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the influence of #mobile on #productivity; #socbiz #enterprise20 #socialbusiness #mobility

Summary: Mobility is on top of the agenda of a lot of (if not all) companies – no matter if they have ever had their hand on a laptop or not 😉 Tablets and smartphones seem to have added new spice to the subject. Now it’s so spicy that mobility seems to be a whole new thing despite the fact that it’s nothing but a “situation” that a user is in. Triggered by a friend’s comment on my 2013 predictions I want to emphasise on a couple of angles on the mobility subject.

  1. “Mobile” is just a situation. Address it beyond enabling e-mail!
  2. Mobile employees require a different kind of leadership.
  3. The downsides of mobile work: friction, sloppiness & lack of balance.
  4. The upsides of mobile work: integration, flexibility & more balance.
  5. The future of mobile work.

1. “Mobile” is just a situation. Address it beyond enabling e-mail!

Let’s be frank: if an information worker is stationary at her/his desk then she/he’s mobile whenever the 23″ screen is not in sight. It’s that simple. Tablets and smartphones have not introduced mobility to information work. They might have made it easier to be mobile or to consume/contribute while not being at the desk. The concept, however, exists at least since the laptop was introduced as the information worker device.

With Blackberry mobile e-mail turned into a status symbol. I still remember the time where furiously typing people could be considered to be VP or higher in rank. Over time and with the introduction of iPhone, Android etc. mobile email has become a commodity – and to some extend what too many consider to be “mobile work”.

But mobile work – or better: working while not being chained to a desk – is more than that. It requires a new way of presenting information for quick consumption and prioritisation. It requires easy interaction with complex systems or even a “phased” interaction scope depending on the use of a smartphone, a tablet or a laptop. It requires the balance between web based applications and native apps that focus on particular interactions. To address that is the new challenge for IT departments and vendors and taps deeply into the concept of commercialised business IT because it has to put the user in the centre of all (conceptual) thinking.

2. Mobile employees require a different kind of leadership.

To cut a long story short: if presence does not equal productivity then an lot of managers have to change their thinking. Objective based management of people is the only way to create a foundation for a mobilised work force. They have to decide where and when they pave the way to the final delivery – individually and collaboratively. Managing people based on objectives is more leadership than management because only people that understand and believe in the objective will be able to deliver on it. In particular if there is no “watch dog” patrolling the home office…

3. The downsides of mobile work: friction, sloppiness & lack of balance.

Friction: not many people are capable of writing communications. That’s why only a small fraction of our society wins awards for copy writing, masters PR or publishes successful novels. Most of the information workers have a lot to learn when it comes to

  • specifying requirements, questions or tasks
  • giving written feedback in an understandable, constructive way
  • not choosing the wrong tone – in particular in another language

I am not implying that each information worker has to be fully trained but there are some simple rules that I would suggest everyone to learn and master:

  • Recipients cannot see your face – they might miss out on your sarcasm, winking or elvish smile
  • One word answers are efficient but rude if there isn’t an established relationship in place
  • Answering in novel length is rude – it’s unlikely that your colleagues are seeking stuff to read because they are bored
  • Think twice before hitting “reply to all”
  • If you have nothing substantial to contribute: don’t contribute!

Sloppiness: my personal impression is that mobile e-mail has substantially impacted the quality of people’s contribution to a “conversation”. Sometimes the speed of an answer seems to be in favour of its quality…or maybe it’s the mindset of “if I’ve answered it it will become someone else’s problem”. This might be caused by the fact that digital communications has led to a total information overkill and that too many people actually consider a response time >3hrs to be an insult. However, we would all benefit from an increase in reading/understanding time and a decrease in answering speed. Oh, and I would like to add: not all conversations are meant to be digitalised. Your smartphone still has a phone in there…even though you’ve never used it.

To my friends point: I actually think that smartphone displays are not meant to support substantial information work even though some furious typer might think that. They can support alerting, prioritisation, staying in touch and “light enriching”. Real (= substantial) contribution and value creation will happen on tablets and laptops.

Lack of balance: I dislike people that keep “raising their hand” (here, here, here…I am still important) when they are on holiday. There is nothing to say against checking e-mail on the beach once a day in order to avoid the bomb to explode when you walk through the door on day 1 after the holiday is over (yes, I actually think that’s ok!). However, please keep your fingers out of things that can be solved by others. You are NOT irreplaceable. Yes, sad but true: even YOU! That managers expect their subordinates to be available 24/7 is ridiculous and should be banned. The Sunday e-mail “I need this by Monday 9.30am” should lead to disciplinary actions (yes, I actually think that!). Simply because too many employees have difficulties in responding to that request on Monday at 9.45am with “Oh – Just seen your e-mail. Will deliver this asap.”

