The 7 most common mistakes when launching a digital workplace

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Do you ever think to yourself, “wow, our company still has so much untapped potential!”? The flexible structures of the companies that have already implemented a digital workplace usually seem so intuitive and practical. And you probably also want to replace your deadlocked processes with efficient communication structures, transparency, knowledge sharing, and employee collaboration. Or perhaps you also want to increase how strongly all employees – both those that work in and outside the office – identify with your company?

 If a goal is so appealing, it’s only natural to want to achieve it as quickly as possible. But it’s precisely this hurry that often leads to problems. This is because successfully launching a digital workplace is a major challenge that needs to be thoroughly prepared and implemented with meticulous attention. This task is often underestimated, however, meaning that companies repeatedly fail due to the same mistakes. But since we want you and your company to succeed, we put together the following list. It provides all the information you need to confidently avoid the most common obstacles when launching a digital workplace.


1. One department is responsible for launching the digital workplace

Often a certain group is entrusted with the job of launching a digital workplace – for example, the IT, marketing, or HR departments. This makes sense because these departments’ expertise is particularly relevant – they are very familiar with software, communication, or corporate culture, making them the perfect candidates for the job of creating a digital workplace.

The trouble with departments, however, is that their specialization always involves wearing blinders. They know which applications they need for their work. They may even have suggestions on how to optimize some of the processes that are important to them. But it will be a significant challenge for a marketing expert to list all the applications that are important to the IT department. And putting together the best possible combination of software components for the entire company is likely a job that would completely overwhelm any single department.

The solution is a team of experts from all departments with an independent leader. This person can be from outside the company to ensure that they remain as neutral as possible. Or they can be a member of top management to emphasize the priority of the project. This cross-departmental approach ensures that no department gains an unfair advantage when launching a digital workplace. And that in turn brings you one big step closer to your ultimate goal:finding the ideal strategy for your company.


2. Not conducting a comprehensive needs assessment in advance

It’s got to be done quickly. The company underestimates the scope of the project. Those in charge make an assumption about the needs of some employees based on the needs of others. The company already uses software licensed from well-known providers and therefore decides to purchase their digital workplace solutions. Different departments should be given the ability to create their own highly individual solutions anyway. There are many reasons why companies fail to conduct a needs assessment in advance. The result is always the same, however: The selected software solution isn’t ideal!

Not all software packages are equally good. And even a very sophisticated product does not work for every company. For example, if the built-in word processor simply does not meet the habits or needs of the marketing department, it is likely to replace this tool. This, however, causes compatibility issues if employees from different departments need to collaborate – effectively killing the underlying idea behind a digital workplace.

Such issues can only be avoided through proper preparation. The first step is to analyze the company’s needs when it comes to a digital workplace’s various software components. Afterwards, you needs to compare the different offers. This way, you’ll find the software solution that best fits your needs and gets the most out of your company.


3. Failure to get employees on board

In addition to failing to properly assess the company’s needs, another frequent problem is that employees are not fully convinced of a digital workplace’ benefits and opportunities. This is usually due to hasty implementation or to the fact that those responsible simply underestimate the extent of the changes. However, a lack of empathy towards individual employees can also be the cause.

As a result, most employees are only vaguely aware “that some new applications are going to be launched soon.” They don’t feel that their concerns have been considered, let alone addressed. They don’t understand the reasons and don’t identify with the new corporate culture. And when the employees come to realize that this means far-reaching changes and a great deal of work, they will instinctively reject them and possibly even boycott them.

In order to prevent this attitude, companies must get their employees involved in the change process as early as possible. The first step in the right direction is to inquire about their requirements as part of a large-scale needs assessment. Fully explaining the reasons for implementing the desired changes and showing interest in their ideas are others. But this is also the perfect place to get creative! How about holding an employee contest to find a name for the new digital workplace, or throwing a big launch party, or having employees complete a scavenger hunt through the new applications? There are many different ways to help them identify with the new solution. And it is truly worth it, because you don’t just launch a digital workplace for its own sake, but to facilitate and improve collaboration among your workforce.


4. A complex user interface and not enough training

A major problem with IT products occurs when users simply don’t understand them. If the people in charge don’t pay attention to an intuitive user interface and don’t provide enough training, the digital workplace project may be dead in the water faster than you can read this article.

This is because users always want to take the path of least resistance. If they don’t understand an application on their own and no one explains it to them, they’ll switch back to the solutions they’re already familiar with. And the same thing will happen if they need too much training. Even the most dedicated employee will want to return to their old system if the barriers to adopting the new tools are too high

The solution is obvious – if the product’s user interface is really intuitive, simple, and compact, employees can get started right away and will figure out how to use many of the features themselves. When it comes to the more complex processes, it’s a good idea to start by training a small group – like the members of the expert team who are already in charge of launching the digital workplace, for example. They can then pass on the information they have learned within their departments based on their coworkers’ needs. This ensures that employees are not unnecessarily overloaded with information, and on the day of the launch, the focus will be on the fun of using the new system.


