February 24, 2014
To Become Digital on the Inside, You Will Need a Robust Digital Workforce Platform
By: Alex Kass

At Accenture Technology Labs, we’ve kicked off an initiative to create a Digital Workforce Platform. Why? Although many companies are beginning to look more digital on the outside, most are still not truly digital on the inside. For instance, they may have begun using social media to deepen relationships with customers, but have not adopted work processes that leverage digital technologies to change the way work gets done.

This is beginning to change. As vendors continue to mature key digital workforce technologies, we see those technologies coalescing into what we call intelligent digital processes (IDPs), which can support a digital workforce that is smarter and more connected, efficient, utilized and engaged. Furthermore, our recent joint research with Accenture’s Institute for High Performance shows that in addition to supporting more effective execution of existing work processes, IDPs can enable a deeper transformation of work processes, making a range of new work design options feasible.

As just one example, IDPs can push awareness, and thus some central decision-making, to the edge through the combination of social technologies, real-time collaboration and mobile. In another example, enterprise social, combined with crowdsourcing technologies, can make it feasible to operate with what we call a liquid workforce, in which expertise and effort are sourced on a task-by-task basis, from anywhere inside or outside the enterprise.

Figure 1 provides an overview of the journey we see leaders in the digital workforce pursuing.


Figure 1: Digital work design transformations are carried out with a combination of key digital technologies supporting intelligent digital processes (IDPs), which enable a more capable digital workforce, in turn enabling a range of more complex digital work design options.

IDPs are designed from the ground up to be information rich, and to make that information useful to the workforce. Digital technologies, operating on rich digital models, are used to make smarter decisions, to better coordinate with each colleague, more quickly react to changing conditions, and more effectively manage complexity.

We’ve identified seven digital technologies that we see playing key roles in creating IDPs:

  1. Enterprise social collaboration technologies, which include enterprise social networking, as well as tools for collaborative authoring, content sharing and coordination of distributed teams.

  2. Digital process management tools (such as BPM, CRM and other workflow and task-management tools) to automate processes, making them more systematic while eliminating paper and manual emails.

  3. Real-time collaboration technologies, such as audio and video conferencing at various bandwidths, as well as telepresence robots for a richer remote presence.

  4. Analytics and intelligent assistants that turn data into insights about internal processes and the external ecosystem. We’re beginning to see digital assistants take on physical form, such as robots that take part in the physical workflow and information flow.

  5. Crowdsourcing platforms that provide alternate ways to source labor, either from within or outside the enterprise.

  6. Gamification and digital behavior-shaping tools that engage employees, helping them track progress toward objectives, build new skills and create a portfolio of achievements.

  7. Mobile and wearable interfaces that work in combination with all of the tools to make information and applications available when and where needed.

Building intelligent processes that operate on digital models, with support from some of these tools, can amplify the cognitive, collaborative and even physical capabilities of the workforce, thereby enabling new work designs that can have significant cost and quality benefits. Companies can advance their digital workforce journey now, by mastering the individual technologies listed above and determining how to effectively weave them into day-to-day applications and processes. However, doing so is still not straightforward. While vendors are rapidly maturing the point technologies, there are still gaps in the technology stack, and companies also struggle to put the available technologies together to improve their processes. Existing products are not generally designed to explicitly support the process re-design options, which leaves companies on their own to grope toward transformational change. As a result, organizations may shy away from investing in this area, or limit their effort to incremental digitization of existing processes rather than deeper transformation.

We’re developing the Digital Workforce Platform to address these issues, and help our clients lead in this area. This platform will provide four distinct layers of functionality:

  1. A plug-and-play architecture that allows companies to mix and match the point technologies from different vendors.

  2. Innovative technology add-ins for addressing some of the issues – such as role-based information routing and filtering – that are not fully addressed by existing technologies.

  3. Reference solutions that bring the underlying technologies together to support key digital workforce functions, such as seamless social process support or digital talent sourcing.

  4. Digital workforce strategy guidance, for instance, in the form of a diagnostic tool that can help organizations determine which work design transformation options make sense for them.

We’ll describe the platform we’re building in more detail in sequels to this blog. To find out more about our view on the digital workforce and the future of work, look here and here. We also have an in-depth report and several case studies of digital workforce transformation due out soon, as well as follow-up blogs that will describe issues, approaches and platform components. So check back for updates and let us know if you’d like to exchange ideas about the coming digital workforce!

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