10 Guiding Principles for your Digital Workplace programme

The Digital Workplace is often described as Business Processes, Technology and a User Experience coming together. So what does that actually mean? This article looks at some of the guiding principles that you might define to cover any activities that come under your organisation’s Digital Workplace initiative.

It is probably useful to remind ourselves of the reasons and challenges that we are trying to solve. If you are just starting out, then thinking about the situation your organisation is in, the following statements are probably true:

  • The workforce is distributed across many teams and areas with different attitudes to work, communication styles and technology preferences – which makes coordination challenging opportunities are missed as a result of cross-functional teams not collaborating.
  • Knowledge management is not a natural part of the process. Employees aren’t sufficiently rewarded for taking a collaborative approach to their work, and knowledge sharing is perceived as a chore. Knowledge usually leaves when people do.
  • Locating experts is difficult and the same questions are asked over and over again, while finding materials and information is extremely hard. Best practice sharing beyond immediate teams is practically non-existent.
  • Staff receive too much information (e.g. email) and have to go to many different places to do their regular job, while the current communication methods are not fun or engaging and are usually ‘top down’.
  • Current technology devices and software  are slow and not intuitive and it is difficult to know which tool to use for which purpose – sometime there are even multiple tools for the same purpose.
  • The organisation’s current Internet is not social and consists mainly of static content, functions like HR have not moved processes on line, instead relying to call centres to field specific questions or initiate and oversee relevant processes.

For more on defining the problem, I’ve written a longer article on this: Doing work is harder than it should be – but what’s the problem?

Typical Guiding Principles

The following are typical of the guiding principles your organisation may want to document, obviously they are not exhaustive, but should provide a good idea of the sort of things you might want to include. I’ve used the term ‘user’ here as it helps with context, but as general rule I would strike this term and replace it with one of the following: colleague, employee, individual etc.

1 – We will make decisions that enable our organisation’s strategic objectives – Decisions and technology will only be deployed where there is a clear business purpose, our actions and delivery will always be supported by and in line with helping our colleagues deliver our organisation’s objectives.

2 – We will reduce starting destinations – Applications like Outlook, Lync, Office Suite will remain as desktop applications, but users will access all our other capabilities via a single integrated Digital Workspace (our Social Intranet) and not via deskop icons, separate website addresses, multiple portals, wikis or similar.

3 – We will only deliver functionality and devices that is wanted and we will do it as soon as possible – we will deliver the functionality and data driven information that our users want as soon as we are able (even if we have to deliver in waves). This will always be based on business needs and not the whims of the loudest individual.

4 – We are in the business of delivering information to the user – Information ‘comes to’ the user with relevant content and updates appearing in applications that the user already accesses. This will apply regardless of whether it is information such as a corporate news article or an alert/notification from a system.

5 – We will allow intelligent delivery of information and respect user preferences – As part of delivering information to the user, systems will seek to only provide information that the user either: needs to see, has elected to see, or the system based on previous interactions, or someone else the user trusts, decides if content should warrant being displayed.

6 – We will provide “sideways” navigation – Where we keep separate platforms, clear links between platforms will allow easy and seamless navigation across them. Users can move between related information regardless of its source.

7 -We will deliver a persistent presence and unified communications experience –  that is always accessible regardless of which application a user is using.

8 – We will focus on constantly proving great usability – we will seek to reduce the gap between consumer and workplace technology experience, our users will not necessarily need to to undertake training to feel comfortable using our platform and devices unless they want to – in which case we will provide it in a way that makes sense and is comfortable for our users.

9 – We will deliver both an in-application search and an enterprise-wide search – users will always be able to search within applications, but will also be able to tap into content held elsewhere. Our search will work like a consumer experience and will always rely on context that our system has learned about who the individual is and their needs.

10 – We will provide a high level of security that is both integrated and invisible – All our applications will allow a user to authenticate once and remain authenticated to the other applications that we control until they log off.


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