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Paul Miller, CEO and Founder, Digital Workplace Group and author of “The Digital Workplace – How Technology is Liberating Work”, tells us what will happen in the accelerating digital workplace industry globally in 2013.
In 2012 many household-name companies formed steering groups to anchor their digital workplace implementations and Deloitte launched a dedicated digital workplace consulting service.
On my own travels, the appetite for digital workplace conversations ranged from professors at Oxford University to engineers at Microsoft, through to mainstream media such as the BBC and Forbes. The digital workplace has come of age.
So what can we expect in the digital workplace 2013?
Trend 1 – Frontline retail environments will see digital workplace innovations that will transform staff and customer experiences
Retail clothing chain Zara equips its shop staff with mobile technology that turns assistants into market researchers, routing real-time insights and data back to centralized manufacturing in Spain. As with this example, retailers will empower frontline staff with smart, mobile services to transform not only the shop assistant’s work but the way customers experience shopping in stores.
Trend 2 – New recruits and younger demographics will demand (and receive) far richer digital experiences when they start work
If you are under 25 and in work or entering the workplace anywhere globally, what matters to you is the quality of your digital workplace, your network, projects you engage in and the flexibility (or lack of it) given by your employer. Corner offices and physical territory matter little to new hires but the extent of the “digital territory” you inhabit is becoming critical. The new demographic will seek the employers with the best “digital workplace brand”.
Trend 3 – Fears of “digital fragmentation” will produce a more harmonious balance between the physical workplace and digital workplace
IBM and BT are bringing their workforce back to the office (re-designed) because the impact of years of isolation through home working is now being acknowledged. Not only are those at home lonely at times – so are the few people left “at work”. To counter this trend the office is mounting a fight-back to attract workers to come together in person. Google, Unilever, GlaxoSmithKline, Facebook all fear digital fragmentation and a more balanced relationship between the digital and physical will continue to emerge.
Trend 4 – Each organization will find its focus for digital workplace investment – such as field sales, call centres, remote engineers, distribution – and tailored programmes will accelerate
IKEA has created a gateway portal into its digital workplace. TD Bank has embarked on a workplace of the future programme looking at office and branch retail staff. Tieto has optimized digital services for its sales force. The digital workplace is not a “one size fits all” strategy but one where each company allocates investment to areas of business that it sees as important. Tailored digital workplace projects will grow.
Trend 5 – Work/life blurring will intensify through “anywhere, anytime” working as teams struggle to handle varying expectations of what is meant by a working day
In one major pharmaceutical company one manager believes that since their team have technology enabling working anywhere/anytime, every minute can be treated as work time. The manager’s own work addiction creates addiction in their team. Increasingly individuals will reflect on what their working day/week should be and this will become a major HR friction point; one that HR will fail to get ahead of in leadership terms.
Trend 6 – The gap between companies building advanced digital workplaces and those playing “catch up” will extend, creating significant competitive advantage
The importance of high grade technology for work has grown steadily but its centrality is creating huge gaps between the leading organizations and those playing catch up. One company automates swathes of business processes, and another remains technically disabled, producing a chasm to cross to remain competitive. The digital differentiation between leaders and followers will send shock waves through corporate life and will be noticed by the stock market.
Trend 7 – Work will localize, being performed closer to where employees and contractors live – and new shared physical workplace formats will emerge in cities, towns and countryside
Working from home and flexible working have their place. Some days that works but some days it doesn’t. But the suburbs and commuter belt built for the industrial age has had its day. Instead we want options of where to work and human beings to work with, located near to where we actually live. New office and coworking formats suited to the Fortune 500 organizations will be scattered close to where we live, part of a new localization in work and life.
Trend 8 – The digital workplace will become embedded into the bricks and motor workplaces with “smart buildings” offering enhanced technology for those who make the journey to work
Arup, the leading architectural practice, sees future workplaces as having technology embedded into their fabric. Buildings, factories, warehouses are all getting smarter and more technically able. What if we came to the office because the digital workplace was better than home, rather than the reverse? Offices became lazy but now they are getting into shape. Facebook want people to come to work for the social and the technical delights that await them there.
Trend 9 – Government policy will underpin digital workplace strategies due to the environmental and health benefits of the flexible working strand to the digital world of work innovations
Holland, Finland, Australia, UK, US – all have government-level programmes to promote the digital workplace because extensive, daily travel hurts society environmentally and in health terms. This state level of support means the digital workplace expansion can only accelerate rapidly as it aligns with wider corporate and national targets.
Trend 10 – Manufacturing, logistics and distribution will experience a wave of digital innovations that will automate and re-design factories and warehouses
What if the real transformation from the digital workplace was not among the traditional knowledge workers based in offices but instead in the manufacturing planets, warehouses and distribution centres? Siemens has opened a clean technology plant in North Carolina that has a small workforce on site but is connected into 350 other facilities globally through their manufacturing-led digital workplace. The “third industrial age” is re-shaping the most traditional parts of work through technology.