4. The upsides of mobile work: integration, flexibility & more balance.

Let’s create a framing:

  • individuals and teams are managed by objectives
  • individuals and teams have the appropriate (not prestigious) infrastructure available
  • teams have learned how to collaboratively achieve results without sharing a physical room

What would prevent them from working when and wherever they want and merge private and work life in a way that all parties benefit the most?

5. The future of mobile work

All bullets of the framing in #4 PLUS

  • essential information can be accessed/manipulated from anywhere
  • the intranet has become a digital workspace in which work is done and not just “stuff” distributed
  • social business mechanics have visualised professional networks and teams without impacting the quality of relationships
  • the special requirements of mobile work towards user centric service and application design has been accepted by IT departments and vendors – and they have been provided with the budget and the freedom to deliver on it

Sounds like a dream? Give it approx. 2 to 5 years depending on the size of a coloration and you will be asking yourself: how did we ever work differently??

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Part 1/3: my reflection on @Orgatec 2012 and #futurebizz in three parts #futureofwork #socbiz #socialbusiness #enterprise20 #coworking

Summary: I’ve spent 2 days at Orgatec (Cologne), the leading trade show for office concepts and office furniture. The reason for that was the engagement of Tieto in the future_bizz initiative. I have decided to share my impressions of the show itself, some thoughts sparked by very interesting conversations and two panel discussions in the context of the show’s ‘Trendforum’. I will publish the article in three parts.

PART 1
My reflection on the trade show and what the future of work looks like from a ‘physical’ workspace perspective.

PART 2
My reflection on two panel discussions: ‘Enterprise 2.0’ and ‘Open Office Plans – Reality Check’

PART 3
future_bizz and some key work thesis and questions that derived from the first wave of the initiative.

PART 1
My reflection on the trade show and what the future of work looks like from a ‘physical’ workspace perspective.

To some extend one can get the impression that the industry for office concepts and furniture isn’t entirely sure – or at least has a pretty diverse perspective – what the future of work will look like…

There is no I in team…
That seems to be a subject what most vendors seem to pick up in order to address team orientated open space concepts. These are supposed to suit multiple situations that an information worker can be in during the day. For example:

  • actual team orientated work (collaboration space)
  • individual – undisturbed – work (productivity space; cocoons)
  • situation based gathering and communications (swarming space; stand-up concepts)
  • virtual meetings (video space solutions)

This has been a trend for a while now and a lot of companies have introduced (or are in the process of introducing) open plan offices to their employees. However, there seem to be the first studies that open office spaces (OOS) actually have a negative impact on productivity, quality of work and employee satisfaction. Even communications seems to suffer due to the vast amount of headphones used in an open office space. One presenter even emphasised the environmental and economic impact of OOS: they are neither green nor do they really save money. I have to admit that I was slightly surprised to see the extractions of respective studies.

…but there is a ME if you look hard enough.
Here comes the WOW. Even though the emphasis is to much on teams and the efforts on removing hierarchical borders I had the impression that status still is substantially reflected by office furniture. A lot of booths offered management and executive concepts that were breathtaking – in style but as well as in “differentiation”. Chairs, tables and all the other bells and whistles make crystal clear: I am the boss and I stand above you. I wasn’t really surprised that the studies referenced before even reveiled that the budget per square meter spent on an executive space is significantly higher than the one for the individual share in OOS concepts. I have to admit that I was rather shocked that a LOT of vendors still make sure that they find their entry through the bosses office to then position the “made for the troops” program as an up-sell.

Globalisation. Virtualisation. Decentralisation.
My third key take away was the impression that almost no vendors tend to address the work conditions of teams that simply don’t share any physical space. Yes, there are pretty neat concepts for video integration and the efforts to make video conferences less awkward. However, there still seems to be a long way to go to the actual symbiosis of physical and digital workspace as well as from substantial concepts to “glue together” virtual teams. In a conversation with a design head from a Canadian manufacturer this impression was actually confirmed, even though we both had to admit that we wouldn’t be able to just come up with a concept from the top of our heads.