5. Information in too many different places

Maybe a company’s employees still cling to some old structures and processes. Maybe there wasn’t a really well-thought-out strategy in place for the introduction of the digital workplace. Whatever the reason, you’ll never create an efficient workflow if the relevant information is saved in too many different places.

The weekly cafeteria schedule continues to only hang on the bulletin board. The invitation to the company picnic still gets sent to the employees by e-mail. And the application forms for educational leave are still kept in a folder in the HR department secretary’s office. Keeping information in too many different places undermines the importance of a digital workplace and will keep the concept from ever actually working. In addition, an enormous amount of valuable time is wasted if an employee has to search through three different places before finding the information they’re looking for.

In this case, only discipline and consistency will help the company achieve its goal. All of the relevant information needs to be saved in the digital workplace – and preferably only there, making it the single point of information. Where exactly the information is saved is secondary, as long as it is easily searchable. But once their curiosity about the cafeteria menu and the fun of the employee pool have led employees to the right user interface, then you’re already halfway there when it comes to your digital workplace!


6. Management doesn’t participate

Normally, the management team is involved in the implementation of a digital workplace and supports this decision. But this doesn’t necessarily imply a willingness to participate in the new interactive communication culture, however. Instead, members of management shy away from the flattening of hierarchies brought about by the social intranet. In addition, managers often find it difficult to relax their traditional ideas about requiring employees to be present at the office, working time accounts, and the strict separation of work and private life.

But if neither the captain nor the officers want to board a ship, then why should the crew?! Members of management also need to lead by example when it comes to the digital workplace. If they aren’t open to the new communication and corporate culture and don’t actively participate in its systematic implementation, all other efforts will go nowhere fast.

This means the courage to change is essential when launching a digital workplace – and this particularly applies to management. In fact, companies must often go through a radical paradigm shift in order for the new corporate culture to really take off. In a nutshell, this means taking a huge leap of faith when it comes to employees. Faith that they will do their job well – even when they’re working from home, if they first log into the company’s system in the afternoon, or if they spend an hour discussing their vacation on the social intranet. It also means fewer hierarchical barriers, because now even an intern can (and should) comment on the content posted by the bosses. And another thing it means is not to be scared of vacation photos or cat videos! You see, a social intranet must facilitate and promote social interaction. So always remember that the goal of launching a digital workplace is to improve existing structures – and for that to happen, changes need to take place.


7. A poorly designed mobile version of the digital workplace – or none at all

Many providers don’t offer a full-featured mobile version of their digital workplace. And those responsible at the companies don’t see the need for it as long as the desktop version works well and is maybe even responsive. But not every responsive website is a truly a well-designed mobile solution.

In 2018, 57 million people in Germany owned a smartphone – and used it for more than three hours a day on average! Remote work, i.e. working from home or on the road, is also rapidly becoming more common. If the digital workplace’s mobile solution isn’t programmed well, fast, and intuitively designed, employees simply won’t use it. The result is that communication is more difficult and collaboration is virtually impossible if employee’s are away from their desktop computer. In addition, many companies have employees who do not work at a desk at all, but instead on an assembly line, in a warehouse, or at a sales outlet. These employees are simply cut off by a desktop-only version.

If you put two and two together, you’ll quickly see that a well-designed mobile solution is a must. It is the only way to truly implement the fundamental ideas behind a new corporate culture based on mobility and flexibility. And it’s the only way to truly reach all of the employees. So make sure you choose the right provider! If you do, you’ll have already overcome a major hurdle in launching your digital workplace. 


In summary: the typical mistakes when launching a digital workplace can all be avoided!

The vision of establishing a new corporate culture and better leveraging a company’s potential by launching a digital workplace is extremely appealing. Unfortunately, this is exactly why companies often try to achieve this goal as quickly as possible. But you need enough time and a thorough plan to avoid the greatest obstacles on the road to a well-functioning digital workplace, however. 

The most common problems occur precisely because of a lack of preparation and unrealistic expectations. This is why a balanced team of experts from all departments must devote the necessary time and attention to conducting a needs assessment and selecting the right product. They need to get the entire workforce on board before and during the implementation. And the changes to the company’s corporate culture and communication must be intentional and systematically promoted.

If the company launches their digital workplace with patience, courage, and determination, however, it will have a huge opportunity. This is because the combination of a personal element to the workplace, placing confidence in the employees, promoting flexibility and mobility, using cutting-edge enterprise software, and one or two cat videos will together lead to employees deeply identifying with the company over the long term like nothing else! And there’s no better way to lead a company into the 21st century.


• Katharina Mauder •

As a freelance copywriter, Katharina writes for us on topics such as communication tools, mobile intranets and employee motivation and knows exactly which focal points are particularly interesting for the reader.

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