We stand on the brink of rapid and substantial changes in the workplace due to a plethora of contributing technological, social and demographic factors.
IT leaders have an opportunity to create a more flexible work environment, which has the potential to deliver increased employee satisfaction, effectiveness and flexibility while ultimately driving innovation and profits in their business.
The workplace is changing in a number of ways: we are seeing the automation of routine, repeatable work, and human jobs are now more likely to be about non-routine tasks.
Businesses compete to attract and retain the best talent via HR-led engagement programmes, social networking has created new forms of customer interaction, and new ways of working — such as crowdsourcing, job sharing and microwork — are on the increase.
The society demographics, and therefore the workforce, are also changing rapidly as an increasing percentage approach retirement age and we see the millennium generation entering the workforce.
Workers are increasingly tech savvy — using their own technology to carry out their work and expecting a consumer-like experience in their workplace.
These trends are all working to create the ‘business consumer’ — an employee for whom business activities are part of an overall digital lifestyle.
Given a choice, business consumers (a natural outgrowth of the consumerisation trend) often make more consumer-like selections in their approach to workplace computing tools and styles — to increase personal and group efficiency, as well as to balance work demands with their personal lives.
Gartner analysts have said that these consumerisation trends require a strategic response from business and IT leaders – they call this response ‘the digital workplace’.
The digital workplace is an ongoing, deliberate approach to delivering a more consumer-like computing environment that is better able to facilitate innovative and flexible working practices.
It is vital that organisations analyse the business benefits of consumerisation and act upon this analysis to drive employee engagement, effectiveness and agility.
Businesses that lack a digital workplace strategy will find themselves at a competitive disadvantage: their employees and stakeholders will be less engaged, and they are unlikely to be meeting the needs of modern customers.
Ultimately, this will affect the bottom line. Moreover, the IT organisation within a business will become increasingly marginalised, instead of being seen as an enabler of progress and advancement within a company.
In the age of digital business, this is a missed opportunity to magnify IT’s importance to the organisation.
The IT organisation, therefore, is in a unique position to manage and respond to the many disconnected business initiatives that relate to consumerisation or other workplace changes.
It has a front seat view of social networking and collaboration, it sees the impact of shadow IT spending in digital marketing and sales automation, and it can see the impact of authorised and unauthorised use of consumer applications and devices.
A digital workplace strategy enables IT leaders to be brought into critical C-suite discussions about business performance, workforce management, workplace design, customer and partner relationships, and organisational culture.
Gartner estimates that, by 2018, most organisations will be forced to implement a digital workplace to respond to workplace trends, while most new organisations will employ digital workplace concepts from the outset.
To gain and maintain a lead over competitors, IT leaders must begin to think about the trends occurring within their own organisation, and how IT can enhance its position in managing consumerisation and, at the same time, drive great results for the business.