I have blogged in the past about how I believe the digital workplace has improved the quality of my life.

Guess what? I’m not alone. I just read an article based on the findings of a World Economic Forum report – Shaping the Future Implications of Digital Media for Society – unveiled at Davos: it showed that more than half of those interviewed (56 percent) said digital media has transformed the way they work.

The Social Good

Some of the findings are worth looking at in detail: 41 percent agreed that social media improves work effectiveness (only 14 percent said the opposite) and half said that digital media has improved the quality of their professional lives (again only 14 percent disagreed). Further, about two-thirds said digital media has ‘improved their ability to do their work, learn and develop professionally, and collaborate with colleagues’; and roughly six in 10 agreed that digital media has better enabled them to maintain balance between work and personal life and build relationships with business colleagues.

The Digital Dividend

Perhaps unsurprisingly, a huge number of organizations are now embracing the Digital Workplace and giving their employees the digital tools that allow them to engage more fully with their professional responsibilities (Gartner reckons that 46% of companies have some sort of initiative under way).

From my perspective, this is a win all round: engaged employees boost company performance (research by AON found a 5 percent increase in employee engagement boosts company revenues by 3 percent in the following year) so the investment case is there; HR gets to transform the employee experience and attract and retain the talent the company needs; internal comms gets a shiny new digital platform with which to animate the corporate brand; and IT can take control of the explosion in demand for BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) and profit from the move to the cloud and flexible licensing arrangements.

The real wonder then is that the majority of businesses have yet to jump on board – 54% of companies (Gartner again) are currently either doing nothing or doing some form of digital workplace unknowingly (probably via ‘shadow IT’ that raises the twin spectres of increased support costs and greater security risks). Given the obvious benefits, what’s holding them back?

Looking Through the Telescope from Both Ends

Let’s face it – any employee with a smartphone and an inbox is already part of a Digital Workplace and, in all likelihood, steps towards a more formal structure have already been taken: executives are probably formulating BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals) for their digital strategy, just as front-line staff are making their jobs easier by using available digital tools. There’s also a good chance that competing agendas and the vested interests of the many different departments that need to be involved in the Digital Workplace discussion make a coherent strategy hard to achieve. The trick is to make the ends meet and to get everyone around the table to agree on a common vision of the shape of the digital future.

This is far from a pipe dream. With the right help, it’s entirely possible to draw a consensual thread from corporate objectives to the outcomes that will achieve them, then to decide upon the desired employee behaviours that will bring about these outcomes and the digital tools necessary to support them. And the WEF report suggests that, as long they are properly consulted, end-users are likely to cheer any efforts to implement a Digital Workplace.

All of which makes me wonder what that 54% are waiting for.

Author: Iain Halpin

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