This is not a post about the Knowledge Economy, or Time-hacking, or the Future of Work – it’s about the convergence of the three and the resulting obsession I have with the democratization of IT. For those not in tech, this term means that employees of companies are bringing their own mobile and computing devices to work, accessing company networks from those devices and using a plethora of apps hosted in the cloud – not hosted by the company. That is unless the company blocks said apps and still mandates standard issue equipment – Blackberries and pagers for everyone!
Why is a rebel alliance forming and only anticipated to grow as Millennials enter the workforce? Competitive advantage, development opportunity, and the increasing instance of of the knowledge worker. Recognizing it formally or not – the digitally reborn are realizing that more time thinking, less time ‘managing’ is an advantage that helps accommodate their thirst & potential for learning and collaborating at warp speed. As such apps like SmartSheet, Dropbox, Teambox, Evernote, Join.Me, Skype and others are penetrating the commercial space – through individual licenses or pilots led by progressive workgroups.
Don’t Ask Don’t Tell as Policy
Ok, so cut to….business IT leadership and government standards boards scrambling to answer the questions that ensue – Are these apps secure? Which one is most secure? Why aren’t iPads able to displace notebooks after all? What is our plan for Consumerization of IT and BYOD? (Bring Your Own Device)
The answer is, there is no answer (yet). And what also seems common is reverting to a “don’t ask don’t tell policy” – i.e. official policy stating devices and apps not sanctioned by the company are not supported or not allowed. On the one hand, this puts the burden of risk on the policy offenders, on the other – we’re losing time to innovate and reap the benefits of personal and team agility. The problem is that policy makers generally frown on complex or ambiguous rules. Rules like tiering of data based on business risk – e.g. code red = customer financial records and employee payroll data. Code green = meeting minutes from a weekly status call.
The genie is out of the bottle and denying that puts a company, it’s customers, and employees more at risk than accepting and designing a more advanced approach to information security. I know, I know – but what if our competition gets word that our newest widget TK421 is launching on April 6th because they hack a cloud app like Dropbox? Guess what – your sales guy working on the customer pitch on the nerd bird between Austin and San Francisco is more at risk of spilling the beans on a launch date than your competitor hacking Dropbox to read your creative brief. (I say it with love, tech sector. I say it with love.)
Take it to the Bank
So why aren’t pioneering corporate employees busily crafting their business cases based on productivity gains and higher ROI to customers – the stuff heroes are made from?
It’s hard to quantify
Connected & collaborative work systems lead to gains at the micro-task level reducing time spent on administrative tasks and increasing time spent on knowledge tasks. Sounds logical – right? Unfortunately, it would be a huge administrative task to add up time saved at the micro-task level. Examples of unnecessary micro-tasks we’re not even cognizant of anymore:
- Sending a file via e-mail. Then resending it. Then sending it again to someone new to the team. Ugh – then remembering that Joe sales guy is on the road and can’t get on VPN to access it on the shared server – – and then sending it again.
- “Ramping” someone on a project – i.e. meeting with them to try and transfer weeks of knowledge in 30 minutes and subsequently answering 20 questions in the weeks following because who can retain all those details. Even though you also emailed her the deck. Twice.
- Managing a project, a pipeline, a forecast or any other document via spreadsheet that requires multiple points of input from different humans
- Rolling up feedback from the team and distributing it
- Company meetings that are not also available on demand via pod- or –screencast
In a world of flat organizations and knowledge deliverables, we need to hack these inefficiencies and shift to a cooperative information model vs. hierarchical one.
It’s not a spectator sport
- To truly understand the way the future of work is going to radically transform over time, you have to be willing to dig in and get dirty. Especially in large companies, the digital divide between leadership and employees is increasing and there’s often not enough common taxonomy or perspective for raising the issue. And ironically, not enough time to take on operational initiatives due to the pressing needs of the business.
It’s not necessary
- Price points are so affordable at the individual level that unless there’s a technical constraint, it’s easier to just do it, than to take on the likely losing battle of trying to affect corporate change. This is not an indictment of enterprise software initiatives – we still need enterprise-wide systems. But the point solutions relative to productivity and collaboration are outpacing the big guys and empowering employees to do more within the constraint of the 24-hour day in whatever way that drives the most value for them.
In 10 years we’ll all probably reflect on this issue with fondness in the way that we did when contemplating the risks of implementing e-mail. In the meantime, reframing the topic in terms of opportunity and advantage will hopefully unlock the traditional thinking surrounding the topic today.