Authors: Jim Lundy, Mike Anderson Date: February 28, 2013
Topic: Workplace Research Note Number: 2013-08
Issues: What are the trends impacting the evolution of work?
What are the technologies and architectures that enterprises should leverage in the workplace?
Summary: To get the most from their people in the new world of work, enterprises need to change their workplace technologies and strategic workforce management. Five transforming trends will help leading enterprises elevate the effectiveness of people as a strategic asset.
Agility, innovation and productivity remain high strategic priorities for business. Executives recognize the increasing importance of people and how they are enabled and empowered within the workplace in achieving those strategic imperatives. Building the new workplace that can bring together the right resources at the right time with the best information for people to collaboratively respond to changing business needs is being fueled by five trends (see Note 1).
Workforce: The Strategic Role of People in the Enterprise
Increasingly, executives recognize the critical nature of their workforce and human resources in meeting business objectives. The transformation of the workplace is being driven by the new architecture emerging from cloud, mobile and social technologies. As the new approaches evolve, it’s equally critical to have analytics behind each of these elements and to analyze massive amount of data they create to see trends and manage the impact on the business.
Top executives recognize that creating more engaged relationships with customers, driving stronger internal and external collaboration, and fostering innovation are key ingredients to their business success. At the heart of these strategic objectives is the human and intellectual capital the business must amplify, leverage and nurture.
As a result, the importance of people, and how they are strategically connected to the core mission of the business, has CEO priority and requires new approaches to old human resource efforts. Managing performance, seeking and retaining the best talent, enabling continual learning and development of new skills and integrating recruitment more directly into the business fabric are changing fast. The era of managing the workforce as assets and optimizing the performance of HR processes is transforming. Human capital is critical across the business, and today, social HCM that is directly connected to and coordinated at all levels of the organization takes a new and more collaborative, social and analytical approach to managing and leading the workforce.
Changing Governance for the New Workplace
Beyond the transformative impact of cloud, mobile and social on the infrastructure of the enterprise is the change in governance that is needed to manage this new environment. Cloud computing has progressed to the stage where enterprises accept the new models, and a growing percentage demand cloud solutions. Enterprise social networking has similarly become a priority, and mobile is rapidly becoming an integral part of enterprise strategy.
Each of these approaches is creating new opportunities, and each is in search of leadership. Additionally, the confluence of cloud, mobile and social is having a profound transformative effect on the workplace and the workforce.
In many enterprises, departments and individual managers are changing the governance from within. Managers are not afraid of technology and they know what it can do for them. The days of waiting for permission aren’t just over; they have been blasted away. However, there are risks to the enterprise that arise when business buyers go rogue and don’t involve IT.
Many new startups have made their services easy enough to use that no IT involvement is needed at the start for acquisition or deployment. Many services have stayed that way and not evolved, and have found significant success through this often stealth growth at the hands of distributed managers and groups. Beyond the startups, mainstream providers have found the simplicity and granularity of SaaS approaches combined with marketing aimed at the business user work well for them also. Web conferencing is a good example; it enables people to meet remotely at a fairly reasonable cost. The latest rage is file-sharing services – and this is where information and content security become even more critical. The issues abound as the decisions regarding what intellectual property is stored and shared on often weakly secured public file shares goes on without guidance or oversight from IT or business policy.
Who will lead this new movement is an often-unmet challenge. Today the situation is worse than having no leader, in that often there are five to ten leaders in the enterprise. Mobile is only beginning to drive enterprises to bring a new approach to leadership, with telecom, operations and often business units driving initiatives. Similarly the social movement frequently begins with groups or individual business units, and leadership is often aimed at support of the goals of the first project; the CMO is a frequent leader. Cloud has its own common ground, in that the SaaS model enables a granular pay-as-you go approach that can be initiated by department managers.
This confluence, with far-reaching impact across the business, affects all people and organizational entities. The technical expertise and ability to understand and lead the business through the technology shift is often also spread out in different business units. Often those in position to lead the new models are in organizations that are relics of the fading technology era that came before the new mobile and social workplace built on new cloud architectures.
