Creating a digital destination for business transformation

By Gloria Lombardi

Many organisations are on a journey to re-wire their workplace – introducing new tools, processes, and practices to be more competitive and effective. Digital workplace platform provider, Igloo Software, supports customers in this journey by creating a digital destination, a single place where employees start their day and where they communicate, collaborate, share knowledge, and get their work done.

Igloo Software helps businesses across the globe to facilitate business change and even digital transformation. For example, Igloo provides the ‘ leadership corner‘ which puts a human face to the leadership team; a ‘ virtual townhall‘ to help the entire company come together for important updates, the ‘ onboarding centre‘ to help new hires become familiar with their company; the ‘ social zone‘ which promotes human connections and healthy behaviours; and the ‘ governance centre ‘ that helps to mitigate risks by ensuring all employees are aware and have access to company policies.

MARGINALIA spoke with Vice President of Marketing at Igloo, Mike Hicks (pictured below), to explore the digital workplace evolution seen across the enterprises he works with. In this interview, he explains the four stages of intranet evolution, as well as the best practices and strategies to create a digital destination that helps the business to evolve, transform, and innovate.

Gloria Lombardi: Igloo has evolved over the years. You went from an intranet company to becoming a digital workplace platform, is that right?

Mike Hicks: The evolution of Igloo reflects the whole digital transformation journey that many modern organisations are going through.

The first stage is the basic intranet, which is rather focused on making information available. It’s top-down, fairly static, and focused on news. Basically, it’s a file repository; a place where employees go to consume information.

The second stage of the digital workplace transformation is what we call the ‘ extended intranet ‘: it’s still top-down, yet it includes some form of personalisation and customisation. There is basic collaboration and interaction between people, with spaces where teams can share information and files. The extended intranet is still the industry average.

Then there is the modern intranet. It combines top-down with bottom-up communications. It includes basic social features for two-way and multi-way conversation. The modern intranet facilitates communication with senior leaders, ensuring that strategic intentions are clear and on-the-ground difficulties are understood. Collaboration is a key focus for knowledge workers; the tools enable file sharing and instant messaging. Deploying and developing a modern intranet can be a big change for some companies. Moving collaboration online and out of email allows people to be more involved in their departmental and project work. The intranet becomes the place to work, to create and share information, to talk to teammates, and it can even automate some business tasks. The modern intranet is the ‘productivity phase’ of the digital workplace transformation.

Finally, the most mature phase sees the emergence of a comprehensive digital workplace. It’s the ultimate ‘business transformation phase’. We no longer talk about the intranet but rather about a digital destination. It’s the place where employees start their day and where they go to communicate, collaborate, and share knowledge – as they get their work done. The digital workplace supports cross-functional collaboration, pre-defined workflows, BYOA (bring your own apps) and mobile access. Further, it’s a real part of your employee brand and company culture, enabling engaging communications and direct involvement with company matters.

Mirroring this evolution, Igloo has become a digital workplace platform that helps transform enterprises. Specifically, we enable four fundamentals: communication, collaboration, knowledge management, and employee engagement, which are all key pillars that support the growth and evolution of a company’s culture.

GL: How does the Igloo platform deliver value exactly?

MH: Based on the four fundamental capabilities, we provide tailored solutions that solve concrete problems, whether it is for HR, Corporate Communications, IT, or Sales, for example. Igloo strives to be a company’s strategic partner and trusted advisor to guide businesses in their digital transformation journey. For instance, how do you create a digital version of your culture that manifests across the digital workplace? Commencing from that question, we start co-creating and developing real solutions.

If we think of communication, for example, are we dealing with a piece of news that needs disseminating across the organisation? Or is it a CEO blog for a specific department? Or does it only relate to a project team? While the traditional intranet creates all the communications the same way, giving them the same level of prioritisation, a digital workplace solution can segment the communications by importance, author, and relevance. Ultimately, employees only see the information that is relevant to them and in the context of the work they are doing.

Igloo, of course, has all the capabilities for micro-blogging, one-to-one and one-to-many communications. The platform integrates with the leading existing tools that organisations are already using as part their business processes – for example the Microsoft suite, Slack, Box, Dropbox, and the Google Suite. As a result, files and people are brought together, rather than spread around all those different apps. Igloo centralises resources around a project, a team or a job role as appropriate, creating a common destination.

This means that people no longer have to live in their inbox as everything is accessible in the shared digital workplace. Information is presented in the context of the work that people do, potentially alongside other related articles, documents, and other project work that teammates are working on. Employees no longer have to search in multiple file repositories as the information is centralised into one place. This also creates a tremendous opportunity for knowledge management and sharing, because everything is transparent, open, to the right people.

