Reflections on work and life.

Gedanken zu Arbeit und Leben. Von Franz Kuehmayer.

We will work very differently tomorrow.

I will be attending Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference (#WPC15), because I am keen to learn about how the world’s largest software company thinks about digital transformational effects and to discuss with Microsoft executives and partners how they think about the future. And also because I have been invited to give a speech together with David Geevaratne, NewSignature’s CSO about the Digital Workplace of the Future. If you’re attending WPC15 as well, come join our session or give me a ping, so we can meet!

Here’s a brief intro into our talk- three examples of why we will work very differently tomorrow and what it means for leadership of the future.

The saying „A fool with a tool is still a fool“ refers to the fact that the mere introduction of new technology is often not good enough as a solution. With the digital workplace radically changing the way we work, this is more than ever true.

Tomorrows workplace is not just a copy of todays, only faster and leaner, because IT is no longer just a driver for efficiency. On the contrary, IT impacts entire value chains and business models: The largest taxi company in the world? Uber, operates not a single car. The largest hotel chain in the world? AirBnB, owns not one single room. A supermarket in Korea? Not a retail site, but a poster in a subway station – customers order products using their smartphones and QR codes and while they ride home, their purchase is being shipped home as well. Critical successfactors of the past have become obsolete: No need to own cars, hotels, retail space.

And no need to come to the office anymore. Even knowledge workers were bound to the physical world just recently. We came to the office every morning because our means of production were there: Files, telephone, printers, fax machines and even our collegues. But with solutions such as Microsoft Office 365 we have those virtually in our pockets whereever we are. And with that, company structures and leadership principles change. Three examples:

1) Collaboration is key

Winston Taylor was one of the masterminds of the industrial world, he defined some of the core principles that made businesses successful in the last 100 years. Divison of labor is one of those. It sounds convincing: While it is difficult to manage the whole company with all its complexity, it is much more easy to divide it into smaller teams and manage those. But if we talk to managers across the world, very few face the challenge of how to divide labor – most have exactly the opposite problem: How do I get different departments to work together better, how do I break information silos in my company. In the past, the key to success was how to divide the company, tomorrows key to success is how to enhance collaboration. Solutions such as Microsoft Skype for Business allow for real time communication and collaboration in the most seamless way: Presence information, voice, video, shared documents.

2) Deciding under information overload

The idea that an increasing amount of information improves the quality of decisions is no longer valid. Anybody having the impression to receive too few e-mails? Getting information off the internet – and off company internal data sources – is like taking a drink from the water hose. The results are dramatic: Up to 48% of managers feel the amount of information that hits them on a daily basis is actually putting them under more stress than helping them; 9 out of 10 executives ignore data the receive if it disagrees with their intuition; and smartphone owners typically look at their devices display 150x per day. One of the scarcest ressources of the future will be our attention span. And it is not just behaviour that needs to adapt, we will need better IT solutions to help us filter the useful from the noise. PowerBI, a function in Office 365, is one of these technologies that enable decision makers and knowledge workers to make sense of big data.

3) New communication styles

With all the technologies in place, many people still use a very narrow range of communication tools: E-mail, telephone and texting (incl. “modern” texting such as Whatsapp). And even if we do use the full features of IT, we still have to learn how to be really productive: 65% of people in a conference call do some other work in parallel, 55% eat or prepare food, 43% are really just active on social media and 21% play online games or do some online shopping. Imagine how a meeting in the physical world would look like if it was run in a similar way. Which leads us back to the quote at the beginning: If we don’t want to stay fools with tools, we need partners who understand our business and how IT can and will impact it. Microsoft partners specialized in Office 365 and Cloud solutions frequently are not just technology providers but go much deeper in helping customers to change their way of working – and customers need to budget for that to make technology really productive for themselves.

Just three out of many examples that show that how deep the change of the digital workplace of the future goes. Tomorrow’s leaders will not only see their own personal work style change, but will need to rethink processes, culture and business models for the entire company. The changes that IT brings lead many managers to new territory – solid ground comes not only from pure technological solutions, but from integrated concepts that merge technology and business understanding.


Filed under: Business, Future Of Work, IT & Social Media, Leadership


Impressum und Kontakt

Franz Kühmayer ist einer der einflussreichsten Vordenker zur Zukunft der Arbeit.


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