What does the perfect digital office look like?

his month’s Digital Leaders North West (DLNW) Salon in Manchester was, as ever, very stimulating. Our topic this month presented a challenge: digital talent – the match-up between our creative digital people and the skills our businesses need. Knowledge Hub's Liz Copeland, and DLNW Steering Group member, provides an interesting and informative write up... - See more at: https://khub.net/web/khubfocus/blog#sthash.Ik6FAtW9.dpuf
The conversation at this month’s Digital Leaders North West (DLNW) Salon in Manchester was, as ever, very stimulating. Our topic this month presented a challenge: digital talent – the match-up between our creative digital people and the skills our businesses need. Knowledge Hub's Liz Copeland, and DLNW Steering Group member, provides an interesting and informative write up... - See more at: https://khub.net/web/khubfocus/blog#sthash.Ik6FAtW9.dpuf

At this month’s Digital Leaders North West (DLNW) Salon we talked how digital tools are being used to transform traditional ways of working and what the ideal digital office looks like. DLNW Steering Group member, Ann Willacy, shares a write up of the dicussion...

Knowledge Hub’s Liz Copeland opened the Digital Leaders North West meeting at The Shed on the Manchester Metropolitan University campus, by introducing this month’s guest speakers.

Paul Barnes, an accounting expert from My Accountancy Place and Roger Longden from There Be Giants, a cloud-based consulting firm, gave their views in the style of an interactive interview with the audience.

The discussion started with the virtues of cloud based software, using the example of how packages such as Xero and Dropbox had transformed business and Roger posed the idea that for a small company cloud based software allowed for flexibility and in many cases removed the need for a physical office. Amongst the benefits that Paul had seen were the instant, safe, sharing of both data and transactions between his company and clients. It was Roger’s view that the cloud allows smaller companies to access more sophisticated technology than would previously have been possible. The multitude of add on packages had extended the benefits beyond initial expectation and revolutionised the business operation.

Although there were some financial benefits from integrated business software, Paul thought the biggest value was in freeing managers so that they had the time to line manage their team.

The Salon changed direction with a wide ranging discussion about the balance between technology and people and which played the major role in business transformation.

Whilst digital technologies were seen as important their influence was recognised to be limited without positive employee engagement. The discussion identified a number of barriers to digital innovation including:

  • Resistance often focussed amongst the older demographic
  • Cultural change
  • Lack of informed decision making at senior levels
  • Poor current and historic user experience
  • Poor product design

Research into the positive influence of employee engagement on productivity was discussed and several salon members mentioned social influences, the sense of making a difference and the value of flexible working as key motivators which allowed organisational change towards digital innovation.

The debate ranged between public and private sector differences and how the ethics of austerity had impacted on both employee engagement, motivation and the opportunity to innovate when budgets were shrinking without the opportunity to make additional income which might offset costs and buffer the workforce against redundancy and outsourcing. There was some recognition that in particular, local authorities and charities, often had less opportunity to innovate and potentially a skills shortage at the decision making levels. For some, the most pressing lever for change was a cut in both the current and expected budgets and the moral obligation felt towards both staff and service-users was considered to be a dilemma.

Roger brought the discussion back to the benefits of innovation, not necessarily as a cost cutter, but as a way to free people to do the human elements that really make a difference in public, private and third sector businesses. He noted that ‘if change was easy everyone would embrace it!'

It was agreed that the ideal digital office had a combination of flexible, agile software and a creative, open and willing work force. Whilst we discussed these issues as they applied to each of our situations it was Roger who summed up for us:

‘The digital office frees people to do the jobs that people do best!’

If you’d like to get involved with Digital Leaders North West join the the DLNW group on Knowledge Hub to find out about upcoming salons.

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