The User and the Digital Workplace (Series Post)

So far we’ve spoken about the Demands and Drivers of a Digital Workplace, and most recently the Changing Role of IT in a world typified by change, uncertainty and disruption. For the latest post in this series of blogs we will focus on another major influence: the user.

I have frequently written about users in the context of Digital Workplace; and why we must focus on their needs and the importance of empowering them. A previous post  Understanding Users is Enabling Users talked about the techniques we are employing to drive clearer understanding of how to make users more productive, effective and engaged.  Adoption is Key for Digital Workplace Success spoke of the need to measure the outcomes, to ensure user adoption is driving behavioural and performance change.

The points raised in each of these articles are as applicable today as they were when first posted, but given the wider context illustrated in our new “blueprint” they perhaps warrant a refreshed explanation

Significance of the user

The user is often cited as “the biggest disruptor” in the modern and digital era.  I disagree with that sentiment.  Users are reacting to external events, technology change and innovation.  They are not the disrupter per se, but those who are fastest and most adept at embracing and understanding what technology innovation can offer.  The tension is caused when they make those “demands” known to IT and the business, which is not how things used to be!

A primary driver of the changing mind-set of the user, that we must now contend with, is consumerisation.  The quality, functionality and ease of use of modern technologies has transformed our lives and experiences in the home, and so somewhat obviously we are seeking similar outcomes in our work lives.  This is difficult, for many reasons, some of which I’ve touched on in the previous posts of this series.  However we cannot let difficulty become our excuse.  Frustrated and un-empowered users represent a huge cost to our businesses in many ways – attrition, reduction in customer service, reduced productivity etc.

So we must continue to strive to provide functionality and tools that enable users to do their jobs effectively, in ways that suit them and that are more engaging.  The secondary challenge beyond the provision and integration of solutions, is in ensuring adoption.  It is critical that the tools that we select, purchase and deploy are actually used and embraced by users and the business, in order to drive the value and benefit they promise.  “Adoption” is often spoken about, often by vendors, who actually mean consumption (activation) and/or billing.  We are striving to deliver meaningful work and behavioural change through the use of appropriate and effective technology over a sustained period of time.  For us, this is both the value and opportunity of adoption.

But with so much choice, so many opinions, some many vendors and products, compiling the service portfolio for users is a complicated challenge.   At a hardware level there continues to be innovation, new devices to cater for, increasingly broader workstyles, and new features and capabilities that we need to identify a practical use case for.  There is a path towards more sophisticated methods of engaging with technology through Augmented Reality and natural interfaces such as speech and gesture.   Across the application portfolio are new trends, with a rapid expansion of Software as a Service (SaaS) and mobile applications to accompany or even replace traditional systems of records, new features and capabilities all being made available at a rapid rate. The challenge is multi-dimensional – evaluation and selection of the solution, the integration and migration with all other elements of the technology platform, and then getting users to use it to drive the benefits!

This is the challenge.  The need to devise a strategy and approach to harness the innovation and change, without overwhelming the users, in order that the solutions can be adopted and meaningful changes to ways of working to be realised.  The opportunity here is that in getting this right, it will satisfy the user needs as well as the business requirements for change.

No single aspect of this can be undertaken or delivered in isolation.  In essence this is the point of developing the overall blueprint.  It is a complicated environment in which the business, users, IT and the ecosystem (partners, vendors etc) all must co-exist and cooperate in order to deliver tangible outcomes and benefits.

As we move to the final post of the series, we’ll reveal the whole graphic and touch on some of the nuances and considerations we need to make, such that each of these entities can cooperate and coexist in order to drive change in an effective operating model.

About Paul Bray

Paul is Computacenter’s Chief Technologist for Digital Workplace @PSBray

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