x-Early Perspectives

The Digital Workplace, a 10-year old term with new life

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

Update 2020: My global survey started in 2007 and the annual reports were entitled “Global Intranet Trends”.  From 2012 to 2014  the report became the Digital Workplace report.  The name and scope expanded the following years to “The Organization in the Digital Age”.

One of the first uses of “digital workplace” was in 2000 by Jeffrey Beir, co-founder of eRoom Technology who wrote “How to create a digital workplace”. (2017: link removed, article no longer online.) He defined it as a place “in which distributed teams can get work done… (and) members of an extended enterprise can work together, resolve issues and make decisions”. He identified 5 criteria which he coined the 5 C’s: comprehensible, contagious, cross-enterprise, complete and connected.

Personally, I preferred the term “workplace web”. “Workplace Web Content Management” was the name used by IBM in 2003 for the web content management system that became IBM Lotus Web Content Management in 2008.

“Workplace web” is clearly not sticking. “Digital workplace” is.

I sub-titled the 2010 report “Global Intranet Trends for 2010” as “Towards the workplace web”. It identified one of the 5 megatrends of the intranet becoming the front door into the workplace web.  The workplace web was defined as the organization’s ensemble of information, application, collaboration, networking and communication tools. For whatever reasons, the term “workplace web” did not take!

The digital workplace, a ten-year-old term with a new life?

In addition to Jeffrey Beir’s article “How to create a digital workplace” (2017: link removed, article no longer online), another early usage of the term was by the US census bureau that reported on the “digital workplace” in 2001. Their definition:   adults using computers and the internet at their workplace.

The most recent re-appearance of the term is by IBF during their worldwide Intranets Live event  in June 2010:  “Exploring Intranets and the Digital Workplace”. (2017: link removed, article no longer online.)

I tested the term “digital workplace”  at two intranet conferences several years ago, one in Stockholm and one in Paris, and with several of my clients. The term has had an impact on management decisions in two recent client cases.

One of my strongest professional goals is to place intranets firmly on the agenda of senior management. My experience so far indicates that talking about the digital workplace rather than the intranet is one tool in my arsenal.

The new era of the workplace web

I wrote an article on LinkedIn in January 2020 where I say “Today we should be talking about the workplace web, not the digital workplace.” I then explain my thinking:

Today’s reality: People, places and capabilities interlinked and working together inside and outside traditional organizational walls.

You’ll see among the comments to the article that the subject is still hot!

By the way, the 5 C’s coined by Jeffrey Beir (comprehensible, contagious, cross-enterprise, complete and connected) are strong ambitions for all workplaces, whatever you call them.