How we work today is changing. Many of us log in from home for at least some of the time in any given week. We might choose to work at different hours, perhaps stopping to collect the kids from school and then finishing a task after they are in bed.
We are more likely to work in teams made up of people who are not all in the same place, spread across different states or international boundaries. We may also work in cross-functional teams with people who have very different skills from our own.
Increasingly, we need to collaborate, not just with other employees of the business, but with outside partners, contractors and also with our customers. Customers’ expectations of communication have increased – for example when you are getting a package delivered these days, you expect to know where your item is, you will often be able to track it in real time, perhaps get the name and a photo of the driver, and even review the carrier online.
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Technology has made it possible to reimagine the world of work. From messaging apps to project management tools, collaborative workplace technology supports the digital workforce in key ways – and here are three.
Meeting Employee Expectations
The technology people use in other aspects of their lives has also changed. Whether shopping, gaming, or communicating with friends and family, people are increasingly reliant on technology. Most consumer technology has a seamless user experience. People use apps on their mobile phones, voice-activated bots and a range of devices several times a day.
A recent survey of internet trends 2019, showed that almost ninety percent of people now use a second device while watching TV. The amount of time people spend online has also increased – although their concerns over data privacy are growing.
But using all this technology at home means that when employees come to work, they don’t expect to have to shuffle post-it notes or fill in paper forms. Increasingly, people want and expect workplace technology that is ubiquitous and easy to use. The consumer apps which have survived in a crowded market tend to be ones with intuitive user interfaces. That sets up expectations for business apps which all too many fail to live up to.
Employees also want fingertip access to their own data – for instance, what is their remaining vacation allowance? Or what are the outcomes they are being measured against? How are they performing against their targets and what bonus will they earn? Employees want to be able to record their time and expenses, or when they clock in and out, perhaps on a mobile phone.
Workplace technology today has to meet employees’ expectations of a great user experience. Not being able to offer that may make it harder to build and maintain high performing teams.
Make Finding and Sharing Information Easy
Workplace technology supports people who work remotely, at all times of day or night and in different countries and time zones. Employees now need access to information around the clock. It has to be kept up to date and accurate all the time to be of use.
They also need to communicate about the tasks they are doing – without the facility to discuss progress, work can be duplicated, and people can get out of step about what needs to be done, when and by whom. Everyone needs to be on the same page about their tasks and roles.
And, the people we want to share information with may not all be employees. We may be working with partners or contractors, or our business team may be working closely with customers who want to access information at short notice. So, it is important that it is easy to share data, but for security reasons only specific and relevant instances.
As companies grow and expand, accessing data becomes more important. In a small company, we usually know everyone, and assembling the best team can be done informally. But across a larger business, it’s not possible to know everything about everyone. Perhaps you want to find someone within the organization or the pool of contractors who has a specific skill – fluency in Mandarin for example. Workplace technology can make this much easier.
Technology can make information accessible and searchable round the clock and from every location.
Integrate Between Applications
There is something of an explosion of workplace technology apps underway at the moment. These range from basic communication tools like messaging and video conferencing to enterprise-level business management software.
A few years ago, it was common for businesses to buy ‘suites’ which offered a single solution for many different problems from one vendor. These were often on-premise. They could be costly to maintain and often some aspects of the suite were less effective than others.
Since the advent of the cloud, it has become more common for businesses to buy apps separately. Employees also adopt their own apps for more ad-hoc issues. In many businesses, there are dozens or even hundreds of different apps in use.
Integrating these apps makes it possible to flow information from one to the other and to create a more unified picture of what is going on within the business.
In conclusion, these are just a few of the ways that technology currently plays a key role in businesses today. As the next generation of tech-savvy post-millennials enters the workplace, they will be excited for the new possibilities that technology offers, and to develop their skills at getting the best out of it. It will be exciting to see how this story continues to develop.