Digital Workplace: Small Pieces, Loosely Joined


Reach into your pocket or bag. Pull out your phone. Welcome to your digital workplace of the future.

Your Digital Workplace is Yours

On this amazing device you have a diverse range of communication tools. You have multiple apps. You work in different ways depending on the work, the other parties involved and the needs. Often you discover that you don’t even have the same apps on your phone as others do and the interfaces are all arranged differently.  How you use your phone does not reflect how the other people with whom you work use their phones. 

Sometimes you even send multiple messages across different apps to make sure you get the job done. Sometimes you use your phone for chat, a personal call, or reading Buzzfeed or watching a video. Nobody tells you what to do or say on your phone, but you are guided by etiquette and sensible rules of human interaction. Your focus on working on your phone is your effectiveness, not your or the organisation’s efficiency.

Small Pieces, Loosely Joined

Despite the best efforts of the phone vendors and application suppliers, there is no single phone solution for digital work. To change the solutions on your phone, you don’t wait for a central team to make a tool choice decision and then deploy it enterprise-wide over a number of months. You add the app you need and sometimes you forget about it or even delete it after one use. You are constantly experimenting, learning and upgrading your solutions as you go and your work changes.

Nobody supplies a ‘what to use when’ guide for your phone. Most of the apps aren’t integrated. In fact, they are often incompatible as vendors try to pull you into their universe. Your phone may manage single sign-on, provide status awareness, allow you to cut and paste or at least reduce the friction of moving between apps, but you are working in a digital way across ‘small pieces, loosely joined‘ in the words of David Weinberger. You can change phone if you want. You manage the complexity easily because you are in control of the journey of your work.

Employee Experience in the Digital Workplace

Any employee experience in a digital workplace that is not based on the level of ease, choice, and convenience of a phone is an enterprise solution pretending to be a digital workplace. Mandate one single integrated digital workplace solution and you are offering the smartphone options of North Korea, usually with the same degree of monitoring and security. When your people have to work in one way together, they cannot learn how to work better individually or together. That learning is the heart of the challenge of new digital work.

The owners of that solution will always wonder why users prefer to use unauthorised solutions on their phone. People need to explore more effective ways of working together. You may want to prescribe one way for your employees. However, when they work with customers and other network connections, they will need to have the flexibility of more ways of working. Instead of supplying a North Korean solution, focus on reducing friction, building capability and connecting critical enterprise applications in a secure way. 

Please note I am not suggesting that mobile is the only solution to a digital workplace. People work in diverse ways and many will need solutions for their desk and other places. The user interfaces and other enterprise applications are very likely change in future as we incorporate more personal assistants, analytics and so on. With all that change, we can learn from how we work on our phones. The issue remains that small pieces, loosely joined offers users the ability to tailor their digital workplace to meet their work needs and the needs of their networks.

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