Workplace Reimagined: Agile, Engaged, Empowered
Carol Rozwell
Q&A with Gartner analyst and Conference Chair Carol Rozwell

Q: Why is it imperative for IT leaders to reimagine their workplace?
A: Right now, businesses are experiencing rapid and dramatic changes because of today’s digital industrial economy. To survive and thrive requires them to transform their old business models. But for this transformation to take hold, the workforce needs to embrace new styles of working. The old ways simply are not adding the kind of value they once did.

The once distinct line between corporate and consumer computing is fading fast. In this new era, employees are expecting a flexible, consumerized work environment equipped with tools and technologies that are just as effective as the ones used on the outside. More than ever, IT leaders need to create a digital workplace in which employees are engaged, agile and empowered. This is the single most important requirement to becoming a digital business. If not met, then a business must face the real possibility of becoming extinct in today’s digital industrial economy.

Q: Does reimagining the workplace simply come down to deploying the right tools and technologies?
A: That’s only a minor part of it. One of the chief benefits of a digital workplace is that it can take employee engagement to a dynamic new level. But for that to happen, you have to utilize technology to change how people work. It’s crucial to understand how the technologies that support a digital workplace — social, mobile, analytics and cloud — are evolving and how they will differ from the technologies used so far. You must be willing to optimize what you have and kill off what doesn’t work anymore. Of course, you must continue to deliver a reliable and secure work environment, built with applications that enable collaboration and knowledge reuse. But you must also be willing to enable new styles of working by venturing into the world of smart machines, wearable devices, new age mobile apps and other new technologies.

THERE IS A CAVEAT: The digital workplace is more than just portals, content and collaboration tools. In fact, you won’t achieve better engagement with tools alone. Rather, it’s imperative that you rethink how employees work and use these tools to engage with colleagues. For today’s digitally literate workforce, the rules of engagement have certainly changed.

Q: What makes a digital workplace initiative different from traditional workforce projects?
A: It starts with a holistic strategy. Many IT organizations have responded to the consumerization trend and employee engagement initiatives in a piecemeal, siloed fashion. More than likely, they’ve used a wide variety of technologies, often in separate implementations. But now, every business is becoming a digital business. And the onus is on IT leaders to examine new opportunities to make high-impact performers more effective, across the enterprise. That means it’s more important than ever to transition from episodic deployment to enterprisewide deployment.

Q: Can you elaborate on strategy?
A: A digital workplace strategy replaces these tactical ad hoc efforts with a holistic, ongoing approach. Its end goal is to deliver a more consumer-like computing environment — one that can facilitate an agile response to workplace changes and enable new, more effective styles of working. Some organizations may embrace a digital workplace strategy more quickly than others. But what matters is that they have a strategy in place to guide their vision and investments.

Q: Can you briefly comment on organizational challenges?
Creating or expanding upon your digital workplace will require a shift in culture and perspective as well as recognition of new skills, roles and behaviors. Keep in mind that user experience plays a big part in improving workforce engagement. Just as customer-centricity is critical to customer satisfaction, so too is people-centricity in achieving greater employee effectiveness, engagement and agility.

Bottom line: Improving employee performance is critical to a transformed workplace. Get ready to develop a deeper understanding of what employees require to become more effective. Because at the end of the day, achieving employee engagement means balancing personal and business values.

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