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IBF recently brought together a gathering of member and guest organisations in Paris to discuss intranet and digital workplace trends and challenges. Over a lovely lunch at Le Laurent on the Champs-Élysées, the group shared rich, practitioner conversations on a range of intranet themes, from user experience to the ongoing relevance on the intranet in the workplace of the 21st century.

There was some very lively debate about what terminology is used to talk about the emerging workplace of tomorrow. Some organisations preferred to put the emphasis on users and “social” while others were more focused on the digital tools and workplace. There was also discussion of the erosion of the firewall as trends such as cloud computing and BYOD mean that the lines between internal and external, work and social are increasingly blurred.

Leading the conversation was Paul Miller, CEO and Founder of the Digital Workplace Group and Digital Workplace Forum, and he was joined by Milan Guenther, a member of DWG’s benchmarking team. Round the table Paul and Milan were joined by heads of IT and web for AXA, Société Générale, Total, Sodexho, Alcatel-Lucent, Clifford Chance, BNP Paribas and Steria. Several themes emerged as central for the group:

Defining the Digital workplace

One issue on the table was finding a suitable term for “Digital Workplace” in French, which in turn lead participants to define more clearly what they mean by this term. Literal translation would suggest the physical nature of the digital workplace. However, this wasn’t a satisfying definition as the digital workplace is a suite of tools and a network of technologies that enable work. There seemed to be a consensus around the term “Lieu de travail numérique ” this discussion around the definition was a good way to introduce the subject and make sure that everyone present was on the same page and discussing the same technologies.

Knowledge management, searching and finding content            

As work is becoming digital, knowledge is digitalized, and therefore the need for knowledge curation is more important than ever. Some knowledge intensive firms present in the discussion acquire an extensive number of documents which need to be readily accessible by their staff. The digital workplace can quickly get very messy if the organization disregards indexing and information ecology in this digital workplace. Digitalizing work doesn’t mean it won’t be messy. This also sparked a discussion about the usefulness of search and finding new approaches to it both through the search tools and social tools.

Consumerisation and the evolving Digital Workplace ecosystem

Another hot topic, and one which DWForum will be focusing on in its Q2 Investigations, was Bring Your Own Device (BYOD). Understanding how to meet the wave of consumer devices entering the workplace is a critical issue for IT departments who, traditionally, have tended to operate with more of a “command and control” approach. Issues such as security, governance and user experience need to be considered. Paul Miller quoted Giovanni Piazza – Director of knowledge management at Johnson & Johson (R&D): “When my grand-father started working, he was given clothes. When my father started working, he was given a car, when I started working, I was given a computer. What will my children get?”. Paul suggests: “Maybe just a login?”

What is clear is that the 21st century workplace is shifting fast and offers massive potential for organisational change and success. If the discussion round the table at this Paris lunch was representative of major French organisations more broadly, then Digital Workplace is very much becoming central to future ways of working in France.

This is a guest post by Numa Pigelet, Graduate Student in Human Computer Interaction and User Experience at University College London.

About the author

Elizabeth Marsh - DWG's Director of ResearchElizabeth Marsh leads the Digital Workplace Group’s member research and events. She is pasisonate about connecting members to peers or resources and exploring new research opportunities.

Prior to joining DWG, Elizabeth held intranet management roles at T-Mobile and Reuters, with broad-ranging responsibilities including community management, internal communications and research.

When not busy in the digital workplace, Elizabeth is a keen writer and musician, playing flute in an amateur orchestra and performing with various local groups.

Connect with Elizabeth on Twitter at @digitalsanity or on Google +.

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