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What does the future of work look like?

Jonathan Hassell | Aug. 8, 2014
Users increasingly come to the office clamoring for the same functionality, utility and speed that they enjoy on the devices they have at home. This is profoundly affecting the future of work (and the future of IT) in four key ways.

Credit: Plantronics PR via Flickr

With Microsoft moving into a "mobile first, cloud first" world, an Apple smartwatch coming any day now and everyone else buying into the cloud computing hype, it can be easy to lose sight of what all of these developments do: Drive business forward by enabling employees to be more productive. Essentially, it's about the future of work.

But what might that look like? Travel into the future and take a look at what the future of work will look like. It's all about four key areas.

The Future of Work is Device-Agnostic
In a results-oriented world, what comes out at the end is pretty much the only thing that matters. You hear bosses say, "I don't care how many hours a day you work; I care about the fact that your work gets done." Users feel the same way, only it's about their tools rather than their subordinates.

Users can get work done on a variety of devices. They want to use their personal devices, with which they are already familiar. Witness bring you own device (BYOD) programs. They want to use a tablet when they're consuming more than creating, they want to use email on a smartphone to stay on top of their inbox between meetings, and they want to be reachable via voice, text, email, video chat and the like on any device, no matter what's in their hands. In the future, users will have less and less patience at seemingly artificial restrictions on what device can't support getting some piece of their daily grind accomplished.

The takeaway for CIOs? Think hard about how your services and your infrastructure can support all devices, not just some. Also, reconsider any plan that throws up artificial barriers to using certain devices. Recognize that this isn't always possible in highly regulated fields, but also know that this is a worthy goal.

The Future of Work is Location-Agnostic
Today's employees are mobile, even if their current jobs and roles don't require travel. For most knowledge workers and white-collar professionals, work is no longer a 9-to-5 engagement. You check email on a weekend. You finish a spreadsheet at night after you put the kids to bed. You comment on documents on Yammer or SharePoint first thing in the morning after colleagues in a different time zone have had a chance to get their hands on the work and iterate on it.

It's unclear whether IT has kept up with this style of work. Sure, you see SSL VPNs in big companies that purport to make it easy to connect from home, but is that really the case? Are you really enabling a frustration-free experience by giving your employees laptop computers that take three minutes to fully boot up through the security checks and decryption process and then making them connect through an SSL VPN just so they can download email? Is that truly the best you can do?


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