Transforming the Way We Work

I’ve written previously about how a driving factor for refreshing hardware and software should go beyond the security, maintenance and productivity arguments and instead focus on the role IT can play in recruitment and the future success of your business by helping you become more attractive to the best and brightest talent available.

The truth of the matter is that lagging behind in your adoption of new technology could mean that 10 years from now you’re seeing the same faces around your office because all the smart, progressive young folk are going down the road to work for someone else; someone who allows them a more flexible approach to work that includes telecommuting, collaborating in coffee shops or more flexible schedules to enable a much sought-after work-life balance.

There are many forces driving change in today’s workplaces and the push to attract talent is just one factor. Increasing competition from global competitors and threats from disruptive entrants into your market are also causing fundamental changes to the environment in which we work.

To be successful today and into the future, I believe businesses will have to offer dynamic workplaces that provide options for mobile collaboration and the ability to tap into knowledge experts to deliver projects, services or solutions in a more ad hoc or fluid way. And I believe this future is closer than you think.

I’ve been in this industry for a long time and I can remember when upon checking into my hotel room the first thing I would do was scramble around the desk to wire my laptop to the phone socket into the wall because there wasn’t wifi. Being in Europe, I also had to travel with a bag of different phone adapters because every country had a different style of phone jack.

Today, we just open up our laptops and expect Wi-Fi to be there, whether we’re in a hotel, coffee shop or almost everywhere else we find ourselves. I would argue this was a fundamental shift in the way we work and it’s one we now take for granted. Heightened connectivity, created and enabled by advances in technology, is being taken to a whole new level as we link to an Internet of Things and further transform how we interact and connect.

We are only at the thin edge of the wedge in terms of what’s possible and what is poised to become our new norm.

Imagine walking into a boardroom and instantly but securely connecting to projection and collaboration portals. Now imagine meetings are instantly productive for both people on-site and remote workers because they can all instantly have the same access and visibility whether they’re in the boardroom or connecting from off-site locations. I’m talking about delivering on the promise of true mobile collaboration without compromising security.

Next imagine never needing to run around stringing out cables to recharge your devices. We are already piloting wireless charging so when you enter a café or hotel, your laptop can start to charge while it sits next to you on the table. Advances in technology are extending battery life and soon charging cables will be a thing of the past allowing us to truly untether all of our devices.

I suspect that for many businesses one of their largest investments is the building in which they sit today and come together as an organization. As companies look to become more efficient and save costs in a more competitive business environment, I believe these bricks and mortar work environments are about to change dramatically.

But I am not talking of a completely virtual workplace where everyone works remotely and there is no office per se.

We are, fundamentally, social animals and employees and millennials thrive in environments where there are high levels of collaboration. I posit that instead of a completely virtual workplace, we will see workspaces that offer a range of options from open collaboration spaces to closed rooms for quiet work, supported by work at home or remote options to provide employees with a custom-tailored environment in which they can be the most productive.

Now, this might be a little bit of a Nirvana image, but I think we could see a further evolution in a connected business model where collaboration goes beyond the corporate walls and brings together expertise from inside and outside the company in a unified way.

Subject matter experts can brought together to deliver projects in a secure, highly collaborative environment allowing smaller companies to tap into expertise they either can’t afford to have on staff.  I can see a future where that specialized skill set or experience can be levered by multiple companies to more efficiently utilize the knowledge workers of the future.

I’ve seen small- and medium-sized businesses in Canada already starting down this path. They are working seamlessly to appear as a large business to their customers when they are in fact a select group of smaller businesses working together. As Canada looks to increase its export portfolio beyond the US and compete against disruptive international players in their market, an inter-business collaboration model is one that I believe could become more and more prevalent.

Underpinning every discussion about the workplace of the future is a very real focus on security. Hacking and cyber-threats are of significant concern globally and risks are increasing for companies of all sizes. Advances in technology play a role here too with mechanisms to verify identities; to assign or change permissions based on location; to secure lost devices by remotely wiping technology; and to provide collaboration that can seamlessly bring together employees, customers and suppliers without compromising network integrity.

The tools for business transformation are already emerging and starting to shape the workplace of the future; one that leverages truly cross-device, integrated and real time communication; social media to connect communities together; mobility allowing “work” to become a thing not a place; analytics turning data into insights; and cloud computing to allow a secure extension of companies beyond a physical location. 

At its most basic, workplace transformation starts with people and providing them with the tools they need to be productive and effective, and I think we’re closer to a major transformation than many might realize. Will you be ready?