Shining a light on your digital workplace vision
The word ’digital’ is everywhere these days, with many referring to this as the ‘fourth industrial revolution’, and perhaps that’s the right analogy.
The potential of improved productivity is once again being accompanied by the same fears of technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) displacing jobs and leaving sections of society behind.
Personally I’m excited and full of optimism. I believe we’re actually on the verge of a second Age of Enlightenment, with technology enabling us to understand our world in ways we’ve never dreamed of.
We have access to data and analytics tools enabling us to make untold advancements – ‘disruptions’ if you will – in the ways our businesses, and therefore our economies, perform.
We’re about to become a more human-centric society.
But how does that translate into a strategy for IT services? How should we take advantage of the opportunity and avoid being left behind?
A lot of the CIOs and CDOs I talk to have a clear ’end state‘ vision document, perhaps called something like “workplace 2020”, or “5-year vision” and then build a strategy around how they will reach that destination.
But sometimes it’s not yet clear what that destination should be, or why it’s the most important. In those cases it can be useful to pick out a few key moments from the journey so far that might help guide you the rest of the way.
Taking a leaf from the e-commerce book
Those who do well in e-commerce are absolutely obsessed with testing and tweaking and analysing to find out what turns clicks into cash.
What makes a web site more compelling? How can they reduce the number of clicks between first contact and the buy button? Where’s the best place to put a call to action? Then test, test and test again.
These questions get e-commerce professionals out of bed in the morning, and those companies live or die by their ability to keep on answering them.
We can apply these ways of thinking when designing our own end-user experience. And the process of identifying user goals and creating a satisfying user experience is an industry in its own right.
We need to see what the key workflows are in our organisation and where customer and employee workflows overlap.
Then we have to understand the data points that will give us the insight we need to build the best end-user experience for each audience.
Finally there’s the testing and measuring element – using A/B testing to gauge performance and delving into analytics platforms to identify successes and failures or spot emerging patterns and opportunities. This is where tools such as Aternity can help take the guess work out of an IT department’s job.
But most importantly we need to remember that this process is never ‘complete’. We’ll never be able to stop testing and tweaking what we’re doing because the landscape is always changing. That’s as true in IT as it is in e-commerce.
To outsource or not to outsource?
What about non-strategic processes? Every business needs them to function, but outsourcing them could potentially free up more resource for the business-critical stuff.
Want expenses systems, or HR and payroll services? There’s an app for that.
But there is also a risk that this new form of outsourcing might result in the same problems as before: an inconsistent and frustrating user experience and increased costs caused by vendor lock-in.
To remain focused and agile, we need to work out the things we have to build ourselves vs. what we can buy bring in from external vendors and how easy it’s going to be to chop and change those third-party products in future.
Virtual assistants are a great example. They can help us replace the complexity of disparate systems with simple, natural language interactions.
But is it in the stitching together of these elements that vendor lock-in could re-occur? We’ll still need to choose our integration partners based on common understanding of culture and goals, or we risk repeating the failures of past outsourcing projects.
Unlocking the power of BYOD and mobility
Often reduced to the ‘any device, any app, anywhere‘’ tag line, the benefit of BYOD and mobility projects is to enable employees to be productive while at home or on site by detaching the systems they use from specific devices and location.
But who else is part of our extended enterprise when we break down physical barriers?
Customer, suppliers, contractors, agencies – they all play a role in our business, but our systems and security can put artificial barriers in the way, As soon as we start referring to internal vs. external we’re already off on the wrong foot.
Perhaps in future security will be redefined. It will serve to facilitate communication and collaboration based off the notion of trust in relation to a well understood value chain.
As more individuals and organisations adopt technology like blockchain that and concepts such as smart contracts become the norm, we’ll really begin to move towards a gig economy (i.e. one in which temporary, short-term jobs are commonplace).
The digital workplace – a new age of enlightenment?
Perhaps you’re reading this thinking: “So I should just outsource the desktop, right? My most important business apps are already on the road to ‘digital’, so why do I still have to care about end-user services? “
But it’s important not to lose sight of one critically important role the IT department has: ensuring a high quality of service for our company’s staff.
Whatever the commercial arrangements that surround our end-user IT services, we have to ensure we have the right skills and support to manage this digital transformation.
And as with any significant change, there is a risk if mismanaged that it will create disillusionment among employees.
But if executed well we have the opportunity to unleash a fearless sharing of ideas, insight and creativity that could truly begin a new Age of Enlightenment.