Comms Vision 2017 update: A strategy to create true digital workspaces

In the language of communications it is wholly illiterate to talk about the digital workplace without reference to the space that wraps around new technology implementations.

In that there is no argument, stated David Dunbar, Director at Workmodes Consulting, who is well known for leading the development of BT's flexible working strategy, and as Head of Digital Workplace and Transformation at Nationwide he was responsible for planning and driving the digital transformation for 20,000 people.

In his Comms Vision keynote Dunbar illustrated why a strong digital workplace strategy is crucial to the success of transforming organisations towards more agile, more flexible workplaces through technology, the physical space and culture.

This is the real transformation that businesses should be harnessing and cohering, he says, suggesting that ICT providers should deliver a much clearer message on digital transformation that speaks of technology and space coming together to support what he calls an 'objective focused collaborative culture'.

"Space is a wrapper for technology," he stated. "Technology enables people to interact - space allows technology to be applied. Space is increasingly intelligent and functional, moving away from traditional office structures to areas that are team-based, collaborative and have specific functions."

All want frictionless digital transformation, however there is no off-the-shelf arrangement, a fact clearly illustrated by Dunbar's definition of the digital workspace which hinges on four interconnecting factors: Minds (empowering the workplace), Spaces (leveraging the workplace), Occupancy (occupying the workplace), and Control (controlling the workplace).

"Exploiting technology, signposting new behaviours and creating functional space are key," he said. "The digital workplace exists at the intersection of technology and property, with aspects of space planning and intelligent buildings, empowerment for employees and even organisational structural change. Technology is absolutely one of the main components, but it's not the objective."

An organisation's digital workspace strategy must consider the weight of its current condition with its aspirational goals. "When starting the journey assess where you are today, the issues and strengths," explained Dunbar. "This can be a painful exercise and it's not straightforward. The digital workspace is not a technology implementation nor a property building. It is a state of mind, a way of thinking for the entire organisation with underlying complexity."

There is now a real tussle in the digital workplace market, and those suppliers able to differentiate through holistic digitalisation, including space management and culture creation, could gain the edge.

"Establish a uniform level of dynamic working, improve the use of the estate, create shared multi-function spaces, create the foundations for mobility and enterprise social, and support the exploitation of existing tools," stated Dunbar. "Focus on the beliefs and behaviours that reinforce work as an activity while building an apps culture and 'mobile first' process.

"Also consider the notion of digital literacy and bringing people up to a point where they understand the technology and its uses. Include people in the process, give them a voice, focus on their behaviours. They can be fearful of changes in the way they work and you may get pushed back. The only way to get people on board is to have the argument, give them a choice and ensure they act on the options. If staff don't make a choice they haven't bought in."

Perhaps Dunbar's most distinctive message is what lies at the core of a sustained digital workplace strategy. "The digital workspace is all about its usage," he stated. "IT departments are mostly concerned with the change-over, but if people aren't involved there is no benefit to the organisation. Focus on how you get genuine take-up."

Defining the aspirational workspace
• Digitally literate workforce unconsciously competent at using tools they love
• Location independence drawing on dispersed talent pool founded on clear objectives
• A mobile tool set which makes working anywhere as easy as working at a fixed desk
• Unified collaboration seamlessly mixing voice, video, documents and face-to-face channels
• Rich variety of working environments offering a mix of team areas and centrally run hubs
• Workspace, tools, processes and behaviours based on clear defined work styles which drive flexibility

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