It’s that time of year when blogs like this one start to make predictions for the coming year. In fact, probably the safest prediction you can make is that lots of predictions posts are about to appear! But the end of the year is also a good time to think about the wider trends in play, especially as many teams are planning out their activities and considering their priorities for the coming months.
Looking back, 2022 was a busy year. Many employees are still working remotely for the majority of their week, so the digital workplace is their main window into their team and the wider organisation. Companies are increasingly busy trying to support hybrid work and also craft a more coherent and consistent user experience. And 2023 is potentially going to be even busier.
Let’s look at six themes that we expect to see shape the digital workplace space during 2023.
1. The Power Platform continues to democratise automation
Streamlining processes and driving efficiency is an objective for almost every business. Implementing automation at scale across the digital workplace to eliminate the wasted time and pain of repetitive tasks is a big step towards achieving this objective.
Up to a couple of years ago, many organisations felt that automation was a goal on the distant horizon. However, Microsoft’s Power Platform has shown the potential of making easy-to-use automation tools available throughout an organisation.
Empowering users to drive this type of ‘ organic digital transformation ‘ themselves brings automation at scale to every corner of an enterprise, and during 2023 we expect Power Platform to continue to go from strength to strength. The low code / no code interfaces of Power Automate (the main workflow engine) mean it’s accessible who are not IT professionals, while the ever-growing libraries of connectors and workflow templates within Power Automate make it even easier to implement automation. It could even be said that 2023 could be the year the Power Platform democratises automation.
2. A focus on equitable experiences as hybrid work dominates
One of the key digital workplace themes of 2022 has been the support for hybrid working and how teams can use solutions to meet the challenges around new ways of working. Hybrid working looks set to continue to be a dominant working pattern in 2023, with many of us both working remotely as well as in the office.
As hybrid working starts to become embedded as the norm, we can expect there to be a focus on how we can make the experience of working remotely and inside the office equitable so employees can truly work from anywhere. For example, hybrid meetings have always been challenging in terms of providing the same experience for those in the room and those elsewhere. Subsequently, solutions are evolving for the better, for example with more sophisticated AV equipment and the evolution of features within collaboration platforms like Teams. Other solutions are also appearing that will support hybrid work, for example with the launch of Microsoft Places that helps with a range of tasks such as hybrid scheduling.
I think supporting equitable experiences across hybrid work will be on the agenda for many digital workplace teams in 2023 and will relate to a range of processes and activities, from employee onboarding to conducting meetings and even driving employee engagement.
3. Digital workplace innovation outpaces organisational roadmaps and launch plans
Over the past few years there has been a lot of innovation in digital workplace tools, with enhancements, new features, more connectors, the rise of low code / no code elements and more. This is great news for hybrid or remote teams, but at the same time, it can be exhausting; it feels like it is getting harder for those implementing tools and for users to keep up.
2023 is going to be yet another year when digital workplace innovation and the evolution of tools and features continue to outpace technology roadmaps and launch plans. Employees and support functions are used to change as a constant, but there are only so many tools that can be launched in a given year.
I think this app or platform overload is going to become more explicit during 2023 as teams struggle to keep on integrating new tools and users lose interest in yet another new app to get to grips with. I’m not sure there’s a straightforward answer to this trend, but it will be interesting to see the change and governance tactics that organisations adopt to cope with the sheer pace of digital workplace evolution.
4. Business intelligence and advanced analytics are back on the menu
A consequence of the digital workplace is the generation of huge amounts of data about how we work, collaborate and consume information. There are exciting opportunities to use and analyse this data to generate insights that can help improve productivity, well-being and collaboration. However, in practice, few digital workplace teams are actually leveraging this data.
In 2023 we expect business intelligence and advanced analytics to move up the corporate agenda, as more teams start to use the data that is produced by platforms like Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace. This will be helped by the evolution of services like Microsoft Viva Insights which surfaces productivity and wellbeing analytics from across Microsoft 365, as well as a data visualization platform like Power BI which allows for the development of rich dashboards. However, data protection and privacy are factors that must be considered when advancing analytics generated by employee activity.
5. Employee experience goes mainstream as a dynamic in the digital workplace
Employee experience is a concept that has been around for a while, advocating a more holistic and joined-up approach to all the touchpoints an employee has with their employer. Starting with HR, but now increasingly used in the digital workplace and IT space too. We’re certainly seeing it being mentioned by clients and prospects when talking about the aims of their digital workplace, intranet project or Microsoft 365 roll-out.
While it’s easy to dismiss it as another buzzword, actually the concept of “employee experience” is fundamental to the digital workplace. The technology that employees experience every day makes a difference, especially now that more people are working remotely; in fact, good technology and platforms like Microsoft 365 can even help keep your employees happy. Solutions have to be user-centric to succeed, and in 2023 we’re likely to see employee experience continue to grow as a dynamic in the digital workplace. And that’s a good thing.
2023 is going to be another important year for the digital workplace with a focus on supporting hybrid work and improving employee experience. Microsoft 365 and its constituent tools will play a major role, through some of the tools and areas that we’ve highlighted in these themes. Change management will also be important in ensuring employees get the best out of the tools at their fingertips.
* Images in this article were generated by Midjourney AI.