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Designing a Roadmap for the Digital Workplace

Helping a global organization develop a roadmap for a digital workplace that would transform its knowledge sharing and learning systems.

Challenge: Develop a comprehensive plan for CRS's digital workplace in order to strengthen knowledge management and learning across the agency.

Outcome: A comprehensive, integrated plan for transforming the organization’s current state of knowledge management and learning within the four elements of the digital workplace ecosystem: strategy, community & collaboration, content management, and data & information management.

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About CRS
Catholic Relief Services is one of the largest U.S. charities devoted to international development and disaster relief, working in more than 100 countries on five continents. Their work is based on the principle of integral human development, a method for helping people reach their full potential in an atmosphere of peace, social justice and human dignity. Since their founding in 1943, the agency has grown tremendously and now reaches more than 120 million people through its diverse programs spanning from health and agriculture to education and microfinance.

CRS logo



Mission: assisting the poor and vulnerable overseas

Headquarters: USA

Employees: 5,000+

Revenue: $500+ million

Countries: 100+


Ideal State has contributed greatly to CRS’ efforts to develop a Knowledge Management strategy to guide our efforts to empower our colleagues around the world to achieve excellence through accelerated knowledge exchange, collaboration, innovation, and social learning. Ideal State’s depth of expertise and collaborative approach - combined with their first-hand understanding of the particular operating reality for organizations like CRS - provided us with a roadmap to a new way of working that will drive important change in our organization.

Annemarie Reilly Executive Vice President, Strategy and Organizational Development Catholic Relief Services

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Timing is Everything
Ideal State was brought in as a partner at a time when CRS had been facing a variety of longstanding challenges related to managing the ceaseless flow of data, information and knowledge being generated from their work. Several years before, the organization had made a concerted effort to establish a centralized knowledge management and learning practice, only to have it halted prematurely by budget cuts resulting from the great recession of 2008/09. A few of the dedicated positions remained, scattered across the organization and lacking a cohesive strategy or structure to work from. The new Knowledge Management and Learning team, led by the EVP for Strategy and Organizational Development, had waited patiently for this opening and was determined to start addressing these digital workplace challenges once and for all.
Watch our on-demand webinar on Digital Workplace Design!

Mapping the Landscape
Given the complex nature of CRS's work, we first set out to understand the organization’s current digital workplace structure, core business processes, and how data, information and knowledge were being generated, managed and used across multiple systems and countries. This involved meeting with more than 50 global leaders and staff. During these discussions, we probed into the current state of CRS's systems, organizational strategies, plans for the future, and perceived limitations and challenges. From this initial research a picture of the organization began to form that informed the next stage of our discovery.

Taking It Global
During the next round we wanted to hear from people who represented the majority of the organization's 5,000+ staff: people based in field offices overseas who were deeply engaged in implementing the organization’s lifesaving programs. We spoke with more than 20 individuals spread across all seven CRS regions to gain a more complete picture of how difficulty accessing critical knowledge, information and data was impacting their work and their suggestions for how it could be improved. This helped us develop a future state vision based on changes that would have a significant impact on the quality of CRS's work and its position as leader in the field - two of the most important factors supporting achievement of its mission.

While these great conversations were taking place with people around the globe, we engaged deeply with CRS's already established Knowledge Management Community of Practice. This community was comprised of people from across the organization who were deeply committed to progressing the agency toward a more thoughtful, integrated approach to solving its KM and learning challenges. Using this group as a sounding board, we gathered their feedback and recommendations on our discovery findings and conducted a design thinking exercise to envision solutions to the most urgent needs. Finally, we launched a survey among a representative sample of organization staff to gather information and suggestions on a broad range of factors in the areas of people, processes and technology.

Making the Case for Change
Once our research and analysis were complete, it was time to bring what we learned back to the leadership team to help them understand the breadth and depth of the challenges and what could be done about them. Armed with a clear vision and high-level plan for achieving the vision that reflected the collective thinking of all those we spoke with, we presented our findings to the leadership team to garner their support for moving forward.

Charting a Clear Course
Ideal State’s vision and high-level plan contained several elements that were immediately put to use by CRS's Knowledge Management & Learning team under the leadership of the EVP for Strategy and Organizational Development. By breaking down all of the needed actions according to Ideal State’s four-part digital workplace ecosystem model, the team was able to partition resources and prioritize elements without losing sight of the big picture they were working toward. While much work remains, the internal change agents at CRS now have everything they need to support a true global transformation of their digital workplace along with the tools to measure their success.