At a very superficial level, the digital workplace is experiencing what might be described as a déjà vu moment at as we head into 2022. This time last year, we were debating how organizations would adapt to remote working or whether they would insist that workers return to the physical workplace when the pandemic subsides. We also were watching the emergence of hybrid workplaces — workplaces that combined the possibility of working from home and working on-site.
Here we are 12 months later and none of these issues have been resolved, except, perhaps, the fact that hybrid workplaces are no longer hypothetical, but offer a work model that many enterprises have taken to with surprising ease.
However, one thing has been clear even before the onset of the pandemic: that the technology to enable these different kinds of work modalities already existed. What changed over the last 18 months was that the C-Suites of many organizations — including major corporations — had an about-face in respect to remote work.
It is arguable that companies didn’t have a choice. Another 2021 trend threatened to shake up not just the workplace, but the way we live and think. This trend, of course, is what is euphemistically known as the “Great Resignation.” Millions of workers have quit their jobs in favor of new positions that offered them the kind of lifestyle they either had become used to or decided they wanted during the course of the pandemic. We haven’t yet seen the end of this, and we will continue to keep a close on it in 2022.
We’ve seen major innovations over the last 12 months in the technology that enables many of the trends mentioned above. The evolution of Microsoft Teams into a single place to work and the response of other vendors to this development dominated the workplace communications and collaboration space. In fact, this was such an important element in organizations over the year that Salesforce jumped into the fray by buying one of the main players, Slack.
Smaller vendors also pushed the boundaries and toward the end of the year we saw the emergence of a new workplace contender in the shape of the metaverse. It is still early days here, but it has already piqued considerable interest across the world of work.
All of these trends are still evolving as we come to the end of the year and the Top 10 digital workplace articles demonstrate that. Here they are:
Anyone who leads change management efforts know they tread a perilous path. As Woodrow Wilson said, “If you want to make enemies, try to change something.” While digital workplace professionals leading change across platforms, processes and organizational culture aren’t looking to make enemies, good intentions alone aren’t enough to challenge resistance to new ideas and initiatives.
People are saying ‘data is the new oil,’ but I [believe] that attention is the new oil. Data is plentiful. Attention is scarce, and we’ll never get more of it. Thinking about how we focus that correctly, I think, is one of our most significant opportunities.” So said Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella in a recent MIT Sloan article about the future of work. That struck a chord with our contributor Kaumil Dalal. Attention, like oil, is a finite commodity, meaning we need to be purposeful about how we direct it.
Hybrid work is a complex topic. Companies won’t solve it in the next few months and then move on. Rather, it will become part of a long-term operating model — and should be developed and managed as such. But there are also immediate needs. As vaccines continue to roll out, talk about reopening workplaces is accelerating. Organizations are beginning to make decisions about what that looks like.
Around the same time the web was first taking off, and long before SharePoint, there were dedicated tools for creating intranets. As early as 1996, Netscape was making a pitch for this space (hoping to oust Lotus Notes for those with long memories!). And even though SharePoint eventually came to dominate, some of the early pioneers live on, including Orchid Soft in the UK (now Oak) and Intranet Dashboard from Australia (now GreenOrbit).
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and technical fellow Alex Kipman unveiled Mesh at the company’s Ignite Conference in March 2021. The platform is Microsoft’s latest mixed reality offering built on Azure. It creates a space for real-time collaboration which participants can join using HoloLens 2, virtual reality (VR) headsets, smartphones, tablets or PCs. Microsoft Mesh aims to improve remote collaboration and provide immersive training and communication tools for businesses and consumers. Microsoft has since released updates to Mesh in August 2021 and more recently at the November 2021 Ignite conference.
Microsoft Teams is having a moment. The tool has seen an incredible uptick in usage over the last 18 months as teams look for more nimble ways to keep their organizations connected and productive in an evolving work environment. In its most recent earnings call, Microsoft announced nearly 250 million monthly Teams users — I expect that number will only continue to climb.
Recently, the multinational professional services network provider KPMG released research into the gradual return to work once the COVID pandemic has passed. While some companies have already indicated over the past year that they will continue remote working into the future, the assumption that it will be widespread and even desirable is a little simplistic. Instead, the research shows that many business leaders are having second thoughts.
As vaccines roll out around the globe, companies are preparing for the workplace of 2021. While some are readying their return-to-office plans to resume business as usual, others are embracing a dispersed workforce and adapting accordingly. The reality is the workplace will remain largely virtual in 2021 regardless of business leaders’ long-term plans.
Microsoft launched its new Viva offering on Feb. 4 to an overwhelmingly positive response. Pitched as an “employee experience platform,” the goal is to tie together “engagement, learning, wellbeing and knowledge discovery, directly into the flow of people’s work.” But what is Microsoft’s actual positioning, and how much of what is currently on offer about marketing?
The final hurdle to Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft’s acquisition of Nuance has finally been removed. Microsoft has received the antitrust approval to purchase the artificial intelligence and speech technology firm for $19.7 billion last week after the deal was first announced in April.