Taking an Agile Approach to the Digital Workplace #KMWorld

KMWlogo_Stacked_Session Description:  Organizations are looking beyond a sea of separated systems, with the goal of delivering a seamless digital workplace for staff. This brings together intranets, social and collaboration tools and business systems to provide radically better workforce solutions. While the vision is becoming increasingly clear, the question remains: How to get there from here? Robertson explores how to take an agile approach to delivering the full vision, sharing real-world examples from leaders and innovators.

Speaker: James Robertson, Founder, Step Two

[These are my notes from the KMWorld 2015 Conference. I’m publishing them as soon as possible after the end of a session, so they may contain the occasional typographical or grammatical error. Please excuse those. To the extent I’ve made any editorial comments, I’ve shown those in brackets.]


  • Three Key Elements of the Digital Workplace.  The hard part is not defining the digital workplace. The hard part is planning (and taking) the journey from where we are to the digital workplace of the future. To take this journey, we need to address three key elements:
    • Technology
    • Business – how we work in the new way that meshes with and supports the digital workplace
    • Design — use design as the “force multiplier” of the digital workplace
  • Coles Case Study. Coles is a large retailer in Australia that had a significant number of employees who were not connected digitally. They did not set out to deliver an intranet, but they did that. They did not set out to deliver Office 365, but they did that as well. The project was owned by the Staff Engagement team. Although the initiative was entirely voluntary, they achieved 100% adoption within the first month.
    • Their approach: they adopted an agile approach that they called Walk, Run, Jump. This means they had a lot of smaller subordinate work streams
  • Robin Partington Case Study. This is an architectural firm that moved to a digital workplace by aggregating a series of small, well-executed projects. The workforce was highly visual and had great design expertise. So these projects are attractive and well-designed. They built this digital workplace from the beginning of the firm. Each piece was built at the point of need and seamlessly integrated into the pre-existing resources. Best of all, they spent a relatively small amount (100 pounds sterling). [James Robertson put this in context by saying that other organizations spend at least this much on a month or two of SharePoint developers and consultants!]
    • their approach was to deliver small solutions deployed an incremental way
    • the challenge is to keep a firm view on the big picture throughout this iterative process
    • part of keeping the big picture in mind includes careful data architecture that is coherent
  • Telstra Case Study. When they created a new HR intranet presence, their goal was to reduce significantly the number of requests for help with HR information and processes. Part of the secret of their success (i.e., significant reduction in help requests)
  • Technology.
    • Take an agile approach — IT is familiar with this and can be a great partner in your efforts.
    • Use the intranet as the test bed for delivering high-value incremental improvements. In other words, test on staff before you try something new with your customer-facing site.
    • Prophet case study: they are constantly looking at what is in the consumer world and then trying to bring the best of the innovations back into their intranet. For example, they have taken the best of the Pinterest and crafting it to fit the work needs and work flow of the organization.
  • Business.
    • Get out from behind your desk/computer to find out how the organization really works.
    • Use true field research to understand how the business operates and how staff work.
    • Prestige Financial case study: they used SharePoint 2013 search to dramatically improve their business processes.
  • Design.
    • Build a strong internal design capability within the digital workplace team.
    • This means usability and information architecture expertise.
    • Commonwealth Bank case study: they have customer experience teams that have completed redesigned how the bank interacts with its customers. They have changed everything from the layout of physical bank branches to the  client-facing mobile applications. This is the ultimate in customer-centered design. (If stodgy, conservative, risk-averse banks can to it, so can the rest of us.)
  • Lessons Learned.
    • Quick wins are not good enough. Low-hanging fruit are not good enough. Instead, focus on small projects that you can deliver rapidly and iterate PROVIDED that they keep moving you towards your ultimate goal AND generate momentum to carry you towards that ultimate goal.