The Workplace of the Future is now: Creating the 'burning platform' [guest post by Kate Johnson, Google]

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    Happy Holidays all!


    I hope many of you had the opportunity to spend time with friends and family recently to celebrate the holiday season. I certainly did (and am still recovering!) I was quietly very happy with myself that we managed to cook for 12 people with nothing major going wrong - quite the feat given that cooking really isn't a personal strength of mine!


    I'm very happy to share this latest article on the blog, written by the talented and lovely Kate Johnson who is our Change and Transformation Specialist for North America, based in the Chicago office.   She has worked as both an external and internal change management consultant across a range of organizational sizes and industries. Kate recently spoken publicly about organizational culture and the future of work - receiving great feedback, which is why I've invited her to share her thoughts and observations on this topic here with you all.

    Enjoy, and I look forward to connecting with you all again in 2017!






    The future of work is a hot topic among IT thought and practice leaders, given the accelerating pace of technological innovation. Business leaders’ ability to articulate what the future looks like for their organization and establish the ‘burning platform’ (or the urgent business need) to get there will likely determine who succeeds in the marketplace.  More than ever, technology should be factoring into your vision and burning platform.

    Let’s start with what that future looks like.  Thought leaders describe the workplace of the future as one that is increasingly transparent, connected and flexible, driven by technology that enables easy information sharing and global connectivity.  Technology is expected to shape the structure and culture of organizations by enabling:

    • More flexibility and dialogue. As the breadth of communication channels grows, expect less email and more video, chat and social media usage for meetings and information sharing.
    • More collaboration. The tools that allow employees to find content, subject matter experts and decision makers will increasingly override organizational silos and encourage co-authoring.
    • Greater agility. The widespread use of mobile, Cloud and smarter contextual tools will enable individuals, teams and organizations to work anywhere, respond quickly and automate more routine, time-intensive work.

    As more millennials enter the workforce, they bring the expectation that employers have the same culture and technology that already dominates their personal and academic lives. This growing demographic is used to searching for and finding digital information, following others and crowdsourcing questions on social media, and meeting with friends or team members from their home or coffeeshop.  They are far more likely to contact a colleague via instant message or video chat than their more senior colleagues; they’re also much more likely to opt for a brainstorming session using a videoconference or message board over a personal meeting.
    Incoming generations see technology not just as productivity tools, but as the ‘social fabric of both interaction and action: a platform for crowd intelligence and a reshaping of the relationships that people have with one another and even with themselves.’


    This way of working may be several years off for some, but many digital leaders and newer organizations have incorporated Cloud-based technology into their organizational ‘social fabric’. They are using social and collaboration tools to share issues, ideas and content at a faster pace and more global scale than ever before - and are reaping the financial benefits that is giving them a competitive edge. McKinsey’s Global Institute estimates at between $900 billion and $1.3 trillion in value creation opportunity afforded by these collaborative and social technologies.”


    It’s not just about value creation, it’s also about minimizing marketplace threats.  According to MIT Sloan School of Management, “large organizations (greater than $7 billion turnover per annum) risk up to 53% of their revenues disappearing due to digital disruption over the next 5 years.” 


    The 'burning platform' for many organizations is that they are at risk of being displaced either by newer, smaller ‘digital disrupters’ or by existing competitors who have fully adopted collaborative, social, Cloud-based technology. ‘Full adoption’ meaning that the organization has integrated this technology into their business processes, policies, rewards and general attitudes towards how they work.  As a result, they have a head start, are working faster, and are now poised to capitalize on the latest innovations in big data and machine learning. 


    If you are one of these organizations, congratulations - fully adopting new technology is a huge feat!


    If you aren’t there yet, start crafting or revisiting the vision and ‘burning platform’ for your organization now.  Common visions for organizational change often relate to:

    • Offering (or maintaining) the best service or product,
    • Staving off existing competitors or digital disruptors, and/or
    • Becoming more agile, more responsive to market forces and/or more lean. 

    Get specific about how Cloud-based technology can address existing barriers and help the organization work better. Consider current issues like:

    • Barriers to getting work done quickly and effectively that could be eased by technology
    • Challenges of getting important information to your people and engaging those in far reaches of the organization
    • Complex or manual processes that could be streamlined and simplified

    Now build the ‘burning platform’ to illustrate what’s at stake if the organization does not take action.

    • Are there financial ramifications for doing nothing?
    • What is the impact to your people - or your ability to attract new talent - for maintaining the status quo?
    • What is the opportunity cost and risk?

    Whatever the burning platform, back it up with data and personalize it with stories. If you have any objects that symbolize what’s at stake (i.e. a customer letter, an outdated product or a competitor's’ latest innovation) all the better, as symbolic objects can spark emotional responses and calls to action. 


    Once you have a strong vision and burning platform, sell it, pitch it, and make it known across the organization.  Most people don’t like to change, but will do so if they understand why it’s critical. It’s also what you come back to when you get resistance, or worse - apathy and inaction. Whatever your vision and ‘burning platform’, having one and building support for it is the first step to moving your organization into the future workplace. 


    I’d love to know your thoughts on what’s worked, where you struggle and insights from those at various stage of the journey (which I’ll write about more in early 2017)