I love collaboration tools and I believe in their ability to change the way organizations conduct business – creating new business opportunities and uncovering fresh ways to gain competitive advantage in the marketplace. However, collaboration is so much more than technology tools, it is a cultural imperative led by leadership, embraced by employees and empowered by well-integrated technology tools. You won’t get there without a plan. To realize the benefits of the digital workplace you need a strategy and roadmap, to build those, you have to start with an assessment.
Smart leaders are already building a culture of collaboration
The best case scenario is one where the leadership has already seen the value of collaboration and are driving the culture that direction. It is a natural progression to conduct an assessment of technology tools that support the culture leaders are working to build. Many times departments and major project teams within a company are begging for better collaboration solutions, but IT is hamstrung by a full project pipeline and limited budget. It serves a company well to view the problem more strategically through an assessment. A good assessment will also serve as a way to open the discussion with leadership about the state of your digital workplace.
In my time at Microsoft and subsequently managing the intranet strategy and implementation for a global mining company, I have seen all types of collaboration strategies that, while promising on paper, have often failed to deliver on the promise. The problem, more often than not, was that the impact on the business was not properly considered. Great technology tools cannot make up for poor process or a lack of leadership support. Don’t get into a situation where you have wasted precious time and resources upgrading technology that does not serve your business!
How it all fits together
A digital workplace assessment is one activity in larger effort to improve. In my first blog post on this topic, I outlined 7 critical activities for successful digital workplace improvement. The 7 activities key activities are:
Assess the current state of your business (technology and strategic goals)
Analyze technology options with your business objectives in mind
Create a multi-year technology roadmap with a phased approach for quick wins
Integrate a social experience around work tasks
Integrate your business enablement systems as closely as possible
Enable your remote works with flexible technology solutions
Always measure and work to improve your digital workplace strategy to keep pace with evolving technology
Yes, you need to do an assessment.
In working with our clients at Coldwater Software, and in talking with other industry professionals, I have seen organizations embarking on technology projects without assessing the project requirements and business opportunities up front. Many organizations underestimate the importance of this critical planning step and suffer in the long run – wondering why their technology is not enabling the business like they hoped. In fact, many of the conferences I attend and speak at cover the topic of what to do with an aging, ungoverned intranet – a prime example of collaboration tool with little care and feeding.
The goal of a good assessment is to ensure that your digital workplace strategy empowers the business and provides the highest probability of user adoption for key stakeholders. While many companies complete some level of requirements gathering, most underestimate the scope of a digital workplace transformation and leave out key stakeholders while focusing in on one set of users rather than the interactions between users.
Digital Workplace assessments should go deeper into the motivations of both the leadership and employees as well as exploring the current and future marketplace capabilities. By exploring the opportunities for technology both now and into the future, you can dramatically impact that way business is done at your organization.
Execution without strategy is suicide
PWC recently reported on some of the major hurdles in implementing any new technology. Poor integration, underutilization of engaging, consumer based technology and security issues often topped the list. (See the full report here). Any IT consultant working in this space has seen these same issues repeated. It is time to stop simply installing technology tools and turn them over to the business without proper planning. For anybody thinking about simply having IT install SharePoint or turn on Office 365 and hand it over to the business to reduce the project costs, please think about the cost of cleaning up a mess in 3-5 years.
Execution without strategy is suicide and therefore taking the time to move slowly up front in order to go fast later is an absolute must for any organization seeking to improve their digital workplace.
Getting started with an assessment
A good assessment will start by getting key business stakeholders for your digital workplace involved and on the same page regarding the purpose and goals of the assessment. The questions of an early stage assessment will read much like an organizational vision statement:
Why are you embarking on this digital workplace transition?
What do you hope to accomplish with such an investment?
How will technology tools serve larger collaboration culture and initiatives?
Early definition meetings with smaller sets of business owners and key decision makers will help provide you the project clarity you need to ensure long term success.
Your digital workplace strategy is not useful if you do not get the right set of users in the room to better understand challenges with the current state of technology and collaboration.
