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Creating the digital workplace – how to get the board on board

In any discussion about moving to a digital workplace, the commitment of the board is always high on the list of imperatives. There’s plenty of talk about why it matters, but not always many ideas about how to make it happen.

Fortunately, the panel for the Digital Workplace Deep Dive session at the 2019 O2 Blue Door Conference had plenty of experience to share. The main message was about getting the senior executives to understand the tangible benefits to their business.

Panelist Simon Reed, Head of IT Service and Operations at Suffolk County Council, suggested finding a likely advocate among the senior C-suite to champion the concept to their peers.

“If you can find a key stakeholder sponsor who really believes in the benefits, then they can be your voice in the boardroom,” he said. He added that it’s important to have a plan for the adoption and roll-out of the transformation that reassures the board that it’s practical and realistic.

“Where possible, it helps to give your sponsor the technology to work with, so they can see the benefits for themselves,” he added. The sight of your contact working with the latest smart device, or a marked improvement in the quality of the presentations they make to the rest of the board, can speak volumes about what’s possible. It can sow the seeds of a little device envy into the bargain.”

Rob Epstein, Windows Product Marketing Manager at Microsoft, quoted the example of Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, who hosts regular employee Q&A sessions on Yammer. “It’s an approach that shows he is committed to the open and collaborative ways of working that typify a digital workplace,” he said, “and it sets a compelling example to whole business.”


Spencer Pitts, Chief Technologist at VMWare, agrees that there’s a simple logic to the idea of happy and engaged employees making customers happy. Businesses are starting to recognise that whether it’s a dispatcher on a station platform or a community care professional helping a client at home, people can deliver better customer experiences when they have access to all the digital resources they need in a way that’s personal to them.

Sometimes this isn’t possible with traditional security and IT management ideas, but by adopting an employee-first, modern management approach with ‘zero trust security thinking’ at its heart, this is now achievable. An example of this is making IT support a more engaging experience by setting up a Tech Oasis, as VMWare have done, where engineers can provide support at a regular time and place that’s convenient for their colleagues across the business.

A sense of urgency is also helpful. Ann Pickering, CHRO and Chief of Staff for O2, pointed out that the London 2012 Olympics helped to kick start transformation for Telefónica UK because of the threat of travel disruption. You may not be able to conjure a global sports event at will, but a little research that indicates a rising threat from agile competitors, or increasing concerns about customer experience, may well help to focus the minds of your board members.

Tech guru Spencer Kelly reflected on the sheer scale of the problem for big organisations. “You’re fighting the scale,” he said, adding the caveat that if the board is set in its ways then the organisation will be too. He too referred to Satya Nadella: “Effective boards are those where the leaders of the organisation have stopped being know-it-alls and have become learn-it-alls.”

He cited the fact that traditional organisation structures foster a culture of siloed thinking, with productivity measured department-by-department. This established approach limits the opportunities for growth and efficiency that come from a more holistic, collaborative view.

It’s a hallmark of the Blue Door series that delegates come away with practical, real-world ideas, rather than the latest business fads and theories. The Digital Workplace Deep Dive showed how finding an advocate in the boardroom, giving them the technology and, above all, making the business benefits clear, can accelerate the process of getting the senior-level buy-in that is critical to success.

A good place to start with building the business case is our latest whitepaper. It gives you some compelling statistics on the impact of moving to a digital workplace and sets out the benefits it delivers.

You can download the whitepaper, ‘Create a digital workplace’, here.


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