The Digital, Connected Workplace: Collaboration in the New Normal

Nitin Gupta, CIO, Feedback Infra

As the fourth industrial revolution runs its course, the emerging technologies are changing the way we work and collaborate in these increasingly VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) times. This also has accorded new opportunities for companies to initiate their digital transformation journeys – leveraging these technologies, across interconnected platforms – to deliver a frictionless experience for a superior customer and employee experience.

One such transformation platform, being the Digital, Connected Workplace. As talent/employees increasingly works across geographies, and with the digitally native millennials entering the workplace – the technology ecosystem is ready to evolve into providing businesses with a digitally connected workspace – and to some extent obviating the need of the physical workspaces. This also evolves into the emerging Hybrid workplace paradigm, wherein employees would increasingly work across offices, residences, co working spaces, etc in a Work from Anywhere (WFA) model. The backbone would be digital – and employees can be connected into this Workplace – as long as they have a secure Internet connection. With ubiquitous connectivity, increasing mobile internet usage – along with the emergence of Zero Trust Architecture (security models) and mature Cloud framework/s – organizations can quickly setup these digital workplaces.

How it Works
Employees can login anytime and be ever connected 24x7 (instant video/chat), collaborate simultaneously over office documents (multi authoring) with video (desktop conferencing looks like MS Teams), and simultaneously, through video chats. Informal workplace conversations can be facilitated by enterprise social tools (eg. MS Yammer), which act as virtual water cooler conversations – wherein employees can share thoughts, ideas, and have fun – through creation of

virtual clubs (hobby, innovation clubs, etc). The leadership can share and broadcast their thoughts on these enterprise social media platforms. Effectively, virtual workspaces can be setup for business units – across which employees can connect as a group – both informally and for work interactions. Remote (IT) support teams working across timezones (eg. follow the sun model) can provide effective support, to keep these platforms fully supported/operational.

Four Considerations
Fixing the basics – and having a stable core infrastructure backbone: Comprising a robust messaging platform, data canter infrastructure, with strong networking (LAN/WAN) setup – along with state-of-the-art end point (upto date) infrastructure and a robust ITSM setup are the key. Encapsulating this core infrastructure should be a Security layer, permeating across the various components in the ecosystem with leverage of emerging Zero trust architecture models.

The technology leaders are uniquely positioned to leverage this digital ecosystem

Cloud platform enablement: Setting up the digital workplace enables data access across devices, anywhere any time. Public cloud platforms (Microsoft, Google) also enable rapid technology refreshes, in line with the rapidly evolving tech cycles.

Integrated technology stack: Platforms like the Microsoft O 365 suite provide all the necessary components like a chat engine (video/audio), collaboration tools (One Drive) and enterprise social platform (Yammer) along with the productivity suite (MS Office). Everything is integrated in one platform from a single vendor minimizes (vendor) interoperability issues, and reduces technical complexity. Coming together of all these moving parts, and working seamlessly underpin the collaboration engine, and provide a frictionless experience for the employee; a feeling of traversing seamlessly across in a single (digital) workplace.

Change management interventions: Change management interventions should be designed and embedded in the project management lifecycle planned across the entire implementation; a key component of the project plan. This involves understanding the personas of various stakeholders involved, tailor made initiatives (like customized training programs, etc), and addressing the varied needs of the ecosystem aligned with HR systems, as the new culture takes hold. Developing an embedded super user network comprised of digital savvy, committed and empowered employees, across the organizations is also helpful. Developing responsive, timely and effective technical support (eg. toll free numbers) infrastructure for users goes a long way in adoption/network effects, and optimal usage of the various tools on the platform

In conclusion, the technology leaders are uniquely positioned to leverage this digital ecosystem. They have to develop employee-centric technology interventions attuned to the dynamically evolving business landscape, and set their organization on a digital workplace roadmap as a part of their digital transformation journey.

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