I was delighted to be asked to participate in Dell’s Evolving Workforce research project. The future of ‘work’ is something that’s interested me since before I entered the work force.
I always found getting on a train and going to a place of work rather 18th Century. Like being back in the industrial age. Fair enough if you’re a doctor, nurse or working in a profession that specifically requires you to be located in a particular building. But for everything else, especially knowledge workers, sticking them in the 21st Century equivalent of a factory struck me as fundamentally stupid.
When I began doing work experience and consultancy age 15, I remember being shocked at the amount of messing about that I witnessed. Most of the team at one company spent hours each day just messing around. It wasn’t referred to as such, though. ‘Meetings’ took flipping ages because folk liked to talk. Internal emails and phone calls went unanswered because people were too busy talking — about rubbish. And goodness me, the amount of time that was wasted making coffees was ridiculous. I remember confidently asserting to the CEO of the company that his team was running at about 30% efficiency at a maximum, because of all the built-in messing about taking place.
I remember one lady who arrived into work promptly at 855am every morning but didn’t actually *do* any work until about 1045am. Instead she used up the time productively having coffee, eating a bagel, connecting with team members, being briefed on stuff that she didn’t need to be brief upon, answering phone calls that weren’t for her, and so on and so on.
I remember thinking there had to be a better way.
There is. Work from home. Or, well, work from anywhere. But not a flipping office. Unless you’re a nurse, doctor or Prime Minister. If you reduce everyone’s key contributions down to what is business critical, the vast majority of those contributions (in the knowledge economy, anyway) can be delivered virtually. Indeed, one *real* internal study I saw recently highlighted that one particular Customer Services Manager only delivered value to one firm for 40 minutes maximum each month — when the lady answered the phone from a key customer. That’s it. The rest of her time was used up (by her, and by her business) doing all manner of ridiculous activities like participating in team meetings. The implications of these kinds of research programmes are likely to be staggering — especially when the next generation ascends to senior management. Wherever possible I buy output, not bum-on-seat time and most corporations will eventually align to that viewpoint.
I explored these kinds of issues with Dell when I met with their research experts. I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity. It was also rather inspiring to see senior management at Dell actively considering the future of the workplace rather than sitting, staring at the wall, working out how to sell more desktops. Indeed, if we’re going to see more and more people become ‘sovereign individuals’ in control of their own destinies, the way in which corporations and individuals buy and use information technology is set to change dramatically.
Me? I don’t want to buy a desktop. I want to rent the facility. Just like I do with my electricity, insurance or anything else. I don’t want to own it. I don’t want to maintain it. I want to change it according to my changing business requirements. In January I might need 3x 28″ monitors and a desktop for my operations here in the UK (fulfilled from Dell’s Reading office). In February I might be in San Francisco for the month and therefore need a super-high-spec ultra-light laptop with one 28″ monitor (fulfilled from Dell’s San Francisco office). That’s a rather advanced case. If you think about the evolving workforce now becoming responsible for the provision of it’s own IT hardware, their first stop is likely to be PC World rather than Dell’s Enterprise Sales team. Equally, the rush toward consumerisation in the tech world is changing the nature of the corporate procurement function.
It’s a fascinating area that is only getting more interesting, especially with the introduction of mobile into the mix.
You can read all about Dell’s Evolving Workforce predictions in their report — you can find it here or I’ve embedded it below.