In the user research stage, begin by analyzing the current experience and requirements of users before any solution planning takes place. In order to perform this task effectively, it is critical to bring in a wide variety of stakeholders early to ensure you are gaining insight into the full scope of organizational challenges you seek to improve with technology. Core components of the user assessment often include:
Open discussions stakeholder groups
Interviews with senior leadership and managers
Mapping key business processes that need improvement
Prioritizing to maximize impact and ROI of proposed improvements
Align with current vision and initiatives at the leadership level
Once you are confident you have heard the needs and understand the impact on stakeholders, begin the process of aligning your proposed technology integration with your stakeholder’s key initiatives and requirements. In the assessment phase, take a detailed examination of the current state and make recommendations for future proficiencies in key areas including:
Email (often Exchange)
Identity (often Active Directory)
Department or functional applications (often called line of business applications)
Location and Usage (languages, bandwidth, network considerations)
Compliance (the legal considerations around collaboration)
Branding (how it looks and feels, what message it conveys)
Business process enablement
Search, content management and content migration requirements
Mobile and remote integration
Without both a user-centric and technological approach towards your digital workplace assessment process, you will miss critical information which will affect your outcomes. By understanding the business problem, your user’s needs and your business constraints up front, you will dramatically improve the implementation and adoption of your digital workplace initiative.
Don’t be afraid to get started…you can’t eat an elephant in one byte!!!
Many organizations understand the importance of getting stakeholders involved, but don’t take the time due to pressure from above and hardened timelines. The value of an assessment is the ability to have an agreed upon set of priorities and a true understanding of the current state among the stakeholders.
Don’t be afraid to pull the ripcord if you feel the expectations are not aligned with you to be able to deliver a digital workplace project which actually empowers your business. If you need help, it is out there.
There are a variety of ways organizations can begin to gain proficiencies around digital workplace assessments and benchmarking. While this is not a small effort for businesses looking for organizational transformation, it can be managed effectively by leveraging the right combination of internal and external resources. Some ideas to get you started:
Attend a conference to hear from your peers
In the past years, many leading companies have completed intranet assessments that provide insight into particular working patterns and help SharePoint intranets serve the business better. These intranets become case studies at conferences put on by IABC, Ragan Communications and ALI Conferences. Top companies and leading consultants come together to share their experiences and provide tips and tricks. Having participated in these conferences as both a presenter and attendee, I have repeatedly heard participants stating they find this experience invaluable.
Go forward on your own
You can certainly educate yourself about current trends and opportunities in technology. Critical gaps often fall between what the business understands about technology and what IT understands about the business. Taking time to educate yourself is critical if you want to perform your own assessment. Your company must be willing to educate existing staff and allocation the necessary time and resources towards this type of internal assessment.
Hire a consultant
Consultants that have experience in digital workplace assessments are able to facilitate the activities necessary to get a valuable assessment completed in a structured way and a timely manner. Whether or not you want to leverage a consultant during the implementation phase, it can be valuable to leverage outside expertise to get you started off on the right foot for a limited investment and scope.
In our experience, a blended approach is best. An all in-house strategy can be more than most companies can handle given the project requirements and no consultant will be successful in the long term with a completely hands off approach from the business.
Bringing it all together
Whether your organization is large or small, effective digital workplace planning can create higher levels of internal collaboration, create more operational efficiencies, uncover previously unknown business opportunities and lead to happy and loyal customers. We all know how exciting technological innovation for consumer technology; it is now time to make that leap to create smarter, more productive businesses.
Embarking on the process of digital workplace transformation can often seem daunting, but with the right assessment and business analysis you can be on your way much sooner than you thought possible. Starting off on the right foot is essential and leveraging some of the above recommendations can help ensure that your technology projects are creating more effective employees who are engaged in the vision and strategy of your company.
Follow us on twitter as we are shortly releasing a free assessment template which we will be sharing with the IT Unity crowd. Good luck and happy assessing!