Tag Archives: applications

Digital equality for a better work/life balance

I have read with interest recent articles and events that show how intranets and digital workplaces are helping to create a greater sense of freedom and better work/life balance leading to more equality.

It is a view I have held for many years since I experienced the benefits working from home at BT with flexible hours and clear responsibilities and priorities to help me.

Equality

In the UK official figures show that women aged 25-54 are more stressed than their male colleagues, with this pressure peaking for those aged 35-44, when many women are juggling family responsibilities, such as caring for children and elderly parents.

One way of relieving some of that stress would be flexible hours and location policy.  However this can normally only be achieved if the culture is right and you have remote access to the information and work processes on the intranet.

Reduced working hours

In Spain, the employment minister, Fátima Báñez, announced a push to let Spaniards finish work at 6pm, rather than 8pm. The government has also said it is willing to consider, as part of a series of measures designed to improve work-life balance, reversing the Franco-era decision that put Spain in the wrong time zone.

Some companies in Sweden are moving to a six-hour working day in a bid to increase productivity and make people happier.  “The eight-hour work day is not as effective as one would think,” says the CEO of Filimundus.

“To stay focused on a specific work task for eight hours is a huge challenge.  In order to cope, we mix in things and pauses to make the work day more endurable.  At the same time, we are having it hard to manage our private life outside of work.”

The aim is for people to be more motivated to work more intensely while in the office.  Again without access to the right information and work processes on the intranet this will be more difficult to achieve.

Work/life balance

Working Families is a UK work-life balance organisation. The charity helps working parents and carers and their employers find a better balance between responsibilities at home and work.  They also share best practice with case studies highlighting the achievements of winners and nominees for Top Employers for Working Families Special Awards.

Work related stress already costs Britain 10.4 million working days per year. The human costs of unmanaged work related stress extends far beyond this. A key way to protect your mental health against the potential detrimental effects of work related stress is to ensure you have a healthy work-life balance.

Summary

The examples for the Flexible Working category show this is not rocket science.  It is something that organisation of different type, size and purpose can succeed with.

I am NOT claiming that a good intranet or digital workplace will magically lead to this happening.  There are many factors to be considered and acted upon.

What I AM claiming is that a strategy for people having access to the right information and work processes whenever and wherever it is needed.  Careful planning to implement the strategy is essential.  Making sure everything is well-managed and can be relied upon being accessible and reliable.

It doesn’t happen by chance or overnight.  Organisation need to realise the value of their intranet or digital workplace first and to understand how it is the foundation for improving people’s productivity.  That’s where we need to step up to the mark!

What exactly is a digital workplace?

Recently several people have asked me what exactly is a digital workplace.  I start by defining the digital workplace as:

Work is what you do, not where you go to.”

While the digital workplace will vary depending on each organisation’s size, culture and structure, you will be able to all of these:

  1. Work in any location:  At home, in your own or anyone else’s office, on the train, or ideally anywhere that suits you at the time you need to.
  2. Complete tasks work online:  Make a room booking, checking a person’s contacts details, searching for information you need, or reading the latest news.
  3. Use any device:  Use your laptop, a shared PC, a smartphone  or tablet anytime, anywhere.
  4. Share information:  Be able to use collaboration tools to help other people.
  5. Solve problems: Ask for help from people you may not know in discussion forums and shared workspaces.
  6. Search:  From one place across all the places where information is and you have permission to access.

Of course, how your digital workplace is managed with a governance framework is critical to how good and integrated the experience will be.  You can find more here on how to get it right.

I will post next about the difference between an intranet and a digital workplace.

I wrote a book about governance: ‘Digital success or digital disaster?’

Book cover - Digital success or digital disastersWhen an intranet loses its usefulness over time, and people become disengaged and end up working around it rather than through it, I often find that the strategy and governance have been neglected.

Even a strong and appropriate strategy will founder if the governance isn’t in place to execute it.

I see governance as the foundation of a great intranet, and by ‘great’ I mean an intranet that is useful, useable, and supports the organisation’s goals and people’s needs.

I often blog about intranet governance, but my brand new book offers a lot more than I could ever drip-feed via short posts.  Writing a book has helped crystallise my thinking around governance, and delve deep into my past experience as an intranet manager, and as a consultant.

Take a look at my book now – it’s called ‘Digital success or digital disaster?’ and I mean for it to be relevant to intranets, collaboration, digital workplace and mobile workspace governance, while focussing on intranets.

I’m so pleased to have it published through Intranätverk, it’s been great to work with Kristian Norling and his team.  Seeing the final book on my tablet has made the months of writing all worth the effort.  I’m thrilled to be able to offer you my experience, guidance, and tips and hope you’ll consider my book a toolkit to better governance and a better intranet.

