Cracking the Digital Workplace Governance Code


Raise your hand if any of the following sounds familiar: does your organization still use traditional file shares? Do you have a sneaking suspicion your existing intranet solution is not being leveraged to its fullest potential?

Organizations hoping to reap the benefits of a digital workplace — enabling mobility, maintaining security, reducing redundancy, streamlining knowledge sharing and ultimately padding the bottom line — must come to terms with three inconvenient truths:

  1. You cannot cut and paste existing standard operating procedures from a traditional workplace into a digital workplace.
  2. Merely deploying digital systems like SharePoint and Office 365 isn’t enough to reap the benefits of a digital workplace.
  3. A comprehensive governance strategy is the single most important factor distinguishing successful digital workplaces from those that fail.

Keeping these truths in mind, let’s take a look at how to define your digital workplace, identify the specific systems and tools that will make up your digital workplace, clarify your goals and priorities and develop an implementation strategy to ensure a smooth digital revolution. 

While we’ll use Office 365 and SharePoint as examples, these lessons apply to all digital workplaces, regardless of the tools used.

Define Your Digital Workplace

Most organizations mistakenly assume that migrating to a digital workplace is as simple as saying, “We’re adopting Office 365 and SharePoint next fiscal quarter.” If only it were that simple. 

Embracing a digital workplace is more revolution than migration.

Every organization is different. Tech organizations operate differently than healthcare organizations. Small market tech firms operate differently than enterprise tech firms. So it makes sense that a successful digital workplace solution for one organization may not work for others.

Start by answering these defining questions: What does your organization hope to achieve in the next quarter? The next year? The next five years? How can your digital systems remove obstacles to those goals before they happen?

Expecting to onboard millennials en masse? Your data must be accessible anywhere, anytime from any device. 

Planning on penetrating a new market? Your executive team must be able to transmit knowledge to your service team, fast. 

Planning to acquire a rival firm? The absorbed employees must be able to understand and apply your standard operating procedures without thousands of hours of training.

A comprehensive governance strategy allows your organization to remove roadblocks before they’re visible. 

The operative concept here is to define the outcomes you need your digital systems to propel you toward. Once you’ve clarified that, consider the technical specifics.

Identify the Systems and Tools You’ll Need

Communication. Collaboration. Productivity. Mobility. Security. Resource sharing. All these benefits play a critical role for organizational success, but depending on your unique business environment, some may be more important than others.

In the same vein, you may rely on some digital systems more than others (again, depending on your organizational goals).

Seventy-eight percent of Fortune 500s rely on SharePoint. But many of these fail to use SharePoint to its fullest potential, by integrating custom workflows and automation into existing systems. 

What if you could automate business process interaction with documentation? You can — and it’s simpler than you may think. Think of how much time this would save your organization per year.

Do you host highly sensitive information that subjects you to federal or state compliance regulations? On premises SharePoint solutions could enable tighter security.

Do you generate a wealth of unstructured data you wished could be catalogued and leveraged? A digital workplace document management system can assist in managing the creation, reuse and collaboration of intellectual property.

Is your firm strictly sales and marketing with no in-house technical expertise? Office 365 enables collaboration without the need for security patching and data backups, both of which are automated in the cloud.

Maybe your firm has a unique need that requires internal employee communication to be logged and monitored so that insider threats can be thwarted before a costly breach. Integrating threaded discussion platform Yammer and email platform Outlook, with a custom developed, Azure hosted application, may just do the trick.

Everyone’s needs are different. A comprehensive governance strategy ensures that you select the right systems and the right systems can communicate with one another.

Clarify Goals and Priorities. Iterate, Repeat

Now that you’ve defined your organizational goals and selected the systems to propel you toward them, it’s time to establish the specific goals your digital systems should accomplish.

Many businesses fall into the trap of formulating static digital workplace goals. Digital workplace goals differ from organizational goals in that they are slightly less quantifiable and certainly less static.

For example, your organizational goal may be to increase revenue 40 percent year over year by leveraging a new service that research and development just had approved by your executive team. The corresponding digital workplace goal may be to enable service delivery teams to grasp the core concepts of the new service with 75 percent less training time.

Prioritizing goals is just as important as clarifying them. For example, there’s an inherent conflict between mobility and security. Generally, there must be a give and take and as such, it’s important to develop a strategy that addresses concerns and conflicts such as this.

Develop an Implementation Strategy

Build the implementation portion of your governance strategy around the 10/80/10 rule. Whenever an organizational change is made, 10 percent of your team will love it, 10 percent will hate it and 80 percent will be apathetic.

The 10 percent who love it will be your early adopters. Your early adopters will embrace the technological revolution your organization is undergoing. They’ll likely encourage and assist others during the transition. 

The 10 percent who hate it will be your laggards. They’ll fight you tooth and nail throughout the revolution.

The remaining 80 percent will be apathetic towards the new technology and will base their attitude and decisions on how well their personal needs are met. These are the people you’ll need to win over and are ultimately responsible for whether the technological adoption succeeds or fails.

How do you manage these varying levels of interest? And, how do you prioritize which systems and features to implement first? 

Remember, the implementation, much like the goals, are iterative: Think agile over waterfall.

Develop a matrix that distinguishes the following types of results: easy big wins, complex big wins, easy small wins and complex niche wins.


By generating some quick wins, it becomes easier to get employees to fully adopt your new governance strategy and your new systems. From there, you can begin working on projects that provide value in the longer term.

Your early adopters will be your program’s strongest advocates: Share your strategy with them so they can share it throughout the entire organization. 

Key Takeaways for Cracking the Digital Workplace Code 

Your digital workplace governance strategy should be as unique as your organization. Each and every organization has different needs, which require different operations, different systems and different customizations.

Remember that a digital workplace revolution is best done in an iterative, phase-based approach, which considers user feedback, usage data and prototypes throughout the entire process.

The digital workplace is all about your people and your business. The systems and the technology are only as enabling as the team you have running and using them on a daily basis. 

So as you develop a governance strategy for your digital workplace, set transparent goals and prepare your organization to not just migrate to new technology, but to undergo a legitimate operational revolution.

Jill Hannemann is the practice director for Office 365 and SharePoint Advisory Services at Portal Solutions, a technology consulting firm specializing in digital workplace solutions. She is a recognized expert and industry speaker on the topics of portal strategy, governance and information architecture, and has a passion for transforming corporate intranets into digital workplaces that people love to use.


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