GL: What other benefits can an organisation receive from tailoring the Igloo solution to a specific business problem?

MH: Igloo can help with change management. People are people; if they don’t see the value in doing something in a different way, they will revert to the old ways of doing things.

Delivering a solution to a very specific problem, rather than deploying an off-the-shelf application, is a smart way to create value and reduce employee frustration. When something works well, it’s easier for employees to see the value and adopt the new way of working. Let’s take the on-boarding process, for example. For many organisations it’s paper-based manual process, and can take up to three months. On the Igloo platform an organisation can condense the whole process down into one week: a guided workflow on boards the new starters digitally and provides them with the relevant information and forms.

GL: Based on your experience with clients, what are the most mature organisations doing to maximise their investment in digital transformation?

MH: The most mature organisations have embedded digital working across the entire business. Working together, online, is the norm – it’s just teams getting their work done. They brought the capabilities of our product into the development of their workflow into all aspects of the enterprise. The four fundamentals – communication, collaboration, knowledge management, and employee engagement and culture – are especially relevant.

Further, mature companies set clear goals and objectives around each capability and meticulously monitor and benchmark their progress over months and years.

Leaders know that it’s really all about people, and so they work on the corporate culture and develop the skills of the workforce. Employees are effective when they are informed, engaged, aligned, enabled, and empowered. This is what successful organisations focus on as part of their digital workplace transformation.

GL: What trends are you seeing that support digital transformation? Who ‘owns’ transformation?

MH: We’re starting to see the appearance of job titles such as the Chief Digital Transformation Officer. It’s not a very common yet, but it is an indication that companies recognise it as a primary responsibility inside the organisation. More often we see a joint effort of three common roles: IT, HR, and Marketing or Corporate Communications.

IT can be either a leader or play an influencing role – obviously we are talking about technology, so IT is usually involved. However, they are not necessarily the ones that drive the change.

HR is certainly heavily involved. In many cases, HR is driving the change. When we talk about employee engagement, culture, and productivity, HR certainly has a place at the table. HR wants to bring together the generations of workers – baby boomers, Gen X, Gen Y, and Gen Z – that have different expectations and views about work and technology. Recruiting is extremely competitive; the time an employee stays in a company is shrinking dramatically, and so HR needs to invest in effective and efficient recruitment and on-boarding systems, and retain the ‘talent’ by way of developing engaged employees.

When we talk about aligning employees around common goals, mission, and objectives, the Communication team plays a big role. In some cases the responsibility for digital transformation is shifting from IT to the CMO (Chief Marketing Officer), precisely because establishing enterprise-wide communication and engagement is a foundation for transformation.

GL: Now, a popular MARGINALIA question; What are your recommendations to implement a successful digital workplace transformation?

MH: The key to a successful transformation is having a roadmap – setting goals and objectives – and starting small. In fact, the bigger you try to make the change at the beginning, the longer it will take you to realise the value and the easier it will be to get off track. So, have a plan, test a few solutions, and prove the value. Then continue iterating as you progress along your roadmap.

Employee feedback is extremely important too. Your vision of how people should interact within the platform may end up being very different from the reality. Hence, you need to gather feedback as you go; it is likely that will modify your plans based on the people’s reactions.

Prioritise your business challenges by focusing on the most important problems that need addressing. Make sure to define and measure the outcomes that you are looking for – whether it is around productivity, innovation, competitive advantage, or engagement, use metrics and benchmark as you go.

Align your digital footprint – look at the platforms and productivity tools that you have in place and the ones that you want to acquire. How will they work together to create a cohesive digital destination? How are you going to encourage adoption, and discourage employees from reverting to legacy systems and old ways of working?

Finally, governance – you’ll want people to be mindful of conventions and your information management policies. It’s a mindset – everyone has a responsibility to comply with the best practices for using the digital workplace.

In fact, it’s not the company’s digital workplace – it is everybody’s digital workplace. So, just as you expect people to keep a clean and tidy office environment, everyone’s expected to maintain a tidy digital workplace. Governance is as much about guiding people in how things work best as it is for establishing rules and developing ways to monitor and enforce them.

GL: Are you exploring emerging technologies, like AI, at Igloo?

MH: Yes, we certainly are. Search in particular is one area that we look at with interest. As our platform integrates with different systems, it’s important to have an intelligent search engine that delivers accurate results. And, of course, it’s not just about searching for information, but also discovering people and their skills.

We will announce more about our intelligent search capabilities over the summer. We will also discuss search, as well as the best practices and strategies around digital transformation, during our Digital Workplace conference, 18th to 20th September 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee.

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