Beyond the intranet:
The power of a digital workplace
Intranets – organizations’ internal web sites – began decades ago as online document repositories. They evolved into platforms for information sharing, internal corporate communications, and tools like employee directories. In the early 2010’s, the emergence of the social intranet enabled real-time collaboration and deeper integration with business processes and applications.
By themselves, intranets remain effective tools – but as models of work become increasingly digital, collaborative, and hybrid, organizations are increasingly moving to a more dynamic and powerful solution: the digital workplace.
What is a digital workplace?
A digital workplace is an online ecosystem that enables people to do their jobs, collaborate with their colleagues, and engage with their organizations better. It comes to life when an organization chooses the right digital tools – and then uses them in ways that make life and work easier for everyone, from management to front-line employees.
Here is an example of the components that might make up an organization’s digital workplace:
Notice that there’s still an intranet in this visualization – and it’s at the center. The intranet is often the portal to the whole ecosystem.
While this diagram emphasizes the interconnection of tools, it’s also vital to understand that a digital workplace is not fundamentally about technology. Don’t think of it as a set of tools that IT will deploy and someone will administer. A digital workplace is about communication, collaboration, and the easy completion of tasks. This implies three things:
- First, while it may include multiple off-the-shelf products, your digital workplace as a whole must be tailored to you based on the unique needs of your organization and your people.
- Second, your digital workplace is an environment for listening to employees and responding to their needs, as much as it is about communicating to them. It’s a living environment – so once it’s up and running, it must be intentionally curated, managed, and evolved.
- Third, as the first two points suggest, the digital workplace is one of the most essential tools for employee communications and employee experience teams.
How to create (or evolve) your digital workplace
Too often, organizations look for “the best tool out there” and then ask how it can be applied to their needs. This isn’t a great approach in general – you should always start by defining what you need a tool for – but it’s especially problematic when it comes to digital workplaces, because a digital workplace isn’t a standalone tool to begin with.
Here’s quick checklist for thinking about a new digital workplace:
- Purpose. Why do we want this? How will it address our pain points or enable us to deliver on a strategy?
- Requirements. What are the must-have elements of our digital workplace? What are the things we might want later?
- IT landscape. Do we want to supplement existing tools that we’re committed to, or are we starting from scratch?
- Management. What will it take for us to manage this ecosystem once it’s up and running? (Think editorial ownership, governance, measurement, and ongoing evolution.)
- Employee-centered design. How can we include employee input in the development of this new environment?
Integral can help
Integral lives at the intersection of employee communications, culture and change, and digital transformation. We have decades of experience with intranets and digital workplaces – not only through our work with clients, but through the in-house roles we’ve held as leaders and content creators for the intranets and digital workplaces of large organizations.
We’re here to help you at any step of the process – from initial assessment to brainstorming to strategic planning to implementation.