For many organisations, the greatest source of competitive advantage in the next few years will come from the workforce's ability to creatively exploit digital technologies.
This is what we call the “digital workplace”. Rather than a set of products, it is a business strategy to boost digital dexterity of your people through an engaging and intuitive work environment. Think of it as a combination of digitisation and workplace trends.
For technology service providers, there’s an opportunity to address the growing market for solutions catering to new ways of work.
Think about the digitisation of content, the capabilities of the cloud for universal access, and the ability to view more work as it happens.
Unfortunately, many see digital workplace as either a renaming of productivity software or a limited set of new categories, such as workstream collaboration and content collaboration platforms. These views misunderstand the intent and underestimate the big impact it has in organisations.
Digitisation of all types of data is happening across all businesses. Using this data to improve performance and plan new products or services to work more efficiently is a must.
The importance of this increasing amount of data is raised to another level when combined with workplace trends such as more globalised teams and competition; younger employees entering the workforce; and a heavier focus on engaged employees.
All end-user facing technologies will be impacted
While the primary impact of digital workplace is on new products in the "productivity" space like office suites, secondary impacts are emerging.
Other categories, such as CRM, ERP and project and portfolio management (PPM) systems, are expected to integrate with these environments or even provide capabilities with similar characteristics for collaborative and observable work.
Every provider of technology that workers touch needs to consider how digital workplace will offer new opportunities and change buyer expectations.
However, employees don’t feel the need for — and enterprises don’t want to buy — more content and collaboration tools for tools’ sake.
Focus your message around business outcomes – the value of engaged employees, for example. Move from product pitching to showing you understand digital workplace goals and can help them transform.
Finding the right buyer isn’t easy
Only 17 per cent of organisations have a "digital workplace" leader with that title, according to Gartner’s 2018 CIO Survey.
Train your sales team to do more digging on a case-by-case basis to find their buyer and provide a few more role-based angles on their messaging.
Digital workplace buyers can be found on business teams, in IT and in employee-aligned groups. They want more effective ways of working, but face budget and cultural readiness challenges.
Product messaging and positioning should target the top digital workplace objectives, which according to a 2017 Gartner survey are enabling new, more effective ways of working; agility; and workplace productivity.
Challenges should also be addressed since they’re top of mind for organisations that have already bought into digital workplace solutions. Some are ripe for service providers, rather than software vendors, such as cultural readiness, user adoption and lack of ownership.
Contrary pressures on product messaging
Not all organisations are ready for new ways of work – the majority are still running just fine. Calling them "old" ways of work would be too derogatory for work styles that have served many profitable, growing companies well for the past two decades.
Balancing messaging between the two types of customer is challenging. For those not ready to transform the way they work, products that offer low-risk, incremental improvements without the need to force changes in habits or processes will sell well.
Likewise, for those that want new ways of working, products and messaging that support this transformation will do well. It’s the mismatches that create headaches for your salesforce and reputation.
Craig Roth is a research vice president at Gartner, focusing on cloud office suites, collaboration tools and content management solutions.