The Digital Renaissance of Work

by | Feb 12, 2015 | Digital workplace, Intranets, Reviews

If you are interested in digital workplaces you might go to Amazon to see what books have been published. Out of 40 titles listed most have nothing to do with digital workplaces as this community sees them. There are two exceptions and both have been written by Paul Miller, the CEO of the Digital Workplace Group (DWG).  I’ve just finished reading The Digital Renaissance of Work, co-authored by Paul and Elizabeth Marsh, Director of Research at DWP. It is really two books joined together as Paul has written the nine chapters in Part I with a strong focus on the philosophy and strategy of digital workplaces. His enthusiasm for the benefits of digital workplace implementation come across very strongly, and the section is full of interesting references to case studies, with over 150 references to blog posts, press releases and reports.

In Part 2 the baton is passed to Elizabeth, who explores in some detail how an organisation can transform itself into a digital workplace. The five substantial chapters cover the digital workplace journey, making the business case, designing for a flexible workforce, setting up the digital workplace programme and finally measuring progress and performance. The chapters are based on the DWG Digital Workplace maturity model and again each chapter has a long list of references and a nice Key Takeaways section that acts as a summary and checklist. There are also some in-elegantly formatted (by Gower Publishing!) call-outs of quotes and comments from DWG staff members. The writing styles of Part 1 and Part 2 are inevitably quite different and that does give a sense of two books joined together rather than co-authored.

There is a great deal to commend about this 216 page book. It is well structured and well written. Paul Miller’s enthusiasm is infectious. The case studies are of interest (though mostly from large organisations) and Part 2 provides frameworks and advice based on the work that DWG has undertaken for its clients. I would like to have seen more on the impact of organisational culture on digital workplace adoption.  The issues of working digitally with suppliers and customers to create integrated digital supply chains are hardly discussed at all.

However this is very much a “DWG book” and there is no reference at all (not even in the list of references at the end of each chapter!) to work from other consultants, notably Jane McConnell. Over 600 organisations have contributed to her Digital Workplace Trends report. It was Bernard of Chartres in the 12th century (and not Isaac Newton) who first remarked about the need to stand on the shoulders of others. We are at a point in digital workplace development where seeing, understanding and critiquing a range of digital workplace frameworks is an essential step in finding robust scalable and extensible approaches to substantial technical, governance and adoption challenges.

Martin White