Last Friday I hosted our first ever #PS_Salon discussion on Twitter, conducting a retrospective of the Digital Workplace. Hearing what the Digital Workplace community have learned over the last 20+ years and speculating on what will come next proved to be a fertile ground for conversation. We were extremely pleased that the topic resonated with so many friends from our network who took part at the end of a busy week – thank you! For those that missed it, here are some of the key themes that emerged.

(For those who wish to find more detail, you can find a collection of all the contributions here.)


We Are Not Where We Expected To Be 20+ Years On…

The conversation had a (healthy!) undercurrent of frustration around the lack of progress since digital workplace tools first became available some couple of decades ago.



The Focus Is Often On The Wrong Things

Organisations concentrate on how digital tools can make today’s tasks easier, rather than stepping back to consider whether today’s tasks are the most effective way to get things done, or move us towards our strategic goals effectively.

And we see repetition of past mistakes…



Chat & Messaging Apps Are Perceived As The New Silver Bullet

Not long ago we were told ESNs would save the world of corporate work from its obsession with email and powerpoint. Now, real-time chat apps are the subject of the latest hype cycle…

…but this ignores the other speeds of collaboration necessary for a successful digital workplace ecosystem, that caters to the variety of user needs we see in organisations. Not to mention still being a tools-focused solution.



Tolerating Low Digital Literacy In Organisations Is The Biggest Barrier Holding Us Back

Especially amongst leaders…

But the digital workplace also reveals who the emerging leaders are that can propel us forward.



Digital Workplace Rollouts Are Too Often Tech-Centric Over User-Centric

Which means we lose the opportunity to create an end-to-end employee experience.



How Can We Learn From The Mistakes Of The Past?

First, we need to recognise the digital agenda belongs to everyone (and no-one).

But a Digital Leadership Group is a good way to kick-start this shift in mindset.



We Also Need More Focus On Change At The Individual Level

Learning communities, hosted on the digital workplace, are a powerful way to accelerate this.



So What’s Next And Where Do We Go From Here?

There was a strong call for rethinking our structures and systems for getting things done. They are no longer fit for purpose for the type of value-creating workflows that digital tools enable.

This applies not only to the structures within our organisations, but also how orgs operate within their wider ecosystem. Partnerships and networks are the structures that enable digital age business, so organisations must find a way to operate effectively in the liminal space between internal and external.

It was clear that those taking part had a huge amount of passion for the future of work. But there was a thought-provoking word of caution from Celine Schillinger that we need to be careful that in our enthusiasm to enable change we don’t create deeper divisions.


Clearly, the message that simply implementing digital tools has not been enough to enable transformational change, has made it through to big corporates. There is a definite need for helping people understand how the potential of the digital workplace toolset can change their daily work for the better. However, we must be careful not to mistake this for organisations being unable  to cope with anything other than the basics of using digital technology. There are many well-intentioned cultural interventions being led in organisations at the moment, but these will only go so far. Encouraging an open, sharing culture using digital tools is a good first step, especially since it is something that individuals can easily take ownership of themselves. But it will not address the structural changes needed to create an organisation that can sense and respond to the future.

We need to push organisations to do the harder work of true transformation, rather than settling for layering technology on top of existing processes. They are still not thinking about the capabilities that the digital workplace provides and how they can capitalise on them. The digital workplace toolset, when leveraged effectively, should act as the foundation of a service-oriented approach to organising teams. Each team should be using the digital workplace to offer and fulfil the services they provide to customers and the organisation, and developing the lateral connections needed with other teams to do this.

This is how digital tools become embedded in the flow of work rather than somewhere we go to talk about work. It allows teams to become more autonomous as they become responsible for continually optimising and delivering their service offering to the business, radically changing the fabric of the organisation. It also creates the foundation necessary for us to take real advantage of the current and near-future technology innovations of data, AI and automation. In my opinion, until an organisation recognises the need and builds this foundation, they just aren’t taking the digital workplace, or indeed digital transformation seriously.