In their everyday lives, employees are online and connected everywhere, all the time. They demand this flexibility from their workplaces, too. Companies that dare to transform to a digital world of work will not only increase employee satisfaction, but also improve its own productivity. The cloud is the foundation for new communication, social collaboration and IT workplace concepts.
Author: Thomas van Zütphen Illustrations: Cindy Schmid; Foto: Monika Holzhauser
The lines between real and virtual mobility are blurring everywhere – from work to productivity to work-life balance. What challenges has this trend thrown up for organizations?
There are two sides to this issue. First, there’s the technology. You want your environments to be highly secure. Only then will you see the blossoming of the “anytime, anywhere, any device” modes of work that have been enabled by the widespread convergence of virtual and real mobility. Only then will these modes of work be reliably and securely available. Remember: virtual mobility requires employees to leave their secure network. Systems have to be available in real time; if they aren’t, collaboration and shared collaboration will break down. Finally, user friendliness drives user acceptance. If you implement easy-to-use systems with easy-to-handle security, employees will see no need to build their own solutions.
So what’s the second side?
Organizing your people. And this is where a fundamental, but often underestimated issue comes up: preserving team spirit despite anytime, anywhere collaboration. In other words, when project teams stop meeting face-to-face because collaboration has become virtualized, I need a ‘virtual break room’ where they can meet regularly. Otherwise, they’ll start feeling isolated and alone, which will destroy their motivation and productivity. HR departments, for their part, have to decide how much they want to protect employees from having – or even wanting – to be truly available 24/7. Responsible managers shouldn’t have to wait for works council representatives to point out the risky waters that they’re steering their company into. If they do, they’ve done something wrong.
What technologies – from augmented reality to artificial intelligence – do you think will need to be integrated the soonest?
We think that there’s no honest way to tell right now. Artificial intelligence (AI), for example, has countless use cases at varying degrees of maturity. Some are still in the research and development phase, making their future impact hard to predict. One thing is clear, though: automation is ‘merely’ taking repetitive tasks of our hands at this early stage. AI can take automation to the next level, though, by giving rise to learning machines that can partially replace human intelligence in its current role.
The automotive industry is one of your research specialties and a key mobility sector. But isn‘t this industry known for “covering its brakes” when it comes to IT investment?
They do cover their brakes, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. The market is highly volatile, so companies are reasonably cautious. They tend to avoid long‑term commitments to large IT projects or related milestones and investments. However, OEMs and auto parts suppliers have all seen the writing on the wall and are willing to invest in major trends such as IoT, connected cars and new mobility standards. The other side of IT investment – conventional IT in corporate server rooms – is still dominated by cost optimization.
Five years ago, you highlighted the importance of predictive analytics for future mobility applications, particularly those that have to be highly secure. Where do things stand today?
Predictive analytics has become a key technology in all the use cases that we view as fundamental to future mobility systems in an IoT (Internet of Things) context. Its scope extends all the way to public transit and covers all mobility systems that depend on interactions to minimize the likelihood of failures – such as fatal traffic accidents – in an increasingly complex, interconnected environment. To put it another way, predictive analytics, and everything that entails – including the cloud, which is the only platform that can process and analyze such vast amounts of data – has become so important that it’s impossible to imagine smart travel and transportation without it.
One of the questions that PAC Horizons 2017 will tackle is this: What changes should IT providers make to be viewed as ‘service providers’ in the truest sense of the word? And what standards, in your opinion, will they have to live up to?
There are two sides to this issue. First, if you want to emphasize the partnership aspect of business, I almost think IT user organizations have a bigger burden to bear than IT service providers. They have to stop looking at their providers as suppliers whose only job is to deliver fast, cheap products. Instead, they need to treat them as partners in the development of smart, cost-effective solutions. In return, though, they should be free to expect providers to continuously improve their knowledge of corporate and industry processes and their capabilities in cutting‑edge technologies within the quality categories used by user organizations and their customers. Not only that, but IT service providers should also actively pass on to customers any cost savings they generate in their own production environment. They’ll only do that, though – and here we come full circle – if they see that their customers treat them fairly and even handedly. And by customers, I also mean the departments that the providers aren’t actively serving. That’s a problem I often see: many IT decisions are driven by extremely aggressive pricing and purchasing terms. That hurts the IT provider, obviously. But it also hurts the customers’ own user departments. At the end of the day, I firmly believe that users don’t want products or technologies; they want solutions to their challenges. And today, you can only find the right solutions by partnering and being willing to open up.
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