There’s a big shift happening across our workplaces. The lines are quickly blurring between work and home life as the workforce becomes more dispersed. People want to use technology to connect to their corporate network and core applications from anywhere and at any time.
Artificial intelligence, cloud computing, analytics, mobility and video conferencing technologies are reshaping workplace collaboration. Workers, particularly Gen Y and millennials, feel they can be productive from any location using any device. They don’t want to feel constrained by ageing, legacy infrastructure.
Technology chiefs gathered in Sydney recently to discuss how they are using technologies to transform their workplaces and provide users with flexible solutions that help them do their jobs better. The event was sponsored by Logitech.
Logitech's head of sales enablement , Simon Dudley says technology challenges around video collaboration are in, most cases, solved problems. The big issues relate to cultural change around the adoption of new, disruptive technology.
“With so many millennials joining the workforce, the culture will change as they begin to demand modern communication solutions,” he says.
Enrich Health Group has made significant strides in creating a connected workforce where remote staff members increasingly have access to the infrastructure they need.
Group chief technology officer, Jerome Barrientos, says the organisation has moved its entire on-premise infrastructure to a private cloud that is provided as a ‘desktop-as-a-service’.
The move has enabled the company to create a secure, standard operating environment that is accessible from any location. This reduces office occupancy costs and enables staff to work from anywhere including home.
“Our phone system also runs on Skype for Business – delivering through the new desktop service, allowing workers to collaborate visually from virtually anywhere,” he says.
Danilo Paje, Australian Group Insurances senior programmer/analyst, Danilo Paje, adds remote access is an optional service the company provides on a ‘case-by-case’ basis.
“We have a more traditional desktop environment considering our nature of work as a back-office service provider,” he says.
Measuring success or failure
Businesses that undertake a digital workforce project need to be able to measure the success or failure of their initiatives. The top key performance indicators (KPIs) to consider depend, to a large extent, on corporate priorities, according to Logitech’s Dudley.
“Depending on those priorities, the top KPIs may be staff retention, ease of hiring, higher productivity or better worker satisfaction scores,” he says.
“All of these things matter within the majority of organisations and all have been shown to be positively affected by the introduction of visual communications.”
Enrich Health Group’s Barrientos says his organisation uses a methodology where all key projects, including digital initiatives, are first pitched as a ‘bid for resources’.
“In this bid process, we identify the value proposition of the bid and develop a verifiable business case against improvement in three areas: net promoter score, revenue and EBIT, and staff retention,” he says.
The project needs to be evaluated against these metrics during and after its delivery.
“The focus on this early on helps ensure those bids which are incapable of delivering value are scrapped. Throughout the life cycle of the project, we evaluate each program and make a value judgement on continuing or stopping,” he says.
Knight Frank Australia group director, information technology, Tod O’Dell, says digital projects at the property organisation contain business cases that have specific measurable strategic outcomes.
“This is engagement that we measure internally via Aon Hewit surveys, marketing automation or our financial targets,” he says.
Dealing with cultural change
The key to dealing with cultural challenges that arise from workforce transformations is to be very clear on expectations of output, according to Barrientos.
“We have been managing to this output/expected outcome which supports the knowledge worker persona and those where a physical presence is not required,” he says.
Adding video collaboration doesn’t mean that every meeting should use it, Logitech’s Dudley says. But organisations should help people understand its advantages (where it’s most and least suitable) while encouraging its use.
“Don’t let people ‘hide’ on audio conference calls and initially encourage its adoption. Executive sponsorship is vital for success. If senior management embraces the technology, then those further down the organisation will try it and then understand its value.”
Knight Frank Australia’s O’Dell has a strong organisational vision statement of all levels of the business: “This supports our flexible working environments that may be working remotely, within a communal office environment or a remote office.”
Australian Group Insurances’ Paje adds: “We reluctantly allow remote access, but we do understand the need to be a bit flexible in this regard.”
Finding the right people
As the technology skills crisis continues to bite, hiring the right people with deep skills and the right behaviours is vital if digitisation initiatives are to succeed.
“Attitude and a belief in being prepared to learn new skills are becoming more important than a concrete knowledge of a specific topic, Logitech’s Dudley says.
“In a rapidly changing world, things we thought to be true only a few years ago have now been proven to be untrue. A flexible approach to cope with new ideas is more important than knowing,” he says.
The quote ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast’ by late business management guru, Peter Drucker quote, has a lot of merit, says Knight Frank Australia’s O’Dell.
“We strive to create environments of diversity, culture and skill that together leads to exceptional results,” he says.
Securing corporate data arguably becomes more complex as more staff work remotely and more applications are moved to third-party cloud providers.
Enrich Health Group’s Barrientos says his company uses an external vendor to define its security posture: “We use an independent consultant to ensure that as we move items to the cloud, we continue to consider the move with a security lens independent of the cost lens.”
Join the CIO Australia group on LinkedIn. The group is open to CIOs, IT Directors, COOs, CTOs and senior IT managers.