9 ways to deliver an integrated digital workplace experience
Over the past decade, the evolution of the digital workplace has increasingly involved the creation of more integrated digital workplace experiences that set out to weave together different applications into a consistent and coherent whole. By bringing together opportunities for employees to seamlessly access features, view data and complete simple transactions from disparate applications without having necessarily to visit each separate app, digital workplace teams hope to drive efficiency, increase adoption and support a better employee experience.
This trend is reflected in intranet design (with intranets acting as the front door to the wider portfolio of applications), as well as in the evolution of Microsoft Teams, which is also seeing more and more integrations with other systems, both Microsoft and non-Microsoft. This is an area for innovation too; for example, all the winners in DWG’s recent Digital Workplace of the Year Awards displayed some degree of integration in their recent work.
And it’s not only practitioners who desire a more integrated digital workplace. In user research, employees often express the wish for a single place to go to reach applications or a less complex digital landscape to navigate.
We recently explored this important topic in more detail in the DWG member research report The integrated digital workplace: Creative approaches to weaving together tools. While the full report is available to DWG members only, non-members can download an executive summary. In this post we’re going to explore some of the ways in which an integrated experience can be delivered that are covered more fully in the report.
What are the benefits of digital workplace integration?
In the report we cover multiple aspects of digital workplace integration, especially some of the headline benefits. These include:
- improving efficiency and productivity, particularly by reducing ‘context switching’ between different applications, which wastes time and reduces focus
- enhancing findability by reducing the need to search through multiple repositories
- increasing wellbeing, by improving levels of employee frustration and overwhelm at the number of apps in use
- increasing the usability of digital workplace experiences
- rationalizing the digital workplace and simplifying the apps landscape, reducing costs, IT management effort, and more, in the process
- increasing the adoption of particular applications by providing easier access
- improving and standardizing specific processes that involve more than one app
- … and more!
What do we mean by an integrated experience?
In the research, rather than defining integration from a technical standpoint, we look at the ‘integrated experience’ from the user’s point of view. This experience is integrated from a user’s perspective because it:
- removes digital friction
- reduces the number of apps or windows that need to be open
- offers uninterrupted user journeys without the need to authenticate into or open multiple applications
- eliminates the need to find another app to open
- provides a consistent interface and experience.
However, it is possible that some of the above are delivered through approaches that are not actually integrations in the technical sense. For us, the important factor is the positive impact on the user’s experience and productivity.
Nine ways to deliver a more integrated digital workplace
The report looks in detail at some of the ways in which digital workplace teams are delivering more integrated digital workplaces. Here are some of the areas we cover.
1. Get the right strategy, governance and team operations in place
Often the emphasis around the integrated digital workplace centres on the end-user experience, for example an intranet homepage, mobile app or dashboard with integrations. However, having the right strategy, governance and operating model can make all the difference, and in the report we feature examples of teams who work in ways that make an integrated digital workplace more possible.
These examples include working closely with product owners, ensuring there is ongoing research focused around user journeys that span across different applications, and having governance over the apps that get deployed across the digital workplace. These foundations can help to deliver a sustainable and user-centric approach that will enable a more integrated digital workplace.
2. Support design and technical standards
Design and technical standards that allow for easier integrations and a consistent look can support the delivery of a more integrated digital workplace experience – for example, creating a custom integration in such a way that it can be easily deployed across other digital channels, or providing development guidelines, software design kits (SDKs) and even code snippets to support developers in other parts of the business who want to develop integrations. Approaches such as these can lower barriers and encourage more integrations, particularly in large, global businesses where particular divisions may have their own IT resources.
3. Cards, tiles and microapps
Many app integrations are delivered to users through a tile or card in the form of a box that presents information and potentially options to interact with it; in this context, it presents information and data from the integrated system and potentially links or calls to action. Interactive cards like these are sometimes known as ‘micro-apps’. Cards and microapps are used across many different experiences, such as homepages, dashboards, in conversational threads, in toolbars, in search results, and more.
4. Homepages, dashboards and toolbars
Dashboards that feature components displaying data from different applications are a common format in integrated digital workplace experiences. Some intranet homepages are effectively dashboards, featuring cards or microapps. Integrations can also appear in a toolbar format, which is sometimes persistent from any page within an application such as an intranet.
5. Tool directories and app stores
One way in which users can gain easy access to the wider digital workplace is through a tool or app directory that lists different applications in use and provides convenient links to them, usually available with single sign-on and no need to reauthenticate once a user is on the network. A popular feature of many intranets is a directory of tools giving users access to different apps from the homepage as well as the ability to bookmark favourites, thereby providing a convenient ‘front door’ to the wider digital workplace. Some organizations offer an internal app store where users can access tools, while others have developed something in between a tool directory and an app store.
6. Integrated search
Another key area in which the integrated experience can be demonstrated is search. Enterprise content may be spread across multiple systems; for example, information on how to complete a task might be stored on your intranet, your HR portal or your IT service platform. Bringing together content from multiple repositories ultimately saves time and ensures employees don’t have to search individually through multiple places. Creating an integrated enterprise search may be difficult and time-consuming but can have high value.
7. Mobile apps
Mobile employee apps that effectively provide a window into the wider digital workplace are being delivered, not merely acting as launchers into other apps but also taking the form of integrations based on key employee journeys. Indeed, a mobile employee app may well be the primary route in for a frontline employee who does not have access to a desktop during the working day, or maybe doesn’t have the right level of licensing to access the wider digital workplace.
8. Chatbots and conversational interfaces
Chatbots and related conversational interfaces increasingly allow employees to complete simple transactions or view information, all enabled by an underlying integration with another system. For example, an employee may be applying for some annual leave in the HR system, logging a ticket in ServiceNow, or booking a room from the meeting room system, all from within a chatbot or conversational thread, perhaps in a solution such as Microsoft Teams. The introduction of generative AI and ChatGPT is likely to increase the ability to complete a wider range of tasks through a chatbot.
9. Admin and publisher experiences
A more integrated digital workplace experience can also be achieved by better integration of ‘back-end’ processes for administrators, site owners and content owners. Here, the low-code no-code trend in solutions design is empowering more configuration as well as supporting automation and the better orchestration of content and workflows across different applications.
Typically, there might be an interface or authoring canvas that allows business users to set up a workflow or app which delivers a more integrated digital workplace experience. Increasingly, features in employee experience platforms allow users to schedule different content across multiple channels, supporting campaign management.
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The integrated digital workplace:
Creative approaches to weaving tools together
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DWG members can access this report in full, which forms part of DWG’s best practice Research Library of 100+ reports covering key areas such as strategy and governance, personalization, user experience and change management for intranets and digital workplaces. Find out what else is in the library and new research that’s coming up. Contact us to learn how to gain access to this library via DWG Membership.