A laptop, and the unintended consequences of new ways of working

This post is all about the ever increasing relevance in the socialisation impact of change, and how the evolution of our digital workspace is now making planners stretch their horizons to articulate the true cost of change past the traditional Idea, Fix, Build, Deploy, Operate and Support closed loop world that has treated us well for the last 20 years or so.

At the heart of this transition in our thinking, is the view that for the first time the convergence of forces ( social, mobile, cloud, big data ) is forcing our planners to consider the extended consequential impact of our planning – both intended and unintended – on people and their ways of working.

Let me start by calling out a real world metaphor for this thread.

When one considers electricity and the anticipated and intended goal or consequence of this activity, we would probably all agree that production of electric power to support our ways of life is the core outcome.

We may agree also that the undesired but common and expected consequence of generating electricity is the heating of the ocean water near the plant. We may also concur that an undesired and improbable consequence would be a major explosion of the plant itself.

An unanticipated and desirable consequence might be the discovery of new operating procedures which would make nuclear power safer. An unforeseen and undesirable consequence might be the evolution of a new species of predator fish, in the warmed ocean water, which destroy existing desired species.

I hope this gives enough context to move ahead.

Another recent example I observed was the use of Drone technology. These amazing devices have come along leaps and bounds from the military connotation quite often see in movies and TV output as a means to assess battlefield terrain, identify rogue forces without deploying ground assets and ultimately, deliver payloads of destructive force without harming innocent civilisation. Buying your own drone is now no big deal, and more and more corporations are using drones to further enhance their service operations and customer satisfaction outcomes.

So I was astounded ( though on reflection not suprised ) to read of UK prisons reporting increasing drug traffic caused by outside influences flying in quantities of drugs ( over the wall ) using consumer drones and circumventing traditional security controls.(http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-manchester-34764417).

What happened to files in cakes!!!

Social economists will of course understand these events as referencing either unexpected consequences ( luck serendipity or a windfall) or unexpected drawbacks ( a positive project aimed at improving an element of business creates a negative outcome elsewhere ).

For the nuclear plant and drone technology architects and planners I am sure due consideration as to the unintended consequences of their designs were given, and ever eventuality was considered. But for many, there is a limit to this thinking as the emphasis is designing and deploying the To Be design requested by the customer.

As we have seen with the smartphone camera ( good or bad depending on your personal preference ), and the unintended consequence the ‘selfie’ craze ( who hates the selfie stick? – just me? ), the instances of technological change and the impact on our daily lives ( good or bad ) are increasing.

For the business decision maker, the architect and the financial planner of such change programmes, the scale of their horizons for measuring the consequences of their actions is ever growing.

Something called the Relevance Paradox kicks in at this point, where decision makers think they know their areas of ignorance regarding
an issue, obtain the necessary information to fill that ignorance void (intended consequences) , but intentionally neglect other areas as its relevance is not obvious to them ( unintended consequences).

So now consider the humble laptop computer that we have all owned (used ) at some point in our working lives.

Days gone by, the IT department was primarily focused on procuring, building, deploying and supporting the laptop and ensuring the worker had everything they needed. It was a capital asset and needed to be controlled and managed, and the IT department were ‘all over it’.

Unintended Consequences1

The anticipated and intended consequence is the provision of technology to help workers complete their tasks to support the business plan. The undesired but common and expected consequence was the increased help-desk calls from frustrated colleagues when they came back into the office.

A undesired and improbable consequence would be the theft of a laptop that had all the company’s data on it, and we would associate the term ‘risk’ with this outcome, but not with the provision of the laptop.

I remember such days and how liberating it felt that one could just put your computer into a bag, take it home on the train and plug it at home to word process a document or work on a spreadsheet. Offline became the new news in our working vocabulary as we used the laptop to be our extension to the office and for the first time released us from the 9 to 5 shackles of having to be in the office to work. And with good IT service management disciplines and processes meant the IT department could track assets, support incidents and learn from lessons. All was good.

What about the desired consequence? People could share information across office borders and communicate more effectively. Save office costs, save travel costs and improve common access to key information held in CRM and ERP systems.

And the costs? Well because IT were in control of the Build, Deploy, Operate and Support processes, the impact of change was relatively restricted to a capital and operational number owned by the CIO and CFO. A cost of doing business put another way.

And the Socialisation impact? No one knew what this meant at this stage in our maturity, and perhaps was put down to a training course on how to use the laptop!

And the risk? Pretty much every IT department followed the same cook book, and it was difficult to really get this wrong. Risk was low and everyone was relatively happy. After all, they knew no better.

Of course the fast forward button saw us get on-line through dial up modems, broadband and now wireless through various demand and supply channels. And because of this ubiquitous access now afforded to us, our laptops became notebooks, changing in importance to our workstyles, allowing us to work from anywhere, whilst improving our travel options and our and work life balance decisions.

Unintended Consequences2

In this more flexibly shackle free world, the worker was now given a lot more choice where they could work from, and from what device. As before the anticipated and  intended consequence was the provision of technology to help workers complete their task to support the business plan in a faster way to reach more customers, service more requests and sell more products.

