Work IT: bring-you-and-your-own-everything


First published to Gigaom Research.

Cast your mind back a decade or more. Did you request specific hardware from your company’s IT team? If so, you started a trend that continues to play out to this day, and will continue to its logical and exciting conclusion.

You may or may not have been successful in your request given IT’s historic intransigence, but nowadays many of us expect to rock up to work with the laptop and tablet and smartphone of our choosing – often our own – and expect the IT team’s full accommodation.

We’re also bringing our own applications. Non-IT staff have adopted software-as-a-service without necessarily going through their IT colleagues. Yammer, Trello and Slack for example. Perhaps Google Docs crept in without organization-wide adoption of Google for Work. Meeting schedulers. Note-takers. Expense trackers. Skype. Dropbox. Instagram. The list is as long as the kind of things you need to get done.

It’s useful to think of this in terms of Enterprise IT and Work IT. The enterprise owns Enterprise IT whereas the worker owns Work IT. In simple terms, Enterprise IT is focused on the organization, Work IT on organizing. Enterprise IT is top-down with the starting position of locking everything down, whereas Work IT is bottom-up, thriving by facilitating sharing and openness.

It’s impossible to separate Work IT from the transformation of organizational design. Work IT supports emerging approaches to organization – sociocratic, holacratic, podular, wirearchical – over the traditional hierarchical command-and-control structures. And the advantages of such networked organization encourages innovation in and the adoption of Work IT. I consider sustainability to be the major driver.

Sustainability – the health and resilience of living systems including our societies and organizations – requires individual agency, diversity, and distributed networks to facilitate the emergence of collective intelligence. This then conveys some of the traits we will demand for the continued growth of Work IT, including openness and privacy, accessibility and digital inclusion.

Open and private

Open society, open government, and open organization help create greater transparency and accountability, and yet concurrently concern for the privacy of personal data and information is growing. In the absence of self-regulation when it comes to the mass surveillance of our use of digital technologies, law-makers are stepping up to the mark. Non-compliance with the upcoming EU General Data Protection Regulation for example might incur penalty of 5% of global turnover. That focuses the mind.

Work IT may excel at openness, but centralized Enterprise IT remains the stronghold for data security and compliance, impeding the growth of Work IT. This will only be addressed by some metadata mechanism to express the provenance and confidentiality of data such that it may flow where it will but not where it should not. And just as Work IT supports a distributed network of workers, this facility will in turn likely hang off the only known system for incorruptible, distributed database – the blockchain.

Accessibility and digital inclusion

We are all unique. We all have different digital, numerical, information and visual literacy. Millions of people have one or more disabilities, and millions more will become disabled with age, yet UI designers simply cannot cater to this variety.

We need all things digital to adapt to us, not as currently the other way round. Only when Work IT and the digital interactions with all variety of organizational stakeholder adopt a human interface might we have the chance to reap everyone’s full participation. In other words, bring-your-own-interface.

Social business

With compliance built-in rather than bolted-on, and all things digital deigning to adapt to us, major frictions currently impeding the individual’s ability to seek, sense and share are eliminated, manifesting in organizational learning, collective intelligence and responsiveness.

Social business is about all stakeholders coming together to add mutual value faster than otherwise, with the help of social technologies, appropriately transformed culture, and a network orientation rather than command and control. It’s co-creation with customers, partners, suppliers, everyone, constantly striving to find the right combination to best pursue shared objectives, guided by shared values.

Social business is, by this definition, sustainable business, and such self-organization demands that Work IT enables the organized self. By this I mean software that represents us in finding opportunities to create mutual value with others, and then helps us realise that value.

In just a few decades then we’ll have moved from a hoped-for exceptional choice of laptop to fast-and-loose organization inviting you to bring-you-and-your-own-everything. Indeed, to you playing your part in spontaneous organization.

[Image by SplitShire, Pixabay.]