What Is Digital Adoption & How To Do It – Q&A with Microsoft MVP Maarten Eekels

What is digital adoption? Which tools are needed? And how should you keep the processes in line and up to date in a digital workplace? This is what we asked Maarten Eekels, Chief Digital Officer of Valo Premium Partner Portiva and a Microsoft MVP & RD in the latest blog series exploring what a digital workplace is.

Maarten is an all-round Microsoft 365 specialist and is an expert in translating business needs into technical solutions. He’s a regular speaker at both national and international events, including conferences, SharePoint Saturdays and our recent 24-hour event, Valo Fest.

In our interview, we chatted to him about the modern digital workplace and how organizations can best manage them. In the end, he says having a good ambassador network is one of the keys to success. Here’s what he has to say:

Digital workplace & tools to success

Q: What does the term ‘digital workplace’ mean to you?
Maarten Eekels: It’s basically your work environment in the digital world. It’s a place where you should be able to get your work done.

But what I think is important, it’s not just about apps and tools. It’s also about processes. It’s about how to get your work done.

Q: What tools would you recommend?
Microsoft is really pushing Teams very hard, and it makes sense. Teams is, as Microsoft calls it, the ‘Hub for Teamwork’. To a certain extent, that is true. It is the place where you can at least have your conversations, where you can find the files that you’re working on, the documents, the presentations, the Excel files, calculations, etc. It’s a place where you can bring in other tools, as well.

The whole idea of a good digital workplace environment is that all these tools and all these platforms are connected. That you have one place where you can find all your stuff that you need for your daily ritual or your daily work. I think Microsoft does that quite well.

Q: Does there need to be a more collaborative approach when it comes to decision-making about digital workplace tools?
Yes, absolutely. You need communication and adoption skills to make sure that the story is right. But direct business involvement also is key. You need to at least have a business liaison person, who knows how the business works. But even better is to bring people from the wider business together to form a team.

Processes in a digital workplace give structure

Q: Should there be a role within an organization to enable these digital workplace processes?
I read an article recently, in the New Yorker and it was about a chief workflow officer. So, it’s beyond the digital workplace. Most organizations realize they need a digital workplace but focus on the tools and apps, and not on the workflow behind it. Nowadays, with more people working from home, organizations should put a greater emphasis on the workflow element of their digital workplace.

Q: What should organizations do to get their processes in order?
Adoption has always been important but is not always given the attention that it should have. When we go to customers and we talk about adoption, we always try to plot the tools to their daily rituals. So we ask “How does a regular day of work look for you, for your persona, for your type of role?”, and we go from there.

Digital workplace specialist Maarten Eekels

Maarten Eekels happily planning a customer’s digital workplace!

Digital adoption, also known as training your staff, is the key

Q: Should digital adoption come from the top or grassroots?
I really believe in a good ambassador network. They are really, really useful in a bottom-up approach. Give them insight in what you’re working with, and ask them for their opinions: “Does it work or not?”. “Are there better tools?”. “What do you see around you?”. This is important because they have the connections to the workflow, so there maybe other tools already being used.

Q: Training of the wider workforce is obviously key to the success of the digital workplace. How should organizations approach this?
I think it depends on the organization and what type of people you’re trying to teach the new skills to. What works really well is having a network of ambassadors. They can run sessions like ‘Lunch and Learn’ or ‘Ask Me Anything’. Having ambassadors is a cost-effective way to improve user adoption.

Q: Let’s talk about budget. Do you think there’s too much emphasis on the tech and not enough on training?
Yes, the first thing that I always mention during the inception meeting is, “For the average digital workplace projects, please, realize that the 20/80 rule applies here as well, but in a different way. 20 per cent of the success of this project is about technique, 80 percent of the success of this project is about adoption. It’s up to you how much money you would like to invest in the technique and into the adoption, but these are the figures.”

Q: Finally, what’s your advice to those either adopting digital technology in the workplace or those who want to improve the use of their technology?
I really believe in the ambassador network. Give them a podium. Make sure that people in the organization know who they are. Also, the whole idea about describing and supporting processes is key. If you have all the tools available but you don’t know when to use what and you don’t know how to use them, then it doesn’t make any sense. So it’s really, really important to invest in that.

If you have an ambassador network, a group of people, you can leverage their capabilities and their time with digital adoption to relieve the IT team.

Thank you, Maarten! If you want to see and hear Maarten in action, watch his video session at the Valo Fest where he’ll walk you through several real-life intranet case studies and give you new ideas as well as tell you which pitfalls to avoid.

On this same topic, we have a superb video session available by a Digital Working Culture Enthusiast and Consultant at Blue Meteorite, Jussi Sivonen on the topic “Bring employees together by leveraging modern tools in the digital workplace”.

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