Changing culture trumps changing technology

Creating a modern workplace is key to digital transformation. If you’re embarking on such an initiative, remember that changing technology is easy, but changing behaviour is not. Begin with the end in mind, ask what you want to achieve with your new modern workplace, and address user behaviour, user adoption and usage from the outset.
Digital transformation is nothing new. It's a rebranding for sensible technology investment. Technology needs to change to unlock benefits. Old tech becomes old and unstable. It falls out of service and starts to become a thorn in the side of it's owners.
Modern workplace projects are a key part of such digital transformation initiatives. After all, it’s people who make companies successful, and they need to be able to do their work as efficiently and effectively as possible. So when you start thinking about a modern workplace project, it’s essential to start with the end in mind.
Projects should not just be about technology. The silver bullet analogy applies here. Technology will only work as well as the organisation lets it. This includes future funding and changes proposed.

Questions to ask before starting a transformation

What do we want to achieve, change for change sake will not fly?

Does the project know what success looks like?

What user behaviour do we want to see and support, and what behaviour do we want to stop or reduce?

For example, do we want to facilitate more remote work? Or better quality online meetings? Do we want to start supporting hybrid meetings? Or stop sending documents as attachments and work with links and single versions of truth?

How about BYOD (bring your own device)?

Should employees be able to access company documents on their private laptops and mobile phones? How do we want to support working on tablets?

What current set of applications do we want to stop using and replace?

Is this realistic? How complex are these applications and who owns them? Are they properly understood? What is their service history like? Does it even need replacing or would it be more reasonable to invest in an upgrade?

How important is user experience?  

Do the users actually complain about the existing applications? Are they excited for change or do they roll their eyes when they see new prototypes? This could hint that your transformation is built on shaky grounds.

Get user buy-in

After you’ve answered these and other relevant questions, you have to think about your users. Because in the end, any technology is only as good as how well it is used.
If users don’t know how to use applications effectively, the benefits will be small, or even negative. This means user enablement is critical to the success of any modern workplace project. Include user pilots in your project. Learn from your users. And make sure your users understand the following:
1) Why you are implementing the new solution. When it comes to a new modern workplace, many employees will be instrumental in the change you’re promoting. It’s important to tend to their needs throughout the change journey. Transparent communication is key.
2) How existing processes will change. Your leaders, colleagues, customers and suppliers all live in their own reality – and it’s likely to be different from yours. So invest in understanding their way of working before you force them to do something that doesn’t work for them.
3) How to use the solution. Your user base can range from people who started their careers on terminals to millennials who are so accustomed to touchscreens that they don’t know what a keyboard is. Your ability to transform is only as good as the average skill level shared by the majority of your employees. And don’t forget about the new joiners. Training is never done.
4) Who to contact if they require support with any problems or questions. If you’re working with an internal service desk, make sure that they’re equipped with standardised scripts. Alternatively, if you’re working with an external service provider, make sure you’ve selected a partner who can provide the highest level of support required for the new applications.
5) Whether they can offer feedback and make suggestions to improve the solution. One of the best ways to build support organisation-wide is to give everyone a voice and a platform to share their views throughout the transition. Active user communities are pure gold.
A modern workplace project is all about changing and supporting the right behaviours, supporting your business model and regulatory requirements, keeping your data secure, and implementing the capabilities you need most. It’s not about implementing new technology. Remember that people aren’t able to change their behaviour overnight, so you need to plan for a journey, not a weekend trip – which of course is true for any digital transformation initiative

Jim Collins

Jim Collins