When we turn to our search engines to define the term digital workplace, we find that it is almost synonymous with the term digital transformation. This takes me back to the days when we were rewiring our brains to transform from referencing our physical desktops to that of our electronic desktops. We seem to have made that transformation quite successfully, although it did take us a bit of time. The term digital workplace is just that: a term. It is left to our imagination, and our budget, as to what our own digital workplace will become.
We are in the process of transforming the physical elements of conducting business. Things such as hard copies of documents, methods of communication, even bricks and mortar offices are using advances in technology to drive down costs and offer employees a better work/life balance. As we work through this rather complex and all-consuming transformation, there are some specific challenges that we need to be aware of.
Digital workplace and document management
Document management is defined as the centralized management of electronic documents. Various definitions use verbs such as sharing, tracking, and storing. Verbs are good. The challenge lies in that we tend to think of document management as a noun. We think of it as a thing that has a switch we can flip, and document management happens. We jump into the development of our digital workplace before we have built a longer-term plan. By the time we realize it, it has become next to impossible to efficiently manage the terabytes of data we have stored within our various systems. Add the fact that we have embraced software-as-a-service and subscribed to services that store our data in various clouds. We get so far down the road that to implement document management becomes a behemoth and a very high-risk project.
Every project manager will tell you that time invested in planning at the start of a project will greatly reduce rework as well as reduce the chances of realizing risk. I would love to say that we all just need to build our document management plan before we go down the path of transitioning to a digital workplace. But that ship has sailed. What is important is that we start to think of document management in much the same way that we think of security. It is something that needs to be considered before engaging in any technical implementation and the vendors we choose to work with must offer services that are compatible with the approved document management plan.
Working on an island
The theory behind corporate strategy is solid. We start with a vision of where we want to go, and we create a mission that states our approach to how we will get there. We then build out our corporate strategy that starts to drill down what each department needs to do to achieve the vision. Reality is different. Operationally, different departments encounter different challenges and they seek out solutions. But along the way, we sometimes forget to research if any other departments are having the same set of challenges and what the impact of our solutions might be to other departments.
The impact is that we end up with multiple systems that may or may not have the ability to integrate. There is also the possibility that we develop or configure systems that are defined without consideration as to how other systems are configured. This could result in very complex intermediary systems that are required in order to tell each system what respective fields of data they can talk to in other systems. These are incredibly difficult to test and even more difficult to maintain.
The solution is to build and enforce adherence to the approved corporate technology strategy. Variances should be discouraged.
We live in the age of the matrix organization. Seldom do we engage a project organization to take on projects on our behalf. Rather, we borrow pieces of people’s time to complete technology projects in addition to their regular operational roles. If managed well, this is a great solution as we benefit from the corporate knowledge that these resources bring. But we must factor in the time that these resources are not available to our project due to other responsibilities and deadlines. This means that the time required to complete the project is much longer than if a dedicated team of resources were to be engaged.
Of importance is that we give our human resources time to breathe in between projects. Technology projects can be difficult, and in many cases frustrating. Athletes know the consequences of trying to compete when exhausted from overwork. Project work is no different. The muscle we use is our brain and we can only be successful if our resources are operating at peak performance.
When selecting applications, we tend to select and implement complex technology with options, functions, modules, and add-ons, that we will never use. This can be problematic in that the more complex the application, the more complex the project, and the more complex it becomes to complete subsequent upgrades and to build integrations to other systems.
Never lose sight of what it is that your business needs the technology to do. Base decisions on what you know for certain today. Guessing what might happen, and what might be required tomorrow becomes a very slippery slope.
I like to flog the importance of training in every article and every business case that I write, and I will quite likely continue to do so. Technology is transforming at a very rapid rate and it is less intuitive than one might think. There is also the issue of the reduced time spent on testing and QA prior to releasing software in favor of quick releases to the general population.
Business users of software need to understand the logic behind the applications they use, and they need to be able to recognize if a certain behavior is just frustrating, or if it is possibly a defect in the software itself. Well trained resources equal effective resources. Standardized training should be available for new employees and as a refresher for existing staff.
Even more important, with the rapid transition to a digital workplace, employees should be educated on the corporate strategic plan and how that has filtered down to the applications that they work with. Every employee should understand how they are contributing to the corporate strategic plan and empowered to feel ownership of those contributions.
Digital workplace: Finally beginning to understand the problems
While we have been in the midst of the digital transformation for the better part of three decades, it is only recently that we have begun to understand just how much-advanced planning could have saved us in terms of time, money, and frustration. Not all is lost though. It is never too late to take a breath, step back, and look at our technology as a whole, rather than a series of noncontiguous and mutually exclusive parts. In addition, we need to understand that without engaged and educated project resources, we run the risk of severely lowered success in this transformation.
Featured image: Pixabay
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