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DWG’s Digital Workplace of the Year awards may be over for 2017, with the winners announced at Digital Workplace Experience in June, but there’s more to come in terms of what we learned from the entries. We’ll be publishing a series of posts about the winners in the coming months, but here we zoom out to take a look at some of the key themes to emerge from the entries.

First, let’s get a quick reminder of the criteria for judging:

  1. Digital workplace strategy
  2. Rationale/business case
  3. Governance framework
  4. Three most impressive features/aspects
  5. User engagement
  6. Impact of the programme.

Delving into the judges’ scores and comments, these are some of the themes that emerged.

Four things the judges loved

From well thought-out features to user-centred design, some of the approaches teams are using to advance the digital workplace really wowed the judges:

  1. Employee-centric approaches

From “live builds” that put users at the heart of development, through to a Chief Employee Experience Officer responsible for the digital workplace, there were some great examples of how organizations are putting users first. Where teams are getting this right, they’re thinking about how to engage both employees and executives from the outset of their programmes, and then to keep them involved long-term through advocate networks or user groups.

  1.    Clarity and simplicity of vision

The judges also commented on how effective some teams had been at articulating their digital workplace strategy in a clear way, perhaps illustrated with a striking graphic to help engage stakeholders in the story. And although the more ambitious strategies certainly impressed, in some cases it was the simplicity of the focus that stood out, signalling a team that is very clear on what matters most.

  1.    Cross-functional involvement

Entries that boasted involvement in the digital workplace from across the organization got a big tick from the judges. Governance bodies and teams with strong cross-functional involvement provided great examples of working collaboratively, solving problems and overcoming challenges that the digital workplace team would struggle with on its own.

  1.    Well thought-out features

It was great to see some neat features that had been developed to solve specific problems or enhance the experience in particular ways. From photo uploads for an employee engagement challenge, to employee “thank yous”, a travel deals app and contextual smartboxes – the range of features showed how digital workplace teams are engaging thoughtfully and deliberately with user needs.

Three things that need more work

Even the winners and runners-up, while boasting some great practice and achievements, had some areas that still need more work. Yes, the good news is that digital workplace managers aren’t out of a job yet – there’s still more to do!

  1.    Lack of clear definition of the digital workplace

For some entries, there seemed to be a lack of clarity around what “digital workplace” actually means. The judges picked up on the wide range of definitions amongst entrants, from “intranet-plus” through to a more all-encompassing view of the employee digital experience of work.

  1.    Strategy and governance shortcomings

This is something we focus on a lot at DWG (you’d noticed, right?) and our judges were quick to pick up on organizations that were weak on strategy or missing elements in the governance model. In some cases, the strategy was not sufficiently broad in scope or reach; lacked alignment to business goals; or was simply too vague or lacking in focus. Where governance fell down, it didn’t appear to be robust or was rather ad hoc. Governance was the lowest scoring area of the six criteria we looked at.

  1.    Measurement? What measurement!

Although there were a few great examples of meaningful measurement, on the whole this was a weak area, with measures of success not clearly articulated, too basic, insufficient or just plain non-existent.

Thinking of entering next year?

Here are a few tips from the judges:

  1.    Be specific!

The judges really like specifics, whether these are specific metrics, detailed descriptions or clear evidence. Where entries were vague or theoretical, or lacking in specifics, they were harder for judges to assess and therefore tended to be marked down.

  1.   Tell them what to look at

All of our judges are really into the digital workplace… but, with a lot of entries to wade through, they really appreciated those that told them exactly what they should look at in the supporting slides and screenshots.

  1.    Be ambitious!

Quite a few of the entries were rather intranet-centric – to be expected at this stage perhaps – however, where there was a really broad and ambitious vision for digital working, the entry really stood out from the “intranet-plussers”. Obviously, this is a much broader issue, but with more than a third of organizations in our 2017 Digital Workplace Survey responding that digital workplace strategy is a priority, we hope to see some big ambitions in the 2018 Awards.

The Awards will open in January 2018, so follow DWG’s blog to stay posted!

About the author

Elizabeth Marsh - DWG's Director of ResearchElizabeth Marsh leads the Digital Workplace Group’s member research and events. She is passionate about connecting members to peers or resources and exploring new research opportunities.

Elizabeth is co-author, with Paul Miller, of the new book “The Digital Renaissance of Work—Delivering digital workplaces fit for the future”.

Prior to joining DWG, Elizabeth held intranet management roles at T-Mobile and Reuters, with broad-ranging responsibilities including community management, internal communications and research.

When not busy in the digital workplace, Elizabeth is a keen writer and musician, playing flute in an amateur orchestra and performing with various local groups.

Connect with Elizabeth on Twitter at @digitalsanity or on Google +.

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