Five core truths about managing digital workplace programmes

March 24, 2021 Updated: November 2, 2022 by

How do you manage the digital workplace? This is a key question for teams delivering a digital workplace strategy and then making it operational. With the scope of the digital workplace wide and not always clear, as well as frequently involving multiple stakeholders and requiring significant levels of change, managing the digital workplace is potentially very challenging.

In addition, the digital workplace is an area that is still emergent and evolving. There may be no set of established processes and good practices upon which digital workplace teams can draw; it is very different from, say, intranet management, product management or IT services management. So, while elements of these may be relevant to digital workplace management, new skills, structures and governance will no doubt also be needed to make it happen successfully.

In our recent DWG member research report, Digital workplace management: Teams, structures and methods, senior consultant Chris Tubb takes a deep dive into managing the digital workplace. Although the full report is available to DWG members only, you can download the free executive summary.

In the report, Chris looks at many practical aspects of digital workplace management, including how digital workplace teams are structured, and managing products within the digital workplace. He also covers how organizations are managing digital workplace programmes, delivering wide-scale change.

Below, we explore five key takeaways from the report that relate to the management of digital workplace programmes.

1. Digital workplace programmes require a different approach

Managing a digital workplace programme is not straightforward and takes a different approach to some other more traditional areas of IT programme and project management. Chris points out that: “bringing coherence and interconnectedness to multiple systems” is hard due to both technological and organizational boundaries.

To enable a digital workplace programme to be successful, there needs to be more emphasis on:

  • User need: everything must be centred around the user.
  • Structure and coherence: taking a more joined-up and simplified approach to content, functionality, messaging and workflow.
  • User-generated risk: providing users with the right tools so that there is no need for them to use unsupported or risky ‘shadow IT’.
  • Organizational readiness: ensuring that change management, training and support are all in place to enable adoption at scale and good usage patterns.

2. Digital workplace programmes require a strategy

Being able to successfully execute a digital workplace programme doesn’t just happen; it invariably requires changes to be made and a different approach to that which has gone before. Getting from A to B requires the formation of a proper digital workplace strategy.

While the report doesn’t go into detail on how to create a digital workplace strategy, Chris outlines the key steps in defining one:

  • Discovery: understanding your current situation through user and stakeholder research.
  • Diagnosis: identifying any trends, issues and problems from your discovery phase.
  • Guiding policy: defining and describing your strategic approach at a high level.
  • Tactics and strategic plan: working out the headline tactics and high-level plan to execute the strategy.
  • Ongoing strategic governance: ensuring there are responsibilities and processes in place to make sure the strategy is a “living and evolving plan”.

The digital workplace is bigger than any one department or function. The scope of the digital workplace and the portfolio of applications that are part of it go beyond just IT, extending also into HR, marketing, lines of business, and more.

To create a coherent digital workplace programme, it is therefore important to get buy-in and consensus across a wider group of stakeholders to ensure the necessary change management, governance and related efforts take place to drive effective, enterprise-wide digital workplace management.

Here, stakeholder management is going to be critical. Chris sees “good stakeholder management” as  an “opportunity for the digital workplace manager to communicate their vision and to start the change management process from the very first moment of people’s ideas”.

In the report, Chris also explores some good tactics for strong stakeholder management, including the need to establish clarity over what is expected of different roles and the level of engagement required with different stakeholders; here a RACI (Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed) matrix is an excellent tool that teams are recommended to use.

4. User journeys and super journeys can play an important role

Chris highlights that IT has traditionally managed its relationships with different stakeholders around the portfolios of products they use, such as customer service or HR. However, this can lead to a fragmented view of the digital workplace experience.

Chris suggests that a “better digital workplace approach is to attempt to gather stakeholders around user journeys: a collection of tasks gathered around related needs”. He cites the example of booking travel, considering the actual systems used and even common experiences such as asking a colleague sitting nearby for help. Taking this more widescreen view of what actually happens to meet a specific user need can help to identify needed improvements, transcending the technology or ownership barriers that often occur when stakeholders view a process purely through a lens seeing only areas for which they themselves are responsible.

5. New allies emerge

Managing the digital workplace is very different from managing an intranet. Something that Chris draws attention to are the various new stakeholders that may emerge from managing digital workplace programmes – whom he calls “new allies”.

Traditionally, intranet and portal projects have tended to bring together IT, Communications, brand teams and senior management. Digital workplace programmes may also involve:

  • Procurement teams: ensuring procurement professionals bring digital workplace governance into core procurement processes.
  • HR functions: although HR has often been involved in intranet projects, their involvement is essential for digital workplace programmes, integrating HR systems that are often now in the cloud.
  • Real estate and facilities: ensuring that meeting room and desk booking systems, as well as elements of the smart office, align with the digital workplace.
  • IT service desks: there are significant opportunities to bring interaction with IT service desks into the digital workplace experience.
  • Customer-focused areas: there is great value in supporting employees in these areas through the digital workplace.

To find out more about digital workplace management, download the free report excerpt for Digital workplace management: Teams, structures and methods.

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Categorised in: Digital workplace, Research reports, Strategy & governance, Usability & design

Steve Bynghall

Steve Bynghall is a freelance consultant, researcher and writer specializing in the digital workplace, intranets, knowledge management, collaboration and other digital themes. He is DWG’s Research and Knowledge Lead, a benchmark evaluator and research analyst for DWG.

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