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The digital world demands digital ways of working Jon Malam

Becoming ‘digital by default’ doesn’t just mean providing our clients with digital solutions. It starts with ensuring our own ways of working take advantage of the digital revolution, as the more efficient we are, the more efficient we can be for our clients.

And it’s not just about using the latest software either; the modern digital office requires us to embrace new mindsets and behaviours to enable smoother collaboration and more efficient problem solving.

Work flexibly

Gone are the days when a train cancellation means a project has to be delayed until the colleague makes it to their desk. Now we can work anywhere with internet connectivity, giving us a more adaptive and competitive workforce and a smooth service for our clients. Being able to work remotely also has many personal and wellbeing benefits for employees, allowing them to better manage non-work commitments such as childcare, so they’re more satisfied, less stressed and we’re more likely to retain their talent.

Integrate software tools

It makes sense to integrate your software platforms as seamlessly as possible. We use advanced design software from vendors such as Autodesk and Bentley for specialised work but for everything else we use Microsoft’s Office 365. Many companies also use this suite of software apps, but unlike several others we’ve given our staff access to the entire Office 365 toolkit and turned off all competing systems. Our integrated platform has a familiar user interface which helps with adoption while the onboarding of new staff and compatibility issues have been eliminated. And the platform is continuously evolving, meaning we automatically benefit from Microsoft’s annual US$10bn spend on R&D and new software developments. Why spend effort developing office tools when you can focus on technologies that differentiate your business instead?

Meet virtually

More than four years ago we opened the door to instant online communication with Skype for Business (formerly Lync) and replaced all desk phones with headsets. Colleagues were quick to recognise and exploit the benefits of online meetings, instant messaging and screen sharing. It breaks down geographic barriers and accelerates problem solving while supporting the inclusion of remote workers and dispersed teams. People who have only met via webcam feel they know each other and we are able to include clients and partners in this ‘one team’ approach. It also drives down our carbon footprint and travel costs.

Collaborate and co-author in real time

Gone are the frustrations of sending email attachments and then trying to unravel and compare comments made in multiple, parallel versions. Links to a file saved in SharePoint or OneDrive enable colleagues to work on the same document simultaneously. It’s a real boost to time-saving and efficiency, especially when you’re up against a deadline, and if you’re on the move you can still contribute via your mobile device. Our global practices, projects and business teams are all connected via a matrix of SharePoint sites that can be opened, where appropriate, to external contacts, so the collaboration benefits can ripple out to the extended team.

Use the power of social media

Social media enables people to connect with each other on the basis of shared interests, leading to all sorts of exciting opportunities. With 17,000 people working in more than 150 countries, Yammer – our enterprise social network – brings the same dynamic to our company by uniting colleagues around common topics and challenges. We can point to numerous ‘aha’ moments when colleagues find the expertise or answer they’re seeking – often from an unexpected corner of the company beyond the reach of a conventional email request. For example, a recent query on reed bed systems for wastewater purification elicited responses from the UK, Oman, New Zealand and Singapore. And Yammer never sleeps – in a global business spanning all time zones you can watch the responses roll in as different parts of the world start their day.

Work ‘out loud’

While some question the personal ‘oversharing’ that takes place on social media, at work it helps to let people know what you’re thinking. Sharing updates, learning and good practice through the intranet, video snips, blogs or Yammer can inspire others or lead to new collaborations. Behind the scenes, Office 365 looks for common themes, key words and connections and pushes suggestions to the individual via Delve. This transparency allows colleagues to tap into what’s going on around them and in further flung parts of the company.

Analyse your own data

Apart from adopting evergreen technology we’re also getting interesting behavioural insights from the new MyAnalytics function which tells you how you’ve spent your working week, from time spent in meetings or working outside core hours to the number of emails that you’ve received and sent and who you’ve had most contact with. With data and analytics such a core part of the solutions we offer our clients, it is only natural that we turn this skill on ourselves, to monitor and optimise the way we work in the digital office.

While the digital revolution has transformed the day-to-day tools we use in our profession, to truly become ‘digital by default’ we must embrace digital working behaviours which will boost efficiency, providing a better service to our clients and their customers.

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