A digital workplace is more than just a laptop

The coronavirus crisis has temporarily transported the world of work into its digital future – with no warning and leaving little choice in the matter. It has made the idea of the digital workplace more tangible for IT decision-makers while exposing areas where there is still room for improvement.

The spring of 2020 will stay in our memories forever, and that includes for the many IT managers and CIOs who, in mid-March, had to ensure employees could work remotely – practically overnight.

There's been no shortage of anecdotes about remote working: employees forced to carry home tower PCs in cardboard boxes with monitors secured under their arm; companies that, unable to provide VPN access for all staff, introduced shift work instead; or distrustful bosses that had employees sign declarations about adhering to office hours while working from home.

Some were confronted with steep learning curves, unfamiliar with video conferencing tools like Zoom or Microsoft teams, while others had to pivot their business processes to an entirely digital model.

The speed of digital transformation has increased

The coronavirus crisis has acted as a status check on the progress of digital transformation and in particular of the digital workplace. Companies that had already begun to introduce remote working guidelines and digitalise their employees’ working processes have been able to adapt more easily to these exceptional circumstances. The rest have had to make do with hastily introduced emergency measures, some of which involved purchasing thousands of laptops – probably not at the best prices, given the circumstances.

If there is anything positive to come out of the pandemic, it is that it has accelerated the digital transformation. It has also shown that investing in the digital workplace is crucial, as it is one of the key prerequisites for mastering digital transformation. It is now a question of learning from the experience of recent months, critically examining any immediate measures, and looking at pending measures in the context of a long-term investment strategy.

Defining the task at hand

A bleak economic forecast plagued by the threat of recession – and the accompanying dwindling budgets – will lead many IT managers to wonder how investments can be justified at all. The good news is that it is always worth investing in the digital workplace if only for the increase in productivity this brings. Several studies, for example, by Stanford University and the International Labour Organisation (ILO), have demonstrated this.

The first thing to do is to define business objectives accurately, suggests Simon Young, Vice President Sales UK and Ireland at CHG-MERIDIAN: “The question that companies should now be asking themselves is this: how do we invest in IT if we want to enable our staff to work productively away from the office, independent of location and time, with access to all relevant data, and with integration into all business processes?”.

Step 1: Invest in hardware at the right time

Even if it is clear by now that the digital workplace is about more than just the IT devices, these should be the last reason why its implementation should fail. “Companies whose employees were not productive for a while after the lockdown commenced should perhaps ask themselves whether this was really because they were unwilling to spend £1,500 per employee,” Simon Young says. “If you compare this figure with the sums spent on leasing company cars, and think of the relative benefits to the company, then investments in the digital workplace are straightforward to justify.”

“Lowering costs through investments in the digital workplace is part of our core business.” This starts at the point of investment. “Each device has an optimal lifetime. By choosing the right time to replace hardware, you can enjoy the best possible residual value while making the most of new technologies. This alone results in a cost-saving. Think of it as a frozen pizza: it tastes delicious after 15 minutes in the oven. But it is still frozen after ten minutes, and it’s burnt after 20.”

Step 2: Implementing the working platform

The digital workplace is about more than hardware, of course. It also covers work processes, which in turn consists of two components: the work platform and the working methods. “The platform is more involved,” says Simon Young. “It begins with the user login and authentication and continues to the communication and collaboration tools and the application platform. All of these systems need to be integrated and ensure that all data and services are available.”

This step should be carefully planned and implemented, as it also has less obvious benefits. “If the platform is stable, the question of end devices is more flexible,” says Simon Young. “In this case, it is of little consequence exactly when end devices are exchanged because the work does not depend on the individual device. It is mapped within the platform, and the user doesn’t have to worry about any interruption. This means that the exchanging of hardware can be based on economic and technological criteria, which can also lead to the biggest cost savings.”

Step 3: Promoting a digital mindset

The application of digital working methods and the development of a digital mindset within the workforce is at least as important as the other two but is difficult to express in figures and involves a lengthy change process within the organisation.

“What does it mean when we say the sales department has to become ‘more digital’, for example?” asks Simon Young. “It has to organise its presence in social networks, produce content, digitally map part of its network activities, such as event visits or face-to-face meetings, and plenty more. But everyone has to implement this in their own work, from the structuring of their working day to their communications, their dialogue, and their meeting culture, and that takes time. Recent weeks have highlighted the levers that influence these three areas – hardware, platform, and a digital mindset. Now it is important to tackle them step by step with intelligent and cost-effective solutions.”

Overall, thinking of, and action on these principles should go some way to fortifying your organisation against crises in the future – and also set businesses up for taking advantage of the agility offered by digital platforms.


We'd love to hear from you! If you have any questions regarding the digital workplace, or how to improve your remote working strategy, feel free to contact us directly, or fill in our short form below.

Simon Young

Vice President Sales UK/Ireland

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