The digital workplace is a concept that describes how technology is increasingly creating a virtual equivalent of the physical workplace, and how that trend allows businesses to rethink traditional processes and increase efficiency.
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Digital workplace is a broad term that could technically include any business using computers and software, but the overarching concept is using digitization to align technology, people and business processes to improve operational efficiency and meet business goals.
Common digital workplace goals include using technology to improve communication, collaboration, content management and business processes. Cloud and mobile are also important aspects of the digital workplace, because these technologies can assure that company information is available 24/7 remotely, and mitigate/remove geographic barriers from collaboration and work processes.
One example of a digital workplace initiative is the paperless office, which centers on replacing paper processes with digital workflows. In addition to saving money on paper, it allows greater efficiency for disseminating information, either via email or cloud file sharing, with potentially additional controls and compliance features. More important, the shift from paper to digital offers the potential for labor-saving automation and other innovations.
For example, an environmental inspection office could replace paper reports with applications that allow inspectors to produce and file reports remotely, on site, with mobile devices. This eliminates physical handling of the report and allows the home office to potentially see it quicker and respond while the inspector is still on-site. Records management software can then forward the report to the correct repository, instead of a physical filing process. Once the report has served its purpose, it can be archived electronically, instead of as a paper document in a filing cabinet that takes up real estate.
Digital workplace initiatives can also benefit business intelligence efforts, since most digital processes automatically create a record of activity, which can be fed into data visualization and analytics models that can help measure the effectiveness of operations.
Another potential benefit of digital workplaces is allowing companies to downsize their physical footprint, as processes such as document storage and employee collaboration increasingly become facilitated virtually, through digital technology.
Technology is a central component of digital workplace initiatives, but it also requires up-front planning of how business processes will translate to digital, software with functionality that fits the task at hand, and a user experience that employees are willing to embrace as part of their workday.