The digital workplace is standardizing collaborative working practices

Une femme télé-travaille devant ses écrans
The growth of teleworking, accelerated by the health crisis, has led an increasing number of companies to set to work on managerial and organizational restructuring. The integrated digital workplace they are acquiring brings together all the tools for remote collaboration.

The health crisis linked to the COVID-19 pandemic has drastically accelerated the uptake of the “digital workplace” concept, a unified working environment that, according to the definition provided by research company Markess by exægis, enables “staff to access applications that are useful in everyday work, to communicate, collaborate, and manage knowledge”.

During the first lockdown of spring 2020, for want of a better solution, many companies turned to disparate solutions to set up widespread teleworking. Videoconferencing solutions thus saw triple-digit growth.

In a hybrid working organization, the digital workplace makes it possible to provide a seamless employee experience.

Two years later and it is time to streamline. Rather than pile tools on top of one another, organizations want to acquire a platform that brings together all the features of remote working: videoconferencing of course, but also business telephony, instant messaging, shared calendar, file-sharing, collaborative document editing, and project management.

Increasing productivity, reinforcing security

The aim of this integrated workplace is to standardize collaborative working practices in the hope of increasing team productivity. It reinforces collaborative tool security by providing a single gateway.

In a hybrid working organization, the “digital workplace” makes it possible to provide a seamless employee experience by guaranteeing a continuum of work. At home and in the office, employees have access to the same tools and data sources on their computer or in the connected meeting room.

For the time being, this digital workplace is mainly the privilege of large companies and organizations that are mature in terms of the uptake of new collaborative working practices. During the first quarter 2021, only 39 % of decision-makers surveyed by Arctus in their latest observatory had access to a complete internal digital space including “information and communication, collaborative, and social functionalities”.

A market of 2 billion euros in 2023

This market is profiting from a favorable context. According to Markess by exægis, it is expected to have sustainable growth of 5 % per year in France, reaching 2 billion euros in 2023. This market is attracting a variety of players. Alongside Microsoft and Google, who dominate the segment with their collaborative suites Microsoft 365 and Workspace (former G Suite), feature historical intranet and social networking specialists such as Jalios, Jamespot, Talkspirit, or Whaller. By giving a collaborative glaze to their offerings, these French software companies are playing the national sovereignty card against the American digital giants.

Other providers in this marketplace come from workstation virtualization (Citrix, VMware), unified communications (Mitel, Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise), videoconferencing (Zoom, Cisco WebEx), team messaging (Slack), cloud document management (Dropbox, Box), or visual collaboration (Klaxoon, Mural, Miro).

Starting off from its historical position, each player is enhancing its offer so as to keep the promise of a unique window for employees to open in the morning and close only at the end of the day. Videoconferencing specialist Zoom has, for example, enriched its offer with screen-sharing and whiteboard functionalities.

Telecoms operators also hold a key role. The digital workplace can only exist if it is based on robust networks. Indeed, workers must have access to continuous and secure connectivity to be able to work from any place, at any time.

For it to happen, change must be accompanied

A digital workplace is however not just a matter of tools. It is not enough to simply provide users with a platform in order for them to take it up and give up their old habits. In answer to the question “What are the main communication and collaboration tools with your colleagues?”, 60 % of French employees replied “email”, according to the latest “State of the art of the internal transformation of organizations” by Lecko consulting firm.

Then follow personal cell phones (43 %), business messaging (36 %), videoconferencing (29 %), instant messaging (24 %), or collaborative spaces (19 %). The digital workplace only comes in seventh position with 7 % of responses.

Evolving management practices

A structuring project affecting even the organization of work, the deployment of a digital workplace must be accompanied by a change management program. It is a matter of creating awareness of good collaborative practices and recalling in which situations to use email, chat, audio call, or videoconferencing.

Management practices must evolve hand in hand with digital practices. Indeed, it is up to the manager to set an example by coediting a document online rather than making changes in an avalanche of emails. It is also for middle management to define collaborative practices. Used badly, a digital workplace can produce the opposite effects to those aimed for. “Videoconferencing has increased the number of meetings and the time spent in meetings but without increasing team efficiency, quite the opposite, Lecko warns. Infobesity keeps on growing to the detriment of productivity.” As for continuous connection, it “increases working time and creates work fatigue in the long term”.

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