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DWG consultant and lead benchmarker Chris Tubb recently wrote that intranet success starts with strategy and governance – and I have found this to be even more true for the digital workplace. The wider set of stakeholders involved plus the broader vision, deeper organizational impact and more complex technology landscape mean that any such project must be underpinned by a strategy and vision that everyone buys into. Achieving this cross-functional perspective and consensus usually also necessitates having some sort of governance in place, even if it is just to sort out the strategy!

Many organizations are thinking about their digital workplace strategy right now. In our last annual survey, nearly half of DWG members mentioned “Digital workplace: definition of strategy, roadmap, service components” as one of their top strategic priorities for the coming 18 months. In fact it was the most popular choice.

Other organizations that are further down the road with their strategy are now considering their roadmap. How should they proceed and prioritize? It’s a question that resonates with DWG members who voted this a focus topic for DWG’s research programme last year, resulting in the publication of the DWG member report “Digital Workplace Roadmaps: From strategy to implementation” (plus its sister report on digital workplace governance) authored by myself.

The step between strategy and implementation

In terms of enterprise technology projects, a roadmap represents a high-level plan to get from A to B. It’s usually looking to the future and typically covers implementation for the next three years. However, in the ever-changing organizational, technology and competitor landscape, “roadmaps” are inherently aspirational and never fixed. If anything, a roadmap can be more a communication tool and less a plan that is set in stone.

For the digital workplace, a roadmap can be regarded as a critical step between the agreement of the digital workplace strategy and the implementation of a programme of work which delivers on that strategy.

But the exact detail of that step is not always straightforward because the digital workplace strategy:

  • usually involves multiple stakeholders who are likely to have competing views on priorities
  • can involve woolly visions and a lack of clarity on how to get there
  • may include various dependencies and unknowns that make it difficult to draft a convincing roadmap
  • may surface the need for additional user research needed in order to draft the roadmap
  • points up that there is lots to do and to spend – so resourcing implications need to be considered
  • can get hindered if a major stakeholder hasn’t signed up to the strategy and their input is needed.

The power of the roadmap

But if you can get agreement on a roadmap it can prove to be a very powerful tool. It is a good way to communicate in a visual way to both stakeholders and users about the “digital workplace”, an abstract concept which not everybody “gets” instantly and which can mean different things to different people. Others may understand what it is but be unconvinced of the benefits.

A good digital workplace roadmap:

  • helps to illustrate what is being delivered
  • shows why this is worth delivering, by mentioning benefits
  • demonstrates how it will be implemented, making the strategy achievable, tangible and more credible.
  • Illustrates when it is delivered through a time frame

A roadmap does all of the above in a succinct and direct way. It usually consists of a graphical representation incorporating:

  • a timeline, perhaps with major phases
  • different streams and projects
  • specific milestones
  • a vision, an outcome and potential KPIs
  • high-level and more detailed views.

The roadmap may consist of just one slide, a series of slides or be a more substantial document. It might be developed as part of the digital workplace strategy. It could be a sophisticated piece of data visualisation or something more rudimentary.

Providing focus

A digital workplace roadmap often goes beyond being purely a communication tool about the strategy. It can also provide a highly practical focus point for conversations, decision-making and planning around the digital workplace strategy.

A good digital workplace roadmap:

  • brings the strategy to life, engaging both stakeholders and employees
  • ensures all stakeholders are on the same page around priorities and major milestones, avoiding misunderstandings further down the line
  • teases out true commitment to the strategy from stakeholders, particularly when the roadmap starts to imply decisions about resourcing, ownership and budget
  • acts as a valuable reference point or even wider framework for project planning.

Checklist for a digital workplace roadmap

In our member research we wanted to cover the practical steps organizations are taking to develop their roadmaps. We interviewed six different organizations that have implemented, or are implementing, digital workplace initiatives and have derived a checklist for creating a digital workplace roadmap from their observations and experiences.

Below: The digital workplace roadmap checklist
DWG - Digital Roadmaps Report - Checklist

The checklist has four major steps:

1. Strategy, ownership and governance 

The roadmap needs to be linked to a particular digital workplace strategy and should have a clear owner. Associated governance should ensure cross-stakeholder input and also that the roadmap is kept up to date.

2. Scoping and analysis

A roadmap needs to reference a specific scope. Is the HR portal in or out? You also need to assess where you are on your journey and where you need to be. Tools and services like DWG’s digital workplace maturity benchmarking can help. At this stage a roadmap can also start to assign logical major milestones and associated streams and projects.

3. Adding the detail

At some stage you need to add in some of the detail, for example, by referencing and aligning with other roadmaps. You’ll also need a sense check to make sure the proposed roadmap feels achievable and believable.

4. Evolving, measuring and communicating

Strategies and plans change, so your roadmap will evolve, particularly once your actual implementation plan starts to take shape. It will also be imperative to communicate the roadmap, ideally beyond core stakeholders and implementation teams. Measurement is important too and this also wraps into communicating progress.

A digital workplace roadmap is more than just a high-level plan. It complements and communicates the strategy and helps to tease out the difficult decisions needed to get the ball rolling on implementation. We hope the research and associated checklist will help organizations on their journey towards establishing a great digital workplace.

About the author

Steve-BynghallSteve Bynghall is a research associate, benchmark evaluator and knowledge manager for DWG. He is also a freelance consultant, researcher and writer specializing in knowledge management, collaboration, intranet and social business. Steve previously worked at accountancy firm BDO in a variety of knowledge roles, including managing its global extranet programme. He recently co-wrote a book on crowdsourcing with Ross Dawson.

Steve is passionate about being able to work from anywhere, and is occasionally seen in local coffee shops with his trusty laptop. When not working, Steve can be found exploring London with his family.

Connect with Steve on Twitter: @bynghall or on Google +.

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