Designing the digital workplace of the future
Abu Dhabi, September 18, 2013
With the move to the digital workplace happening at a rapid pace, companies looking for a competitive advantage must start viewing the workplace itself as a strategic asset, said global management consulting firm Booz & Company in a report.
Every single day, members of a new generation are entering the workforce, and bringing with them their smartphones, tablets, and personal laptops, expecting to be able to use such powerful devices to do their work.
Some companies in the Middle East, such as Etisalat, Ooredoo and Emirates NBD, are working towards creating more efficient, collaborative spaces. Yet more organisations need to make good use of a variety of emerging technologies that can enable employees to work together in teams, across geographies in real time, said the report.
The business world is continuously evolving and employees are required to work – collaboratively – around the clock to meet the needs of the increasingly global economic environment. In recent years, new and innovative technologies have sped up the digitisation of businesses across industries, allowing them to better monitor operations and get much closer to their customers.
Booz & Company has formulated a framework on how to create the digital workplace of the future – one that can boost productivity, improve employee morale, and attract the next generation of talent.
“The emergence of new, digital technologies has altered the very fabric of the business landscape,” said Ramez T. Shehadi, a partner with the firm’s Digitisation platform.
“Now, companies looking for a competitive edge must view the workplace itself as a strategic asset to boost performance, optimize costs, maximise customer contact, reduce time to market for new products and services, and attract and retain talent,” said Shehadi.
“In order to do so, however, companies must understand the factors that are forcing the radical changes in the workplace, the challenges those factors have created for companies, and how they can overcome them to build a fully digital, truly strategic workplace,” he added.
TRENDS SHAPING BUSINESSES TODAY
Across the globe, a cohort of people born after 1990 is fast entering the workforce. They are the ‘Generation C‘ – fully tech-savvy individuals with an inherent understanding of digital technologies and the expectation of being connected. If companies hope to attract and retain these workers, they will need to adapt their workplaces accordingly, said the report.
“Globalisation has completely altered the way in which businesses operate, creating a market dynamic that increases competition and demands much higher levels of efficiency”, said Danny Karam, principal with Booz & Company.
“With organisations venturing beyond national boundaries in the pursuit of business opportunities, working across geographies and time zones has created an “always-on,” 24/7 culture,” he added.
“Employees are much more mobile, and companies are moving away from assigned offices and towards more open and technologically well-equipped workspaces that promote collaboration”.
Powerful and easy-to-use technologies have wrought significant changes in how people live their lives, at work and at home – and are doing much to encourage employees to combine their work and home lives. These tools enable people to communicate, collaborate, and share resources, while increasing productivity and business agility by boosting the automation and flexibility of IT infrastructures.
The business world today demands that employees interact with a wide variety of stakeholders, both inside and outside the traditional organisation. Therefore, companies designing the digital workplace must keep in mind the relationships among employees, and between employees and customers, vendors, suppliers, and even the public at large, said the report.
Employees need to work with one another to collaborate on day-to-day tasks, collectively brainstorm ideas, analyse information, present findings, share relevant files and documents, and track the progress of their respective activities.
Many employees regularly interact with consumers to collaborate on projects, handle requests or provide maintenance reports.
Employees must work regularly with the vendors and suppliers that provide parts, resources, services, and other inputs to ensure progress and on-time delivery.
Employees regularly interact with the administrative staff to submit expense reports, manage logistics, attend training sessions, and solve technical problems.
It is only by identifying these key interactions that companies can understand how best to design their workplaces.
A DESIGN FRAMEWORK
Creating the workplace of the future requires five elements which make up the digital office framework: access devices, communications infrastructure, business applications, the workplace environment, and digital security.
Employees need considerable flexibility in choosing the most effective way to access business applications wherever they are working, said the report.
Strong connectivity remains a crucial requirement in the digital workplace, both in the office and on the road. Infact, it is crucial that the communications technologies and business and collaboration applications driving business today function effectively.
Giving employees seamless access to business applications – whether core utilities such as ERP, CRM, or business intelligence or collaboration and administrative applications – regardless of location and time increases productivity and supports collaboration with other employees, partners, and customers. Such applications also help virtual teams work cohesively and interact effectively, giving them instant access to the critical information that they need.
The design of the physical workplace has a strong influence on employees’ motivation, performance, productivity, and collaboration; it also impacts an organisation’s ability to attract and retain talent, said the report.
The convergence of cloud computing, social media, and mobile computing technologies has created real problems in maintaining data security at every company. Nevertheless, new technologies now allow information to be stored securely in the cloud and made available from various devices, while enabling offline data access and seamless peer-to-peer activities between devices.
Companies in every industry are facing real challenges in offering employees the best of the new technologies that they need. However, those that can see the strategic value of the working environment will have a clear advantage in productivity, innovation, and collaboration. That, in turn, will enable them to attract the talent they will need to stay competitive and to align with the social and business transformations taking place around the world. - TradeArabia News Service
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