Five steps to building the Digital Office – tips from Fujitsu Forum 2017

By Ramanan Ramakrishna, - Employee experienceFinancial ServicesFuture Workplace

This year we set out our vision for the 2025 workplace.

In the future, employees will be more dispersed – there will be more freelancer employees and more people working remotely.

But this is by no means the biggest change we can expect to see: the very definition of workplace itself will change.

Today we understand workplace as a place and a device.

But in future, workplace will quite literally be anything that can be personalized.

It will have to deal with “me” as an individual and “me” as a social animal – it should allow me the flexibility of when I want to work, where, and how.

I also envisage the workplace of 2025 being intelligent – it should be capable of understanding my implicit preferences and ways of working like watching my keystrokes, to ensure the user really is me.

It should also be natural: if you prefer speaking to typing, your workplace will enable you to do this.

So this is the ideal working world we are heading towards.

But what can companies start doing now to ensure they get there?

To answer my question, I was looking for a case study; an organization that has successfully implemented some of these innovations.

There was nobody better than Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS).

It has a reputation for being agile, innovative and forward-thinking on top of being one of the oldest figures in the financial sector.

And their Head of Digital Office Steve Wood was at Fujitsu Forum 2017 to share how the company has made this real.

Here are five insights from his talk:

Watch the video for a recording of the session:

1. Focus on employee experience to do the best for the customer

After touching on the long-standing relationship between Fujitsu and RBS, Steve revealed his first piece of advice:

It’s all about the customer.

This, he said, is the core belief of RBS.

As an organization it focuses 100% on the customer experience – which means making sure employees have the best possible experience too (as obviously frustrated employees can’t deliver their best).

And as employees – or, to use Steve’s term, colleagues – spend a great deal of time using technology, it’s a priority to ensure this aspect of their work-life is satisfying.

Steve then went on to highlight an interesting parallel:

RBS has found that 87% of the time customers interact with the bank they do not speak to a person. The majority of customer interactions come via tech to tech.

RBS’s banking app, for example, is a platform that customers have been using in place of a face-to-face interaction.

And it’s very successful. So successful, in fact, that it has been recognized as one of the best in industry.

So the strength of RBS is that it can provide its customers with a hugely compelling user journey through technology.

Can it provide the same compelling journey for employees?

2. Develop a culture of people and technology

In Steve’s eyes, RBS is making headway towards this goal – providing an employee experience that is as good as the customer experience.

It puts staff in control of their own working practices by allowing them to use any device on the corporate networks.

And it emphasizes mobile first – largely because the people RBS recruits and retains are accustomed to the mobile experience, Steve said.

It’s all about creating an environment where colleagues feel their technological needs and preferences are supported

This is an idea that I try to encapsulate when I talk about personalization.

According to Steve, this also means developing a culture where people are able to challenge the corporate organization when they see a constructive opportunity to do things differently. This, he says, is where growth happens.

“If we get the people proposition right and the culture aligned to our technology,” Steve noted, “that’s the Nirvana.”

3. Inspire digital working across generations

The people proposition is made more complex and exciting by the huge generational range found in today’s workplace, from Gen Z and Millennials to 60-year-olds.

Steve recalled how he had spoken to some grads recently who told him they don’t use a particular technology brand anymore.

Whilst this may seem like a difficult trend to navigate, it was important to listen, Steve argued, since RBS has to keep up with the needs of the youngest and fastest-moving colleagues to retain them.

Steve underlined the value of the younger generation even further as he went on to discuss new media – apps like Snapchat and Periscope.

“Why aren’t you on Snapchat and Periscope?” he asked. “Our customers use this. Some of our grads and apprentices are experts at this stuff.”

This is why, he concluded, RBS is working with community organizations like schools, where it has set up code clubs teaching children how to code.

These kinds of initiatives are essential if you are to keep your finger on the pulse.

4. Build the next-generation office

Lastly, Steve turned to consider the practical ways RBS has driven digital transformation in its own organization.

Its space in London is a frictionless office, meaning there are 100 people with no screens and no paper – only a wireless network.

Employees just turn up, pull a Chromebook from the rack and start working.

This was initially driven as a cost play – without needing to provide for serious hardware, it’s much cheaper for RBS to run an office. But people now appreciate the productivity benefits it brings.

In fact, there are now plans for the frictionless office to be rolled out even further.

Steve also explained that there is a social component to RBS’s moves towards a Digital Office.

It has been one of the first companies to pilot Workplace by Facebook – essentially a social network for businesses.

Roughly 70,000 colleagues use it for a variety of reasons, from asking a question about holiday leave to planning after-work drinks.

RBS CEO Ross McEwan recently used it to broadcast a live video for employees.

The bank is also employing AI self-help – for the IT help desk but also for HR. You can use AI to tell you when your pay day is, for example.

These are all great ideas for practical initiatives you can implement in your own office.

5. User experience is always king

As I have reflected on the session, I have realized that the real heart of Steve’s advice can be boiled down to this: people should be at the heart of any organization.

This could mean the customer, or the employee who uses the tech.

It’s all about the experience we deliver for the end user.

This is an ideology that we’re embodying at Fujitsu, and which RBS has clearly managed to implement with great success.

For this reason, I think that RBS is a great case study for any organization seeking to make digital transformation work for them.

And you can only achieve that by banking on the Digital Office.


Further reading:

  • What will an effective workplace strategy look like when millennials control the boardroom, AI goes mainstream and the traditional office disappears? Take a glimpse into the future workplace! Download our Workplace 2025 whitepaper
  • How are CXOs planning to bridge the gap between their current workplace environment and a strategy that will support the new demands of the business in 2025? Download our Worldwide Results Report

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