• Alp Kabatepe, Author |
  • Katya Kozlova, Author |
  • Lola Olorunnibe, Author |
7 min read

The New Normal

For many, the sharp transition to digital working has been the most significant result of the pandemic-induced 'New Normal'. Once largely associated with start-ups and 'digital nomads', virtual workplaces have entered the mainstream with nearly fifty percent of the UK's workforce now operating primarily from home - and likely for good. But small-scale ventures aside, what do these new virtual workplaces look like for a typical organisation?

In essence, digital workplaces are a combination of hardware, platforms and tools that allow a workforce to seamlessly collaborate and continue their daily tasks and functions as successfully as they would in-person. Understandably, the considerable shift that many companies have to undergo to achieve this can cause notable challenges - and requires a clear strategy for success.

Addressing the Challenges

Even without the pressures of a global pandemic, digitally refitting a workplace is a daunting task. From new graduates all the way to c-suite stakeholders, the common rebuttal to change, "why?" easily transforms into the more pertinent, "why now?" in today's climate. However, with the Institute of Directors (among other bodies) predicting that over three quarters of UK firms plan on maintaining this increase in home-working it makes far more sense to ask the question, "why not now?"

Outlining a clear strategy to your workplace's digital transformation is a crucial first step. Many organisations share common challenges when transforming their workplace into a digital environment and pre-empting them with a clear plan lays the expectations as well as preventing common problems from occurring. These include:

  • Anticipating organisational resistance to change
  • Migrating from legacy applications successfully
  • Ensuring data and application security
  • Adapting working practises and employees to primarily virtual ecosystem

While the adoption of a technologically-enhanced workplace may seem to primarily hinge upon successful application migration and data security, the 'people' aspect cannot be overlooked when strategising your new digital ecosystem. CIPD recorded that just twenty percent of surveyed team members believed a 'technology change' was successful when they were not previously consulted - compared to a significant seventy percent when they were. The results are clear: digital transformation relies on co-operation.

1. Anticipating organisational resistance to change

Communication is a continuously beneficial aspect for adopting a digital workforce to avoid organisation resistance. Not only does it create an open dialogue between stakeholders and daily users, it also allows for the change to be designed with them, not for them. This ensures a visible approach to change, increasing the likelihood of buy in, as users know that their pain points are being addressed, their priorities noted, and their concerns are being met. After all, a digital workplace is still a workplace for people.

Instrumental to avoiding organisational resistance to a more digitally focused workforce, is remedying the concerns with solutions. Firstly, user-centric development creates an open dialogue opening the lid on the various procedures that keep your organisation running. Digital workplaces are in many ways a two-fold transformation: not only are you bringing tools and platforms online, but you also have the opportunity to re-evaluate, re-design and re-engineer inefficient processes.

Moreover, it should be emphasised throughout the transformation of the benefits that remote working can cause. In a survey conducted by Huawei, 75 percent of respondents reported feeling happier working from home than in a traditional office. With a consistent rise in time spent commuting into the office by UK workers, the demands of childcare and rising house prices in urban areas, the implementation of a digital workplace can provide a more flexible work-life balance.

2. Migrating from legacy applications successfully

As mentioned previously, migrating to a virtual environment can act as a catalyst to 'spring clean' the tools, processes and systems used by a company. With Cloud 3.0 on the horizon, a troubling majority of companies operate on legacy apps - posing a risk to productivity, product development and worst of all security, And this problem isn't going away.

Reluctance to migrate from legacy systems is largely due to cost, complexity and potential disruptions to core functionality during implementation. Ironically, putting off migrating to newer platforms has the same affect. More so than ever, the benefits of working remotely with complimentary systems has been showcased. We recommend starting with a cost-benefit analysis (CBA). This should help to measure the benefits of the migration against the potential cost to identify both tangible and intangible areas of consideration to support you in making the change. Next comes the planning, and when migrating to a new environment it can be easy to over solution requirements, leading to an overly complex, and costly customised solution. To avoid this, it’s best practise to utilise out-of-the-box features which have been configured to minimise potential risks and issues.

Another key to a successful migration is considering a phased transition from old to new, giving your people and processes time to adapt. Finally, we recommend taking a long-term view at the beginning of the migration. Planning ahead will ensure that all the roles and responsibilities are in place by the end of the migration, with consideration given to any new resource requirements or internal upskilling required.

3. Ensuring data and application security

Maintaining data security for any company is crucial to preserving brand reputation, customer trust and regulatory compliance. Embracing digital workplace opportunities presented by cloud technologies, such as engaging digitally with customers, and driving operational efficiency, all raise concerns with company and client data security. Employees access company data from offsite locations, using third party applications and their own devices to collaborate. This creates additional points of entry and makes it difficult to track and eliminate potential vulnerabilities. How can companies protect their assets and ensure complete security across their digital landscape, without reducing end-user productivity?

With many traditional security methods now obsolete and the security needs of a digital workplace constantly changing, cybercrime has already cost UK businesses £87 billion since 2015 and that figure is expected to climb year on year. Therefore, digital workplace security solutions must evolve to balance both worker and company needs.

To successfully overcome increasing security challenges, companies should consider increase staffing levels for IT and Helpdesk resources, to support the growing demand for remote working. Highly trained in security best practise, they should act as internal champions to maintain best practise standards across your organisation. Supporting them should be investment in industry leading security systems to expand cyber protections and help you continuously monitor and track threats.

4. Adapting members to the new virtual ecosystem

Once you’ve anticipated the resistance, embedded this into your plan and considered your migration strategy and security, it’s time to get down to work! With an aligned stakeholder group, the re-design process can begin, looking at how to translate your as-is to a new, digital way of working.

As mentioned in Hannah Wilcock’s Transforming from physical to digital in COVID, it’s not as simple as directly translating your current processes for a virtual world. In a digital ecosystem there are more opportunities for efficiencies and greater chances to use innovative tools to support your teams, but interaction can be challenging, Employees must be trained and onboarded, and considerations of how one team's processes fits into the wider ecosystem of your organisation must be considered. Your new practises must therefore be designed for both of these. Don’t try and replicate your current processes, but re-shift your thinking on both the process improvements and new challenges that come from virtual working. Lastly, consider the change journey as an ongoing process that must be revisited constantly. Onboard your employees from the very beginning so they become solutions leads, SMEs and advocates in your shift to digital working.

Digital Workplaces, Now

The advent of COVID-19 has proved challenging for organisations, but the good news is that platform providers have created solutions to help manage those challenges. Our partnership with Salesforce and solutions such as Work.com allow us to help support, manage and embed your transition.

Contact us to find out more about how we can support you, alongside leading technology providers, with our Powered Customer approach and hear more from Alp Kabatepe,  Associate Partner, Powered Customer, in our video below: