Understanding the new era of digital workplace platforms 

The all-encompassing digital workplace platform 

Work as we know it has changed in the past few years coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic. Communications and collaboration technology were critical to that shift. As a result, we have witnessed the evolution of communications and collaboration suites to UCaaS platforms that are now evolving into fuller all-encompassing digital workplace platforms with deeper integration with CCaaS and strategic lines of business applications. As a result, the lines are blurring, and the days of silo applications that do one thing, like conferencing, are giving way to fuller platforms aimed at being more strategic solutions for helping companies run their entire business.  

We see from one end of the market (mainly small and midsize businesses) that providers like Zoho fully position their platform as the operating system for business. In their favor, they have the platform and myriad applications to make a strong claim. Collaboration and office productivity providers, such as Microsoft and Google, have evolved into digital workplace platform providers with the core applications companies need to run their businesses. Recently, as part of its fuller Zoom One platform strategy, Zoom announced the addition of email and calendar along with its expanded team chat functionality to rival Microsoft and Google. And that goes along with its complete contact center offering. With its acquisition of Slack, Salesforce has made it the collaborative hub of the platform that powers critical customer workflows in sales and marketing use cases, amongst others.  

This chat-enabled collaboration hub feature is becoming a common key identifier in these new-era digital workplace platforms. Take RingCentral, for example; they have a unified UCaaS and CCaaS offering with an in-context collaboration feature set that spans voice, video, and integrated team chat as the connecting hub. Similarly, Cisco Webex boasts UCaaS and CCaaS with a chat-enabled collaboration hub and an expansive portfolio of workplace devices. 

Technology vendors are always looking at adjacencies but what is happening now is the strong undercurrent of providing fuller platforms that support cross-business functions. Vendors have long realized they need to be the glue that connects rather than individual product providers. While this makes me reminisce back to the messaging middleware days, this is where we are now with digital workplace technology platforms.  

Low-code/no-code offerings are also emerging as critical features of digital workplace solutions to enable organizations to build applications to support essential business processes and workflows flexibly.   

Workplace transformation requires solutions-focused tech platforms 

In response to the ongoing digital transformation and disruption every business is going through, these platforms have to provide relevant business solutions that specifically support lines of business domains. Each solution set must, at its core, offer satisfactory experiences to both internal employees and external customers and partners. Business processes and workflows incorporate a continuum of conversational experiences between people, apps, and data in multidirectional iterations. 

The effect is a collaborative ecosystem and community of constituents that require seamless connectivity. Therefore, organizations must focus on the collaboration and community aspect of business processes and workflows. Every business process involves a series of collaborative events between various internal and external actors. 

They may include physical meetings, conference calls, videoconferences, and chat and email interactions. These are the points at which people come together to create, inform, negotiate, or persuade each other in ways that advance the process. Other nodes in the process include work done independently by each actor, such as planning, analysis, document creation, etc. 

The output of these intervening sessions is generally input to the next step, and part of the integration process is to make this data and content available to the right actors at the right time. This step involves shared middleware services such as access control and authentication, scheduling, and content management. Enterprise planners and decision-makers must evaluate digital workplace platforms and solutions by how they can support collaborative business workflows. The flexibility of the platform is critical. 

Final thoughts 

While new all-encompassing digital workplace platform offerings are emerging, each provider’s partner and developer ecosystem will be critical. Therefore, it must be an evaluation criterion in decision-making. First, evaluate providers’ offerings on the ability to integrate into existing infrastructure to minimize friction. Ensuring people are at the center of this, clearly define the goals and objectives of the workplace, and identify the specific needs and requirements of the organization. This step will help ensure that the chosen platform can support the desired workflows and collaboration processes and comes down into the flow of how people work in the organization. 

Collaboration Software, Remote Work