Entering The Digital Workplace Era

I have just been at a Microsoft event which was about the digital workplace and tools of a 2017 workforce. It has been a great day, and I got some fascinating insights and food for thought that I would like to share at this point.

De-mystifying

First off, I would like to say that the digital workplace is no rocket science, every company out there, be it SMB or Corporate Juggernaut, can become a digital powerhouse. The barriers have become pretty low in the last 24 months. The best offers are even free. Looking for a simple and easy solution to work in the cloud? Most students are eligible for a free use of Microsoft Office 365. Working in a start-up and you are looking for a collaboration tool for your team? Slack offers a free version! Are you a Mac user? Look no further than www.iCloud.com or www.iWork.com where you can use your essential Mac applications for free in the could. You can even have a Keynote live stream with anyone around the world. Looking for a more conservative and save option than Dropbox? There is the product for you, called www.sync.com.

The digital workplace is not the far future, it is happening now, and there are no barriers except your hesitation. If your employer does not allow any usage of the services above, use them in your private life. Learn the skill, and you will be an expert once the corporate world follows.

It is not for geeks; it is for everyone

We have been trained in the last years to use a particular software for our daily business. This software is not changing, just the access to the software is changing, making it easier to share and collaborate. Yes, I could send you emails with every new iteration of a document, or I could update it in the cloud without producing an insane amount of emails and just be done with it. Is your presentation too big to send via mail? Upload it to a cloud, put a password on it, if you so desire, and send it with a link, no problem. Why calling someone when you can chat or video call and get more context from the other site of the conversation? It is done with one button on Slack or Microsoft Teams and so on. Curiosity will guide us in this process; you do not have to be Bruce Wayne to understand the technology or workflow.

Start small and let it grow

I am not saying to do everything at once. You should not just throw everything at the organization and let them figure it out. It is far more efficient to give small teams the tools to test them. Get proper reports and usage data from them, and you can build up from there. I have been using a lot of different tools, and not all of them are effective for collaboration or even fit for it. However, some can substitute other services. Just think about the power of WhatsApp and its capabilities to replace email. Think about Slack or Microsoft Teams (I have been using both) as a virtual conference room and storage center in the cloud. Imagine Hootsuite as your digital publishing house. It is important that it serve a function and it needs to be practical. Better and faster than the alternative. Teams from 3 - 10 people are the perfect spot for experimentation. Give the task to people who want to try it and let them be in charge.

Be patient

In my experience, it is highly dependent on how people approach a new technology, workflow or change in general. Some embrace change, others do not want the change, some don't see the value, others want to change too much...

Of course, as a marketer, I embrace new technology, creative ways to collaborate, getting faster decisions or just working more efficient on the go. That might not be true for everyone. Depending on your business model and the flexibility of your staff, the digital workplace might just not be for you, yet. In Germany alone, there is still so much conversation about security and data protection, which is important, but other countries move faster, and we want to stay competitive.

We need to pull on both ends here, building secure German servers for our needs but also take part in this global movement. Smaller teams can be effective in checking out new services and if they can be of value, we have to think about how to implement then on a corporate level without sacrificing security.

VR might speed up the process

Virtual reality is going to be big in the future and it might just be the platform that will substitute the laptop. Today you turn on your laptop and got your desktop with applications ahead. Tomorrow you might wake up and just put on VR glasses and you find yourself in a different reality where everything can be virtually processed and shown to you. Writing an email, fixing a machine, scanning for viruses... there is also a lot of potential for gamification in a VR world. Indefinite office space, large meetings on a mountain, use a virtual cinema for your corporate presentation. Everything will be possible.

One of the best scenarios I read about in the last years, albeit fictional, is the book called "Ready Player 1" by Ernest Cline.

What are your favorite digital tools that make your life easier at work or at home? Voice assistants like Cortana, Siri? Let me know in the comments below.

Thanks for reading!

Sebastia