Reimagine work by reimagining business
WHEN you want to know the future, acknowledge the past. As citizens of a rapidly accelerated world, we are seduced by the idea that our situation is unique. In many ways it is – not the least how the workplace is changing. But change in the workplace itself is not new, nor is the regression invited by firms that do not heed this shift.
Technology rapidly alters how work is done. When the steam engine appeared in the 1700s, many sectors were not enthusiastic. They could not see the benefit when the worker’s order seemed sufficient.
Yet, while the old guard waved such ideas away, the newfound industrial sector was very interested. Even the simple act of pumping water out of shafts was so attractive that mines adapted it rapidly. The laborious manual task was mechanised, opening up new ways of doing things.
We are again experiencing a revolutionary change to how we work. New technologies are shifting workplace expectations at breakneck speed, and employees realise their value more than before. A nice salary and good coffee just does not cut it anymore: people who invest in their skills and worth at work want to see reciprocation from employers. They want to see the new technology work for them.
You do not transform your company for the sake of employees; you transform your company to stay competitive and innovative. New technologies boost the bottom line, and fortunately these go hand in hand with modern employee expectations.
A number of forces are shaping both sides. Smart systems, real-time data and mobility are creating a family of services that redefine all our expectations. These will, by SAP’s estimations, boost productivity by 20 to 50 percent.
Smart systems underpin a new breed of automation that goes beyond taking menial work off an employee’s plate. These are increasingly better at collaborating with employees. Real-time data parallels this, delivering insight when and how employees demand it. Mobility and the connectivity behind it define the new coalface of business interactions.
To achieve these tiers, companies invest in several technologies to create more agile and modern businesses, hence the argument that meeting employee expectations is the same as boosting business prospects. In this case, you actually do build it and they will come.
Let us contrive a hypothetical situation. A team needs to present a new strategy for a customer. Yet the scope of the customer spans across numerous departments. The customer generates a lot of data, which needs to be exploited. In addition, to meet challenges, employees need to interact with partners and third parties. One group is responsible for the strategy, though not mandated to commandeer the other departments or partners outright.
In old business terms, this would be shifting a mountain. But modern technology has turned this on its ear. Real-time data combined with smart automation allows for on-the-fly analysis and reporting of the data. Collaboration tools enable seamless communication across departments and partners, without losing jurisdiction or control. Mobile devices foster accurate site visits and boost collaboration conversations. Automation frees valuable time. Modern HR systems identify and allocate team members to appropriate roles. The strategy can be adjusted and tested by a core group focused on the outcome, without trying to herd the cats of corporations.
The result is a hive mind approach, without disrupting the other operations and hierarchies in your business. This is very attractive to modern employees.
Technology, however, is only part of the journey. As business leaders we need to reimagine what our employees can do, if appropriately empowered. We must appreciate and realise the value that modern technologies bring to our workforces.
SAP has invested heavily in this. Admittedly, we did it to create better products for our customers. We foresaw a future of smart technology and collaboration. But, to be honest, we did not realise how much it would impact our own organisation.
Smart people surround themselves with smarter people. Modern technology makes that almost too easy. Do not be the dinosaurs who ignored the steam engine. Reimagine work, reimagine business and you can shape the future.