Creating an agile office and establishing flexible workplace solutions has jumped to the top of the agenda in many organisations. Adding to the pressure is the urgent need to advance the digitalisation of business processes. But in order to deliver what the market and employees expect, companies require an all new digital skill set.
The transformation of office processes means employees have to shed many of the (obsolete) things they are familiar with, embrace modern collaboration and communication tools as an essential part of their workplace, and welcome software and applications to drive operations. So how well are Germany’s offices equipped for this? Bechtle and Techconsult asked 200 managers in SMEs about the impact of digital software solutions on productivity, and how companies can push on with the transformation of their operative processes.
A productive office environment is crucial to running a competitive and efficient business. This means companies need to rethink and redesign their legacy processes in order to create a communicative and collaborative space in which agile and efficient methods are able to thrive. A sustained increase in productivity depends on automated, software-supported office processes. Some 85% of the companies surveyed rely on one solution or other by Microsoft in order to achieve effective and location-agnostic collaboration in virtual rooms, while 11% choose open-source applications by OpenOffice or LibreOffice With the number of employees working from home skyrocketing over the past few months, the right choice of software now largely hinges on its collaboration and communication capabilities, including the simple creation, management and tracking of assignments. For this, too, Microsoft is in hot demand, with Teams topping the list at 59%, followed by Zoom at 9% and GoToMeeting coming in at 4.5%.
Asking about the most relevant processes right now, the survey reveals just how important teamwork has become, with nearly 50% of managers identifying data sharing and virtual conferences as highly relevant. Virtual collaboration not only enables a location-agnostic and flexible working style, it also accelerates decision making through the ability to share and access information fast. Employees are generally very pleased with the way virtual conferences are held. Plus, in more than 80% of the companies surveyed, professionally-run virtual conferences have led to considerably more productive and efficient collaboration. Collaborative task management solutions speed up project turnaround times, and employees are increasingly accepting of and happy with the way they work in over 80% of the surveyed companies. But there’s still room for improvement when it comes to discussion platforms and the use of mind mapping software for ideating.
Besides collaboration, day-to-day office work is interspersed with routine tasks and workflows, many of which can be optimised using software. 65% of respondents say they have achieved a significant increase in productivity and efficiency through workflow automation, and in particular through the introduction of digital signatures.
Workers are also generally and largely happy with the digitalisation of recurring office processes, e.g. in travel cost accounting and fleet management, and a transparent overview of all current projects is essential to coordinating related tasks. To this end, many companies have adopted applications that easily integrate with their existing office software. Compared to three years ago, project turnaround and recurring job processing times have improved by 14 percentage points. In that same period, employee satisfaction and acceptance went up 15%.
Keeping sensitive information confidential has always been an important issue for companies, but digitalisation has upped the ante with the agile working styles and anywhere-access to data that it brings. As a consequence, protecting and restricting access to confidential information is now a very pertinent challenge. Indeed, every other company says their information rights management (IRM) is built on solid ground. This includes access rights encrypted information in order to prevent unauthorised access. According to 83% of respondents, using an IRM solution has dramatically increased security in the office environment, and for 50% of companies both GDPR compliance and the protection against data leaks continue to be relevant issues in their day-to-day business. When it comes to personal information, many related processes can be automated, including electronic storage in line with statutory retention periods, or the creation of process directories as an integral part of the processes themselves in order to simplify GDPR compliance.
Communication is another critical aspect of our everyday work, both among employees, but also with customers and other external stakeholders. A cloud and software-based approach can also unlock many benefits in telecommunication and enable unified networking across company sites. Some 50% of respondents say that one-on-one and group calls, as well as audio conferencing are particularly relevant in this area. At 35%, direct routing combined with an individual call package is closer to the bottom of the list. The survey shows the importance of internet telephony for day-to-day operations. Many collaboration applications come with a telephony solution built in, meaning they are easy to integrate with existing IT infrastructures. For 81% of companies, the intensive use of audio conferences accounts for a smaller increase in communication costs, while 78% report an increase in voice quality.
All in all, the survey’s results show a clear trend towards the digital transformation of operative office processes, with the use of collaboration platforms a key driver of the positive effects of digitalisation such as more productivity, better in-house communication and faster turnaround times. The integration of telecommunications and collaboration software enable companies to achieve other positive aspects such as a reduction in TCO and improved voice quality. Security and compliance, too, benefit from the digital transformation. Many office applications and solutions come with native security and compliance modules to help companies stay on the safe side.