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The Role of Digital Hubs in the Organization

November 02, 2022 Digital Workplace
David Barry
By David Barry

Forward-looking research published by Aragon Research at the end of 2020 suggested that digital work hubs would become key technologies in an increasingly dispersed workplace. The reason? A need for more integrated experiences for remote workers, the Aragon Research Globe for Digital Work Hubs 2021 report concluded. 

 

“The need to do high-quality work has never been more important,” wrote Jim Lundy, CEO of Aragon Research, in the report. “The digital work hub market is evolving and shifting, as more enterprises are looking for more integrated work environments to allow people to get their work done even when they’re not together.”

 

According to the research, 30% of workers are expected to continue working remotely post pandemic. And that proportion may grow considerably as more companies enable flexible working policies. Independent research from McKinsey shows that when given the opportunity to work flexibly, 87% of employees take it. 

 

This pivot to remote or hybrid work requires organizations to audit their infrastructure and processes to ensure they still have relevance under the new model.

 

Digital Hubs Bring It All Together

To enable dispersed workers, Aragon Research's Lundy said organizations need to ensure workers have access to effective collaboration and communications tools. Intelligent applications play an important role in this process, but there's a learning curve. 

As companies shifted to remote work for what was believed to be temporary, many opted to patch issues instead of finding more long-term, sustainable solutions. The result of that is that remote teams are now utilizing a patchwork of applications, systems and processes that eat away at productivity and efficiency.

Digital hubs, according to UK-based Valtech, are designed to manage such fragmentation problems — whether those fragments are teams, providers, tools or data. The company defines them at "interdisciplinary teams that work as a unit and share the same goals and KPIs, are governed by the same vision, scope and work with the same metrics and analytics." 

Peter Kirkwood, principal consultant at Houston-based consulting and advisory firm Zinnov, said a digital work hub can be imagined as that utopian 'single pane of glass' that allows for seamless creation, curation and collaboration across an enterprise, at scale.

“Think the next-generation of Google Docs, Teams, Gmail, Salesforce, OneDrive, et al. — all rolled into one, providing a single interface to get your work done, no matter the business function you work in,” Kirkwood said.

In the post-pandemic world, where the gig economy and flexible work models are more likely to be the norm rather than the exception, Kirkwood said it is critical for enterprises to invest in tools and software that not only allow for seamless collaboration but also enhance employee productivity. This, he said, is even more important amid threats of a recession, when productivity and innovation are two key ingredients to weathering the storm.

Related Article: The Myth of the Digital Workplace Hub

Engagement, Productivity, Efficiency – Oh My

Who doesn't like the sound of those three words combined? They're the foundational aspects of a profitable business.

According to Kirkwood, a digital work hub can help companies achieve those three goals by facilitating employee engagement along with cost-effectiveness and autonomy through an agile way of working.

Among the advantages of digital hubs for remote team members are file sharing, task management and video conferencing — to name but a few. Boris Jabes, CEO and co-founder of San Francisco-based Census, said by using a digital work hub, businesses can ensure that their remote team members have the tools they need to stay connected and productive.

“By using these platforms, businesses can keep track of project progress, share files and information, and communicate with team members in real-time. Additionally, digital work hubs can be used to facilitate training and onboarding for new employees,” Jabes said.

And it doesn't end there. There remains a multitude of unexplored possibilities with digital work hubs. Technologies like the metaverse, for instance, could bring innovation to the mix. The possibility of working together in a virtual space, on the same document, could potentially come to pass, in the near future.

“With metaverse and its infinite possibilities still being explored, it remains to be seen how this technology can augment the experience of a digital work hub with its plethora of use cases,” Kirkwood said.

Related Article: How the Metaverse Will Usher in a New Era of Collaboration

Before You Pull the Digital Hub Plug ...

Amid all the advantages afforded by digital hubs, there are important factors to consider before implementing this solution. To Jabes, these boil down to four areas:

  1. Security: Data stored and shared through a digital work hub should be encrypted and stored securely.
  2. Face-to-face interaction: Digital hubs are not substitutes for in-person interactions; leaders who seek to bridge that gap may need to supplement the hub.
  3. Human touch: When considering a digital work hub for sales or business development purposes, remember that technology can lack the delicate touch needed to build strong relationships with customers.
  4. Integration: Not all digital work hubs are created equal, and Jabes advises leaders choose a platform that offers the features and functionality that their business needs, is easy to use and integrates well with other systems.

Organizations also need to train their teams in making the most of the hub. “It is important to create clear guidelines for how it should be used,” Jabes said. “By doing this, you can help ensure that everyone is on the same page and that the platform is being used effectively.”

Related Article: How the Role of Internal Workplace Chat Tools Is Evolving

Enablers of Workplace Flexibility

For Jitesh Keswani, CEO of UK- based e-Intelligence, while digital work hubs are an efficient way of bringing together various software systems in a single place, their real value from the perspective of the workplace is that they enable flexible working models, as enterprises continue to adapt their infrastructure and digital workspaces to support new work models.

Digital work hubs, he said, provide end-to-end access to resources, such as content collaboration tools and file sharing capabilities. More importantly, they enable developers to concentrate on developing products and services instead of developing software.

“A content-hub software solution streamlines this process, as it doesn't require complicated coding and multiple systems,” Keswani said.

In other words, hubs help employees work in new ways, in different places and with greater flexibility. They also make it possible to implement a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) program. By enabling access to a digital workspace, enterprises can help employees easily switch between their devices, collaborate and keep their work-related activities on track.

Related Article: Intranets Still Play an Important Role in the Digital Workplace

Connected Environments for Team Members

The name says it all: Digital hubs connect team members with data, analytics, task/project timelines, content, discussions and chat. Dean Guida, CEO and founder of Cranbury, New Jersey-based Infragistics, said this helps drive decisions, transparency and alignment on goals.

Today's marketplace has too many individual applications, creating silos of information and making it difficult to collaborate with your teams, Guida said. This results in wasted time app switching and not having all the information you need in one place.

“Regrettably, most collaboration applications lack the ability to bring in all sales, marketing and operational data into your workplace hub. This prevents organizations from making fully informed decisions,” he said. “The future of work is a new generation of digital workplace platforms that brings together data analytics, chat, task and content in a simple user experience.”

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