2014-26-September-Change.jpgThe Social Enterprise is dead … but it hasn’t disappeared. Rather, it has been replaced by a remarkably similar concept: the Digital Workplace. According to Gartner, the Digital Workplace "enables new and more effective ways of working, improves employee engagement and agility, and exploits consumer-oriented styles and technologies."

The two underlying principles of the digital workplace are as follows:

  • Digital workplaces have an explicit goal of creating a consumer-like computing experience that helps teams to be more effective.
  • Digital workplace strategies exploit emerging smart technologies and people-centric design to support dynamic, non-routine work.

What’s new is the incorporation and amalgamation of social, cloud, mobile and information technologies to provide a consumer-like work environment for the non-routine work of tomorrow’s enterprise.

The Digital Workplace was front and center at last week’s Gartner Portals, Content, and Collaboration (PCC) Summit in London. The event’s theme was "Engage, Collaborate, Innovate: Thriving in the Digital Enterprise." Throughout the two-day event, analysts laid out a coherent operational model for the modern organization. The following 10 predictions and insights from the conference highlight some important trends you should be following, with some thoughts of my own about what they mean for you and your organization.

You Have a Cloud-y Future, but Don’t Shut the Data Centers Just Yet

Gartner Prediction: By 2017, 50 percent of an organization’s business data will reside outside the physical data center wall, up from less than 10 percent today. Twenty-five percent of organizations have already made significant cloud investments.

What this Means for You: The "clouds" may be coming, but it’s not raining yet. Particularly, the cloud won’t replace data centers when it comes to sensitive data, just yet. Cloud’s capacity to dispense with traditional IT is a huge draw for many enterprise departments as well as small companies. But many companies will need the services of several cloud providers to fulfill all their needs. And getting disparate clouds to work together won’t be easy. On the other hand, sticking with a single vendor’s cloud ecosystem (e.g. Office 365) will expose you to the next generation of vendor lock-in, so choose your suppliers carefully.

Mobile is Rapidly Outpacing Desktop

Gartner Prediction: Almost 3 billion computing devices will be shipped in 2017 and just over two thirds of these will be phones. Tablets and other ultra-mobile devices will represent a far smaller slice of the pie, making up approximately 500 million of the 3 billion devices. Desktop devices make up the smallest part of the pie. In total, we can expect that by 2017, almost 8 billion devices will be deployed, outnumbering the number of people on the planet.

What This Means: The typical business worker accessing business information from multiple devices, each with a different form factor and operating system. Creating a consistent user experience across multiple devices will be critical if you expect employees to take advantage of the myriad cloud services and apps being rolled out.

Information: Business Analytics

Gartner Insight: According to a Gartner survey, business analytics is the top technology expected to help improve business. Other top survey responses included e-commerce, customer experience, enhanced business reporting, cloud business and enterprise mobility. Despite the hype, the Internet of Things was one of the fewest cited areas for improving business.

What This Means: Focus on the technologies that drive business today, like mining your operational data to improve business processes and better serve customers. Remember to keep an eye on what’s coming down the road. The Internet of Things will eventually work, but a lack of standards and compelling widespread business cases are going to impede its adoption for many years.

What’s the Value of Social Software?

Gartner Insight: A Gartner survey found that 62 percent of organizations do not measure the benefits of their social software. And 28 percent measure only non-financial benefits.

What This Means: Social is only part of the story. Rolling out social software simply so workers can collaborate is too nebulous for most companies. Social capabilities must be part of a larger suite of technology that fulfill well-defined, high-value business use cases. For example, enabling utility workers to use mobile tablets to access emergency contact data and then reach out for instructions, is a business case management can understand and embrace.

Look Out for Your Job - The Changing Nature of Work

Gartner Insight: Sixty percent of US jobs today involve non-routine work, up from 40 percent in 1975.

Gartner Insight: Telecommuting has risen 79 percent from 2005 to 2012. 

Gartner Insight: From 2002 to 2012, the importance of team-oriented output grew from 20 percent to 50 percent.

What This Means: The changing nature of work threatens many workers, but it provides new opportunities for those willing to learn new skills. For example, taxi drivers are being put out of work by the likes of Uber, which takes advantage of mobile, social and cloud technologies to commoditize the public transportation industry. On the other hand, the same technologies enable remote information workers to develop an unprecedented work/life balance by enabling people to work anytime, anywhere.

Machines are Getting Smarter All the Time

Gartner Prediction: By 2020, the majority of knowledge worker career paths will be disrupted by smart machines in both positive and negative ways.

What This Means: Routine work will be replaced by automated systems (Roomba anyone?) while exciting new possibilities await those who seek creative outlets. As work gets less routine, we as a society must completely revamp the way we educate our children, with a focus on creativity, rather than on rote learning and following instructions.

Consumerization of IT (CITE)

Gartner Prediction: By 2018, 25 percent of large organizations will have an explicit strategy to make their corporate computing environment similar to a consumer computing experience.

What This Means: This is already happening. The proliferation of enterprise apps is only being hindered by enterprise security regulations … and the imagination. Look forward to Flipboard-like enterprise apps that will federate information from multiple cloud services and on-premises applications, into a contextual display, so workers will be able to "see the information forest for the data trees."

Is Your Search Result Out of Context?

Gartner Prediction: By 2015, context will be as influential to mobile consumer services and relationships as search engines are to the Web. Contextual-awareness will allow applications and devices to surface information for users that is multichannel, hyper-personalized, suggestive, federated and which will guide users to take important actions.

What This Means: Dealing with information overload is going to get worse before it gets better. Too much information makes it hard to focus on the task at hand, because it can’t all be processed in a timely fashion. Context will become an overhyped buzzword, because getting it right won’t be easy. For example, using time and location to filter information on a mobile device is relatively straight-forward, but providing useful contexts for information emanating from multiple cloud services will be a much bigger challenge. Like all buzz, useful applications will follow the disappointment brought on by unrealistic expectations.

Title image by Nana B Agyei (Flickr) via a CC BY 2.0 license