The best definition of Modern Workplace I can think of is a very short one: it is a fulfilled Digital Transformation. Once the transformation has been completed, we are able to offer our employees a workplace which will truly lives to its marketing slogan: work anytime, from anywhere.
In the same time, nothing has been so filled with marketing myths, and misused for marketing purposes, as much as this topic. Of course, everybody will understand something completely different under those terms, the same way that everyone will seek different outcomes from what we know as digital transformation. No two companies are alike. Those different perspectives, different goals, the lack of a precise definition (try to google it!), and above all the marketing misuse of the whole story, polluted “Modern Workplace” and “Digital Transformation”, two terms from the very first sentence of this blog post.
Whereas it doesn’t have to be so: the idea of Modern Workplace is a good one, and the IT industry is working on achieving it since its beginnings, but especially since the early 2000s. And we have come a long way – a lot has been achieved until now.
Even if we established that different companies will pursue different outcomes in their digital transformation process, and probably have different visions of modern workplace, some (actually, a lot of) elements will necessarily be common to all of them. In this series of blog posts, I will focus on those common elements, explore opportunities, and state benefits to the employees. I will break down that marketing slogan “work anytime, from anywhere”, and buzzwords like “modern workplace” and “digital transformation” to a list clear and achievable goals.
The whole premise that we are starting from, is that our employee can, but does not have to be in the company offices to fulfill her work. Even more, the large number of Fortune 500 companies are increasingly encouraging their employees to use the home office offers, since all relevant scientific studies (like this one from Professor Nicholas Bloom, from Stanford Graduate School of Business) show significant burst in employee productivity and employee satisfaction for home office workers. The same can be applied to business travelers: those are the employees we need to integrate, and to offer them all the possibilities, just like if they would have been sitting behind a work desk in their office. And that is a challenge we are solving since… well, almost forever.
Back in the times, even up until late nineties, large companies had something called “corporate newspaper” or “corporate gazette”. Those were newspapers or magazines printed with the offset technology and distributed throughout the company every month. The information employees were getting were asynchronous, delayed and untailored. On the end of the day, those gazettes were mostly the waste of time, money and paper, but they were achieving one goal: strengthening the feeling of belonging, loyalty and togetherness within the company. We can do better now – it is possible for us to deliver tailored news to the right people in the right time, while still achieving the community feeling inside the company.
Collaboration was one of the fields which highly profited from the IT industry: today, in the age of real-time content collaboration, it is even difficult to imagine how could five or more people work together on an offer, or a contract, only by using five typewriters.
Only five years ago I have been contracting for a company that still used pneumatic tubes for all crucial communication which included sending and receiving physical documents. To be honest, my job was to make that thing redundant. Still: Phone, Fax and informal coffee talk were the main elements of corporate communications. We witness a heavy decrease in phone talks (I don’t get more of 3-4 of those per week nowadays), Fax is a synonym for the stone age, and the real challenge is to replace that informal coffee talk.
If you needed information or guidance, back in the days you would ask a colleague or go to the company library (yes, those existed!). If you are a home office worker or business traveler, it is difficult to do any of that. However, looking for corporate knowledge is nowadays still a combination of communication and search, just as it was 50 years ago. The means are, however, very different.
Let us be honest: even after a full nuclear disaster, the only person that will survive will be someone who will bring you a form which you need to read, acknowledge and fill in. The bureaucracy is eternal. We will always need to fill in a request, approve it, and…
…sign it. Even if often neglected as a part of digital transformation, digital signatures were one of the main showstoppers of this process in the past decade. Proof of identity, accompanied by a signature, is an important part of business processes in lot of companies, and especially in government institutions, which should not be neglected.
All what we mentioned until now was leading us to this one point: we need to make our corporate procedures and processes available to the business travelers and home office workers, regardless if those are internal or external processes. Requests, approvals, accompanying documents, electronic forms, project-related and process-related communication – it all needs to be truly available anytime, anywhere, as an integral part of our modern workplace, whatever is our company about.
In the next few blog posts, I will go through these points, analyze issues and challenges, and list the options we have got.