The future of information work – Enterprise 2.0
Even a trade show that is designed around the physical workspace cannot deny the change that happens and the needs that derive from the quest to increased productivity and the (assumed) requests of the future generations. It was a key subject at the booths of bigger vendors and in panel discussions of the Orgatec Trendforum. Even though there seems to be some way to go until the future of physical and digital properly meet it’s at least very promising and exciting to see how things change. The emphasis to make the workspace a place where people like to come to and spend time at is very much in line with the trends in business IT. It’s not about forcing people to use applications anymore. It’s about designing work tools that employees like or even desire to use.

My personal take away for trade shows in general
Sometimes I get the impression that trade shows are the most “uniformal” and uncommunicative spaces ever. To show how serious we are we hide behind suits and dresses. The only “non verbal communication” are the little flags on the name tag. I have decided that whenever I will have the influence on the “dress code” I will make sure that people wear t-shirts with

  • talk to me about…
  • my name is…
  • my expertise is…

That would make it so much easier to a) find the right people at a booth (where you don’t know anyone yet) or even b) start conversations somewhere else. It would be a little bit like tagging people and making sure that the relevant ones “match”.

(…to be continued)

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Now online: My contribution to the Microsoft publication “Das Neue Arbeiten” (read & listen in German)

In case you’re interested in my (German) contribution to Microsoft’s publication on “Das Neue Arbeiten” (The New Way of Working). You can download each section (mine is called “Der finnische IT-Dienstleister Tieto ist in vielen Branchen zu Hause”) as an audio version and the entire book in PDF format here.

Picture is a screenshot from my part of the book (© Microsoft Corporation 2012)

 

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my digest of #intra_reloaded 2012 #collaboration #networking #futureofwork #enterprise20 #socialbusiness

Summary: my take on 2 days at the conference ‘INTRA.reloaded – From communication to collaboration’ (April 17/18 2012, Berlin). In an increasing number of companies the ‘intranet’ is more and more seen as a potential starting point to create a operational workspace. Optimizing information access and transparency and motivating collaboration are the key drivers at the moment. Still: there is no blue print available yet. However, the thoughts and belief are moving in the right direction and the ones in charge become more persistent in their will to support employees in achieving their goals and improve their access to experts and expertise.

Bridging companies and customers
An increasing number of companies is rolling out services to connect their customers with the organization. Either for the purpose of service or for going after improvements and innovation the wall between corporation and customer seems to become less solid. Particularly successful seem to be the endeavors in which corporate leaders (aka C suite) are involved as sponsor and in which they acknowledge the multi-folded value of such an initiative.

Increase value and involvement with internal services
The tendendcy was clear: modern intranets have to be value adding workspaces, whereas today most portals still serve the purpose of information distribution and corporate communications. Servicing the right information at the right time to the right user in order create real work support is an endeavor some companies have startet to pursue. People in charge are much more conscious of the importance of (unfortunately rarely executed) rennovation work for information architecture and taxonomies. Otherwise the automation of digital services to become situation aware work tools will always experience data quality (= findability) as the major limitation. ‘Rubbish in, rubbish out’ is understood – at least my most protagonists.

Consciousness for active change management
Guiding employees through change with marketing style activities or dedicated advocates and community managers is really fashionable now. Just throwing a piece of IT at employees hoping that the majority of them will catch it and find some reason behind has been identified as a ‘no go’ – in particular by the reps of IT departments I was able to speak to. That management has to get involved and play an active part in the change and execution process is definitely perceived as a key success factor.

Asking the right questions
What’s still challenging is the way of figuring out the right starting point and how to bridge vision and reality. Throughout the conference I had the feeling that user and challenge centric thinking is still overruled by the quest for the right tool. It’s functionality (e.g. microblogging) that is introduced to employees – not a service that resonates to a particular challenge and thereby automatically makes its use obvious to employees. The tendency however, is definitely a move towards more user focussed approaches.

Summing it up: the future for information and knowledge workers looks brighter than three years ago. As soon as companies have overcome their internal blockage that only ERP projects can be funded with three digit millions the future will be even brighter. To unleash the potential that’s currently buried in the heads of talented people and network drives new ways for information distribution, retrieval and enrichment have to make their way into organizations. Getting some inspiration from social and commercial media seems to be a good idea because a lot of references at the conference were made in that direction.

I would like to close with the advise of our last speaker @d_ott: decentralize, simplify, advise & train…and be nice to your users.

I couldn’t agree more 🙂