Picture your workspace at the office from ten, five, or even two years ago—what has changed? Your computer likely occupies less space than it did in the past. Your office phone, which was once wired to the corner of your desk, now sits comfortably in your pocket. And you are probably working at home exclusively, or at least most of the time. 

All of these changes are indicative of a larger trend in the state of the workforce: the rapid digitization of our workspaces, as well as how we accomplish work. Presently, an overwhelming majority—87 percent—of company CIOs believe that empowering their employees through digital workspaces will lead to at least 5 percent revenue growth across a three-year timespan. Couple this corporate interest with burgeoning demand from employees for more flexible workspace accommodations, and it’s no surprise that businesses of all sizes are putting more investment toward workplace digital transformations.

Although most, if not all, modern businesses recognize the value of digital environments, only a fraction have a comprehensive understanding of what this transition looks like. Your leadership may be aware that your workspaces are outdated, but few realize that these tech inefficiencies contribute to a $1.8 billion annual profit deficit for U.S. businesses.

To get started in updating your workspaces for the emerging digital frontier, here are a few steps you can keep in mind to make the process simple, fast, and—most importantly—successful.

ONE: Evaluate Your Existing Workspace
The reason why 70% of digital transformation initiatives fail to reach their goals is because these organizations do not spend enough time conducting foundational research on which you can inform your decisions. Before you make any changes to your workspace design, the first step to an effective digitization process is taking a “step back” by investigating your current infrastructure.

When you examine your company workspaces—everything from an individual desk to your largest conference room—take note of the areas of your operations that are in most dire need of a digital refresh. What stages of your workflows take the most time to complete or result in the highest number of human errors? What piece of equipment generates the most frustration among your employees? Where is the biggest disconnect between the work you are producing and the experience your customers are expecting?

Appraising your existing workspace also provides you with a point of comparison between now and after you’ve made the leap to digital. This provides you with a measurable rate of success for your digital transformation efforts—how much more or less your employees are able to achieve once they are equipped with more appropriate workspaces.

TWO: Narrow Your Scope
Using the research you’ve collected on your existing workspaces, the next step toward full digital integration is to focus your efforts on one area of your workspace at a time. Though the goal is to eventually transition your entire workspace to digital platforms, narrowing the scope of your project reduces the complexity of the transformation, as well as time to completion. The key is to focus on the points in your work process that you have identified are the least efficient, and therefore, will yield substantial improvements post-digitization.

Why is it so important to start your digital transformation on a smaller scale? Nearly half of all projects experience scope creep, meaning that they often exceed their allotted budget and timeframe for completion. The project morphs into an insurmountable web of overlapping tasks and involves too many stakeholders to ever be pulled in a single, unified direction.

But even more valuable is the opportunity a narrow scope provides for future buy-in at the executive level. Starting small will involve fewer resources and personnel, while still proving the value of workspace digitization to any skeptical management. If you can prove the return on investment for one component of your digital workspace, your company will be more persuaded to allocate you with additional resources for any upfront costs. 

THREE: Research Digital Options
Once you have a focus area to digitize, it’s time to begin researching the digital tools you can use to replace your outdated analog systems. As you look, you’ll want to find technologies that not only supplant your current workspace setup but also have the opportunity to improve it. Let’s look at a few specific examples to get you started. 

If your scope involves better document management—whether it currently exists as paper trails or on an unsecured public cloud network—researching a secured, file sharing platform will be worth your time. Since the parameters of these platforms can shift to fit the needs of a business your size, it’s important to explore the array of solutions on the market.

When focusing on converting your bulky handheld phones, fax machines, or other office communication staples, start by reading up on Voice over IP as a digital alternative. Voice over IP works with your cell, office, and fax numbers, allowing you to digitize everything from your call center network to your voicemail inbox.

 For teams that are bogged down with post-its littered around their desk with upcoming deadlines and reminders, you can begin your research by observing digital workflow mapping, where technologies like artificial intelligence or automation are integrated into your existing operations. Not only does this remove the need for paper-documented workflows and approval, but it will also help you develop a standardized approach to your work.

FOUR: Unify Your Approach
After you’ve researched and selected the digital tools that fit within your designated scope, how will you ensure that these tools not only perform well in isolation, but create a cohesive work experience as a unit as well? Taking a unified approach to your technology stack—or curating a digital workspace where each piece communicates with the next—is the key to developing a simple, intuitive digital strategy for your employees.

In the current state of the workforce, only 45% of IT executives know how many Software-as-a-Service tools are available and used within the business. The lack of visibility with digital technologies points to an oversaturation of software and providers. Companies that are not concerned with unifying their digital approach often discover that they subscribe to multiple tools that overlap in their functionality, newer and older versions of the same application, or tools that employees simply do not use for whatever reason.

The technology best suited for a unified, simplified workspace are those that perform multiple functions within the same platform or provide built-in integrations to communicate with other tools. Egnyte’s content and collaboration platform, for example, empowers users to manage their content-rich workloads while simultaneously providing security features for remote access.

FIVE: Adapt and Expand
At this stage, you’ve successfully identified your workspace’s weak points, pinpointed an area of focus, discovered the best digital tools for the job, and streamlined your digital portfolio toward a single, cohesive workflow. The final—and most important—step is to continue to monitor your digital transformation, mapping its successes and failures, and repeat the same process again with another section of your workspace. In this regard, your first attempt at workspace digitization serves as a prototype for the rest of your future endeavors and will help you make smarter, faster decisions when it’s time to transform your physical and digital workspaces again. 

But perhaps the most important principle to carry with you in your digital work experience is that there is no final destination. Just as digital technologies continue to innovate and evolve, you will have to continue revisiting your current setup and adapt to new tech trends accordingly. By adopting an agile mindset, you can position yourself to create the most effective virtual work environments both now and in the years to come for your business.

Photo by Kiwihug on Unsplash

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