How CIOs Can Power a More Effective Workplace

Bob Bruns, CIO, Avanade
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Bob Bruns, CIO, Avanade

If someone asked what you consider to be one of the top competitive differentiators for today’s enterprises, what would you say? Business model innovation? Highly differentiated products or services? Attracting top talent? Something else?

What about a digital workplace? If that was on your radar, you’d be in good company. At Avanade, we consider a digital workplace to be a modern work environment where employees are more engaged to make faster decisions and achieve greater results – something that organizations are increasingly making a priority. Recent studies have shown that more than half of CIOs now place employee satisfaction in their top three metrics. Why? Because they are coming to terms with the fact that employee satisfaction/engagement and effectiveness of the workplace are inextricably linked, and they are making investments in solutions that help drive employee engagement.

These investments are paying off. Avanade’s own research has shown that 99 percent of organizations that have adopted digital workplace tools have experienced business benefits, including increased efficiency, improved employee engagement and accelerated revenue growth. A digital workplace also reduces costs through self-service access to applications and systems that traditionally required involvement from IT.

CIOs and IT leaders are hardly the only stakeholders who benefit from a more effective workplace. Other stakeholder groups are able to work smarter and more efficiently with the right tools in place. Consider the following business functions and their digital workplace needs:

  A digital workplace has a direct impact on how effective and competitive a business is

• Sales – Only 58 percent of sales directors are expected to reach their annual quota, according to research from Accenture. That’s because sales pros spend too much valuable time manually gathering the customer insights needed to close a single deal. Tools and applications–such as smart technologies, which allow computers or machines to do work or make decisions traditionally done by humans–provide relevant market research and customer data at the salesperson’s fingertips, helping ensure that they can concentrate on giving the customer a better, more personalized and seamless experience, leading to higher sales and increased brand loyalty.

• Operations – Today’s customers have endless choices – meaning that in order to win their loyalty, the onus is on the brand to ensure that they are satisfied at every interaction. This goal becomes difficult, if not impossible, to achieve when you consider how much data is often disconnected, outdated or living in a silo. A digital workplace helps enterprises create a connected Internet of Things (IoT) ecosystem that maximizes business value by integrating all the right pieces: technologies, data, processes, insights, action and people. It increases operational effectiveness, incremental revenues and health and safety, while lowering costs.

• Human Resources – Studies have shown that the best and brightest talent wants to work at a digital workplace, and this affects everything from recruitment to retention. Today’s workers, particularly millennials, or digital natives, are accustomed to digitally-driven experiences in their lives as consumers, and carry those same expectations into the workplace. This ever-growing cohort wants more than a paycheck; they want mobility, flexibility and opportunities to collaborate in new and unexpected ways. Digital workplace solutions provide employees with the speed, flexibility and myriad opportunities to innovate, while helping the organization become more competitive in the war for talent.

If you aren’t yet convinced about the outcomes possible with a digital workplace, consider the following example. At Avanade, we worked with an international natural resources company running one of the largest mines in North America. The company struggled with disparate, PowerPoint-based reporting from various vendors, making it challenging for pit supervisors to immediately respond to equipment issues, communicate alerts, changes, etc. We helped develop a cloud-based solution that integrated with the client’s internal line-of-business infrastructure. The solution collects information from deployed sensors and aggregates the disparate mine data in real-time, then makes it available through an easy-to-use portal to the dispatch control center and to pit supervisors on an app accessed through mobile devices. The client now has a path forward to increased mine supervisor productivity, and a mechanism for identifying ways to prevent issues like machinery downtime and employee injuries.

Effectiveness of the workplace is one of the most pressing issues facing companies today, and it is one where CIOs must drive the agenda.

Here are some best practices for CIOs and IT leaders as they look to collaborate with other stakeholders on implementing a more modern, effective workplace:

Forge stronger relationships across the business. Meet regularly with other department leaders to learn what their needs are, share expertise and uncover opportunities for joint projects.

• Evolve traditional mindsets and set the tone for collaboration. As technology budgets and control move outside of the IT departments, CIOs and other business leaders must break free from traditional mindsets and preconceptions that can keep them at odds with each other. For IT leaders, for example, this could mean thinking more commercially and holistically about their organizations’ business goals.

• Understand IT’s role as a critical partner to the business. While other functions, like marketing and human resources, are increasingly demanding a seat at the table, IT still offers the deepest bench of technical skills in most organizations. This expertise allows IT to lead the conversations, while ensuring that all relevant stakeholders also have a voice.

It’s no secret – a digital workplace has a direct impact on how effective and competitive a business is. In a world that is increasingly digital, organizations need to be digital on the inside so they can deliver strong experiences on the outside. Multiple business functions have skin in the game on this issue, and IT leaders are uniquely positioned to help power a more connected, innovative, collaborative and engaged workforce, while contributing in a meaningful way to the overall health of their organizations.

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