Preparing for the Digital Workplace

The downside to modern collaboration platforms is that organizations are generating more content and data than ever before, and few companies are prepared for managing this content.

In a discussion with KanBo CEO Michal Sobotkiewicz (@michalsobot), we talked about many of the important goals of the ‘Digital Workplace’ as not only the tools to move from paper-based processes into digital format, but the cultural shift required to ensure that employee activities are aligned with the tools and process. In the following video, Michal and I share some of our thoughts of what it takes for a company toward this vision of a digital workplace:

Preparing for Organizational Change

As Michal and I discuss, organizations need to be prepared for a constant state of change.

I mention the work of W. Edwards Deming after the second World War to help Japan rebuild, and his work at improving operational effectiveness, which folds into the Japanese word “Kaizen,” which is the process of continual improvement. Companies must get comfortable with change, and evolve their cultures to better support testing ideas, experimenting with new tools and capabilities, and not be afraid to fail – but to learn from these experiments, constantly refining and improving their business systems.

An important point that Michal mentions is the importance of understanding the “context” to the work you perform. It is difficult to understand where to make changes, and how to change, if the feedback received is out of context of the work being done.

One of the major limitations for organizational change is the IT-centric view of the digital workplace, where IT is often a roadblock to end users to get the features they need to accomplish their work. It’s a fairly common scenario in modern business for information workers to start using tools and services on their own, without the prior approval from IT. From a traditional IT-perspective, the user is going outside of the approved tool set and approval process, and therefore the effort must be shut down. However, the information worker’s goal is to get their work done in the fastest, most effective manner.

Rather than shut down this “rogue IT” behavior, the IT team should try to understand why the end users have gone around the established procedures. Are the existing tools too limited? Is it a training/education issue? Does the end user understand the additional risk and management issues with using this unsupported tool or service? The point here is to put the problem in context, and develop a shared understanding of the problem – and how to best move forward with everyone’s interests considered. Transparency and a shared understanding are critical to a successful digital workplace strategy.

How KanBo Supports Change

One of the reasons why I’ve been a fan of KanBo is that every task and every conversation are in context to the project or initiative at hand.

Using the IT example above, an organization might have a project (in KanBo, a board) for the end user portal through which they are expected to work, and a place for employees to share feedback on what is working – and what is not working within the current platform. An employee who is struggling with limited features might create a KanBo card within the ‘Feature Request’ stream (column) and outline the limitations of the current feature set, @ mentioning their IT liaison and several team members to raise visibility to the problem. Others in the organization can then join in and add their experiences, possibly pointing the employee to other solutions offered that may meet their needs – or confirming the gap in current functionality.

From there, the employee and IT can work together to outline the steps toward resolution, all within that original card, with the conversation history, associated links and documentation attached, and all players with vested interest included. Because the conversation is transparent, and the feedback in context to the current platform and its gaps, the organization can work toward the right solution.

There is no single-solution or platform that can solve all of the possible business requirements for a digital workplace, but KanBo provides a major functional piece that can help organizations better manage change. If you’re interested in learning more about KanBo, check out the free trial.

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