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Seven steps to a digital workplace strategy

(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/Wichy)

Building a digital workplace strategy is a critical step in an organisation’s digital employee experience transformation. However, under pressure to move quickly, many organisations skip over strategy and dive into implementation. Deploying this technology without a clear plan could lead to a digital workplace that doesn’t provide any value, has underutilised features, and creates difficulties in finding the right information. As a result, digital workplace technology implemented without a clear strategy will most likely result in poor employee adoption and decreased employee engagement.

The following seven steps are designed to help organisations create a thought-through strategy that will guide their digital workplace transformation and keep it on track.

1.            Involve the right people

The first step for any organisation is to identify whose input is required for a digital workplace strategy and who needs to approve it. A digital workplace reaches all parts of an organisation, so there is potentially a wide group of people that needs to be involved.

Even though you may have a good idea of employees’ pain points, how they work, what kind of information they need, and what they would like to see, it’s still important to review the needs of both customer-facing and internal stakeholders to have a complete picture of the digital workplace.

2.            Carry out user and stakeholder research

The second step is conducting research to gather details on each stakeholder’s plans and goals. There is a variety of different methods, including user surveys, interviews, workshops, observation, and data analytics tools, that can be used to carry out thorough research.

Research results can help uncover technology or communication gaps that an organisation wasn’t aware of. Once the gaps are identified, you can determine which are most important to employees and which are vital for business success, then use this data to help build a comprehensive plan.

Conducting stakeholder research also demonstrates to both users and stakeholders that they are involved and are listened to, which is critical for getting their buy-in and can help support overall adoption of the plan and technology further down the line.

It’s also worth spending time to gather other inputs including other relevant strategies already in place, such as your IT strategy and other data like IT helpdesk calls. These can help identify employee experience problems reported before and solutions that worked well. External resources including best practices, vendor offerings, and inspiring case studies can be very useful, particularly from similar organisations that may have already gone through a digital workplace initiative. You should ask prospective technology vendors if they have these materials to share ahead of building your strategy.

3.            Crunch and analyse data

Once you have all your data, it’s time to crunch the numbers to identify trends and find patterns. What are the issues that keep coming up? What are the underlying problems? Where could key elements of the digital workplace make a real difference? How could it all fit together?

As you sort through your data, you can get all kinds of ideas of what the real problems are and how to fix them. Sometimes you might also need to go back and ask some of your users or stakeholders further questions to complete the picture.

4.            Articulate guiding principles

When you have enough ideas about your digital workplace, it is time to try and articulate the strategy’s guiding principles, which are the core of what you’re trying to achieve and might include four or five major “pillars.” These guiding principles can be aspirational, but they should also be clear and tangible, so everyone can easily translate the strategy into actions, tactics, and projects. At the same time, you might want to revisit your mission and vision for additional guidance.

5.            Enhance strategy details

As the next step, you should work with your stakeholders to ensure that you’re on the right track with your guiding principles and add more details about how exactly your plan is going to happen. These extra details should include the tactics to implement the strategy, more detailed objectives, KPIs, and a high-level roadmap. At this point, it’s usually too early to commit to specific dates, but it’s important to indicate what are the priority areas. For example, there may be dependencies for the digital workplace which dictate the order of the roadmap.

Including a realistic timeline can help different business units to understand what is coming, when phases will launch, and who will be involved in each phase. The initial stage should incorporate a measurable impact on your organisation’s business. Agreeing upon success metrics and ROI is vital to stay on track and keep stakeholders engaged.

6.            Let stakeholders review a draft

Once you have a fully drafted strategy document, circulate it among key stakeholders. It’s a good practice to ask for stakeholder feedback and comments. This process can take longer than expected, but it is worth doing to align everyone around the same plan and form a robust strategy that everyone will buy into.

7.            Iterate until a final version is approved

Stakeholders are bound to have some opinions about the strategy. Even if they disagree with it, it’s a good sign because it means they are engaged. Taking on stakeholder feedback, tweaking the strategy accordingly, and continuing to share updated versions until the document is final is the road to take here.

A strategy for the digital workplace is a natural extension of the work that you’ve already put into your employee experience. A thought-through digital workplace strategy acts as a focal point that brings together stakeholders and solidifies the mission and values your organisation is built on. It formalises your approach, sets out the guiding principles behind the end result, nails down some of the specific objectives, and proposes a high-level roadmap of how it is going to happen.

Company-wide collaboration and support is essential to the workplace transformation process, despite challenges that may arise. A vision for business success, coupled with the understanding that each piece of technology is a piece of the bigger puzzle, will help any organisation to develop its journey towards the ideal digital workplace experience.

David Maffei, President and CRO, Akumina