hybrid working

Unified work platforms hold promise for employers and employees

One of the areas that the Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the adoption of digital transformation is in workplace and human resources paradigms. Even as the pandemic forced businesses to run the world’s largest ever workplace experiment almost overnight, it brought into sharp focus the need for platforms that enabled remote work. 

As some workplaces slowly open their doors again and employers are likely to move a growing number of their staff to more flexible hybrid models, the future of work looks increasingly digital. 78% of CEOs agree that the shift to remote collaboration would endure even after the pandemic, while 61% see fewer people working from offices. Their responses show digital infrastructure, flexible working and employee well-being will top boardroom agendas, as business operations are reconfigured.

A new age workforce requires new age platforms that promote productivity and collaboration, enhances user experience, enables agility and persona-based customization, without sacrificing security. Cloud-hosted unified workplace platforms promise employees seamless integration across work tools within the digital ecosystem.

A cloud-hosted unified platform delivers efficiency and great employee experience 

These collaborative platforms are efficient and scalable ecosystems that stitch people, data, and systems together seamlessly to enhance business process efficiency. They enable users to engage and collaborate from any location, device, channel, or platform. While their primary purpose might be geared towards enhancing productivity, unified workplace platforms keep enterprise data secure through persona-based access, despite offering multiple employee remote access points.

A cornerstone of unified workplace platforms is improving productivity through enhanced employee experience. An intuitive user interface gives access to all the necessary digital tools without constantly switching between disparate applications (each with perhaps its own login). It does this by having a central hub for all processes and applications (third-party included), which are integrated into the centralized platform and is accessible on a single intuitive dashboard. Thus, digital workers can focus on the job at hand saving both time and energy. 

Automation of repetitive process and standard tasks using artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities reinvent the employee experience, boosting business efficiency. Inbuilt analytics tools help with reporting insights and metrics, so further efficiency and effectiveness can be programmed in.

To be sure, while individual efficiency has risen since the move to the pandemic imposed remote work scenario, collaboration has suffered. A global employee survey on the future of remote work reported that while 75% were able to maintain or improve productivity on their individual tasks, only about half could say the same on collaborative tasks. By virtue of increasing all round visibility of workflows and planning, unified workflow platforms help remote teams collaborate better and unlock silos.

Applicable across project management, enterprise resource planning, customer relationship management, marketing campaigns, learning and development, application submission or even employee benefits, these platforms can be the ultimate kryptonite for the digital workforce. While they may seem like the silver bullet that businesses struggling with remote work have been looking for, unified work platforms come with their set of unique challenges.

Things to keep in mind before you adopt a unified platform

Change management lies at the heart of these challenges, especially with regards to integrating existing legacy systems, tools, and applications to work seamlessly with these platforms. Mobile-enabled, cloud-native digital platforms don’t necessarily belong to the same universe, as say, Enterprise Resource Planning systems of another era. Businesses already stretched for capital and resources due to the pandemic cannot afford to overhaul their legacy systems overnight in favor of cloud hosted services, even with the benefit of minimal upfront costs.

Having the slickest intuitive platform is one thing but getting employees, already stressed from expanding remote work commitments, to adapt to it through dedicated training, is another. Culture and habits are deeply ingrained and take time and investment to alter, even with the benefit of the pressures of remote working pushing for change. As a prelude, winning over stretched human resources departments, which are likely to own and implement moving to a unified work platform with help from IT, is no easy task.   

Yet, the onus to build new HR business models is completely on organizations and HR departments, who have been pointing in the direction of enhancing productivity and collaboration for years. Besides, the need for enhancing employee experience hasn’t been stronger than now. In an uncertain business landscape, digital transformation has already made the difference between thriving with resilience, or, shuttering down for many businesses. 

The global crisis is a once in a lifetime opportunity for businesses to reinvent the workplace. As employers push for greater collaborative productivity while employees seek more flexibility, unified work platforms may just be where they can find common ground to embrace a digital workplace strategy of the future.

The article has been written by Sreekumar Sreedharan, Vice President and Delivery Head, Oracle Practice, Infosys

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