As technology evolves, much of the work that was typically completed in a physical office space can now be conducted in a digital workplace. The transition is reshaping IT environments, as mobile devices become more powerful, cloud computing goes mainstream and bring your own device becomes an industry standard.
In this podcast, Paul Miller, author of The Digital Workplace: How Technology is Liberating Work, and the founder and CEO of London-based Digital Workplace Group, discusses how technology is transforming the way we work and how business is conducted. Miller tells SearchCIO.com Assistant Site Editor Emily McLaughlin about the factors behind these changes, and what forward-thinking CIOs can do to adapt.
Read a partial transcript of the interview, and click on the link to listen to the full podcast on the new digital workplace.
Enterprise organizations have been undergoing a digital transformation for years, in the shift from paper to electronic documents, for example. How would you define the digital workplace now, and the driving forces behind it?
Paul Miller: Well, to define the digital workplace first off, we all know and understand physical workplaces -- offices, factories, shops, warehouses, etc. Those have really shaped the last 200 years. Increasingly, where we find ourselves working are in digital workplaces. So, essentially, what the digital workplace is, is the digital equivalent of the physical workplace. I would suggest that work is either happening in digital or physical workplaces, but that's it -- there's nowhere else where work can happen.
I think the driving forces are partly technological: We have far more powerful technology and far more powerful connectivity.
founder and CEO, Digital Workplace Group
The other way of describing the digital workplace is that it's intranet, microblogging, HR systems, supply chain, email, audio, video, teleconferencing, mobile, etc. -- all of these are the artifacts of the digital workplace. I think the driving forces are partly technological: We have far more powerful technology and far more powerful connectivity. So I think the quality of the technology is allowing the digital workplace to be far more present now.
I think the other thing is that there is a kind of process going on within the nature of work that is giving people more control, influence and autonomy over how work happens. I think people enjoy having levels of flexibility.
You talk about the 'future of work' in your book. What is your vision for the workplace five years from now?
Miller: If we are looking forward five years, I think there are certain things that are clear. One is that the physical workplace for organizations will occupy less physical real estate than it does today. Whether physical workplaces like offices actually disappear, or whether they are simply redesigned and are diluted in size, it's hard to tell exactly. The physical footprint of organizations is going to deteriorate.
I think the other thing that happens is we will find ourselves in richer, more meaningful and more pleasurable and productive digital environments. The quality of audio and visual, of telepresence, of real-time technologies, will improve. Our ability to collaborate will improve, and the technology that we carry around with us will start to improve.
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To give you an example, if you go into Zara -- which is a clothing chain in Europe, very popular -- they realize staff in their stores are in touch with the customers, obviously, on a daily basis. So they said, 'Well, why not turn them into market researchers?' So using kind of smartphone devices, the staff in the stores are now able to engage in conversations with the customers in a new way. So, if you went into the store and said, 'I really like that dress, but I would prefer it in purple,' that information gets fed through to Zara's manufacturing, and within a week that dress is on sale in the store in purple.
That is an example of what I like to call the 'mobile frontline,' and the empowerment of frontline roles through technology. I think that we sometimes think of the digital workplace as being something for corporate workers, but it's not, because in that case it worked for the retail sector. I think the digital workplaces themselves, or the user experience, will feel more seamless. We will be able to move through these places far more effortlessly.
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This was first published in October 2012