What is a digital workflow?
A digital workflow is how we complete a sequence, process, or task using digital technology. By defining these types of workflows, you’ll be able to easily keep track of the data around progressions, activities, and deadlines. You can even automate these workflows, which will save you time and effort.
For example, many HR and internal communications teams are using tools like the Firstup workforce communications platform to digitally transform the content workflows of their employee communications. Using Firstup Studio, they create, collaborate, schedule, and even predict engagement outcomes. And at any point, teams can check the status and progress of any piece of content in their workflow.
However, technology alone does not guarantee your processes will go smoothly.
Productivity skills versus productivity tools
Before comprehensive communication platforms came along, organizing and updating information from emails, phone calls, texts, and spreadsheets proved to be quite a struggle. Who knew where the most up-to-date content was being kept? Digital platforms changed all that for the better, but remember, you also need to have a good digital workflow management process in addition to the right software. And that starts with learning some key skills.
For example, most people don’t just pick up a tennis racket and become champions at Wimbledon the next day. If you know how to swing the racket and hit the ball, it doesn’t mean you’re going to even hit the ball over the net. The end goal is to play the game, not just learn to use the racket.
On the flip side, if Serena Williams was given a used tennis racket and even older tennis balls from a garage sale, she may not play up to her usual standards. You need both skills and the right set of tools to win.
Productivity is the same—success requires a combination of skills and tools. Just having the right software isn’t enough. An organization needs to invest in a solid foundation to define business goals, milestones and deliverables in order to drive company-wide adoption and help employees to get the most out of these tools.
When rolling out software, most companies only provide instructional training. That is, they introduce employees to the technology by providing instruction on the various menus, and how to do certain tasks. Meanwhile, they say little about how the software will increase efficiency and, over time, productivity. This is a common pitfall. Whenever you roll out new software and technology, focus first on context. Explain to employees how the new tool works and what the results will be when they use it routinely. Then you can explain exactly how to use it.
Learning as a digital workflow
In order to understand digital workflows, one must first understand the flow of work for an average individual. Studies show that there are some among knowledge workers; according to Gartner,
- There are one billion knowledge workers globally.
- 51% of all knowledge workers worldwide work remotely.
- On average, 33 percent of their work is desk-based work.
Due to the rapid growth in remote work, the future of work is expected to bring about a different kind of split in how employees (particularly knowledge workers) spend their time. Increasingly, employees will need to quickly learn and develop their skills as part of their digital workflows to successfully collaborate in a remote-first environment. (In fact, research shows that opportunities for development are now the second most important factor in workplace happiness, right after the nature of the work itself.)
The learning-in-development workflow incorporates the idea that for learning to really happen, it has to fit around and be aligned with working days and working lives. Therefore, corporate learning has become something that is served to employees where they are and when they are most amenable to learning.
In other words, digital workflows will rely on technological tools that are designed for intuitive, easy use. The “training” required to learn how to use the tool will simply be using the technology and incorporating it into everyday work life. (One could see the two technological giants of Google and YouTube as original examples of “learning in the flow” platforms.)
A new way of doing what’s already good
When The New York Times decided to improve its Morning Briefing, which was already considered by readers to be either a good or extremely good product, they were faced with the challenge of finding a digital workflow that would make a good product into an even better one.
The key insights for introducing a workflow that would lead to even better results were:
- a clear structure,
- friendly guidance,
- ability to scan over content quickly and easily, and
- a cross-functional process.
In particular, a cross-functional process allows for teams operating within a digital workflow to collaborate and deliver better results.
A successful integration will lead to a repeatable process for teams with clear parameters around how to work. This way, introducing the digital workflow redefines work, and increases trust and understanding among teams because they see the value of a user-centered development process.
Learn how Ford Motor Company delivered communications and elevated trust during an unprecedented year, supported organizational goals through improved employee input, and elevated their storytelling to engage and motivate its 200,000+ workers in the Firstup Webinar with Marisa Bradley, Ford’s Director of Internal Communications.
Digital workflows in media
In 2017, The Wall Street Journal announced a major effort to accelerate its pivot toward a more digital strategy, stating that the only way digital workflows can succeed after implementation is if they’re accompanied by a cultural shift encouraging everyone to work toward a common goal.
When implementing its own digital workflows, The Wall Street Journal employed mandatory training for staff, completely rehauled their newsrooms, introduced operation teams into the newsroom to successfully monitor digital workflows, and even changed working hours. It needed to fully understand what its audience wanted and what would bring potential audiences to it, and the change was expected to produce $100 million in cost savings.
Finally, the key component that makes every digital workflow implementation succeed is internal communications. Talk to the people in your company, especially managers, and be ready to explain why you’re embracing this change. Build a business case for a new digital employee experience program, and be ready to prove to the c-suite that the results will be worth the investment. Also, be prepared to explain clearly what will be expected of employees. If your people are not informed, your workflow initiative may falter.
Digital workplace hubs
Workflows and collaboration are still a big challenge for many organizations. Lots of executives are wondering if one digital workflow tool could potentially solve all of their collaboration needs.
A single solution is very attractive, but it needs to be flexible to support the multitude of different work styles and preferences in one company. Additionally, it needs to be flexible enough to offer options to suit the needs of all different teams and employees.
Digital workplace hubs or platforms that offer different workflow integrations are considered to be the answer to the problem. With this approach, collaborators work together on a platform that integrates a multiple of tools.
A good example is a workforce communications platform for HR and internal communicators. This would integrate different data management software, such as your HRIS, and then create a single publisher (and digital workflow) to plan, create, collaborate, schedule, publish (to all your comms channels, like email, intranet, mobile, etc.) and even offer predictive analysis to your internal communications content. By integrating your channels, you avoid common one-size-fits-all problems, and can instead publish content to an employee’s preferred channel.
It also provides a simple and easy-to-use a digital workflow that streamlines the communications process and offers a unified analytics dashboard to easily track and report content metrics.
Orchestrating one seamless workflow
Diving deeper into the advantages of a workforce communications platform, solutions like Firstup take it one step further and actually orchestrate the delivery of your comms! The Firstup Orchestration Engine unifies internal communications into one seamless workflow, giving publishers full control over what is shared, to whom it is shared, and when it is shared, helping to optimize performance and deliver success. With the Firstup Orchestration Engine you can:
- Double content engagement with optimal delivery
- Eliminate duplicate publishing across systems
- Target the right employee groups with multiple attributes
- Control exactly how information is delivered throughout your tech stack
- Make data-driven business decisions by measuring the impact of omnichannel
“I would describe Orchestration as ‘Air Traffic Control’”— Joe Lees, GSK
Conclusion: The truth about digital workflows
New technology tools alone are not always the solution. You need the winning combination of skills and the best tools on the market. Here’s what else you need to know:
- Learning while in the flow of work is a new concept that is expected to take over as digital workflows proliferate, especially with the growth of remote work.
- A successful integration of digital workflow tools will lead to a repeatable process for teams, clearly defining how to work best.
- The only way digital workflows can succeed is by also introducing a cultural shift that encourages all employees to work toward a common goal.
- Internal communications is key to informing and helping employees understand new digital workflows and any business initiatives.
- A workforce communications platform is a good example of how leaders can streamline their digital workflows.
- Successful digital workflow strategies can result in significant cost savings, boosting your bottom line.
Learn more about successful digital transformation with our eBook, Digital Transformation For CIOs: 7 Steps To Success.