In the year 2000 (B.S*), I sold a room-based video conferencing system to the Auckland office of a large multinational corporation for around $140,000 plus change. It was state-of-the-art and boasted a then impressive 384Kbps of ISDN-powered network bandwidth. There was the option of adding on a Multi-Party Conferencing Unit (MCU) to enable more than two parties to contribute to a call, starting from a mere $50,000. That was only 13 years ago!
In those days it was easy for organizations to provide impressive technology tools for their staff because only they could afford them. Not anymore. Today, organizations are competing in a technology arms race that they can’t win. The consumerization of I.T. means that individuals can and do upgrade their technology with a mind-set that borders on one that you would normally associate with commodities. Most individuals have better technology hardware and applications at home than they do at work.
So if you can’t win the race, what can you do? Here are my top three tips for employers engaged in the I.T. Arms Race:
1. Start with how your people want to work. If you understand how people want to work, you can understand where and how to invest. It’s not just about technology. People wanting to work remotely or have flexible hours is about lifestyle, not technology. Once you understand the driver you can invest in technology as well as policies that address the core drivers.
2. Embrace Terry’s iPhone. You know Terry, there’s at least one in every company. Terry is the guy who lines up from 1am outside his local mobile store when there is a new iPhone being launched. Terry is a bona fide Apple Fan Boy. Organizations that develop a robust Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy are smart. Enabling people to use the devices they choose and love, be they Apple, Microsoft, Nokia or Samsung, increases engagement and has a positive impact on the bottom line.
3. Social Media Is Not Evil. I think all companies should block Facebook, Twitter and YouTube…..not!! Quite a few do. Ironically, often they provide smartphones and laptops so people can work outside of business hours. That’s a wonderful example of attempting to have your cake and eat it too. I would argue this approach breeds resentment rather than productivity. It is important to have robust policies around social media and appropriate security but the days of not giving employees credit enough to know what is the appropriate use of Facebook et al is past.
Disclaimer: For every rule there are exceptions.
In the meantime the pace of change accelerates. Organizations continue to compete to be successful, whatever that might mean for them. My advice is stay alert and don’t be afraid to change.
* Before Smartphones