Please take a look at what the book offers you and your organisation – this is a ‘business book’ that should help organisations of every size, but I also hope it’s of interest to individual practitioners and ‘lone intranet managers’. I think this book can support you.

* Digital success or digital disaster? – Book available now.

* Follow me on Twitter – let me know what you think!

Managing the risks from mobile

Recently I have talked a lot about mobile ranging from selling the idea to senior people, creating a great mobile experience, how to develop a strategy to what are good governance principles.
Some organisations are starting to realise the potential of mobile working can help employee’s productivity, engagement, and their work/life balance.  But the reality is a lot of organisations aren’t there yet.  Most will provide a poor user experience and be reluctant to invest time and money developing a rich mobile user experience.
Security and risk are concerns that often create the barriers to further mobile integration.  How can you overcome these barriers?
In this post I will cover how your organisation can provide useful functionality for your employees while still mitigating or addressing the following risks:

Fear of the unknown

There may still a perception by some people in Legal, Security, and Regulatory parts of your organisation that because they don’t fully understand how increased use of mobile devices to access tools and information or share knowledge and problems can help it must be ‘bad’.
The best way to handle this approach is to research what other organisations have done with mobile.  You should focus on:
  1. Successful examples of adoption
  2. Competitors with your organisation who are ahead of you
  3. Lessons to learn where mobile hasn’t worked
  4. Prepare how and what you are going to share
  5. Identify the right stakeholders

authenticating

People who do not fully understand why you authenticate can be over cautious and create many layers of authentication.  The ‘just in case’ approach will just strangle the use by mobile devices of the apps and content you need to use to help you with your work.

Why would you use your mobile to access something online that takes just a few seconds if you have to enter usernames and passwords several times before you can get to it that takes several minutes?  It’s just not going to happen.  You need to explain:

  1. What people are being asked to authenticate for e.g. use apps
  2. Why authentication is needed e.g. protect intellectual property
  3. How authentication can have maximum effect for minimal impact with ‘smart’ authenticating used only when needed and not duplicating at every level; different levels of authentication based on type of content or app to be used
  4. Building security into your mobile device so your authentication feeds through to the content and apps to be accessed if possible
  5. BYOD – is personal mobile devices the best way or should you stick with company mobile devices?

business continuity

Your organisation needs to be resilient and always able to survive whatever potential crisis it may face.  This means supporting your employees wherever and whenever they are using their mobile devices.  By having people in many locations your business is more resilient to these unforeseen events when they happen.  Mobile can help by:

  1. Removing the ‘single point of failure’ problem with office based people all in one location
  2. Accelerating the recovery time from a ‘crisis’ to provide service to customers especially if face to face visits are needed e.g. employees with mobiles in different locations
  3. Showing better value made in infrastructure and data centres investment with availability 24/7 for when mobile workers need to use it
Addressing these concerns with your key stakeholders will help you remove the barriers preventing you from giving your mobile users the functionality and good experience needed to help with their work.

Good governance signals right mobile direction

In my previous post in this series on mobile I asked ‘Why you need a mobile strategy‘ and showed that mobile is one of the key drivers for the transformation of intranets into digital workplaces which could become mobile workplaces but progress is patchy.  It is no surprise if I say setting the right direction for your organisation with mobile is critical.  Having some good governance principles helps you to continue in the right way and underpin your strategy.

Mobile governance principles

You need to have the following in place:

  1. A champion who will sponsor your strategy and the direction you take
  2. Stakeholders who represent your organisation’s key business areas and functions with the right decision-making authority
  3. Roles and responsibilities that include meeting the needs of mobile users
  4. Standards for owners of content and tools to follow so mobile devices can easily use these

Mobile standards

You need to have standards consistently but appropriately applied for mobile content and apps.  This may mean a change of focus to how your publishing standards are applied to how content is already used.  I will focus on three standards which are most important to a good mobile experience:

Security

It is critical to protect the intellectual property and commercial interests of your organisation.  It is also important to make the method of accessing content and apps from a mobile device secure and easy to do.  It is no good having several logins with different passwords just to quickly look up a person’s contact details you need to quickly check something with just before you enter a meeting.  People just won’t have the time and patience to follow this method.

But you do need some intelligent software working in the background to ensure you know who is accessing content with a mobile device.  Getting the balance right between these two needs is sometimes delicate to achieve but essential for the benefits of mobile use to be achieved.

BYOD

Bring your own device is increasingly seen as important to employers and employees.  It offers businesses opportunities and productivity benefits if it can be successfully introduced.  It manages the threats from wider security systems by having processes to monitor these.  You need a BYOD policy for mobile devices coming onto the network that may not have been checked.  By a combination of tools to implement it and educating and building trust with employees on how to use mobile devices this can help.

