A More Level Playing Field

How digital workplaces help small businesses compete better

The concept of a modern day digital workplace is undergoing massive transformation. Recent technology and behavioural trends such as bring your own devices (BYOD), Internet of Things (IoT) and virtual teams are driving dramatic shifts in the workplace.

A seamless digital lifestyle

Increasingly, we are seeing a transition from individualised, physical workspaces to a digital ecosystem with no physical boundaries.


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Understandably, employers and workers may be having reservations about what the future holds for workspace design. For employees, especially millennials who grew up familiar with computers, mobile devices and the Internet, it seems natural that a modern-day workplace needs to provide a seamless digital lifestyle that blurs the line between their personal lives and professional work spheres.

At the same time, employers who are eager to attract and keep millennial talent, are concerned with providing them with a workplace that is conducive to creative thinking, collaboration and open communication as well as efficiency and productivity. This is also crucial as millennials currently make up more than half of the global workforce, according to a recent survey by Deloitte.

In Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends 2016. The New Organisation : Different by Design, it was said that :
“The growth of the millennial demographic, the diversity of global teams, and the need to innovate and work more closely with customers are driving a new organisational flexibility among high-performing companies. They are operating as a network of teams alongside traditional structures, with people moving from team to team rather than remaining in static formal configurations.”

A question of priorities

Therefore, the pressure to keep up with preferences and work styles of the millennial workers can be challenging for employers. Technological trends evolve at Internet speed these days, and workstyles – they can be a very subjective thing.

The question many small and medium business owners and leaders in smaller firms are probably asking is whether they have the resources to keep up with the technological curve. Often faced with lean manpower as well as limited budget and resources, these business decision makers also have to weigh different business priorities. Some businesses may choose to forgo the digital workplace altogether, much to their detriment.

The mobile-first work environment

Consider that the digital workplace may not be such a bad idea for small to medium businesses. In a recent global study conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), it was revealed that ‘mobile-first’ working environments lead to a direct increase in employee engagement.

The EIU report, Mobility, Performance and Engagement : How CIOs can contribute to business performance by shaping the employee experience also established links between the support for mobile technology and employees’ productivity, creativity, satisfaction and loyalty levels.

Generally, millennial workers expect the same convenience at work that they experience in their personal digitally enhanced lives. They want to be able to access their work files just as easily as they get to their Twitter feeds. They want to be able to pay a company supplier in a straightforward manner, just like how they can check their bank account balance these days.

Ideally, small and medium businesses need to have a workplace that is simplified and built around the forces shaping consumer technologies – social, mobile, apps and cloud.

They do not want to waste time. What does this mean? Well, it has contributed to the consumerisation of IT, which represents the movement of IT being introduced in the consumer market before spreading to business and government organisations.  This is happening mostly because employees are using the prevalent ‘consumer’ technologies and devices at home and then introducing them in the workplace. This has thrown up a plethora of trends like BYOD, and these days, even BYOA (bring your own app).

Ideally, small and medium businesses need to have a workplace that is simplified and built around the forces shaping consumer technologies – social, mobile, apps and cloud. Simply put, millennial workers expect to be connected easily and conveniently, and they want to be able to work anytime from pretty much anywhere.

Supporting  virtual teamwork

Creativity and collaboration are key to the modern workplace. The digital workplace needs to be able to provide room for individuality and creativity, and at the same time, provide a platform for cooperation and collaboration. Note though that collaboration, in this regard, increasingly refers to co-working virtually.

Employers have to offer means for discussions and teamwork in the virtual space. Digital tools, these days, allow for not just discussions and conferencing, but also cyber working spaces where team members collaborate in real time, co-create or edit content, share files and information, etc.

Technology cannot –  and should not  – be an added chore where workers need to invest too much time to learn to use or adapt to.

The key is to use technological tools to our advantage, and allow people to work smarter and be more productive. Technology cannot –  and should not  – be an added chore where workers need to invest too much time to learn to use or adapt to.

A secure digital workplace

There are many studies out there that point an accusing finger at millennials, calling them a generation of workers who are casual about data privacy and security – a generation who are so used to sharing personal information and images on social media that they do not think much about it.

My advice, to small and medium businesses, is to focus on putting in place necessary security protocols and tools, and adapting to the workstyles of the millennials. This means that cybersecurity solutions for the digital workplace need to be able to co-exist and adapt to the workplace behaviours of millennials (or any generation of workers, for that matter).

Cybersecurity solutions that cater to the millennial mindset offer agility, flexibility, mobility and a personal touch. These qualities improve life for all of us, regardless of our age or generation. One example of this is a profile or role- based access control to company networks. Profile or role based logins allows IT to configure different levels of security controls for workers with different roles. An employee in the finance department who compiles the company’s quarterly sales performance figures will have a different level of security access to the company’s network from that of a staff in frontline sales, for instance.

Change brings opportunity

Finally, here are some things about millennials you need to know :

  • mobile is their platform of choice;
  • they have less tolerance for poor user experiences which means that great online experiences are more important than ever before;
  • they prefer to be in control and resolve their own problems which means they favour website self-service solutions over assisted service; and
  • they will talk about your brand on social media, so engage them in the conversation and learn from it.

Importantly, small and medium businesses need to see the transformation to a digital workspace as an opportunity. We all know that there is a large amount of data being generated and collected each day. This is data that will drive tomorrow’s business environment and economy. So, small and medium businesses need to be able to access and make sense of this data to stay competitive and relevant. Ultimately, this future-forward business environment allows for small and medium businesses to engage larger competitors on a more level digital playing field.


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This article has been edited by Vertical Distinct to eliminate product promotion.
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#technology #digital #SME #mobile

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