Office 3.0: four principles of doing business in the new world of information
New technologies, globalization and social changes have completely changed the way work, its nature and the way of performing everyday tasks are perceived. The increase in the number of internet users is the main contributor to this situation.
According to a We are Social Media report, there are as many as 3.01 billion people using the internet worldwide. That is more than 42% of the earth's population. In 2014 the internet reached 525 million of new users. In Poland, there are 25.7 million active users of the internet. That is 730 thousand more than in the previous year (source: We are Social Media IAB, 2015).
The transformation we are witnessing has completely changed the way of working, including the nature of work and the character of places where it is performed. Only 25 years ago, the majority of employees working in the high-tech sector, which has always been the pioneer in implementing new advancements, used to come to work at 9.00 and leave after 8-10 hours of work. Today 50% of contractors and employees of the largest ICT companies, such as IBM1 , perform their duties remotely. Such model is highly beneficial, especially for large, geographically dispersed organizations due to lower costs of business trips, flexible working hours making the employer more attractive and availability of specialists with rare competencies.
The modern world got used to the fact that work can be performed remotely, without even visiting the office for weeks. Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group, is one of the devoted advocates of remote work among the global business role models. According to him, telework has never been easier and more effective. It only requires proper management and tools that support communication and collaboration. That is why he criticized the decision made by Marissa Mayer, head of Yahoo, who banned remote work in her company in 2013.
Six months after taking over the leadership of the company, she decided to make such a radical step, believing that only physical presence in the office and interaction with other employees can promote the development of innovative ideas as well as new products and services. That is how Yahoo Weather was developed, an application that reached its quarterly target within four days. By changing the rules of working, Marissa Mayer wanted to get more such projects, as Yahoo had been searching for a way to stabilize its business and increase revenues for a long time. However, her step was more of an exception than a herald of a crisis of trust towards remote work.
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Proper organization and technology may help to adjust the working environment to the new conditions. Below are some basic rules that will help your company to function better in the new world of information.
Find the benefits of collaboration with other companies
All managers are very familiar with notions such as hyperspecialization, ecosystem and value chain. At the same time, not so many of them are aware of the consequences they bring to an organization. And these are very significant. Those entities that will manage to effectively build their potential around external resources will gain a long-lasting competitive edge over their environment.
Nike is a typical example of such collaboration. The company outsources the entire manufacturing, distribution and sales process as well as a big part of their marketing activities (developing artwork, planning campaigns on local markets). This allowed the company's employees to focus on more strategic functions, such as planning further activities, including those connected with building the brand whose value in 2014 was estimated by Forbes at USD 19 billion. Annual revenues of the company for the previous fiscal year reached $27.8 billion. In the next two years, Nike is planning to reach $36 billion. Their results prove that the strategy is effective.
Open up your organization to outside specialists
An old saying of HR managers says, “Remember that most of the best specialists do not work for you.” The increasing specialization of knowledge-based work reduces the number of employees with general competencies needed in companies, while specialists with expertise in a narrow field are on the rise. Identifying them was a very difficult mission until recently. However, new technologies and solutions, such as social networks, specialization and globalization have caused a dramatic decrease in transactional costs connected with searching for specialists as well as commissioning and performing each task. These opportunities are worth taking advantage of.
A skillful integration of highly specialized professionals, who function as independent employees, is not an easy task. It requires perfect project management skills and dividing the projects into small, but integral pieces as well as effective communication. That is how the world's largest IT companies work, with more and more entities that represent the so-called traditional economy following this path. The Boeing 787 “Dreamliner” project was run in this way2 . It was developed by more than ten thousand specialists, working for more than 400 companies and rendering services to Boeing, along with hundreds of contract employees, who polished elements such as the aircraft's design.
Create a flexible workspace
The more extensive, varied and geographicallyspread the teams, the more flexible the rule of collaboration for their members as well as the space they work in must be. That means, above all, introducing improvements that enable telework, e.g. in case of remote employees – appropriate equipment and software. For office employees – comfortable videoconferencing facilities, flexible working hours, allowing them to work outside the 9.00-5.00 scheme. Another thing to do is to adjust the incentive system operated in the company to the new requirements of collaboration, so that it is performance-oriented instead of recognizing people for the time spent at work. But there is more to it!
In the last few years, a global trend has been observed in office space design. More sophisticated workspace environment is aimed at facilitating collaboration between employees. Individual rooms are being replaced with open spaces and areas that promote integration during meals, discussions or even entertainment are being created. Wireless access to company network allows for an almost completely free use of the entire employee space for work.
Invest in stable and intuitive technologies
There can be no telework or effective communication without suitable information tools. Unified Communications can be a good example, being a solution that enables combining a few telecom functions (voice transmission, image and data, functions that enable dashboard sharing and even a remote collaboration platform) within one workstation and seamlessly connecting users of the system.
Such solutions are available also in an outsourced model and a complete alignment of range and scale of communication to the needs of their users is their advantage. In this way, depending on the needs, employees can be connected within workgroups as needed for a given project, without any worries about quantitative limitations. At the same time, every member will have a unique feeling of taking part in interactions with other colleagues.
The faster the work environment changes, the more important the IT technologies become, enabling not only effective individual work, but also collaboration in large and internally varied teams. The costs of deploying such solutions (e.g. group work systems) are decreasing so fast that, for those who plan developing technology in their companies, choosing them right remains the only challenge.