The availability of the Web has made it possible for people to be anywhere and to be at work.
A little over a year ago, as CSC in the US was embarking on a major e-business development project, the advanced skills and relatively low pay rate of Australian CSC employees - based on the Australian dollar versus the US dollar - suddenly seemed too attractive to ignore. Could the organisation find a way to capitalise on all that inexpensive talent by running a global-distributed virtual team to develop the e-business project?
As it happens, it could. In the end, most of the development work and coding was performed in Australia, while a team in the US managed the business analysis, testing and client relationships. And as if that feat wasn't impressive enough, the team in Australia was distributed too, with people from Adelaide, Newcastle and Canberra collaborating on the project.
"We have a core environment set up in Canberra which is a development, a test and a staging environment, which certainly over the last 12 months we have really refined quite well," says national business development manager for CSC's business integration services delivery team Russell Hatton. "We have our distributed teams VPN into the core development environment. The distributed teams can have either a light version or a heavier version, depending on how many developers there are in a particular location. But then we run source code control very much along the same lines that you would use for content management."
For CSC, the initiative is just one part of its strategy to maximise its human potential. Employment practices and the HR function are in a time of transition all around the world. People today are increasingly proving the key competitive differentiator in the knowledge-based economy. At the same time new technologies, fresh business drivers and economic imperatives compel extraordinary change. No longer sheltered by the comforting umbrella of administrative necessity, HR is being pushed to prove itself as a strategic, value-enhancing business partner contributing to the competitive advantage of the organisation, not to mention enhancing its appeal to the best brains and skills on the market.
And CIOs are being called on to help, as organisations increasingly see the value of effective, accelerated use of technology in transforming the way organisations support and develop employees and in the way HR business itself is conducted.
"People have become the key competitive differentiator in today's knowledge-based economy, but addressing these human performance or people issues is still a real management problem for many corporate leaders, regardless of location, industry, or type of company," says Duncan Armitage, a partner in Accenture's Human Performance practice in Australia.
"The ongoing retention problem suggests that money itself is not the answer. Companies can improve their retention rates and raise the performance level of their employees, particularly their top talent, by making it easier for workers to find and take on new opportunities within an organisation," he says.
Accenture's study, The High Performance Workforce: Separating the Digital Economy's Winners from Losers, finds despite a tough economic climate, 80 per cent of business leaders believe that people issues are more important today than they were three years ago. Moreover 68 per cent believe that retaining talent is far more important than acquiring new blood.
The research finds companies improve retention by:
Using an inclusive approach to company-wide strategy development by involving employees in company decision-making processes. In fact, 60 per cent of executives who described their companies as "leaders" in change said they use such an inclusive strategy-development method.
Moving to project-oriented approaches, in which all employees can work on diverse, limited-term assignments, rather than being sequestered within a single department or function.
Developing "talent exchanges", which connect employees and other resources with appropriate projects, roles and positions across the company.
Instituting "real-time" goal-setting, performance measurement, and skills-development programs to ensure that people always know where they stand and to address performance issues and skills gaps before they become a problem.
Embracing a wide range of emerging information technologies - including personalised employee Web portals, business simulation, and e-learning - to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of their training and development efforts.
In particular, Internet technologies used directly by all employees and managers provide a radically new approach to managing work and personal decisions. The results of their use are dramatic, Accenture says
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