Survey: Mobile, crowdsourcing are new trends in digital workplaces

The results of the annual Digital Workplace Trends report are in, and they show more and more companies are turning to internal digital tools to stay competitive. But not everyone is keeping up.

Say you’re the CEO of a global company. The company is restructuring, and you’d like to get some new ideas for the future of the organization.

Where can you turn for suggestions? To your employees, of course.

One CEO tapped the organization’s social network. He asked employees whether they had any ideas for the company’s future, and suggestions poured in.

That story is one of many that Jane McConnell collected for this year’s report, The Digital Workplace in the Connected Organization 2014. McConnell is a strategic advisor to organizations on digital workplace strategies.

Her report provides organizations with data, analyses, and stories about how the digital workplace is evolving, as well as how organizations’ digital efforts compare with those of their peers. More than 300 organizations worldwide—ranging from Walmart and GE to nonprofits with fewer than 1,000 employees—participated in this year’s report.

McConnell will discuss the main conclusions of the report, as well as how organizations can move toward developing their digital workplaces, in the upcoming webinar, “Ragan’s Digital Workplace Series: A guide to transform your organization into The Complete Digital Workplace.”

This year’s report discussed the extent to which organizations have collaborative technology (blogs, wikis, social networks, etc.) and encourage employees to use that technology in their daily work.

The good news is that some innovative organizations are already successfully using digital tools, like that of the CEO above. But there are also many organizations still operating, unplugged, in silos.

Here’s a look at what types of digital tools organizations are using, as well as the challenges more traditional organizations face.

More organizations are going mobile

One trend, as the report details, is that most organizations are focusing on mobile, which enables workers who spend a significant amount of time outside the office to access information as easily as if they were at their desks.

“Can the salesman access information from his own company that the customer is asking him about from a mobile device? In most cases today the answer is no,” McConnell explains. Many organizations reported that although they don’t have mobile programs in place right now, they will by the end of 2014.

Internal crowdsourcing is on the rise

One finding from the report that surprised McConnell is how many organizations are using internal crowdsourcing to complete projects or improve business.

“Crowdsourcing is often used to solve a problem,” McConnell says. Say a manager is looking for an employee who can provide ideas, offer advice, or solve a problem within a specific topic. Internal crowdsourcing is a great way to find your organization’s experts. Remember that story about the CEO?

Most organizations using crowdsourcing are early adopters, and they are having great success.

Online communities are sprouting

Online communities—groups of people within an organization who have common interests—have also been popping up in organizations. Because these communities cut across departments, they can break down silos in more traditional organizations.

“People are collaborating, working together in a way that I would say is outside the hierarchical structure,” McConnell says, “and it’s bringing results in these early adopters.”

Not all organizations are going digital

Mobile, crowdsourcing, and online communities sound nice, but most organizations have not been able to incorporate them into their natural way of working.

The report uncovered a few reasons why:

1. Leaders don’t want to rethink the way their organizations work.

The survey reports that this is one of the top challenges organizations face when implementing collaborative digital tools. “If you’re not going to rethink how you work, how are you going to be able to work in a different way?” McConnell asks.

2. Leaders get caught up in organizational politics.

Another key challenge organizations face is the existence of power struggles among managers, and the impact those struggles have on decision making. McConnell explains how some high-level managers don’t want their teams to collaborate with other divisions in the organization. Unless the CEO demands everyone in the company collaborate, the divisions remain separate.

“I would say these middle-level power people are going to keep things in silos, because it lets them stay at the top of the silo,” McConnell says.

3. Management needs proof there will be a return on investment.

Unlike the first two challenges, this one is not as prevalent, though it’s still a problem many organizations face.

“Because we’re into something that’s human and organizational, it’s not always quantifiable with numbers,” McConnell says. “If top management wants numbers to prove that this is the direction we should go, then that’s going to hold people back.”

Communication is changing

The most important idea McConnell wants people to take away from the study is that communication is changing, but only for the better.

“Communicators have been the traditional owners of the intranet. Today, communicators are not the natural owners of the digital workplace in the sense that it goes way beyond the scope of any particular function in the organization,” McConnell says.

“Communicators have a great, great future … but they have to stay on top of it by understanding that we’re talking about how the whole company operates, how it works. It’s no longer just about how it communicates.”

Find out more about the webinar here.

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