Work used to be a place. For much of my career, “work” was a place you went to and did things for eight or more hours a day in exchange for pay. It doesn’t take much reading to see that today, that’s less and less the case. Moreover, experts predict that close to half of us in the US won’t work in a traditional office environment by 2020.
When discussing “work” these days we’re really more focused on the activity itself rather than the location. Mobile and cloud technologies make it possible for more people to work from almost anywhere. Those same people can now quickly join teams that exist to address a specific need or project, and then leave those teams when their portion of the work is done. Very often, these teams contain people who are from outside the organization but are critical to the success of the work being done. The modern, knowledge worker-centric organization is an engine driven by fluid, just-in-time collaboration by people located all over the globe.
The fuel for this engine is technology. Both the technology itself and the way it’s used are very different from what we called “IT” just a few years ago. Having a few servers in a “server closet” isn’t going to provide what’s necessary to support this style of doing business. So, what should you do?
Get Out of the Business of Owning Servers.
You might be surprised to find that many of the applications you use in your business are now offered as a subscription service by the vendor or a service provider. These applications are accessed over secure Internet connections and don’t require you to operate your own server. Upgrades, patching, and security of the software are the responsibility of the vendor and not something you have to manage. The cost of the software and infrastructure becomes operating, rather than capital expense. Legacy applications can be hosted at a dedicated hosting facility and maintained by a service provider in much the same way.
Adopt Collaboration Tools.
Email was revolutionary – thirty years ago. Today email is where valuable communications go to die. The average US employee spends 28% or their day reading and responding to email. That’s a huge time sink that’s mostly used for CYA, not genuine communications. Real-time chat tools like Slack are far more productive for facilitating internal communications and on-the-fly resource sharing. Innovative project management tools like Basecamp and Trello are more effective for keeping projects on track. Tools like these are available to all your staff, anywhere, at any time. The conversations and shared resources embedded in these tools are widely available rather than holed up in someone’s email inbox.
Let Go of the Desktop.
For years we’ve been issued a computer and that’s where nearly all of our work was done. Losing a computer or having it fail was a disaster that could cost us days of productivity, lost information, and maybe even expose sensitive data to outsiders. It doesn’t have to be that way anymore. Because of the kinds of tools and approaches I’ve described above the emphasis is now on applications, sharing, and data, not on the device. Look for technologies you can access from smartphones, tablets, and web browsers as well as your trusty laptop. Make sure the data you need is stored somewhere other than your laptop that’s transparent to access.
See Technology as an Innovation Driver.
Too many businesses consider technology to be a necessary evil and a cost center. Technology adoption is driven by cost, the expiration of maintenance agreements, and hardware failure. Doing this guarantees that technology will be of minimal benefit to your company. Instead, question everything about how you use technology. When considering a business problem, ask if there is a technology that could solve it – or better yet, might change the situation entirely and in your favor. Vigorously stamp out manual processes and ineffective technology use! Become an enthusiastic adopter of (proven) technology, not someone that hangs on to a bad but comfortable way of doing things.
Doing these things will transform the way you work. We’ve used these tools and techniques to build a company that owns no physical servers and can work from anywhere. It costs us less too. Why not have a talk with us to find out more about how you can do it, too?