How To Run a Digital Workplace Successfully by Joanne C Klein

In this instalment of our exploration of what a digital workplace is, we caught up with our friend Joanne C Klein a SharePoint and Microsoft 365 expert from Canada to find out her views. Like many we’ve interviewed before, she says that learning how to run a digital workplace successfully takes a lot more than just plugging in the technology. In fact, success is dependent on continual training, up-skilling and re-skilling.

Joanne is an independent SharePoint and Microsoft 365 Consultant and a Microsoft MVP in Office Apps & Services. Her key area of focus is how to use the Microsoft 365 suite of tools to help organizations protect, retain and secure their unstructured content that’s now being produced at an exponential rate.

Here’s what she has to say:

What a digital workplace is and who should own it

Q: What does the term ‘digital workplace’ mean to you?

To me, it’s much more than just the technology. When I think about a digital workplace, that’s functioning well, I think about things like corporate culture, digital business strategy, what kind of applications organizations are using and how well are they managing to integrate them with each other. I also question whether they’re managing to automate some of their mundane, repetitive tasks to free up people in the workplace to work on things that have more business value.

Q: Who should ‘own’ the digital workplace?

You definitely need support from the C-suite to begin with. They need to see the value in having a digital workplace. Show what’s in it for them, and then it trickles down.

Then many people have a part to play in the digital workplace. One would be the productivity and collaboration team, that focus in on leveraging those communication tools across the organization. Another one would be those adoption and training people, to make sure employees know how to use the tools. It’s not enough just to light up these services and expect people to know how to use them.

And I think a big part of a great digital workplace, because I’ve seen it first-hand, is having a team that’s focused on the devices across the organization. So, everybody having a laptop, maybe with a touch screen, so they can really use those tools effectively.

One other thing is the developer crew in the crowd, for those integrations between all of those disparate applications. If you can streamline and integrate them as much as you can, and it’s not always possible, that has a tremendous impact on the digital workplace and the benefits you get from it.

The digital workplace tools you’ll need and how to train your staff to use them

Q: Which tools do you need to have a digital workplace?

It’s everything from having a really awesome intranet, so people can get their corporate news from there. Then there’s the collaboration tools. So, in Microsoft 365, that would be Teams, SharePoint, and Yammer. Outlook would be there too because, like it or not, I don’t think email’s going away any time soon, particularly when working with external partners.

Task management is huge in organizations, so that’s part of a digital workplace strategy. Everybody needs to get work done, so how are you managing that workflow? There’s a myriad of tools out there within Microsoft 365 that can do this effectively.

Q: How can organizations get employees to use new technology or get the most out of the existing technology?

Organizations where I have seen success with this, is it comes from the top down. For instance, CEOs or the executive team giving town halls using Teams live events. So, it’s about using the tools to demonstrate the tools.

This does a couple of things: it shows that even the executive is using the tools, so maybe we should use them on our Teams too. And it also teaches people about how to use the tools. Like, what does it mean to be an attendee in a lives event, and maybe this would be great for our next event that we’re having?

Organizations that have a lot of success don’t try to figure out every little detail before they push something out to everyone. They take the approach of, “Well, let’s try it; if we fall on our face, let’s pull it back and we’ve learnt something and let’s move forward.” And it’s maybe a little bit risky or unnerving to do it that way, but it’s a very effective way to gauge the experience for employees to do that.

How to use your digital tools to enhance the employee experience

Q: What’s your advice on how to use the Microsoft 365 tools to enhance the employee experience?

I would say have regular training sessions using the technology. So one company I’m working right now has ‘Teams Tuesdays’, so every Tuesday, anybody can join in; of course it’s recorded, so if you miss it, you can catch it later, and they talk about Teams, because there’s lots to learn there and everybody’s trying to understand how to effectively use this tool whilst working remotely. But you can use this same model for anything, for SharePoint, or any kind of training.

Another area would be try to add as much personalisation as you can, particularly into the intranet using audience targeting.

If you want to drive employee engagement, try to bring as much personalisation into it as possible. For example, on your intranet home page not only have the corporate stuff, but things that relate to location or division or things that are specific to the individual. I think that’s a really good, simple way of driving engagement.

A really cool tool, which is licence dependent, so there’s not a lot of people that would have the privilege of having this, but it’s ‘MyAnalytics’ and ‘Workplace Analytics’. These are very insightful; they’ll tell you how you’re doing from an engagement perspective. Whether you’re spending too much time in meetings. If you’ve not booked enough focus time in the week. Are there too many people on your team going to the same meeting? Maybe only one of you needs to go. It’s a very cool tool.

Q: Are there new skills that need to be either brought in or learnt in order to manage the digital workplace?
For teams that are moving from a legacy world and they’re fairly new to this area, I would say a digital mind shift is required. It’s a very fast paced environment, changes a lot, you don’t control things the way you once did.

A lot of the power is being pushed down to business information workers. They can build their own Power Automate flow if they want, they can build their own Power Apps if they have the wherewithal to do that.
Site ownership is another thing; they have control to do a lot of things within their site, which is a good thing, but it does require a mind shift from the IT perspective.

Organizations who have the biggest success organise their teams along the line of Microsoft products. They have a team that focuses on desktop and mobile devices, identity and access management, security and compliance, collaboration etc. So, these teams toggle the switches, they’re responsible fo the adoption and training aspect of it too.

Now, a big angle for this, from an end user perspective, is to teach that digital literacy. You want people using the tools to get their job done. So, it’s on the IT teams to do that in as effective a way as they possibly can.
The developers are another team. They’re the integration gurus. We need them to really bring some of these systems and apps together, because most organizations have more than just Microsoft 365 that they work with. So, we want to try and streamline that process as much as possible.

The secrets to running a successful digital workplace

Q: Does IT have a new role to play within the digital workplace?
Absolutely. A digital workplace really flattens an organization’s structure in a technology sense. Gone are the days of IT being able to work in a silo where they build something and then throw it over the fence and the organization starts using it.

Today, building a minimum viable product is the strategy most organizations are going with. Citizen developer is another thing that’s happening right now. Business information workers are building their own solutions. They don’t even have to go to IT. There is a governance aspect of that that can be a bit of a problem that organizations need to address. But that’s what IT needs to focus on. Not so much the building of the one-off applications for employees and business workers.

Q: What are the secrets on how to run a digital workplace successfully?

To be successful in a digital workplace, you have to toss out some of your pre-conceived ideas on age, gender, technical ability and what you used to do, and re-skill, up-skill: that’s for everybody to do.

It doesn’t matter the size of the organization. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been at an organization everybody is in the same boat.

Perfect! If you want to discover the essentials of a Modern Site Architecture, Joanne has written a free eBook on the topic! We’ve also got a nice amount of free educational video content to last you for hours, covering the topics such as “How to empower your employees to build the workplace of their dreams”, “How to modernize your digital workplace: The journey from Classic to Modern Valo Intranet” and “Finding and Developing your Digital Workplace Champions”. Get access here!

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