Establish a global centre of excellence for the digital workplace

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No single project will deliver an extraordinary digital workplace. Instead, the digital workplace is a journey, where capabilities and desires emerge over time.

In a smaller organisation, it may be possible to run a series of digital workplace projects, coordinated (and potentially delivered) by a single central team. As technology matures, this is becoming easier.

In a large, complex or global organisation, a great digital workplace can’t be delivered by a single team. The sheer size of these organisations makes it impractical, let alone the difficulties of understanding and meeting the local needs of hundreds of individual business units.

Instead, big organisations should establish a global centre of excellence for the digital workplace, enabling and supporting the work of myriad local teams.

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Delivering or guiding?

It’s tempting to believe that global intranets and digital workplaces are just bigger versions of ‘typical’ sites and platforms. They’re not.

In complex environments, both global and local needs must be met. The tangled and fluid nature of organisational needs also makes a linear approach difficult.

Five hats for global teams provides a valuable framework to consider the role of the global team in all this.

Global teams will be the owners of some top-down elements, such as the enterprise front door (global intranet homepage). They will also be providers of platforms such as content publishing, search and collaboration.

The most important roles for the global team, however, are as innovators and facilitators.

With these hats on, global teams should consider establishing a digital workplace centre of excellence.

Global #DigitalWorkplace teams are most valuable as innovators and facilitators
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The role of a digital workplace centre of excellence

There are many ways of forming centres of excellence, but all play similar roles:

  • Growing and spreading knowledge to all the distributed contributors to the digital workplace.
  • Fostering a community of digital workplace practitioners across the organisation, improving, coordinating and increasing knowledge sharing.
  • Engaging and informing senior leaders about the digital workplace, and what needs to be done throughout the organisation.
  • Supporting local projects with knowledge, expertise and resources.
  • Establishing new capabilities within the business, by centrally purchasing and deploying new solutions (or building them in-house).
  • Providing services to local business areas, such as content management or collaboration platforms.
  • Uncovering innovations at the edge of the business, and helping them to spread elsewhere.
  • Experimenting with leading-edge ideas, and therefore ‘breaking new ground’ within the business, allowing other areas to follow.
  • Connecting with other organisations, to benefit from the experience of the wider digital workplace industry.
  • Formalising governance around key areas of the digital workplace.

As a practical example, the global firm McKesson has shared how they established an enterprise mobility centre of excellence. This demonstrates how such a body can meaningfully balance structure and innovation, and how a central team can facilitate meeting many different local needs.

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Establishing the centre of excellence

A global centre of excellence doesn’t just spring into existence fully formed, except in very rare instances when organisations make a sudden ‘big bet’ on the digital workplace.

Instead, an upward spiral approach should be taken. This uses early successes to build credibility and support, with flow-on benefits to funding and resources.

Global teams should also (gently) press senior leadership to establish robust governance around the digital workplace. The need for a central team to support the rest of the business should then quickly become apparent.

Creating a great digital workplace will be a multi-year, multi-strand journey that involves organisations at all levels. Only with the right knowledge and skills will the full benefits emerge. Having a strong digital workplace centre of excellence is a key element of this.

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