When I started working in the field, Digital Natives and Social Media were the key drivers for a lot of companies. Resonating on my most recent conversation I came to realise that things have changed. Organisations feel that current and upcoming business challenges require fixes in today’s productivity support. Retaining talent and unleashing their potential isn’t achieved through Social Collaboration alone. The entire subject has finally reached the hallway towards the board room. For good.

It has been a while since I found enough food for a publication. This article is inspired by three sources:

Key take away in this article

  • Digital Business Agility requires the Digital Workplace – my thoughts on what enablement of individual and organisational instances means to hyperawareness, informed decision making and fast execution.
  • Employee Engagement is what changes corporate culture – an extension to a beautiful model that could allow us to manage expectations better and make potential and success measurement more accurate.
  • DWP has to become the ERP for information & knowledge work – my proclamation that enterprise resource PERFORMANCE will get us on the CEO agenda for good.

Digital Business Agility requires the Digital Workplace

Michael Wide defines Digital Transformation as follows: “Digital Business Transformation is Organisational Change through the use of Digital Technologies and Business Models to Improve Performance.” If you carefully look at the statement it allows the interpretation that organisational change is driven by technology. I am pretty sure though that it’s now what he is trying to say. Over the past years – and through countless “here’s a new productivity platform, it can do everything, be happy!” project failures – we have learned: people need guidance. They need to understand why things are changing and what their stake and role is in this new world. No matter how close we move business IT to commercial services and what people love on their tablet at home, adoption isn’t something that comes for free. By the way: it doesn’t come for free for the big internet players either. They invest billions in software development, user research and experience design… The majority of companies however still start to hyperventilate if a Digital Workplace project asks for 5 millions over 3 years. ERP projects for 120 million are fine though.

Michael also introduces the model of Digital Business Agility in his framework:

Digital Business Agility (IMD, Michael Wade)

Source: Figure 3 in “Digital Business Transformation – a Conceptual Framework” (IMD, Michael Wade, June 2015) Connecting the three fields of Digital Business Agility to the concept of the Digital Workplace my take is the following:

Hyperawareness

This is probably the strongest case for two aspects of the Digital Workplace:

  • Integration with the outside facing channels & social media
  • Corporate Social Networking

The fact that it is become more and more business (and success) critical to stay on top of market, customers & competitors requires scalability. Collecting information, enriching it from multiple angles and making it available to the right stakeholders at the right time is a foundation of the internal enablement of hyperawareness. The Digital Workplace has to close the gap between the “outside” world and the internal information flow. Hyperawareness is not just about speed though. It is about “making sense” as well. Just being aware of something doesn’t help if consequences and options aren’t clear. A Digital Workplace has to provide the mechanics to classify information in a meaningful way and provide the right internal context. The delivery has either to follow urgency/importance rules or be driven by relevance, which requires a clear profiling of individuals and organisational instances.

Informed Decision Making

Michael already makes hyperawareness and connectedness corner stones of informed decision making. The Digital Workplace has to facilitate the process and allow companies to stay able to take decisions even in the scenarios of

  • geographical distribution of key decision makers
  • continuous organisational change (e.g. consolidation or M&A)
  • distribution of essential knowledge across hierarchical levels

The Digital Workplace won’t solve any of the scenarios though. All it can do is to enable people to stay on top of things no matter what the surrounding conditions are. At this point I would like to emphasise that leading informed decision making in dynamic business environments will become a key skill of leaders and managers. Companies have to stop procrastinating. In too many instances I have witnessed the “the next one in my position can take the decision” syndrome. This isn’t helping though because the third element in Wade’s model is:

Fast Execution

Today’s knowledge is tomorrow’s old news. We live in a time where a multi-day turnaround of customer requests, no matter if B2C or B2B, isn’t sustainable. Speed matters. It is driven by a new level of market transparency and the globalisation of markets. Customer’s aren’t bound to their local environment anymore. Today’s world offers a global market for goods and services – and jobs. If Fast Execution cannot be argued through customer value (even though it should) it can definitely be argued through employee satisfaction and eventually retention. Talking to business stakeholders and employees the main complaint is: speed of change. A lot of talk. No walk. Visions of a bright future and great opportunities have lost their leverage to keep people on board. In this context a little wake up call for change makers: talent and high performers are the first ones to leave after badly managed change, because they can. They will find and pursue other opportunities. One character trait of the new generation at the workplace is “mobility” – geographical and employment related. In an age where communication across the globe is better than before and hire-to-retire isn’t an option for the most, talent retention becomes a completely different ball game. This leads me to the second external source of inspiration:

Steve Smith’s article on “How Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs influences Employee Engagement”.

