Understanding the digital workplace architecture

Social media and the interconnected web has started to fundamentally change the way many organisation’s want employees and others to create, consume, share and collaborate, and indeed the way that a whole generation of new workers want to work.

Sadly in many of the world’s largest organisation’s it is still the case that the technology employees use in their personal life far outshines that they use at work – the aptly labelled ‘night and day’ experience.

To increase productivity, organisations must move beyond standalone social and collaboration channels and directly embed these into their core business processes: by establishing communities and taking advantage of the valuable information that can be gleamed from a user’s social graph, who are they, who are they connected to, what have they looked at before, what might they need to see? Indeed we know that employees are unlikely to take time out of their days’ to be social or to share information, therefore the sharing needs to happen automatically as a by-product of its creation – for example, an employee starts creating a presentation on topic X and the system takes care of sharing this with those that might be interested, or could help contribute as soon as the document is saved. In a similar way, access to that information needs to be where the user is, and this means on any device from any location.

The Digital Workplace is, at it’s most basic, the internal deployment of the next generation collaboration technology that helps get work done and keeps track of everything an individual does or is interested in. It is inherently social in nature and is integrated with the organisation’s existing applications and its mobile infrastructure.


Typically the digital workplace provides:

  • Teams and communities with the tools they need to communicate and collaborate
  • Individuals access the information and materials they need
  • One unified stream for information and communications, condensed for rapid scanning and only shows you what you want to see and is filtered to show you what matters most
  • A single company wide phonebook / expertise location / search system with a profile of every member of the company
  • Information and communications from group and business unit leaders
  • Information and communications from a user’s connections and from people they have an interest in
  • Information from people they don’t know, but that matches their interests

It typically replaces:

  • Standalone document ‘collaboration’ platforms
  • The use of e-mail for collaboration, ideation and content creation
  • Previous wiki, blogging, micro-status blogging pilots or legacy systems
  • An organisation’s intranet or company portal

So how do you go about figuring out what the digital workplace needs to look like for your organisation? The following architectural model outlines the areas you should think about and will help your organisation create new user experiences (when combined with employees who desire a better, more connected experience, with every app “socially” enabled).

Finally, it is important to realise that by preparing and implementing an updated output and user focused information and technical architecture, that this is only the first step to becoming a digital business. This will also require the organisation’s business model to fundamentally change: becoming driven by data, accessibility and the desire to innovate and to go to market and do work in a fundamentally different way, with the IT department relabeled, not as the folks that supply the PC’s and fix the printers, but as the team that is responsible for the flow of information around the company.  I plan to write a further post on this topic in the near future.


2 thoughts on “Understanding the digital workplace architecture

  1. Great comment from @jennim1 via LinkedIn: “Nice work Andrew, love the site! I appreciate this is an architectural view, but just wondered if there was any intention to extend this model purely past technology to include other areas of influence, including what we know from experience to be two big influencers in driving successful digital workplaces – the wider business strategy (business, not IT) and the organisational culture?”

  2. Great comment from Dana Haines via LinkedIn “I was reading an email yesterday about how employees/learners’ #1 request in learning and development is online social integration. This article parallels the concept.”

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