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Hybrid workforce collaboration tools – closing the gap between intent and execution

In a post-pandemic world, leaders, managers and employees have very different views of what the future of work should look like – and how to enable it. Our recently published 2021 Global Workplace Report points to a disparity in perception between C-level stakeholders and operational employees as to whether the organization’s digital workplace strategy is all it should be. While members of the C-suite feel confident that they’re tracking well, their employees aren’t experiencing much meaningful change.

That being said, there is a general consensus that hybrid working arrangements – where employees continue to work at home for at least part of the time – are here to stay. In light of this new workstyle model, it’s more important than ever that enterprise technology and collaboration tools support a range of employee profiles and work location preferences. In our conversations with clients in recent months, they’ve shared some of the roadblocks and complexities they’re encountering when trying to integrate disparate productivity workloads and take advantage of new services to unlock more meaningful data and relevant governance – all with the ultimate goal of transforming the employee experience. In this article, we’ll explore these challenges in more detail and consider some of the key steps to success for businesses seeking to accelerate the execution of their digital workplace strategies and raise their employee experience to new heights.

Smiling woman and man working on mobile phone and laptop

Understanding the status quo

Over the past two years, a number of forces converged to disrupt the digital workplace in ways never imagined. Government-sanctioned lockdowns required businesses to hastily enable a fully remote workforce. They had little or no time to consider the strategic relevance of the technology they ‘layered onto’ their digital workplace environment to enable lockdown collaboration. As a result, it’s not surprising that these environments have become very costly and complex to manage.

And perhaps more seriously, in many cases, they’re not delivering the user experience that employees want and need. One area that requires specific focus is cloud collaboration tools and services. Remote working resulted in an unprecedented adoption and reliance on cloud-based applications and productivity tools. But with the traditional network and security/governance infrastructure and policies not designed to support this surge in usage, the inevitable casualty has been the end user’s experience.

So, what’s the way forward?

Relook, recalibrate and restructure

The sensible place to start is to take a step back and organize your thought process around cloud collaboration. This involves identifying ‘who you are’ from an internal skills and resources perspective (both human and technical). Where do opportunities lie to extract better value from your existing collaboration technology investments? Which should be laid to rest? Are there any compelling options for new investment? Ultimately, having this view will put you on a path to getting your hybrid workers and collaboration technologies working together and pulling in the same direction. We recommend that our clients take a templated, data-based approach to ensure they gather the information and insights they need quickly, but also ensuring they accommodate any nuances specific to their industry and the business’s size and scope.

Strategize around the user experience

We should always remember that technology should work for people – not the other way around. So, all efforts should always start with the end user in mind.

This means considering how best to optimize accessibility, authentication and the quality of the user interface and understanding precisely where user experience is falling short.

Use data to surface persona-level insights

Of course, every employee uses their own set of applications and platforms, depending on their role. That’s why we recommend taking a granular, persona-based approach to gathering data and metrics – in-depth persona mapping is the only way you’ll garner relevant and meaningful insights.

Next, categorize your findings based on your user community and the technologies they use (basic user, advanced user, and high-touch personas).

By following a structured process, you’ll be clear about what exactly you do (and don’t) need before you engage with equipment vendors. Think of it like this: If you want to build a house, it makes little sense to start ordering window frames and picking out wallpaper before you’ve even laid the basic foundations.

Organize systems to deliver a unified experience

Once you’ve established who uses and needs what – and where areas for improvement lie – you’re ready to re-architect and optimize your environment, deploy new solutions and decommission others.

A critical step in this process is communicating and rolling out change management programs to ensure people understand and accept any modifications you’re introducing into the collaboration ecosystem.

How can we help?

By auditing businesses’ current infrastructure and business-critical applications and understanding organizational roles, NTT has developed a Cloud Deployment Framework to seamlessly transition clients to an intelligent hybrid workplace.

We take a multi-pronged, industry-focused approach to make the hybrid workplace ‘more real’ for our clients. For example, we understand that organizations in the financial services and professional services sectors are struggling to understand what the remote workplace means in terms of compliance and how to ensure that they’re plugging any gaps they’ve unwittingly created.

Our teams provide end-to-end dedicated connectivity for collaboration and quality, but without sacrificing compliance.

In a business environment where hybrid workplaces are likely to become a permanent fixture, NTT helps organizations close the gap between aspirations and outcomes.

If you’d like to find out more about our approach and how we can accelerate your hybrid workplace ambitions, please get in touch.