The way we work is being transformed by people, process and technology. Business is no longer about sitting in the office, tied to the desktop PC and the phone, but about working where you need to, when you need to, and using the right device for the job.
Cloud and mobile technologies are empowering a new, more flexible approach, where we have the tools and information to be effective whenever, wherever. Put that together with data-driven business intelligence, and we’re seeing waves of innovation opening up new products and services, which in turn are opportunities for businesses of all sizes to grow and prosper.
Yet the same technology and innovation can pose challenges. Disruptive products and services are great news for the start-ups, but a challenge for established companies struggling to compete on customer-experience and price. Businesses in nearly every market face tough competition from rivals powered by these new forms of IT, with mobile technology, data analytics and the cloud at the forefront, and machine learning and artificial intelligence on the approaching horizon.
Businesses need to transform to survive, but it’ll take more than technology to do it. It involves a change in the culture and the workforce, not to mention ingenuity and new ideas. Yet by empowering the most important source of that innovation - your people - IT can help drive that transformation forward.
The changing workforce
The workforce itself is already changing. Around the world, millennials – those born after 1982 – are becoming the key group and they are expected to make up 75 percent of the global workforce by 2025, according to Deloitte[i]22% of millennials in small businesses are already in senior positions, rising to 52% in mid-sized companies[ii].
According to IDC’s Vice President for Small and Medium Business Research, Ray Boggs, they ‘are bringing new attitudes and encouraging the use of new technology.
‘This is especially true’, he adds, ‘when it comes to new work styles made possible by new mobile resources.’
Some countries, like Japan, face an additional problem: a shrinking workforce where there’s fierce competition for new talent. Companies need to attract and retain that talent, while bringing in previously untapped resources, including women and part-time retirees. Both they and the millennials are looking for a way of working that lets them work more on their own terms, with a more harmonious work/life balance. There’s evidence that this doesn’t simply benefit them, but also increases their loyalty and aids productivity.
Furthermore, the global consumerisation of IT and the introduction of trends like Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) have blurred the lines between home and work, with many workers now working one day or more from home each week. And this is happening at companies of all sizes.
For example, the forthcoming 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo has pushed the Japanese government to embrace so-called teleworking to ease traffic and congestion[iii], and some businesses already on-board. A recent Intel-IDG study suggests that almost one in four (23%) small businesses allow teleworking/telecommuting at least once a month, with this rising to 64% for businesses that allow teleworking[iv].
By supporting this and allowing space for creativity and collaboration, businesses have more chance of innovating and staying competitive. Yet this workforce transformation goes hand-in-hand with new technology. In the words of Intel’s Director of Marketing for Business Client Platform, Kaitlin Murphy, ‘you can’t untangle business initiatives from technology initiatives. Nearly all transformative business initiatives are inherently anchored in technology. They are intertwined.[v]
Sadly, existing technology doesn’t always support the kind of innovation, collaboration and productivity small businesses require. Where mobile workers want the freedom to work wherever and whenever they need to, they’re being held back by laptops that run out of charge a few hours and don’t have the performance to run multiple, rich applications. Features that enhance collaboration, like touchscreens, voice control or HD video conferencing, may not be available on existing PCs.
What’s more, where people across most businesses would benefit from the information and insights of modern Business Intelligence apps, these apps are often ignored or their use restricted. Devices that should be improving productivity can end up hampering it through a lack of performance or reliability or by taking too much time to manage; a problem when 40-50% of PCs in the APAC region are not managed by a permanent IT team[vi].
New technology can remove these barriers and transform the way your people work. Some of this will happen in the office itself. In the future, we could see integrated workspaces with wireless docking embedded intelligence embedded adapt to different workers throughout the day, giving them access to the capabilities they need as soon as they sit down. New meeting rooms could actively enhance collaboration, with wireless communications technologies that make it easier to share content on a digital whiteboard or integrate those joining remotely with those in the room. Immersive audio and HD video can bring teams together, wherever they are.
What’s more, emerging technology could help small businesses meet some of their workforce challenges. Machine Learning, where applications learn how to help us make decisions and automate repetitive tasks, could mean significant boosts in productivity. More intelligent apps that are location and context aware could make it faster to get to the tools and information we need.
Technology that can help transform the workforce is available right now. New laptops and 2-in-1 convertibles are slim and light enough to take anywhere, yet they have the performance to run multiple, demanding applications simultaneously, from BI dashboards to powerful productivity tools. They’re built to take advantage of the latest Wi-Fi, 4G and 4G LTE connectivity and have the battery life to last through a working day. They have fingerprint or face-recognition security for an easy, instant sign-on. They’re also easier to update and manage, making life easier for small businesses without a dedicated IT team.
‘The key element here is that technology is enabling work to happen wherever work needs to happen’ says Tom Garrison, Vice President of Intel’s Client Computing Group. ‘In the past, the technology limited workers so that they could only work and be productive when they were in their office sitting at their desk. The move to laptops and 2-in-one devices has freed workers from their desks, so that they can go from the office to the meeting room or cafeteria – or even leave the building – and still be as productive as possible.’
These same devices also drive collaboration and more natural ways to interact with the PC, using touch to create and share a plan, or using voice as a means to quickly access information. Garrison believes that we’ll start to see voice become ‘the interaction point, so that you can ask questions to devices.’ Voice-driven applications could do for business what Alexa and Siri are doing in the home or on the phone. BI tools won’t be restricted to the specialists, but opened up for everyone to use. All it takes is the right tools for the job.
Could this technology kick-start your workforce transformation, and bring your business into the digital age? By empowering a workforce that can operate more flexibly, that naturally creates and shares ideas, you put your business in the best position to survive and thrive.
[iv] Intel-IDG research report, January 2018
[v] IDG interview, Intel US in August 2017
[vi] WW PCs Device Study Rollup for Intel, p14