I enjoyed reading Paul Miller's article about his predictions for the Digital Workplace for 2017. So much so, that I decided to put down some thoughts that I couldn't get out of my mind any other way.
Paul Miller, who leads the Digital Workplace Group, has a track record of prediction about the digital workplace over the past years. His entire article is one that I would recommend, and his entire list of ten (10) predictions for 2017 is worth considering. Perhaps I will spout off about his other predictions at a later date, but for today, I want to tackle two of them, which are front and center with many of the Office 365 customers that I work with regularly.
Paul Miller’s Prediction #2 for the Digital Workplace
2. Focus shifts from “firing up tech” to changing behaviour and culture
This is a striking change that we in the Digital Workplace Group have seen strongly in 2016. For the first time, many large enterprises are most concerned about culture and behaviour change when deploying new digital workplace services – and are viewing turning on the technology more as a “hygiene factor”, particularly as services move relentlessly to the cloud.
For one major pharma client in Germany, their new collaboration services were straightforward technically – but after evidence from their history that simply implementing new technologies doesn’t bring the much-touted benefits to employees, this time they turned to change management and culture as the levers they needed to tackle. This pattern will extend for many organizations and the so-called “soft skills” of digital workplace improvements will take centre stage.
This is absolutely true – that companies are finding it more difficult to roll out applications and technology services to their employees and expect employees to be able to leverage them easily. The switch in focus to encourage a cultural change among employees is a change that can’t come quickly enough.
This is a representation of the move to a SaaS-based and cloud-based infrastructure. Large application systems that previously were installed using a Big-Bang installation model were replaced by agile development and continuous deployment. Enterprise IT groups that used to deliver employee facing software applications and LOB services via large concurrent deployments are discovering the benefits of continuous deployment. The next phase of realization for this is probably with employees, that will need to transform from learning new application functionality and tools every year or two into a slipstream model of discovering new functionality weekly or monthly.
A focus on modifying culture and employee behavior will have a more productive impact on employee adoption. The tools and applications will still need to be built – and as more employees adopt the new tools, deployment cycles can perhaps shorten and the feature backlog for each app may also shorten.
I also think that Paul’s fourth (4th) prediction is worth some consideration.
4. Intranets keep getting better and stronger
Weren’t intranets supposed to have become extinct by now? Rumours of their demise have been around for 15 years or more. The reality is though that any well-functioning organization of any size still requires a robust, productive intranet, if only as a digital front door to the wider digital workplace.
Whether it is Estée Lauder or Nationwide, compelling intranets that deliver value to the workforce are essential within the context of the broader needs of digital workplaces. Upgrades, new functionality and better mobile experiences will all be part of the enhanced intranets we will see.
I also believe that the concept of Intranets is growing and deserves to be strengthened within organizations. The Employee Intranet is the heart of soul and culture for an organization. Often, as employees work in teams that are more distributed than ever, as organizations change more frequently, and as the nature of work relationships morph through time, employees will rely on the Intranet as a centering force.
It used to be that the Employee Intranet served up the published information to employees, and also provided support for work-in-process scenarios - the ad-hoc collaboration spaces for project teams and for employee workgroups. While intranets were manageable in size, this made some sense, and the cost to apply consistent branding elements across all sites was manageable.
Today, ad hoc collaboration sites find themselves being more separated from the highly structured intranet sites. Employee Intranet sites pay the cost of applying company branding to their pages, while ad hoc collaboration areas need to be spun up and down as projects are created and completed, and can’t afford to pay the “branding tax” for each instance.
I think that as the amount of separation between ad hoc collaboration areas and employee intranets continues to grow, that Intranets will gain strength and find it easier to maintain company culture and focus.
Enterprise IT Groups should consider the employee intranet as a discrete service offering from ad hoc collaboration spaces. Trying to combine them weakens the value proposition of both.
What are your predictions for Enterprise Transformation in 2017? I like Paul’s list – and will give the Digital Workplace Impact podcast a listen.