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Tapping Into the Power of the Digital Workplace

By Samuel Greengard
Digital Workplace

Tapping Into the Power of the Digital Workplace

For CIOs, it's clearly the best of tech times and the worst of tech times. On one hand, today's digital technology offers opportunities that were unthinkable in the past. It can blaze a trail to innovation and industry disruption. On the other hand, assembling the right mix of tools and solutions—and achieving maximum results—is daunting.

"The evolving environment is unlike anything we have seen before," observes Frank Diana, principal for Future of Business at Tata Consultancy Services. "The pace of change is accelerating and the trajectory is exponential."

How can CIOs manage the slew of technologies that now intersect within the enterprise, including unified communications, mobility, cloud services, artificial intelligence (AI) and the internet of things? How can business and IT leaders cope with a more decentralized model of procurement, development and deployment? And, perhaps most importantly, how can they address complex digital business challenges and build a foundation for future success?

"CIOs will need to connect the dots and think differently," Diana explains. "They must place a strong focus on understanding and rehearsing massively transformative future scenarios."

Rethinking the Workforce and the Digital Workplace

It's no secret that rapidly changing technology is changing everything. "With this shift, CIOs and technology leaders need to consider how they can best equip their organizations for the digital age," states Jason Warnke, managing director and global collaboration lead at Accenture.

A starting point for navigating this digital frontier is addressing the work skills that are required to take full advantage of the technology. "CIOs need to invest time and effort into properly training their workforce in new areas, from cloud-based services to new video broadcasting capabilities," he says.

Of course, skills are only part of the picture. A successful digital business transformation framework revolves around a more mobile, agile workforce that takes full advantage of the cloud. There's a growing need to provide employees with greater choices about their work tools or how they go about their daily tasks.

"This helps teams work and collaborate in the way that fits them as individuals and groups," Warnke explains. "One size doesn't fit all. It's important for the CIO to lead the pack in enabling a host of viable choices and provide some guidance on which tools can be best leveraged for the particular use case at hand."

Yet, ultimately, all roads lead to greater agility, flexibility and scalability. Speed, efficiency and cost-cutting are unavoidable realities of the digital age, but improvements must extend across multiple business units, processes and applications.

"The cloud provides these benefits," Warnke says. "It is changing the ways in which businesses operate and deliver services by providing access to capabilities faster than ever before."

Tapping Into the Power of the Digital Workplace

Infrastructure in the cloud is essential. The ability to collaborate, communicate, share data and act on information on a real-time basis separates digital leaders and laggards. Tata's Diana says that CIOs should focus on innovation and disruption as drivers for the organization. The objective, he says, is to "disrupt long-standing business models and drive marginal costs close to zero."

Using this approach, Diana says, "CIOs can mimic technology firms and position their companies to make rapid moves into new sectors. Consider the bookstores shuttered by Amazon, the video stores wiped out by Netflix and the travel agents rendered obsolete by Expedia."

Challenges of Creating a Digital Mindset

Cultivating a digital mindset and culture and injecting it into the DNA of the organization isn't without steep challenges. Organizations must think and behave differently; understand the magnitude of future scenarios and the implications they bring; think beyond the four walls of the enterprise to build new and even revolutionary ecosystems; embed speed agility, flexibility, adaptability and innovation into everything; and even become a software company by developing apps and other tools for employees, customers and partners.

Accenture's Warnke says that there are four keys to building an effective digital business transformation framework:

  • Set a clear agenda with tightly defined objectives.
  • Experiment, fail fast, iterate and learn.
  • Build strong support from the top down so the entire organization is empowered and energized.
  • Tap artificial intelligence and start experiments integrating AI and bots into collaboration frameworks.

In addition, Tata's Diana says that CIOs must be willing to explore futuristic thinking and scenarios; weigh various innovations and understand which ones deserve merit and focus; and adapt on a real-time basis to constantly changing market dynamics and new technologies,.

In the end, there are no easy answers or simple strategies. Business and IT leaders must become more purpose-driven; entrepreneurial and innovative; insight and foresight-driven; open, agile and collaborative; asset-light; and powered by creativity and design.

"CIOs and IT leaders must focus on creating and sustaining digital DNA, the key characteristics and culture of next-generation organizations, Accenture's Warnke says. "Everything should be viewed in the context of ecosystem services, where APIs and a cloud orientation prevail.

"However, responding to the formidable challenges of the future requires more than the integration of technology. It requires a holistic approach."

Samuel Greengard writes about business and technology for Baseline, CIO Insight and other publications. His most recent book is The Internet of Things (MIT Press, 2015).

This article was originally published on 01-06-2017