The Digital Workplace – How technology is liberating work

Paul Miller and his colleagues at the Intranet Benchmarking Forum have performed a very important role in developing intranet good practice and creating an open community of members to support the development of high-impact intranets. For some time Paul has been writing about digital workplaces, and earlier this year published this book which sets out his vision of a digital workplace to support the launch of the Digital Workplace Forum.

There are seven sections to the book, entitled My World, Work World, Your World, Outside World, Digital World, Our World and Future World. Each chapter contains a number of case studies about how companies have implemented digital workplaces and the benefits that they have gained. Most of these case studies are about large multi-national companies though there are also some good personal case studies from IBF staff about the way in which IBF itself runs as a digital workplace. The concept of a digital workplace is not new, and arguably dates back to the work of Jeffery Bier in 2000. Things then went rather quiet until a couple of years ago, when IBF published a report entitled the Digital Workplace Maturity Model. This model is based around four dimensions, Structure, Services, Community and Collaboration, and Communication and Information.  To my surprise there seems to be no reference to this model in the book, and it is also appears to be no longer available as a free report from the IBF Shop.

There are many different visions for a digital workplace. Jane McConnell, Oscar Berg and Stephan Schillerwein, to name but three, have made important contributions to the development of visions and strategies for digital workplaces. and at Intranet Focus we have developed a digital workplace implementation checklist. In this book I could find no definition of a digital workplace at all until a list of the features on p169, and this to me is an opportunity lost. Each of the ten features needed a commentary and cross-references to examples in the text of the book and the case studies, and not just be presented as a list.   I was expecting this book to either begin with a definition or work towards one from the examples and the discussion, but no such vision is presented and that is disappointing.

Overall this is a good readable book but I  know for certain that Paul Miller has far more to say than this about digital workplaces.  I look forward to seeing a future book from him that sets out how companies should define and develop digital workplaces and providing guidance on emerging good practice based on the work of the Digital Workplace Forum.

Martin White