The undesired but common and expected consequence perhaps was the increase help-desk calls from an ever increasingly remote workforce decoupled for long periods of time from the physical mother ship office. Longer hours worked impinging on family time was also an undesired consequence, quite often creating much negative fallout across personal and career development ( or lack of ) matters. Security exposure and brand impact due to worker’s using non corporate equipment, personal software and access from unsecured public networks also became an undesired consequence.

Again, the outcome and the provision of the laptop were not necessarily associated other than best endeavours for security awareness, border controls around sensitive data and content publishing.

And the costs? Well because IT were still largely in control of the Build, Deploy, Operate and Support processes, the impact of change was relatively restricted to a capital and operational number owned by the CIO and CFO with more interaction with the HR function for working policies, and specific business functions that had particularly needs for IT to help them ( sales mainly to mobilise their troops. ) Again a  cost of doing business put another way.

And the socialisation impact? Now we saw more employment guidance for recruiters on flexible working benefits, and more HR related cases for work related stress due to unsocial working practices ( because the technology allowed me to work 24 hours ) , and the risks to workers due to tiredness and overall performance meltdown.

And the risk? Technologies now offered more choice so mistakes started to be made ( expensive ones – VM sprawl, power drain, license black holes, data theft, real-time social reputational damage and so on).

Now we consider where we are today.

The modern digital workplace for some ( and increasingly for many more ) is a long way off the days of IT controlled laptop distribution and control.

The modern working space no longer represents the classic office environment ( no desks, contemplation zones, collision points, or no offices at all! ), the collaboration platforms  ( social tools, self-service data aggregation, deeper learning algorithms  ) and the ‘lightness’ of software ( cloud, app revolution with point in time ,recipe style, and self-development apps landing on our devices at the swipe of a finger. ) All in the shadows and totally away from the unaware planners and policy makers.

No longer is the laptop a default tool for many, and the consequential impact of providing IT through other means is going to lead to a much wider range of consequential impacts never considered by IT planners and budget holders in the past.

Unintended Consequences3

Of course, today the business has a clear idea of what it wants from the ‘laptop’ which probably has become a range of devices to suit particularly persona workstyles. Workers use more than one device every day to retain their optimal productivity output, and mapping personas across different environments is where the real ‘magic sauce’ of understanding the consequences of workplace change will kick in.

The intended consequences of these ways of working initiatives sees great financial savings due to better use of office space, energy and travel costs plus more socially engaged workers, sharing ideas, knowledge and talent across borders that no longer prevented them from achieving more and more, and driving a higher output and business performance. Many organisations now see ‘co-working’ as their new office environments and are reducing corporately owned or leased building estate accordingly. (http://www.forbes.com/sites/groupthink/2015/12/21/4-reasons-why-every-office-will-be-a-coworking-office-in-5-years/ ).

The undesired but common and expected consequence  has seen stakeholders having to deal with human considerations for ‘rules of access’ and ‘information security’ that previously was totally within the IT departments domain. Whether it is because of open BYOD policies or Shadow IT data sharing via public cloud platforms, IT no longer controlled the Build, Deploy, Operate and Support processes fully.

The undesired and unintended consequence of this change is where the Relevance Paradox really does kick in.

Consider an organisation that deploys an IT asset into a modern workplace environment that just does not align well to the digital vision of the organisation. Remember organisations are on the ‘Digital Journey’ and see Socialisation a massive deal for their daily survival. A worker  ( or a group of workers ) given the wrong tool because of their working environment prevents them to exploit the new engagement protocols in place with fellow workers, suppliers or customers will very quickly create their own set of risks, and unintended consequences.

The hourly output for all of us matters more than ever. Our joy at working smarter every day is an adrenalin driven event that keeps us motivated, fresh and rich in ideas and opportunity. Conversely, our frustration at ‘being out of sync’ because of our workspace limitations drive us to seek other opportunities, or ‘cope’ with being less productive.

Reflect on your working day to decide which you are, and consider how the planner of your laptop or office space considered the true consequential impact on your job performance. Measuring  this – Plus or Minus – is going to be a huge factor in the success of ‘going digital’.

I believe the socialisation impact of  understanding the true impact of new workstyles, worker personas and use of technology is going to be exponentially larger than the traditional Build, Operate and Support cost models of yesteryear.  Ways of quantifying and measuring impact will require a wider audience of stakeholders and subject matter expertise, with a Right to Left approach to leveraging the most value from the technology asset.

And the costs? Gone will the yardsticks for Capex/Opex measurement of the IT elements. Or more accurately, these costs will be the small change compared to the overall cost of the socialisation of the intended consequences of the IT expenditure. It could be in the different of magnitudes , up or down, and the Relevance Paradox will feature more for planners who ‘choose’ to ignore the real impact of their thinking.

I envisage more and more organisations will see transformational change programmes like an office move or a technology refresh as an opportunity to review their mindset thinking approach, and widen the debate to incorporate a more cognitive way of approaching the Socialisation measurement and impact on the workplace. We already see Machine2Machine and Internet of Things infrastructure managing the smart building and city assets in a way never envisaged by planners, and this technological wave will create new platforms to drive the ‘laptop’ to achieve more and more business value for individuals, business functions and organisational success.





One thought on “A laptop, and the unintended consequences of new ways of working

  1. Helen Liaudin says:

    You are so bloody smart.


    Sent from Windows Mail

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