The Workplace Of The Future Is Around The Corner

Organization.  The word we have used to represent the model of how to best “organize” the activities of many around a common purpose or shared goal is undergoing a prolific transformation.  In fact, the recent prediction from Gartner on what your workplace in 2020 will look like really comes as no news at all, and we can see it happening already today, all around us.  Our role as IT professionals in stewarding organizations and increasingly, the society we live in through this transformation and change is both exciting and daunting.  
As someone who is passionate about continuous improvement, I am thoroughly excited by what I can say with certainty will be a step function increase in collective productivity. The ability to engage and indeed in “Continuous Collaboration”  with whomever and whenever will allow us to solve problems at a pace previously impossible. As our world certainly has plenty of complex problems to solve, from both a philanthropic and geo-political perspective, the potential that could be unlocked though the enablement of  near-frictionless collaboration couldn't come soon enough.
Our role in Making IT Work has never come with more responsibility or complexity than it has now.  For those of us passionate about what we do and who naturally gravitate towards challenges and environments where the pace of change and complexity of problems are high – it's like being a kid in a candy store.  At the same time, the Change Management side of me realizes that this transformation in workplace dynamic and expectations is indeed a revolutionary change compared to how we have approached and compartmentalized “work” since the industrial revolution and the rise of the corporation.
What does this mean for your IT team, or you as an individual? Here is the impact I see in the Service Delivery area where the nature of most of the work being done will changesignificantly.

Service Delivery (ICT)The Now…

The notion of control is at the core of the organizational paradigmand one which many of us in IT, and certainly Corporate IT, have had almost amaniacal obsession with. Looking backover the last 10 years, ICT organizations have moved from reactive, looselycoupled processes to manage technology and infrastucture to the world of ITIL,where standards rule and best practice is the new mantra. Over this time we have spent significantenergy in standardizing our infrastructure and demanding conformity from ourusers.
Today, our users only use approved hardware assets within the corporateinfrastructure. We restrict our usercommunity to specific applications and put policies in place to ensureappropriate use of hardware, storage and data assets. We make sure the firewalls and infrastructurethat touches “the outside world” is able to keep all that is deemedundesirable out and at all cost, preserve the sanctity of the corporatemothership. We expend resourcesensuring that nothing has penetrated our defenses – and continually improve ourdetect and destroy measures as new vulnerabilities and risks emerge.

Service Delivery (ICT) The Future…

The de-routinization of work discussed by Gartner will dramatically changethe activity profile for the ICT professional.Service Desks will be centralized, optimized and self-service optionswill be the new mantra. Password resets?Server or client builds? Tape Backup management? All activities that will be arelic of time past.
Instead, work flow driven processes will rule the day and management byexecption on dashboards ranging from compliance to security will be the portalinto the health of our key systems, processes and platforms. For the service delivery professional,managing policy and work flow process activities and engaging in changemanagement (i.e. training, education, communication, governance) will result innew, exciting roles with similar but also new competencies being critical.
The workplace as we know it today will know no walls – the new challengewill be figuring out how to unlock the shackles and limitations we had spent somuch time placing on our user community while at the same time, appropriatelymanaging risk. Much of what our usercommunity will do will also be driven by process and workflow – which means thegreat divide between techies and technie nots will finally close. Technology and software is now a service,transparent and appliance in nature. Theinterface paradigm you, as the IT processional find yourself in is aligned withyour users paradigm.
You in IT are now a business process technical specialist. Innovation andcontinuous improvement are well entrenched in your vocabulary. You may be dedicated to a particular businessprocess area or be more of a generalist – in either case, you understand thebusiness deeply and are not viewed as a techie, but a business partner. Yourjob is not to say “NO” but to find out “HOW”. Your users are everywhere and you can beanywhere. Success in your role dependson success of the business processes you are supporting and organization goals they relate to. Wheneveryour users work, you need to be able to respond – on the road, at home – don't be surprised if you find yourself on the road with your business partners.  After all, when you are looked on to add value directly to a business process, in addition to your technical competency, your knowledge domain needs to include intimacy with what the business need or outcome is.  
You're not being asked to reset a password anymore – in fact, you might not be asked really for anything – except for help in enabling a business outcome.  Your business partner knows the what – what needs to be done, what hurdle needs a solution – what needs to be determined is the how.  In this brave new world, there won't be an SOP to help you. You're creating value by figuring out the how.  Your social graph is there to help you – colleagues who work with you – perhaps a world away – and even those who don't work with you.  You may be solving problems that just haven't been solved before.  Crowdsourcing is the norm – if the answer is obvious, it would have probably been handled or routed by the workflow.  Being able to tap into the collective knowledge and resources available to you, the true knowledge worker is a key value you bring to the organization.  Innovation is what you do.
Taking a step back and tying back to the crowdsourcing comment earlier, consider for a moment the possibility that for some of those in ICT you might be working completely outside of an organization, as we define it today.  Or perhaps, a certain percentage of your time is shared, by your organization, as part of that collective “knowledge-crowd”. After all, for this model to work and taking a page from the open source world, all must contribute in order to benefit.  It makes me think of the popular game show 1 vs. 100 – the mob normally wins (though every once in a while, the crowd does lose!). 
As a wise man named Ben once said, with great power comes great responsibility – the best is yet to come in this field of Information Technology.  Shout it from the rooftops!  Engage your teams with a vision of what could be and remember how blessed we are to be working in an area that offers a virtually limitless potential to learn and grow each and every day.  
Make “Making IT Work” your mantra and a core theme around how you share with others, what it is you do. See what happens.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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