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How the digital workplace works

Digital workplaces for digital employees

Smartphones, laptops and smart speakers have already become the norm at home. Yet many people find themselves stuck in an out of date world at work, even though setting up a digital workplace is not that difficult.

The numbers say it all: Around 83 percent of those in employment in Germany browse the internet while out and about, a figure that rises to 93 percent for those aged 20 to 29. That is according to the 2018/2019 D21 Digital Index survey, a study which is supported by CHG-MERIDIAN. German employees’ openness toward digital technology is also visible in their attitude toward mobile IT-based workplaces. Almost three-quarters of those in employment (74 percent) expressed an interest in a digital workplace that would allow them to work remotely from home or while traveling.

Research by IDC into the ‘Future of work’ shows that modern approaches to work based on the digital workplace benefit employers too. A third of companies surveyed have reduced their costs, and almost the same number have seen an increase in their employees’ productivity. Further advantages include optimized business processes and greater customer satisfaction. However, according to the D21 Digital Index survey, only 16 percent of all employees in Germany currently have access to a digital workplace. In CHG-MERIDIAN’s experience, one of the reasons for this is that a considerable number of companies do not have a comprehensive strategy for equipping their employees with the latest tools for their work.

It all starts with the inventory

The IDC survey shows that setting up digital workplaces is not rocket science. The first step is to review the existing IT infrastructure and the technologies used. The next step addresses the question of how company workplaces can be effectively optimised so that they meet the employees’ requirements at all times. One of the reasons this is necessary is that the majority of ‘manual’ work processes will have vanished by 2023. This applies as much to reviewing documents as it does to exchanging information with colleagues (collaboration) and approving contracts and investment applications.

What the departments need

A digital workplace strategy is incomplete if it only covers ‘knowledge’ or white-collar workers. It makes sense, of course, to equip this group with digital whiteboards, collaboration tools, and mobile devices. But the machine operator in the factory line and the maintenance technician in the field should also be considered. In the future, this group of workers will be working with technology such as augmented reality more and more.

For the IT department and compliance specialist, this means dealing with an increasingly varied environment made up of many clients and different types of end-user devices. This requires a change in thinking when it comes to delivering, administering, and securing this varied technology landscape.

Digital transformation - processes

A digital workplace can only reach its full potential if as many processes as possible are digitalised. This is particularly the case when it comes to editing and storing all types of documents, and is why the importance of document management and enterprise content management (ECM) solutions is on the rise, according to the IDC study. Processes along the entire lifecycle, such as device procurement, can be digitalised via platforms such as TESMA®. 

This type of system is increasingly combined with artificial intelligence (AI), and robotic process automation (RPA) functions. The AI takes on more and more routine tasks and allows the employees to concentrate on more critical tasks. According to IDC, more than half of respondents believe that AI-assisted ‘smart agents’ will be an integral part of workplaces in four years. Digital assistants such as Amazon Alexa and Apple’s Siri are already providing a sample of things to come.

Adapting security concepts

Digital transformation also involves protecting workplaces, applications, and data from hackers, and not just from external attacks, but especially those that are initiated by the company’s own employees. Here there are the risks involved with employees being careless or simply making mistakes. The IDC study shows that 48% of respondents consider unintentional employee errors to be the main security risk.

That is why existing guidelines for IT security, compliance, and data protection must be reviewed and adapted as required.

Emphasising the benefits of the digital workplace

Whether a digital workplace strategy can be successfully implemented is heavily dependent on how well it is accepted in the departments. If they are not on board, then the projects will not have the expected benefits. That is why senior management and representatives from the necessary departments, must cooperate to deliver the full benefits of the digital workplace.  

A key task here is to allay workers’ fears that their jobs could be threatened by digital processes and workplaces. This is certainly not the case – the objective is to enable more flexible and more efficient working. The use of a digital and mobile workplace also opens up new options, for example, in relation to a better work-life balance.

Many companies are yet to come up with a concept for digital working that has been jointly developed by senior management, HR, and IT specialists. This needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency, as the IDC analysis shows that employees aged under 38, in particular, believe their employer has an investment backlog when it comes to updating their workplace IT. It is a well-known fact that Generation Y and Z place a high value on a state-of-the-art working environment. These employees should be involved in changes to their working environment in order to kick-start a revolution in the corporate culture. You should ensure that you clearly communicate the objectives of your digital workplace initiative, and we recommend focusing on the most important aspects and adapting or refining them as required. So if you want to attract young talent, or keep hold of the ones you already have, you need to make the digital workplace a priority.

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Feel free to contact us in case of questions!

Paul-Robbert Viskil

Vice President Sales, Netherlands

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