The digital workplace is crucial to any digital strategy

Successful digitalisation requires more than innovative, technology-based offerings and business processes. The working environment has to fit the bill too. Oliver Schorer, CIO of CHG-MERIDIAN AG, talks to us about the digital workplace and its benefits.

The digital workplace is crucial to any digital strategy

Mr. Schorer, why do companies today need digital workplace concepts and mobile workplaces?

O. Schorer: A digital strategy should enable employees to work more efficiently and flexibly. They should be able to work from home or on the move, for example, and have fast and secure access to business information and applications. That last point is crucial, as digitalisation requires shorter reaction times and innovation cycles. A greater level of agility is only achievable if a company's workplaces are designed with this in mind. 

What are the key components of a digital and mobile workplace? Is it smartphones and laptops?

O. Schorer: Our experiences vary from sector to sector, and even within the same company. In Germany, for example, the desktop PC is still highly valued across all sectors. Except when you look at it from the perspectives of different generations – younger employees in almost all companies are more likely to prefer working with a smartphone and a laptop. But it is not just about the IT devices. Efficient, digital processes and service models are equally important. They must allow employees to process information quickly and efficiently, ideally in a way that they are familiar with through personal use. That is why each employee should have a say in the design of their personal mobile workplace and in which apps and devices it includes. 

Shadow IT as a thing of the past.

How can this be implemented in practice?

O. Schorer: Outside of work, employees use online platforms to select and order products and services. A similar process should be available at work too. For example, we have developed a solution whereby the employee can order end devices and matching apps and services via a self-service portal, a process they are familiar with outside of work.  

Doesn't that lead to a proliferation of systems and software versions?

O. Schorer: No, quite the opposite. Departments can specify which hardware – laptops, smartphones, tablets – is made available to employees based on their position and field of work. This ensures that rollout, usability, and service processes, such as applying software updates, are based on standardised processes, thus reducing administrative effort and inefficiencies caused by differing hardware and software versions. 

Can employees in a digital workplace use company devices for their personal use?

O. Schorer: Yes. We see the combination of business and personal use as an integral element of the digital workplace. This is what we call COPE: Corporate Owned – Personally Enabled. A concept such as COPE allows companies to approve end devices for personal use. These days, personal and business data can easily be kept separate on a smartphone or laptop. And when the employer makes an attractive selection of end devices available as part of COPE, users no longer have any incentive to use personal laptops, smartphones, and tablets for work. Shadow IT becomes a thing of the past. 

Personal use as the driver of the digital workplace

Not all companies have the resources to set up and administer mobile workplaces. What are the alternatives?

O.Schorer: You're right; they don't. Many IT specialists are increasingly busy with their company's digitalization projects. The obvious solution is to delegate the management of digital workplaces and the self-service portals to an external provider. Such a specialist can take over the entire process, if required – from selecting and procuring the devices and software, rolling out the system and operating the self-service portal, to handling the rollback and the certified erasure at the end of the lifecycle. 

Does this mean the user is provided with some type of standard package?

O.Schorer: No. The systems and services offered can be adapted to the user's specific requirements and digital process chain, and the user can add their own personal requirements to the equation. This increases efficiency, as each user will have access to the devices and applications that they really need to do their work.  

What do companies need to look out for when implementing the digital workplace?

O. Schorer: It is important to have the management team on board, i.e. the executive board and the departmental heads, but also the HR department. It also requires an approach that involves the employees more. They often already have valuable skills from using such end devices outside of work, and companies should be taking advantage of this. This is where the benefits of the mobile, digital workplace come into play. 

What are the benefits?

O. Schorer: There are the cost savings in the double-digit percentage range, for example. And employees are more efficient and motivated when they can design their workplace according to their own requirements. Further benefits include greater flexibility and a better work-life balance. These are important factors when it comes to attracting skilled workers and – more importantly – keeping them. 

Oliver Schorer has been responsible for IT at CHG-MERIDIAN since 1999, and became the Chief Information Officer (CIO) of the CHG-MERIDIAN Group in 2009. In 2013, Schorer became a member of the expanded Board of Management, and he has since driven forward the addition of new services to the CHG-MERIDIAN portfolio. Schorer has been the member of the CHG-MERIDIAN Board of Management responsible for IT and services since 2017.

Oliver Schorer, Member of the Board of Management, CIO

“Companies are embarking on digital transformation initiatives, but the workforce is teaching itself digital skills in a ‘parallel universe’.
It is up to companies to resolve these conflicting scenarios by offering their employees a suitable mobile workplace, i.e. by making devices, services, and infrastructure available at work and for personal use.”

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