Intranet Trends”,  have been leaning in this direction since 2009. We have investigated  themes beyond the scope of the “traditional intranet”, whatever that means (:-), for 3 years and have formalized the change this year.

This year we defined the digital workplace as “the online environment made up of digital and web-based spaces and tools people use for their jobs.” The intranet may be the front door into the digital workplace. Or it may be one part of it. In some cases, it may represent all or most of it.

Four principles underlie this year’s report:

1. The digital workplace is a multidimensional framework: managed, social collaborative and mobile dimensions.

2. The external online world is a key part of the enterprise’s digital workplace.

3. The new leadership class organizations meet one of three criteria: Digital Boards, “way of working” and social collaborative maturity.

4. Goals and strategies differ depending on the predominant type of workforce: Floor-Field or Desk-Office.

1. The digital workplace – a multidimensional framework

We have defined three dimensions:

  • Managed: The “managed” dimension includes enterprise applications and official, approved content usually published via a content management system
  • Social collaborative: The “social collaborative” dimension includes team places (for structured, goals with deliverables and deadlines), community places (for loosely structured, self-organizing groups) and “user-generated content” published by individuals such as in blogs.
  • Mobile: The “mobile dimension” refers to services and information delivered to workers via mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets.

The word “dimension” is used deliberately because definitions are not black and white. Some organizations consider the intranet to include both the managed dimension and the collaborative and social dimension, each making up part of the whole.In many cases, different platforms or solutions are used for these two dimensions, and this is one reason organizations may refer to them with different names. Today, most organizations are beginning to find ways to integrate or connect the managed and social collaborative dimensions.

2. The external online world – an influential part of the enterprise’s digital workplace

Leading organizations are incorporating an external dimension to their digital workplace. This may involve how workers collaborate with external partners, how online platforms deliver services for customers, how the enterprise communicates on external social platforms and how organization’s external web strategy in its totality reflects enterprise goals.
The emergence of Digital Boards, strategic decision-making bodies that encompass both internal and external digital platforms are a sign of this trend. They exist today in 17 percent of organization in our survey population.

3. The new leadership class organizations –  one of three criteria

Organizations had to respond positively to at least one of the following three criteria in order to be classified as leadership organizations: (self-assessed)

  • The intranet or digital workplace is the “way of working” in the organization, that is to say “the essential place for accessing all or most of what people need to work”.
  • Internal social collaboration has become well established enterprise-wide or well established within some parts of the organization based on a self-assessed scale.
  • A fully functioning, high-level Digital Board makes strategic decisions for both internal and external digital channels ranging from the intranet to external web sites, and including collaboration and social networking.

The leadership class represents just over one third of the survey participants. Some of the organizations responded “yes” to two criteria out of three. Six organizations responded“yes” to all three criteria.

4. Two types of workforce with different needs and perspectives

Intranets and digital workplaces serve different purposes and have different goals and strategies depending on the needs of their workforce. For purposes of this survey, we have defined two different types:

  • Desk-Office: An organization is considered to be “Desk-Office” if sixty percent or more of the workforce have individual computers or laptops and much of their work is supported by or conducted via these tools. This category includes people who travel frequently but who use their laptop as a primary work tool.
  • Floor-Field: An organization is considered to be “Floor-Field” if sixty percent or more of the workforce carry out their jobs in a work environment where the computer is not a primary tool. They may have access to a shared computer or kiosk or be equipped with a smart phone, tablet or a mobile device designed for their specific job.

 The final chapter –  “Change and challenges”

We are still working on the final chapter, which as of today is entitled “Change and challenges”. It’s not an obvious chapter to write in spite of the numerous, generous contributions and firsthand experiences by participating organizations.