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The evolving digital workplace

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Moreover, most cloud-based workplace services tend to be highly productized, software as a service (SaaS)-based applications, rather than customizable platforms. In general, that's a good thing—until the day comes when you need to integrate with an internal system and you can't. Then cloud becomes the same lodestone you were looking to avoid.

For simple applications like file sharing, a SaaS model can work well. An added benefit is that the cloud vendor typically takes responsibility for providing an effective mobile client—something you would otherwise have to undertake yourself, if you were to customize, say, an on-premise portal platform (see sidebar Mobile-enabling the digital workplace at end of online article).

Just remember that the onus of responsibility for your information in the cloud still falls on you: Specific concerns such as data ownership, continuity, security and compliance become your problem. Don't ignore them. Instead, take the same, test-based approach to selecting cloud solutions as you would on-premise solutions. Consider attending KMWorld 2012 in Washington, D.C., this October, to learn exactly how at The Right Way to Buy Business Technology Workshop.

Focus on screens

The issue of integration is not a small one. If you examine the individual applications and platforms that employees access to complete work every day, you end up charting myriad different systems in the typical enterprise.

Cataloging and understanding the business value of all those systems is the job of an enterprise architect. If you are trying to transform your digital workplace, you'd do well to engage your enterprise architecture team-you have one, right?—in reconstructing the pieces into a greater whole.

The digital workplace concept, though, helpfully turns the table around by looking at those systems from the standpoint of the employee, rather than the enterprise. You have an opportunity to apply well-known user experience (UX) methodologies-such as user-centered design (UCD)-to improve your colleagues' effectiveness.

In other words, instead of rearranging boxes and arrows to work your way forward from back-end systems to employees, seek to rearrange what happens on your colleagues' screens by working your way backward.


Going forward, an effective digital workplace manager will focus less on specific buzzwords like gamification, cloud and even social-and focus instead on the digital user experience, writ large. "Writ large" means more than graphical design and slick interfaces. It means answering the central UX question: How can you make your colleagues more effective?

That's not a simple question to answer, and in your attempt to modernize your digital workplace, you may stumble a bit at first. Age-old challenges of security and interoperability can get tougher before they get better. Yet your colleagues are already looking way beyond your official intranet. It's worse to be irrelevant than to have experimented and failed.

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