This article first appeared in the
Winter 2017 issue of The Record.
Just five years ago, most organisations relied on wired desktops loaded with corporate--sanctioned software. Few employees had smartphones, and these were often regulated by strict company policies. Today, employees work wherever they are, using wearables, multiple smartphones, tablets and laptops to access various apps and websites. And they don’t think twice about bypassing IT in favour of preferred devices and channels. If IT doesn’t embrace and wisely lead this next-generation workforce, it could run the risk of becoming a commodity.
What’s needed is a richer experience delivered with a more nuanced touch – one in which IT is an invisible agent of change seamlessly arming the users with the modern technologies and capabilities they want, while maintaining high-quality, high-performance and secure services.
Like magpies, humans are attracted to the shiny, so IT can use the shiny to begin to move from being a dictator to a collaborator. But more must be done. A one-week Microsoft HoloLens trial, for example, may draw many volunteers, but it won’t deliver business benefits if it can’t be scaled for widespread use. IT must lead users by adopting a human-centered design approach that puts people first, and then deliver services, applications and products that create differentiated, ¬consumer-like experiences. These experiences must be tailored to the individual rather than forcing all users to accept a one-size-fits-all approach.
The pieces are coming together to form a new workplace platform based on a dynamic hybrid infrastructure – that is interactive and will let users adopt processes and tools themselves. Services can be brokered across software-driven infrastructures and networks, delivering a high degree of automation while reducing the dependence and latency of human intervention. Real-time data, machine learning, contextual insights and social analytics can help deliver information in the context of the task at hand. Connectivity and sufficient bandwidth are also essential in today’s ‘now’ world.
To become an agent of change that leads today’s modern workforce, IT teams must consider all enabling and foundational technologies and how they affect the worker experience by asking these questions:
• Outside-in: Where do employees work, and is that likely to change? Are they highly mobile? Do they ever work with outside partners?
• Personalised choice: What devices do they use now and how do they use them for work? Who is liable for a breach if users bring their own devices? What if IT wipes the device due to a breach? Who is responsible for service continuity?
• Global collaboration: Where are the silos in the organisation? What impact do geographic and organisational factors have on these silos? Who will need to collaborate in the future, and where will they be located?
• Social connections: What are the challenges associated with making organisation--wide connections? How can social media approaches be applied to the workplace? How are employees with multiple jobs, identities and roles folded into the mix?
• Contextual insight: What types of data are available, and what are the benefits of making it available to users and processes in real time? Can productivity be increased? Can data be enriched by consolidation and machine learning?
• Automation, analytics and machine learning: What processes can be improved through automation? Could bots or intelligent machines help make tasks easier?
• APIs and service brokering: What IT services are causing the most friction? How do users want to engage with IT today and in the future? Does IT support easy changing of providers? May an employee create a data-driven app?
• Security and identity: Does IT have a real-time view of the organisation’s assets, systems and business risks? How is access control managed? Is security painful to users? How will IT handle data sovereignty when users are fully mobile and global?
Futurist Arthur Clarke said: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” IT organisations need to make ‘magic’ by aligning technology with experience. By addressing these questions, IT can transform how employees work, enabling them to focus on tasks and become hyper-productive. And IT will be assured a central role, building a huge base of true believers, rather than working to quell a rebellion.
Marc Wilkinson is DXC Technology’s chief technology officer for Workplace and Mobility
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