Digital workplace or digital transformation? The destination versus the journey

The terms ‘Digital Workplace’ and ‘Digital Transformation’ can often cause an element of confusion amongst organisations. Simplifying it, the digital workplace is what organisations are ultimately trying to achieve as a result of the transformation process. The transformation is the journey a business goes on to reach the destination — the digital workplace.

A digital workplace is about more than just technology. It’s about business priorities, processes, and most importantly people. Of course, it may leverage best-of-breed, cutting-edge technologies to achieve a more digitally progressive environment, but ultimately the goal is to enable employees to work efficiently and deliver the best service to their customers.

On paper the merits of embracing digitalisation are easy to digest but the reality of converting this movement into quantifiable and tangible actions is not always as easy. Take the prospect of going paperless as an example.

The idea of a paperless office is not a new concept. A quick Google search will reveal that a lot of organisations see this as the first stepping stone in their digital transformation process. But in reality, outlining your intentions to go paperless against the prospect of actually doing this, are quite different. In truth, a lot of organisations don’t know where to start. Jumping in at the deep end and deploying a new software solution offers many risks — cost, disruption and user uptake to name just a few.

As mentioned previously, the idea of the paperless office is certainly not new. In fact, in the 90’s everyone wanted to ‘go paperless’. Yet a huge number of businesses still rely heavily on paper today:

How are these printed paper copies managed? Where are they stored? How do people find and share them? How do they ensure they are accessing the correct version?

In the 00’s, the focus moved on to organising and controlling documents digitally. Yet how effectively is this really being done today?

This final stat is critical. Despite organisations putting tools and systems in place to allow employees to find and manage information electronically, something simply isn’t working. Adding more technology, more content repositories, simply exacerbates the problem.

As we moved in to the 10’s customers began to demand process digitisation, but with paper heavily in use, and documents and information dispersed across multiple silos or lost in deep folder hierarchies, how can business processes ever be streamlined? Mobility mandates, ever increasing security and compliance requirements, and the pressure to keep up in a digital age further add to the information management chaos.

It’s next important to consider how this digitised information is stored and managed. Folders simply don’t work. They are an archaic concept that worked for paper but there’s no reason for using them when it comes to managing information digitally.

Instead, manage information by describing “what” it is, rather than where it is stored. With metadata, you can classify a document as a proposal, relating to a customer, a project, a team, for example. Instead of searching for the location of that document, you or your colleagues can search for any terms relating to that document, and there will only ever be one version — the single version of truth.

Users don’t want to be restricted to working in a single system, or to have to ‘lift-and-shift’ all content into a new repository. Perhaps an organisation uses shared network drives and folders, file sync and share applications, or legacy document management systems.

It shouldn’t matter to the user in which of those locations a piece of information is physically stored.

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