How can I know if my organization is ready for digital working?

March 9, 2017 Updated: November 2, 2022 by

We’ve all been there. You hear about a new app intended to help you change your habits. You download it to your phone. It’s life-changing for a few days, or even weeks. “This is it,” you marvel, “my life is changed forever!” Then you miss a day. Then a week. And, before you know it, your behaviour reverts to life before the so-called silver bullet app.

Behaviour change on an individual level is hard. Scale it up, to multiply individual behaviour change to a whole organization, and you start to get a feel for why so many digital workplace initiatives struggle to gain real traction.

This is where the concept of organizational readiness comes into play.

What is organizational readiness?

A plethora of elements interweave to contribute to the success (or breakdown) of your digital workplace efforts: from the technology ecosystem and device experience, to the physical context in which these are being deployed and the diversity of your user types.

Organizational readiness is one of these elements, and it taps into some of the less tangible areas often viewed as being beyond the control of digital workplace efforts, such as culture, management style and organizational process.

Without the necessary practices in place, the best technically designed digital workplace in the world will struggle to gain traction. This is where organizational readiness comes in. It’s a way of assessing to what extent your environment is ready for digital working, so that you can plan what interventions will help you close any gaps.

Thinking back to our app: it’s not just relying on the technology to change our behaviour; it’s thinking also about our support network, routine, mindset, and the nudges we need in order to truly change.

But what does organizational readiness actually look like?

It’s not enough to talk about organizational readiness in the abstract; we need to know what elements actually constitute an organization that is ready to embrace digital ways of working.

DWG’s research, Is your organization ready for the digital workplace?, has identified four key areas of organizational readiness. Each of these contains a number of “truth statements” that can help you assess how ready your organization is as well as establish any potential gaps that may hinder your digital workplace efforts. While the full report covers these areas in detail, we’ve picked out some key indicators below.

Area of organizational readiness
Sample readiness indicators
Leadership and management

For an organization to have
a good level of readiness for this transformation, the cause needs to be understood, acted upon and sustained by leaders and managers across the organization.

  • Senior leadership actively support and promote the digital workplace as a way of working and, ideally, are visibly present within the digital workplace.
  • Managers are being trained in how to manage distributed teams using the tools available within the digital workplace.
  • Managers have the ability to effectively manage their teams using the digital workplace, regardless of where they are located – and are doing so.
Process and policies

Organizational readiness for digital working therefore requires the right processes and policies to be in place so that employees are fully supported by the infrastructure surrounding them;
indeed, the right process can often provide the “trigger” for users to make use of the tools available to them.

  • Policies that specifically support usage of the digital workplace for two-way communication and collaboration are in place.
  • All supporting policies for the digital workplace are easy to understand and follow, and rooted in how they bring value to the organization and users.
  • Processes around employee services (such as HR and financial) have been updated so that these services are effectively delivered via the digital workplace.
Organizational culture

While culture change is a long-term effort that goes beyond the realms
of just the digital workplace, being aware of whether your culture is likely to facilitate or block your organization’s readiness for digital working is an important first step along this journey.

DWG has identified 13 specific
values that can facilitate digital working, depending on to what extent they are present within the organization.Find out more.
User ability and motivation

Where user motivation falls on the spectrum of low to high, and user ability falls on the spectrum of whether the behaviour is hard or easy to do, will both influence to what extent the trigger for the desired behaviour is successful. When viewed through the lens of organizational readiness for digital working, BJ Fogg’s Behavior Change Model can therefore be a helpful framework for ensuring that the necessary practices are in place to encourage high
motivation and high ability.

  • The organization takes specific actions to raise awareness of the capabilities of the digital workplace amongst users.
  • Users are provided with information that helps them make choices regarding which digital workplace tool should be used for a particular task.
  • New employees receive specific training about how to use the digital workplace for their work, as part of their onboarding.

So what can I do?

As with anything, it helps to know where you want to go, assess where you are now, and then plan how you’re going to address any gaps.

While our research has identified additional indicators, you can make a start with the information provided above through a simple stocktake of what you already know.

Create a four-column table, and work through the following:

  1. List each of the above indicators in the far-left table column.
  2. In the next column to the right, brainstorm to what extent you see evidence for this indicator within your organization (or even within a specific department or different user groups).
  3. Assess whether this is most likely to help or hinder your digital workplace efforts.
  4. Identify practical actions and interventions you can take to try and alleviate any issues.

Related research and resources

Organizational readiness research

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Categorised in: Collaboration, Digital workplace, Research reports, Strategy & governance

Shimrit Janes

Shimrit is Director of Knowledge for DWG, focused on curating knowledge on the digital workplace for its members and clients such as Adobe, The Coca-Cola Company, and Ubisoft. Shimrit has worked with Paul and DWG colleagues on various initiatives, such as Digital Nations Group, as well as co-hosting the 24-hour global digital experience DWG24. She has had a number of research papers published with DWG on topics such as organizational readiness and collaboration. Shimrit lives in London, where she crochets, enjoys video games and keeps more books than the space allows.

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