Many organizations, enterprise software vendors not the least, have treated employees and consumers as discrete categories of people, almost as if they were different species. The truth is, of course, that we are both employees and consumers depending on the context.

During recent years, we have seen how our changed attitudes and behaviors as individuals when it comes to information seeking, sharing, communication and socializing with people are also affecting our attitudes and behaviors at work. Although we often find ourselves being held back by legacy IT and existing power structures, as well as by old habits and the dominating communication culture, we expect to be treated in the same way and have access to the same IT superpowers at work as we have as consumers.

The Consumerization of IT is Shaping Tomorrow’s Digital Workspace

In the light of this development, what will tomorrow’s digital workspace look like? One thing we can be sure of is that new advances in information technology, such as social software, cloud computing and mobility, will be integral parts of it. A more profound impact of the consumerization of IT is that emerging disciplines like service design are making themselves heard also within the enterprise IT space.

Enterprise software and devices meant for enterprise use will have to be designed to be as easy to use, attractive and relevant to the individual users as the consumer-IT products we have gotten used to. It’s simply not enough to implement one-size-fits-all platforms and then try to force everybody to learn and use them. It just won’t happen.

Editor's Note: Also from Oscar berg: Designing The Future Office: Challenge and Innovate Current Management Practices

The Intranet Will Be Transformed into Enterprise Apps

This is also why enterprise portals and intranets as we know them will cease to exist. Instead, they will be reborn as applications in enterprise app stores. Instead of trying to squeeze every information resource and tool an employee could possibly need onto a single website, organizations will need to provide their employees with apps which are optimized for specific purposes and tasks and situations.

Some of these apps will be pre-installed on your device, while others will need to be downloaded on demand. With these apps available for different devices, customized to each kind of device and the typical usage contexts of the device, work can flow smoothly across devices and thereby also across work contexts. Tasks can be initiated, paused, resumed and completed in any situation, using the most appropriate device.

Here are five apps you will most certainly find in an enterprise app store near you a couple of years from now. A rare few of you might already have some of them installed on your laptop, tablet or smartphone.

1. People

This is the equivalent to the classic employee directory. It’s an app focused on the task of finding a specific person. You can search or browse by locations, teams, communities, interests and so forth to find people. Employee profiles enriched with information about their activities and contributions make it easier not only to find people, but also to know them better. You can contact people directly using the contact method of choice, save their profile as a favorite, add it to your contacts, post a message on their wall and so forth. The app also alerts you about such things as new hires and recently departed, sorted by a relevance algorithm based on your social graph.

2. Meetings

Meeting other people is an inherent part of knowledge work, and if there’s anything that could be done to make meeting more efficient and effective, it should be done. This makes it a whole lot easier to get more out of your meetings. It allows you do to anything from scheduling and inviting people to meetings, physical as well as virtual, to co-authoring agendas and meeting notes, running virtual meetings, and delegating and following up on actions after a meeting. As a complement to using your calendar, this app provides you with an overview of all your meetings and allows you to focus on managing specific meetings in an environment designed to make meeting management easier.

3. Internal News

Corporate communications want you to read the corporate news. That is why they place them on the home page of your intranet. The problem is that browsing corporate news from a news list on an intranet isn't very exciting from a reader’s perspective. Even if you have made the effort to actually read a news story, it is still there right in your face until it gets pushed away by a more recent news story. Why doesn’t it go away once I’ve read it? No wonder that so many employees have an avid attitude toward reading corporate news.

With this app it becomes a more appealing experience to read corporate news. Instead of having the corporate news thrown in your face every time you visit the enterprise portal, you now go to a separate app to browse and read corporate news stories when you are in the mood for it. The news stories have been enriched with more attractive content such as high-definition photos, video and social data and are presented in the same attractive and interactive way as an iPad magazine like National Geographic or the Flipboard app. You can interact with the news story by commenting on it, clicking “like,” bookmarking it or sharing it with colleagues. If you tap on a news story, it will flip around so that you can browse and read any comments posted about it and see who has liked, shared or bookmarked the story. All of a sudden, reading corporate news is fun and engaging.

4. Experts

Being able to quickly access a certain expertise is a critical task in modern enterprises, for example, when you need to handle an exception, solve a problem or make a decision about something you lack expertise in. The need to access a certain expertise might occur anywhere at any time, whether you want to find a person, team or community possessing the expertise, or simply finding an answer to a question. This app allows you to search and browse for people, but also to post questions to be answered by people who are available and can answer your questions.

5. My Workplace

Do you find it easy to figure out what is happening at work? By “at work” I don't mean what is happening at the physical building where your office is located. Few knowledge workers today work exclusively with people and activities which are all located within an office building, and even if they would, it is impossible to keep track of what's happening, as work has become digitized and leaves few visible traces in the physical environment. Workspace awareness is about our abilities to monitor and keep track of what’s happening at your workspace, who is doing what, who is interacting with whom, whose turn it is to contribute, and so on. It is essential to have workspace awareness in order to be able to collaborate with other people.

This app helps you increase your workspace awareness. You can tap into the steam of activities related to your work, slicing it by your network, your teams, individuals you work with, activities or projects, content you are working on and so forth. You don't have to read everything, just quickly let your eyes wander across the stream, reacting only when there's something relevant that catches your attention. Many other things that flash by will anyway be registered by your brain and stored in your subconsciousness for possible later use.

6. Ideas

Ideas are often born in the most unlikely situations, and you might not be so lucky to have a pen and a napkin within reach to capture it. Of the ideas which are captured, very few ideas actually happen. This app allows you to capture your idea while it is still fresh, using text or any other input your device can capture. As you capture the idea and add some basic information to it, any of your colleagues can read, comment and rate. They might even add additional information, building further on your idea.

Every idea that is shared using this app is immediately assigned to someone internally who is responsible for making the idea happen if it is considered to be a good one. Whether or not the idea becomes reality, it is never forgotten. If someone else shares a similar idea, it might pop up as a related idea and brought to life once again.

I am sure you could add a lot of useful apps to this list, as well as ideas of usable features for these apps. I would be happy to read about them in the comments section.

Information Flows Below The Surface

What is important to point out is that these apps will all be using services which can be accessed and used by any application. There are no information silos. The information is not tied to the application that created it. Any information that is created with one application can be used in another. An idea shared by a person in the Ideas app can be found and accessed when looking at that person’s profile in the People app. The activity of posting the idea, as well as the activity of commenting or rating it, will be visible in the activity stream in the My Workspace app. Our interactions create the currencies that make information flow. With these apps, we can tap into and access the information we find relevant for the task at hand, in any context and situation.

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