You can find the full article here. I’ve stolen the key image though, to have the reference point to my next thought right here: Hierarchy of Needs influences Employee Engagement

Source: Steve Smith’s LinkedIn article on how to apply the Maslow pyramid to Employee Engagement I adore how Steve has put the different levels of employee engagement in the context of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs concept*. It allows a differentiated point of view on the potential audience of a Digital Workplace. This differentiation is essential for two main factors:

  • expectation management on leadership and management level
  • potential & success evaluation

Expectation Management

We have to make sure that executives and managers realise that the only way to unleash the intellectual power of an organisation is to engage with it. Engagement however can mean different things:

  • create the right environment for people to engage or achieve self actualisation
  • go ahead and be a role model; don’t expect bottom up change management for corporate culture
  • engage with the engaged and give them a voice and visibility so they can reach the level of self actualisation through impact
  • None of this can be delivered by a Digital Workplace but it can make all three hell of a lot easier and pleasant.

Potential & Success Evaluation

One of my key questions around a new service on the roadmap for a Digital Workplace is “What’s the expected impact? How big is the audience and – independent of its size – what’s its foot print in the company?”. It’s a false promise to believe that you can reach everyone. It’s a much better aspiration to only reach a few but make it really matter. Then success measurement will happen on a different scale as well. “Volume” (my most hated KPI in internal DWP measurement) suddenly has to be replaced by “impact”. It doesn’t matter anymore how many people join a community, how many likes a document has or how many shares a profile got. The substance deriving from the community and the effect of all the likes and shares will be way more important. This means that you can happily rely on the distribution Steve’s pyramid implies. If the upper two segments really kick it then you’re all good… Maybe one additional aspect: success measurement could go as far as measuring “transition” within the pyramid. Maybe moving people up the pyramid could turn into a nice management goal, couldn’t it?

Conclusion: The DWP has to become the EPR for knowledge and information work

If Digital Business Agility can be substantially enabled by the right services delivered by a Digital Workplace, if Employee Engagement can be facilitated by the right opportunities to express, connect and deliver impact of knowledge…where should we take it? I believe we should take it to the next level. Today, in August 2015, ERP projects to optimise process flow and standardisation in work execution still (and sadly) trump business productivity and communication projects. One reason might be the wrong way of putting it on the executive agenda. ERP stands for Enterprise Resource Planning. If we give the acronym a new twist and turn it into

Enterprise Resource PERFORMANCE

then we might be able to move up a notch on the CEO’s agenda. I’ve learned (the very very hard way) that EFFICIENCY doesn’t matter to most (not all though!!) decision makers. EFFECTIVENESS – the ability to grow without hiring – seems to be a much stronger argument.

  • Do things right the first time (aka re-use)
  • Utilise resource to the max and avoid “down time” (aka avoid admin overload)
  • Use resource where it work’s best (aka talent management)
  • Combine resource for economy of scale (aka connectedness)

I believe this is the new way to go:

Effectiveness – Performance – Growth

Let’s go…the board room awaits us!


(*) I felt the need to slightly disagree with the “I’ll leave if something much better comes a long” bullet of the engaged cluster. Gallup puts engagement before satisfaction as a key driver for employee performance and retention. So I didn’t believe initially that engaged people will leave that easily, not even for a “much” better opportunity. It would not resonate with the characteristic of people that consider themselves “vital to the business”. If you are really vital and then jump ship you might end up losing your face, which would get known beyond company borders. Then I looked at myself and my past business moves and I realised: engaged people do jump ship. Cautiously, but they do jump eventually.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s