Usability

This is even more important than usual because of the smaller and different screen sizes for mobile devices.  Think about the difference in size of screens between a smartphone, tablet, and laptop.  Yet you will need mobile workers to be able to use the device that is best for their needs.  You need to get your content editors and apps developers to think about mobile first when designing how people need to use their information or apps for their work.  This may be some mind and culture change for some people!

The interface for each device needs to be clean, simple, with any key functionality easy to find and use and unnecessary links, extra content, and functionality stripped out.  Always test with mobile users at each stage of development and before launching to check it will meet their needs.

My last post in this series will focus on the mobile experience.

How to be more productive in a digital workplace

OK, so you now have a digital workplace strategy showing the direction you need to move in; a governance framwework to show who is responsible for what with standards, etc, to give you a fantastic online experience; policies and values that encourage you to use a digital workplace and benefit from them.

Now I will show how you can be more productive using a digital workplace:

Usability

It is critical that the time you use in a digital workplace is not wasted.  That means having clearly labeled information, direct route to the information, able to use the information whatever device (laptop, tablet, smartphone) you have, and be able to edit the information as well as read it.

And it’s not just information, you need to find people who can help you or you want to share some knowledge with.  Having an easy to use people finder helps as well as finding collaborative content in discussion groups with other people with similar needs or interest.

Finally if you are mobile your time is limited.  You need fast access to apps and services you need to use e.g. booking travel, hotel room, invites for meetings, hire care.  The list is long but you need to get to each task in a short time and complete each task quickly.

IT capability

You need to have the right tools and access to gain the full benefits from a digital workplace.  Your organisation needs to fund and provide laptops, smartphones, tablets as well as an internet connection and monitor screens for homeworking.  Having the right choice of devices means you can always use the digital workplace whenever you need to – checking people finder, completing tasks, sharing information.  This means you can be more productive and aim for a better work/life balance.  No more waiting to get to an office before you can do your work.  And with the right device you can do your work better, maybe faster too.

You need reliable access to your digital workplace when you need it.  If your organisation gets it wrong then you probably won’t use the digital workplace so much.  Your IT network needs to be reliable for speed and availability.  If it is frequently down for a hour or so you won’t trust it and become reluctant to use it.  If it is slow then you will vote with your feet and stay in a physical office where you can contact people and work better.

Security

You must be confident you have secure access to your digital workplace.  Your organisation needs to be confident it will not be abused by anyone away from their physical workplaces.  For example if you want to check your pay record online you want 100% confidence only you can do this.  Likewise if you need to access sensitive information online the organisation also needs 100% reassurance only those with the right permissions, like you, can use it.

To be fully productive you need to use these services with confidence about how secure they are in a digital workplace.

Involvement

Your organisation needs to develop and have available the things you need to do your work.  Research will be needed before your digital workplace can be used.  You should be involved and asked questions like:

  • What is the information you need?
  • What applications do you need for your work?
  • What collaborative tools do you to share?
  • Will any device work in your digital workplace?

All of these need to be addressed before you need them.  It may take your organisation time, effort, and money to research fully what is needed.  However it will be seen as an investment in the months afterwards when you start using your digital workplace because it helps you to be more productive.

Please contact me if you need my help or leave a comment on this post.  My next post will cover how the weather can help your digital workplace.

What is a digital workplace?

Last week at the IntraTeam event in Copenhagen (Twitter #IEC12) there were many discussions about the digital workplace and what exactly is a digital workplace.

I thought it would be good to start a debate on what we mean when we say the digital workplace. Many intranet professionals want to find out more about the digital workplace.  Here is my view for you to consider and comment upon.

What exactly is a digital workplace?

I define the digital workplace as “Work is what you do, not where you go to.”

In a digital workplace you are able to:

  • Work in any location.  This may be at home, in your own or anyone else’s office, on the train, or ideally anywhere that suits you at the time you need to.
  • Do your work.  This may making a room booking, checking a person’s contacts details, searching for information you need, or reading the latest news.
  • Use any device.  This maybe your laptop, a shared PC, a smartphone (iPhone), or tablet (iPad).
  • Share information.  This means being able to use collaboration tools to help other people.
  • Search across all places where information is and you have permission to use.

What is the difference between a digital workplace and an intranet?

An intranet has a more limited role.  An intranet typically has corporate news and documents e.g. policies. Publishing will probably use content and document management systems.  A digital workplace will also have:

  • Collaboration tools e.g. blogs, wikis, podcasts
  • Micro blogging tools e.g. Yammer, Twitter
  • Knowledge sharing/building e.g. team wikis and share workspaces
  • Applications/tools e.g. HR tools, online training, sales performance
  • Processes e.g. approving decisions, compliance checks

It will help me and other intranet professionals if you can comment to agree, disagree, amend, etc, to create a shared understanding on the digital workplace.  Thanks in advance.