Analytics: From Big Data to People Data and Recommendations
There is a gradual shift from the need to understand what is happening with information, to how people are working and whom they are working with. The tools being deployed to connect people, engage them in social communities, and better utilize enterprise talent are a rich source of data. Combined with the information to be gleaned from collaboration and other interactions, enterprises have significant potential to improve the value of their recruitment, talent management and learning capabilities.
The role of machine learning will help to shift the focus from analytics to recommendations. This is starting out more in consumer areas (search, job hunting) where computers are using machine learning to match terms and make suggestions.
We expect to see this happen more in the workplace to help people find things similar to what they are looking for: people and content. Using big-data tools to dynamically monitor, mine and predict the resources and experts they need will enable business managers across the organization to see workforce and performance trends, evaluate skills and contributions through real-time activity and results, and gain the insight to better manage people.
Tablets as an Enterprise Device
There is a shift occurring in the PC market. Established players are struggling, often because the rise of tablets. The tablet market has changed in the last 36 months. We are past the testing phase and into the execution phase. The tablet era has taken root in the consumer segment, and will expand rapidly into business as enterprises exploit their growing vision for high-value uses.
Fleets of tablets are being procured. Executives came first, sales quickly followed, and now educators are racing to equip schools. In specialized situations and custom use cases, the highly portable tablet has been useful for insurance claims, inventory tracking, real estate, medical, and package delivery applications. The same is now happening with the new and expanding selection of tablet devices, but the use cases now apply to every consumer and the devices are very broadly affordable. The value propositions that made tablets and apps popular in the consumer space translate directly into business applications, and the breadth of business uses is expanding.
The significant trend is not that one type of device is replacing another, but rather the end of the enterprise provisioning mandate that each user rely on a single device for most of their computing needs. High-end users have been given multiple desktop and laptop systems, and millions of users have company-issued smartphones in addition to their one, or sometimes more, company-issued computers. However, tablets have given nearly all workers the ability to use – and the confidence to demand – work connectivity at will, anytime, from anywhere. Tablets provide a blend of convenience, portability, connectivity and power that makes them ideal for on-the-go work.
Social Enters the Fabric of the Workplace
Social networking has been on a steady ramp in the enterprise. As pilots and experiments have grown into working collaborative solutions, businesses recognize that social connectivity is not a fad but a new way to connect and engage their people.
Consumer social networks connect people on a daily basis. They have become integral to daily life, and in many cases replace previous interactions, including email. Social networks are not just tools; they have become part of the fabric of interpersonal and social connectivity in people’s personal lives. This is translating into tighter integration into business processes and fusing social into the fabric of the workplace.
In the enterprise, current approaches to collaborating and managing information are built on an aging, relatively inflexible foundation of email and content management. Social networking that is added on in a manner similar to email, as a community and connectivity tool, is shifting toward integrating those capabilities into other business processes and applications.
Social computing tools have penetrated the enterprise in isolated pockets on a large scale, very often through isolated projects and business-unit decisions. The products leading this user-dominated beachhead of functionality are seeking to expand to enterprise-level capability, become platforms for a new social-centric foundation, and engage IT organizations to make these an enterprise reality. Working is inherently social, and the workplace is shifting from structured, point-to-point and flow-oriented activities into dynamically interconnected communities with the ability to easily locate and engage resources on the fly.
- Recognize the strategic nature of people and the HR role in its impact across the entire organization.
- Consider investing in skills and resources to analyze and use the wealth of social data inside and outside the enterprise to better leverage talent.
- Review desktop and notebook provisioning strategies to ensure that tablets and other mobile devices are part of a device approach based on segmenting users to meet core functional needs.
- Enterprises should evaluate social software providers on their ability to surface people and content analytics.
- Integrate enterprise social initiatives with selected business processes to better engage people and the resources they need to improve their speed and agility.
The workplace continues its dramatic transformation, and the accelerating pace of that change is creating new kinds of work and new ways of working. Enabling and empowering the workforce is the new top priority for business, and new approaches are needed. Enterprises that get out in front of these trends and focus strategically on people and the workplace environment to optimally weave them into the fabric of the business will take the lead over those who lag behind.
Note 1: Five Workplace Trends in 2013
- Workforce: The strategic role of people in the enterprise
- Changing governance for the new workplace
- Analytics: From big data to people data and recommendations
- Tablets as an enterprise device
- Social enters the fabric of the workplace
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