Intelligent Workplace – Activity-based working

Helping to connect people, processes and platforms to create a frictionless experience for the employee, by James Francis for Dimension Data.

Johannesburg, 20 Jul 2021
Read time 6min 10sec
Graham Parker, Executive: Intelligent Workplace, Dimension Data.
Graham Parker, Executive: Intelligent Workplace, Dimension Data.

Customer experience is one of the crucial measures of business success, alongside revenue and profits. The concept has gained even greater significance since the emergence of digital technologies. Today's customers are savvier and more focused than before, thanks to access to information and communication that surround them.

Yet it would be a mistake to think this paradigm only involves customers. Organisations realise that employee experiences (EX) are as meaningful – a fact driven home when the pandemic prompted remote working. An effective employee is not a seen employee, but instead, someone with the right tools and channels at their disposal to be productive. A recent NTT report on the subject found that 88.9% of organisations recognise the value of EX to strategy or strategic differentiation. Yet far fewer are getting this right. Thus it's not surprising that, when Dimension Data sought to unify its businesses across five key go-to-markets, the Intelligent Workplace was an obvious choice.

Leading IT services provider, Dimension Data, completed its transition to operate as one entity, bringing all its subsidiaries together under a single Dimension Data brand. The powerful combination of people, technology and service delivery has expedited the growth and relevance for cross-go-to-market strategies. By bringing together the former brands of Internet Solutions, Britehouse and ContinuitySA, Dimension Data is delivering on its client-centric strategy. The objective is to provide clients with an end-to-end solution to help transform how organisations operate, sell and remain relevant.

Dimension Data’s end-to-end go-to-market positioning begins with Intelligent Infrastructure (II), which is the foundation of the modern enterprise and enables greater agility and flexibility in today’s rapidly changing market. The company provides clients with improved productivity through its Intelligent Workplace solutions (IW), helping connect people, processes, platforms and products. Dimension Data’s Intelligent Business Applications (IBA) accelerates operational efficiency and enables clients to innovate for the future, while its Intelligent Customer Experience (ICX) go-to-market strives to offer meaningful digital client experiences for its clients' customers. Integral to all solutions is Dimension Data’s Intelligent Security (ISec) go-to-market which helps businesses achieve true organisational resilience.

Executive: Intelligent Workplace, Graham Parker, explains: "My definition of an intelligent workplace is one that enables the human to do their best, to be their best, productive and hopefully happy in a work environment; they will essentially do the best for the company and the company will benefit the most."

Parker is a qualified chartered accountant and his career took him to high-level finance and operations roles. But he's the first to admit he was never wired to be a reporting accountant and his career orientates around people: how to make them more productive as well as happier and engaged. "I saw how potent software can be to change how a business operates. Suddenly it was obvious – you don't need a few big changes, but rather many small ones that align with the business outcomes," said Parker.

People at the centre

This view opened the doors to another important shift. Traditional workplaces are centralised around a physical site and core applications. You get a site, put in an ERP, and assign seats to employees. Such arrangements grew from the limitations of the time. But now, digital systems can switch that around entirely and put people at the centre of operations. It transcends workplaces into a new culture called 'activity-based working': "Activity-based working is giving the employee the ability to make choices around where they work, and what they do to a degree. It's with an eye to business outcomes, but giving them the right tools so that they can make those choices and execute them from anywhere through different ways of doing things."

Four ingredients make up the successful implementation of activity-based working. It starts with empowering employees to choose as to where they would like to work, backed by appropriate digital platforms that foster productivity and collaboration. All this takes place in an activity-based environment, namely where the business understands what activities their employees are performing (and are suitably empowered to do so). Finally, and a more recent addition, such environments should espouse a level of sustainability. This is not just to meet compliance requirements, but because newer employees care about those values.

If all that seems somewhat foreign and hard to achieve, it's quite the opposite. Many companies already sit with the means to create an activity-based working environment. Collaboration platforms such as Microsoft Teams have these capabilities or can adopt new enhancements. But it's usually the case that the environments aren't conceived and configured to reach those outcomes.

Bringing it all together

Dimension Data’s Intelligent Workplace is not a strategic provider; its approach is much more nuanced, hands-on and outcome-based. “If you approach it correctly with both engagements with the client and with software development, you can solve many problems quickly and build momentum towards a wider change," says Parker.

For example, and a real use case from a client, giving roaming salespeople access to crucial ERP functions while also enabling their managers to track their performance. The capability to do all of this already sat within their ERP, but these processes weren't connected to the workforce. The EX was poor. Dimension Data’s Intelligent Workplace solved this through developing mobile apps that integrated with the ERP and also delivered all the functions to the employees.

Parker continues: "We don't rip-and-replace if we can avoid it, and we often don't have to. A lot of companies sit with the systems to create better collaboration, remote working and workforce management. But their systems are stuck on technology islands that are poorly integrated. It's often about redesigning those relationships, supported by the other Dimension Data go-to-markets to help ensure security, infrastructure and such. The technology in itself doesn't excite me, but rather what the tech can do for the business excites me.”

A team to transform workplaces

Dimension Data’s Intelligent Workplace go-to-market achieves this through several capabilities that include workplace and technology specialists, developers and IOT. This combined capacity is helping many clients realise intelligent workplaces that place employees – their wisdom and experiences – at the centre. Such an agile approach enables Dimension Data to deliver on business outcomes, doing so continually through nuanced changes and, if needed, a managed service offering.

As remote working became a necessity for business survival, Dimension Data’s Intelligent Workplace go-to-market, supported by the other go-to-market pillars, could help clients adjust their cultures and processes to activity-based working. They bring the employee experience into the heart of organisations, boosting production and empowering fulfilled employees to do even better than before.

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