The strategic role of IT in designing employee experiences
Never before has IT been so essential for businesses. It connects us with colleagues and customers, increases productivity and helps us deliver our best work.
While most of us are in lockdown during the pandemic, forced to work from home or remotely, IT departments are the unsung superheroes, scrambling into action and working feverishly over their laptops to keep all our tech running smoothly.
Yet well before 2020, technology was already enabling a hybrid ‘Work From Anywhere’ culture. We can manage projects from home, meet face-to-face across continents, and send emails at the bus stop. It took a pandemic to test all these systems to the limit, and demonstrate that, when technology experiences for employees are truly great, they can unlock a workforce’s full potential to build and grow businesses, whatever the circumstances.
Why IT is taking on a bigger role
We know that businesses grow by providing excellent customer experience, and customer experience is largely shaped by great employee experience. With many workforces currently dispersed, technology plays a crucial role in driving engagement, development, productivity and belonging across these areas of employee experience:
- Organizational experiences: How people interact and work with their manager, their teams, and within the workplace culture.
- Individual experience: An individual’s training, performance, development, well-being, and rewards.
- Transition experiences: Key transition moments in an employee’s journey through their lifecycle: recruiting, onboarding, exit, promotion, financial events, and organizational changes.
- Workplace experiences: How an organization’s internal processes, technology, and physical workspaces enable employee enablement, productivity, and safety.
Ways that IT contributes to business
Although most of us rely on technology so much to do our jobs, we often only notice its importance when something goes wrong. It’s the DNA of modern business. Technology is the engine that hums in the background seamlessly delivering:
- Communication: internal, external, and interdepartmental; email, video conferencing, collaboration platforms, chat and instant messaging, smoothing operations and keeping everyone informed and in sync
- Improved efficiency: artificial intelligence drives everything from chatbots to customer feedback tools in order to deliver the best service possible, while robotics save time and effort and increase productivity
- Marketing and business growth: through digital advertising, social media and search marketing, web optimization and analytics
- Higher employee engagement: tools and apps that enable flexible working, enhanced communication and collaboration, and workload management all contribute to happier employees, who are at less risk of burnout
- Streamlined decision making: By tracking and analyzing critical market and customer data across all your business functions, you’ll be able to spot problems and strategize out of them quickly
- Maintenance of competitive edge: By staying visible online and running competitor analysis, you’ll be able to stay one step ahead
- Enhanced customer experience: Sophisticated customer relationship management (CRM) technology tells you not only what your customers want and need, but also helps you predict their behaviors, so you can serve them before a competitor does
- Cybersecurity: An essential aspect of IT, keeping business assets and data safe from hackers, threats and viruses.
- Industry relevance: whatever business you are in, technology is always moving forward, and it’s essential you keep up with competitors, trends and events.
- Bottomless research: Information, knowledge and insights have never been easier to glean from websites and internet searches
Developing your IT strategy
An IT strategy and portfolio that’s well-aligned to the topline business objectives -- and even more important -- end-user requirements -- is a powerful tool for driving efficiency and growth, supporting productive employees and happy customers, and ultimately your business goals.
Strategies always start with a problem. The most obvious IT problem in 2020 was, “How can we get everybody working remotely, immediately?”
Using this question as an example, ask yourself these questions to break down the solution into manageable chunks:
Who do I need to get on board?
While senior IT managers will be responsible for coming up with the tech solution, it’s also essential to ask frontline employees what they need and want. Their end-user insights will help identify the problems on the ground. Then, armed with this information, it’s the C-suite who are ultimately responsible for signing off investment in the strategy.
What are our business needs and high level objectives?
These may include sales targets, plans for growth, mergers and acquisitions, as well as delivering a holistic employee experience. Once you have established these, you then need to look at how technology will support them.
What do we already have?
Review your existing IT system. Most people will have laptops and other hardware. Find out what software, systems and platforms each department uses, and – more importantly – ask what works and what doesn’t. You can send out IT surveys to ask these questions. Your review will highlight where equipment is inadequate, and which systems offer the best and worst value.
Have we got a map?
You can then begin to design a technology roadmap for realizing your IT strategy. Build out an architecture of the basics for your business (email, intranet, feedback mechanisms) and then branch out into each department’s specialist tech needs. Always bear in mind how all employees can feed information back to a central hub for analysis.
How are we going to measure all this?
You’ve implemented an IT strategy to increase business efficiency, so it’s essential you measure its impact and return on investment. You’ll need to identify and benchmark some key performance indicators (KPIs) and key metrics to measure how your IT strategy performs over time. These can include:
- Service level indicators: e.g. number of calls to your help desk, call abandonment rate
- Business-level indicators: e.g. profit margin and customer lifetime value
- Operational indicators: e.g. workforce absenteeism
- Qualitative indicators: e.g. employee feedback, and customer feedback
Ultimately, the key to an excellent IT strategy is listening. Listening to customers, listening to IT experts, and most importantly of all, listening to employees. In the new normal of Work From Anywhere, the quality of technology has a profound impact on business success: productivity, revenue, positive employee experience. Make it a good one.
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