It’s now been a bit more than a month that I have relocated to London. Now that I have settled in, it’s time to participate more in the incredible UK ecosystem.
It starts tomorrow. I feel really honored to speak at Digital London, a new conference that has been hitting all the right notes in its organization. Just look at the speaker’s roaster and the various tracks [PDF]. I’m really looking forward to it.
Here’s Adam Malik and me talking a bit about the changes that digital is bringing to businesses. Think of it as a teaser to my talk on Wednesday, March 13, in which I’ll focus a bit more on why mobile is the gateway to the so-called ‘consumerization of IT’ trend, and more generally, on what I like to call the rise of context.
My colleague and friend, R “Ray” Wang will talk tomorrow morning about ‘The Future of Digital Solutions, Content & Services’. You will have to catch him for me as I will be chairing the Innovation, Technologies & Platform track at the same time with Matt Brittin from Google, Anastassia Lauterbach from Qualcomm, Dave Tansley from Deloitte and David King from Logica.
On Wednesday morning, I’ll be chairing the ‘Digital & Technology Futures’ track with Stephen Bates from RIM, Dr. Mike Short from IET, Niall Murphy from Evrythng, Benjamin Woo from IDC and two ExactTarget fellow, Phil Cool and Andrew Chothia.
In the afternoon, I’ll be speaking during the ‘Next Generation Innovation’ track. From digital commerce to mobility, I think I’ll feel at home in there.
The title of my presentation? ‘The Next Generation Customer Experience’.
You can still register if you want to see us.
When I was speaking at the European Union earlier this February, I insisted on how transformative mobile and social technologies were to the way its leaders should envision work. Not communication. Not IT. But the workplace as a whole.
The employees are customers requiring the same attention than “traditional” customers. Welcome to the new B2C. A business to constituent approach —your constituents being your workforce here.
A peer to peer workplace
What do you do when you’re unable to fix that crash you had with your computer at work? You call that guy. That person you know will fix the problem.
You’ve been doing it all along. You create nodes. You talk to people, not to title holders, not to org charts.
We’re in a nodal economy. We’ve always been there, whether in the workplace or not. A P2P economy, a peer-to-peer, person-to-person economy. Boosted by the use of the social web and the advancement/declining costs of hardware though, the tools are finally catching up to this reality.
It’s undeniable that work is very different today than it was just two or three years ago. We’re interacting with larger audiences via social networks both inside and outside our companies. We’re more open about core business processes like trying to sign a new customer, hiring and on-boarding employees and rewarding our peers. We’re connected all the time via smart phone, tablets and even our cars. Work has changed. [source]
This is possibly the most important change companies are facing. Not the technologies and the processes per se. But those in the context of people —employees.
Am I talking human behavior? Yes. But let’s start with the technology part.
The consumerization of the workplace
You’ve probably heard this term a dozen times: the consumerization of IT. To some, it embodies changes that affect only some specific departments insides companies —IT, in short—, but it is actually much deeper.
To grasp it, think about that smartphone sitting in that table in front of you. It’s more powerful than your computer you had a decade ago. Think further. That computer from a decade ago was more powerful than your desktop at home. There you have it in a nutshell.
From top-down to bottom-up
It used to be that innovation went top-down, from the public sector —whether military or universities— to industries and corporations to finally reach the consumer.
The trend is now reversing. Your personal smartphone is more powerful than the one provided by your company. And there are chances that the laptop you possess is also more powerful than the one sitting on your work desk.
Research In Motion’s success with its BlackBerry lines of phones was clearly one of security and infrastructure, but it also embodied the top-down approach: the phone was given to you by your company, set accordingly. By simply putting it on that coffee table during lunch break, you created a “Blackberry-envy”, the traditional imbalance between the haves and the have-nots. Whether those were colleagues or friends, they suddenly wanted one, hence the subsequent success of RIM in the pure consumer-tech segment. From the top management to consumers. Top-down.
Besides RIM’s failings at maintaining its competitive edge, Apple’s iPhone is the poster-child of the opposite trend. That phone started as a pure consumer technology handset, no companies were seriously thinking about adopting it for a long time. Fast forward to 2012 and companies like Halliburton are getting it for their workforce. The debate about whether Apple is enterprise-class or not is almost moot. It didn’t have to proclaim itself “enterprise”, the market is doing it —for better or worse. The consumers are doing it. From the bottom to the top.
It is the exact same trend that we’re witnessing with companies enabling “bring your own device” (BYOD) policies. Want to use your Samsung Galaxy for work? And your MacBook Pro with that? Let us set it up for you. It’s an irresistible trend that is being adopted —or forced upon, depending to whom you talk to.
Am I simplifying the debate? Yes, of course. I’m not saying that Apple’s iCloud is to be compared with business solutions. But it is not the argument here. The argument is about how people perceive and use technology.
Processes and technologies in the workplace were always supposed to be made for people. To allow them to do their work more efficiently. And that’s the key: putting people in the center means thinking human behavior.
The Facebook standard
We all shape our behaviors according to our upbringing, to our culture(s), to our environment. We constantly adapt to our context, although with a pace of its own that doesn’t always match the technological one. Now, think about the amount of time you’ve actually owned a smartphone —for iPhone users, it can date back to 2007— and think about when you signed up on Facebook —yes, Facebook.
The iPhone and Facebook —to only quote the two most obvious choices— did shape your behavior. The foundation of your current software use skillset was impacted by that glass screen and the apps you play with. Your Facebook time did shape your vision of online interactions (e.g. the etiquette, the behaviors), but also the social experience through a screen (e.g. the UX/UI).
The consumerization of IT? People are asking to bring their iPhone to work. People are expecting to internally interact with a Facebook-like experience.
Have a look at many of the internal social communication tools on the market and you’ll see that almost all vendors are taking a page from the Facebook experience. I’m not saying it provides the best experience overall, but it’s a shared and lasting experience amongst people. If it understands people, it will be adopted by people. In this case, it almost becomes a de facto Facebook standard.
The mobile ignition
Mobile technologies are reshaping where and when we work —that’s pretty obvious—, but also how we work.
If you re-read the above, you’ll realize that I’ve been insisting on the smartphone. For a reason. The starting point of the consumerization of IT trend can be traced back when consumer smartphones became ubiquitous. The BYOD policies only gained traction when IT departments realized the staggering number of “rogue” devices accessing enterprise networks —rogue often meaning a smartphone.
And if Facebook shapes how people’s behaviors on networks, half of those interactions are made through a mobile phone.
The agent of change is the smartphone —and its cousin the tablet. It will continue to be one. It is shaping when people interact —24/7. Where people interact —blurring the line between the private and work persona. How people interact —in contextual nodes. And why they interact —that need to be social.
It’s always back to the people.
I’ll be discussing this further with my colleagues Yvette Cameron, Alan Lepofsky and R “Ray” Wang on March 19, 2012 in Miami, Fl. USA as part of SABA’s People Summit: From Concept to Reality: The Future of Work. We’d love to have you interacting with us there. Register here.