The New World Of Work – What are the themes?

April 6, 2006

 Technology innovation doesn’t take place in a vacuum. The agile business deploys technology in response to changing conditions in the market, the workforce, the economy and society at large. While some aspects of the future will always remain uncertain until they happen, other trends clearly point toward the broader conditions and challenges that will define the business landscape in the coming five to 10 years.Economic transformation: The transformation from a manufacturing-based economy to a services-based economy now underway throughout the developed world will accelerate. As cost pressures drain profitability away from activities that can readily be automated, outsourced or offshored, competitive advantage will accrue to those who can drive value with ideas: intellectual property, process innovation, strategic insights, and personalization of services. In this environment, winning organizations will find new ways to empower information workers with tools that amplify their human talents, connecting them organically to an information infrastructure that allows them to understand their role in the context of larger strategic objectives, find and collaborate with the right people, and make the best use of available data in their decision-making and work activities.One World of Business. Political and economic dynamics are forging a single global market, a global workforce, global customers, partners, and suppliers. Collaboration across time-zones, across organizations, across firewalls will be commonplace. Organizations will be challenged to maintain the security and confidentiality of their IP in an environment of increasingly collaborative innovation and a nomadic global workforce of mobile and at-home employees, engaged through a variety of non-traditional employment arrangements. Always On, Always Connected.  The challenges of the “always on, always connected” world will be converting information into insights; managing time and staying focused on high priority tasks; finding the right information and connecting with the right people in an organization via the best channel; staying on the same page as colleagues; and managing the balance between work and family life. These kinds of challenges require a new generation of information work tools: ones that simplify rather than complicate, and automate many of the low-level tasks and decisions that currently clutter the lives and waste the time of information workers. The Transparent Organization. The systems that make organizations more agile also make them more accountable. Governments, markets and consumers are demanding visibility into internal processes to ensure that businesses are acting in compliance with their legal, fiduciary and public responsibilities, and that the vast warehouses of personal data being collected are not being used to compromise privacy rights. Balancing compliance responsibilities with confidentiality has already proven to be a tricky and costly proposition. New technologies can help by giving organizations finer-grained control over the collection, management and security of their internal data in ways that are less burdensome on the business. The result will not only be enhanced ability to manage in a regulatory climate, but also better insights into organizational processes: insights that can be used as feedback for continuous process improvement and optimization.NetGen Meets Baby Boom. For those just barely catching up with the tools and practices of information work today, the value of some of these developments may seem elusive. But for the workers who will be delivering the innovations and productivity growth of tomorrow, this technology not only won’t come as a surprise, it will be a positive expectation. The “net generation” that’s coming of age today has lived its entire life in the digital age. They are rapid adopters of new information technology and are not only comfortable, but expect to work collaboratively with others. They multi-task in ways that seem unfathomable to many. Email, the Internet, vivid real-time interactive games, instant messaging and mobile devices are as natural to kids today as the telephone, television and ballpoint pen were to the previous generation. Given what we know about the sociological profile of netgens, many of these workers will probably find surprising applications for the new technology, resulting in exciting changes that we couldn’t possibly predict today.

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