Should You Include Employees in Digital Workplace Software Selection?
From the work environment to trust in leadership, to opportunities for growth and development, several factors can impact the employee experience in the digital workplace. One big one is the software tools employees have at their disposal.
Technology sits at the center of the digital workplace experience. This is nowhere more evident than in remote and hybrid work environments, where the choice of software determines how efficiently employees can get their jobs done. Selecting the right tools is key to supporting a productive and happy workforce.
Yet, a CIPD report finds that only 35 percent of employees are consulted by their employer when it comes time to implement new technology at work. Acting without consulting the employees directly impacted by the change can have a negative impact on employee experience. Here are some strategies to help.
Who Makes Software Decisions in the Digital Workplace?
According to Uri Haramati, co-founder and CEO of SaaS management platform Torii, software selection has traditionally been the responsibility of IT and procurement teams. IT may seem like the appropriate place where these decisions should reside. After all, it's the team responsible for implementing the software, maintaining licenses and ensuring proper integration with the existing tech stack. But is this process optimal for today's digital workplace?
“We often talk to the head of engineering, who wants to improve collaboration for distributed global teams," said Michele Borovac, CMO at SaaS enterprise cloud PC solution Workspot. "They will work with their internal IT team to identify several solutions and conduct a proof of concept with the vendors."
But the IT team and department heads aren’t the only ones involved in the process, she said. A selection of end-users is included in the testing phase, along with security personnel, who help ensure the new software aligns with the organization’s security policies and compliance requirements.
For many companies, however, that process isn’t that simple. This is particularly true because of the proliferation of cloud-based applications that are easily accessible with or without IT's involvement. As a result, employees can take matters into their own hands and find the types of tools they want.
“It becomes almost impossible for companies to keep track of and manage all the software licenses," Haramati said. "This lack of oversight and visibility can also lead to disconnects among teams by creating silos of information."
While it may make it easier for companies to let employees manage the tools they need, the end result is that data then resides in many different areas. This not only makes collaboration more difficult, it also creates new silos and increases the risk of errors from bad data.
Where Can Employees Be Involved?
One way to approach software selection is to first have IT teams work with C-suite leaders to define the budget and resource allocation. From these parameters, users of the software are consulted on needs, functionalities and proof of concept. Managers working with large teams may need to identify a group of people to represent all end-users in the process.
Occasionally, changes made to processes can trigger resistance among users. Some may view the new technology as unnecessary or another skill to learn. By consulting with users beforehand, there is a better chance of buy-in and support from everyone. In turn, this facilitates the transition to new software and processes.
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While this approach works well for companies that are beginning their transition to a digital workplace, for those with a suite of software programs already implemented, it's a different story. In such cases, Haramati suggested organizations find ways to better manage their assortment of SaaS applications.
"Companies can look at providing employees with an application catalog that would serve as an evolving list of software that employees can easily and quickly access — without waiting for IT to grant access,” he said.
Related Article: Is Working From Home an IT Security Issue?
Benefits of Employee-Driven Decision-Making
Ultimately, the final decision to approve and purchase software rests with one person. But the process of reaching that decision should involve end users. Here's why.
Choosing the Best Solution, Not Best Software
Purchasing software that yields great ROI isn’t about finding the best piece of software on the market. It’s about choosing the solution that best fits existing workflows and processes. Involving employees in the selection process increases the chances of acquiring a license that drives efficiency and doesn't negatively impact the employee experience.
Employee Empowerment and Satisfaction
Employees involved in the software selection process tend to feel more empowered in their role. Many workers in today's digital workplace make their own schedules, work asynchronously and are not tied down by a specific location. They've come to enjoy the freedom and flexibility of remote work. It is only logical that they would also welcome the opportunity to get involved in selecting the software tools that will have a direct impact on their ability to do their job effectively.
Cyber threats have increased with remote work. Many workers now use their own devices to conduct company work. This leaves plenty of opportunities for bad agents to infiltrate corporate networks. Adding to the risk is the fact that employees can now download and execute their own software programs without IT's involvement. By involving end users in the software selection process and acknowledging their IT needs, employees are less likely to go rogue trying to find alternative tools themselves.
Software is a crucial component of the digital workplace. Without it, remote work would simply not be possible. By involving employees in the tool selection process, remote and hybrid organizations can improve employee satisfaction, boost efficiency and minimize their security risk.