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Going Smarter at Work: Bridging the Digital Divide
Russell Long

There are many different definitions of a digital or smart workplace. One of the best says that a digital workplace is just the latest evolution of a workplace where people and technology interact. It takes in all of the gadgets and tools and technologies that help us work and it reflects how we are trying to keep working smarter and even faster all the time. A smart workplace is not also not just about one technology or platform, but how we and they interact and work together in the modern workplace.

The most common signs of a new digital workplace are those that help us communicate with each other and the outside world. That includes our core business applications and the devices that connect us to e-mail, instant messaging, enterprise social media tools, intranets and portals. The best part about a digital workplace is that it can be tailored to meet both individual and collective needs and serve what a company or organization needs to be today and what it would like to be in the future.

Companies that have invested in creating a smart workplace are already beginning to see the dividends in productivity, innovation, collaboration, and overall employee satisfaction. In addition, their new digital workplace is helping them attract the talent they will need to stay competitive and keep up with the technological transformations that is already underway.

The digital workplace works primarily because it allows for new and more effective ways of working. It also helps to improve employee engagement and flexibility, and can take full advantage of consumer-oriented styles and technologies. The challenge of these new workplaces is to manage the pace of change and to allow old technologies and ways of doing business to gradually fade away as the new wave takes over. To meet this particular challenge, organizations have to figure out how to manage that transition.

Here are a few questions to consider as your organization develops your own strategies to do that. And some suggestions that can make any digital workplace even smarter in the future.

Managing devices

Employees can work from anywhere. But they need some flexibility in choosing the ways that they want to do that, especially if itís on their own time. Itís no longer a question of whether or not employees will need a smartphone or tablet. They absolutely do, both in their personal and professional lives. But who pays for their initial cost and is there a separation between how much they can or should be used for business versus personal use? Should the employer pay for and control access or will they bring their own devices to work? The answer for many companies is to provide their key employees with the same model of the latest technology to ensure quality browsing, downloading and accessibility. The result has been happier employees and better customer service and response rates.

Getting the right tools

Having the right tools makes all the difference when it comes to having an effective digital workplace. Yes, the individual devices are important, but just as crucial are the network and business applications that your organization uses to support your workforce at the office and when they are mobile. It is important to have good connections and a strong network to facilitate the connectivity of people and their work. Your corporate network must be able to multitask just like your employees. This means having the capacity to handle simultaneous voice, video, and data communication, both in and outside the company network.

That will help provide your employees with a seamless access to your business applications, increase their productivity and help to support collaboration with other employees, partners, and customers. The business applications can assist virtual teams work cohesively and interact effectively and ensure that they have immediate access to the information they need when they need it. One of the major tools to allow team members to work effectively has been the development of knowledge management and collaboration platforms that allow documents to be stored centrally and accessed easily. Employees can then access, collaborate and share information freely in real time.

Telephone or telecommute

The mobile phone has opened up a whole new way to communicate and interact for business purposes. Today, employees are working and communicating from any place that has a Wi-Fi connection. One major technology company has expanded this into a whole new stratosphere and have taken the idea of a mobile workplace into a new realm. Oracle outgrew its phone conferencing when it reached an astronomical total of millions of minutes per month for its more than 40,000 employees. It has now contracted out its phone conferencing to Ciscoís Unified MeetingPlace for on-premises, global, IP-based conferencing. Their new system has not only simplified its processes of scheduling and participating in conference calls but in the first full quarter since introducing the system worldwide, Oracle saved more than a million dollars and expects that to grow to up to $5 million dollars a year.

Security

One of the downsides of mobile technology and the new digital workplace is that neither the systems nor the devices are as secure as the old ones. This has raised a number of security concerns and issues that companies are trying to address. One way to lessen the threat of security breaches is to store information using cloud computing. As long as it is in the cloud, it is relatively secure while still being accessible from traditional and mobile devices.

But itís easy to see where things could go wrong when employees are working across multiple devices, to transferring files between devices, and switching between their personal and professional worlds. Security is not their prime consideration. But it does need to be for the organization. In addition to the cloud option for data and information storage employees will need to be told to become more accountability for security and monitored to ensure that they follow through.

Some organizations are utilizing solutions that increase visibility and monitoring on what occurs on mobile devices. They log events and actions and if there are concerns they can shut any user or group of users down until they know that the area is secure. They are also using file-level encryption or watermarking files and monitoring their routes to ensure that the information is secure.



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