April 6, 2017

Digital Workplace Checklist: Improving Collaboration

6 minute read

And, at the end of this series, we find ourselves back where we began: collaboration. The main driver for any digital workplace initiative is to facilitate collaboration between employees wherever they’re located. As with the other items on our checklist, putting the user at the center of consideration is the key to success. Importantly, however, your digital workplace can only reach its full potential, and provide a productive platform for collaboration, once your information lifecycle, along with the governance rules that support it, is codified and executed.

Exploit the relationship between information governance and the user experience

Information governance and user experience have a symbiotic relationship: how effectively information is governed determines the nature of the user experience, and the quality of the user experience can determine whether your plan for information governance is actually implemented. By comprehending this interdependence, you can create safeguards that ensure you successfully manage  your information. In effect, you want to make compliance with governance rules "the path of least resistance" for users. Here are a few recommendations to achieve this.

Require as little effort from the end user as possible

Your system should be able to guide the average person through the process of loading content correctly – tagged with appropriate metadata, retention policies applied, and stored in the appropriate location.

Jakob Nielsen, Ph.D., principal and co-founder of the Nielsen Norman Group, provides valuable perspectives on what you can expect from that “average person” in The Distribution of Users’ Computer Skills: Worse Than You Think. Citing a large multi-year, international study conducted by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, he notes that, “Across 33 rich countries, only 5% of the population has high computer-related abilities, and only a third of people can complete medium-complexity tasks.” Even if you believe that your employee population possesses better-than-average general computer skills, you should assume that most of them are ignorant of the details of ECM administration and compliance.

Don’t rely on users to keep track of versions of content

Likewise, your system should take care of version control and the managing disposition of documents. Your employees need to be confident that they aren’t referencing an obsolete document, and when collaborating or making updates on a file, that they are working with the right version – without engaging in laborious browsing and comparisons. Your system should enable users to quickly view a file’s revision history, including who has modified it and how.


Keep necessary tasks short and simple

Make sure that your system conforms to the average user's expectations for how they will interact with the system. Consider that your users are likely to spend time on social platforms and modern websites, where they can accomplish what they need to through simple processes that involve minimal steps. They can send a file by dragging and dropping it into an email. They can share an article by clicking a “share” icon and selecting a destination, or disseminate an idea by typing a comment, pasting a link, and clicking “post” in Facebook. In contrast, a process to upload a file that involves navigating multiple checkboxes and dropdown menus and entering a dozen or so attributes, with information lifecycle terms that may be unfamiliar (i.e. a typical SharePoint default process), presents roadblocks to the user that may lead them to abandon the effort.

Something people want to use

In the recommendations above, we’ve talked primarily about improving the user experience related to implementing information governance. Technology can help you achieve this, with capabilities like “drop zones” that permit users to drag and drop documents with the appropriate context provided automatically, system-initiated version controls, and automated execution of retention policies. By simplifying and automating governance processes, you remove a burden from your users and by ensuring better governance, you go a long way toward increasing user satisfaction with their digital workplace.

 Don’t underestimate the importance of making your workplace attractive

You can also leverage technology to take you even further in providing an engaging user experience that effectively supports collaboration. Personalization features help put each user front and center and can simplify navigation, for example, a sidebar that follows the user across intranet sites and gives them quick access to the information and people that are most important to them. Consistency in branding and look and feel, with clear navigation tools that are consistent across your intranet, reduces confusion and eliminates the need for a user to relearn how to get around each time they move to a different department’s site. Simple, but robust search capabilities that allow users to filter results help them quickly find the information they need (and more closely match those user expectations we mentioned earlier.)


Governance, compliance, security, and usability

Truly productive digital workplaces provide a consistent experience, a cogent information architecture, and govern that experience so that information is both secure and easy-to-find. Every gap in the information lifecycle and user experience is an invitation to lost or stolen content, site sprawl, and user apathy. Only by providing a completely guided experience from document creation to site disposition can an organization truly realize the digital workplace.

For more in this series, see:

The Digital Workplace: Collaboration is only the beginning
Digital Workplace Checklist: Improve the value of your information
Digital Workplace Checklist: Create a one-stop shop
Digital Workplace Checklist: Integrating your systems

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