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Unlocking Productivity with a Digital Workplace

By Subra Suppiah, Country Manager, Avanade Malaysia

To meet the expectations of today’s hyper-connected employees and remain competitive against other countries in Asia and beyond, now is the time for Malaysian companies to embrace a digital workplace. 

According to the 2014 Industry Performance Report by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC), Malaysia’s mobile penetration rate has breached 148.5 per cent. As a result, expectations about “the way to work” have evolved. Employees are accustomed to having very digitally enhanced experiences as a consumer and they now demand these same experiences in the workplace.

Subra Suppiah

Subra Suppiah

This transformation is already happening in other countries across Asia. Our neighbour China is a great example. The adoption of digital in China has been rapid, since it became the first Asian country to fully embrace the use of smartphones at work.

As a result of an insatiable demand for digital transformation across Asia, we are also seeing a shortage of digital skills across the region – a trend that will be further exacerbated by the ongoing consumerisation of IT and the Internet of Things. A lack of access to talents in the technology field is a challenge for organizations globally, but it’s particularly acute in Asia. Recent research by Harvey Nash has found that 76 per cent of companies in the region report that a lack of access to the right talent is holding them back – versus 60 per cent globally.  There is a war on talent and companies with a true digital workplace will have the upper hand in attracting digitally savvy employees. A recent study by Avanade also found that 99% of organisations that have adopted digital workplace tools have experienced business benefits, including increased employee engagement.

The need to increase productivity will also be a driving force for the adoption of digital workplace within Malaysian companies. According to the Malaysia Productivity Corporation, our country is lagging behind other Asian regions in productivity growth and we need to close gaps in technology adoption to gain competitive advantage and improve labour productivity.  Recent research by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) also indicates that increasing the participation of women in the workforce will help boost productivity.

A digital workplace promotes both productivity and diversity, but it must enable employees to do much more than access work emails on their mobile devices or track company news on social media. Instead, Malaysian companies need to focus on bringing together user-friendly social, mobile, analytics and cloud computing technologies to create a digital workplace that senses and responds to the information needs of individual employees – anytime, anywhere, and on any device.

Most start-ups are already well-progressed in embracing a digital workplace, but Avanade research indicates the journey to a true digital workplace for large enterprises will take up to four years. Whether your company is new or long-established, embracing a digital workplace is essential to the continued acceleration of time-to-market cycles and increased productivity and efficiency that will drive competitive advantage in a hyper-connected world.

Based on my experience with clients and discussions with other leaders in the market, here are three trends that can impact your company’s journey in becoming a truly digital workplace:

  1. Employee-centricity, not just customer-centricity

With the consumerisation of IT, employees are increasingly requesting for technology in the company to be easy to use, connectable to their home devices and apps, and able to deliver real immediate value.

Companies now have to focus on user adoption and employee satisfaction which will in turn, drive successful implementations. As a result, the emphasis in IT departments has gradually shifted from deployment and maintenance costs. Employee satisfaction is now the third most-used performance metric by CIOs, according to Gartner’s 2015 CIO survey.

Increased employee engagement results in real business benefits. Let me give you an example of how mobile field engineers can increase their productivity with modern digital tools. A traditional field service experience might be:

  • Conduct an assessment at a customer site
  • Call headquarters on a mobile phone and try to locate the right expert
  • Describe to the expert what they are seeing
  • Take a digital picture and send it to the expert either from mobile phone or PC
  • Return to the field to follow the instructions from the expert over the phone

By contrast, in a digital workplace:

  • Field engineers sport wearables that stream real-time video back to the expert, so they can see what the field worker sees
  • The field engineer receives real time instructions, hands-free, visually and audibly
  • The expert provides guidance and data in real-time, so field engineers can make quick decisions providing enhanced productivity and service levels

 It’s ok to start small

As previously mentioned, transformation to a digital workplace will be a journey for many companies. The recent study by Avanade indicates a majority have already taken small, but important steps, adopting building blocks such as connectivity solutions and data and analytics tools. Additionally, respondents indicated that they are planning to invest in building their digital workplace in the next 12 to 24 months.

The message here is that it’s ok to start small, but it’s critical to start. The key is to not try to solve all issues at once. A good place to start is by addressing urgent employee pain points. Focus on quick wins that deliver visible results and increase employee adoption, start to introduce digital concepts and set the stage for escalation to a portfolio-centric approach, and help business units build on early successes to drive internal demand.

  1. Digital on the inside = digital on the outside

 To meet the needs of the digital customer, employees need to be able to access information and resources anytime and on any device. Companies that embrace a digital workplace are driving real customer engagement benefits. Our client Delta Airlines is a great example. Avanade developed a mobile phone app for flight attendants that enables them to access flight updates and weather information at the press of a button, so they can provide a better travelling experience for passengers. The app also enables the flight attendants to process transactions for on-board food and drink purchases in real-time, ensuring ordering can be aligned to food preferences and credit card fraud is minimised.

The pace of technology innovation is accelerating, so focus and agility are key. From our experience working with clients across industries, here are three tips for transforming to a digital workplace:

  1. Implement a digital strategy: It is important to align to corporate objectives as the first step to develop your digital strategy. This requires sponsorship from the Board and/or CEO (not the CIO or CMO) for a clear business case and timings for the enterprise digital strategy. Adoption of digital workplace tools can then be prioritised effectively.
  1. Embrace collaboration: User experience drives collaboration behaviors. Merge user-friendly social, mobile, analytics and cloud computing technologies to create a digital workplace that senses and responds to the information needs of employees.
  1. Up-skill for digital: Demand for digital skills will continue to outpace supply, so now is the time to start thinking about how to enable the blended workforce. People who can collaborate effectively across functions will be highly valued in the digital workplace, but we can also expect roles in areas like security and identity management to become more prevalent.

Ultimately, empowered employees drive improved productivity and competitive advantage.  A digital workplace enables employees to access the information they need to do their jobs more effectively and can even provide the intelligence to make relevant information find the employee at the relevant moment. A digital workplace is also critical to attracting the right talent to innovate and differentiate your business. Many organisations are primarily focussed on digital technologies for customer engagement, but to realise maximum business results, start with your employees and embrace a digital workplace.




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