Do you feel hyper-reliant on technology these days? For example, if you drive five minutes from your house and then realize you forgot your smartphone, do you turn around and get it? Or if the battery on your laptop runs out halfway through your workday, and you forgot the charger at home, are you lost for the rest of the afternoon?
How about if your GPS breaks, would you have trouble navigating successfully to that out-of-state meeting next weekend?
I’ll admit to answering yes to all the above. I need my digital helpers! I’ll bet you do too, at least to some extent.
This carries on throughout the workplace. We have our computers and we check email constantly. Then there are all of the software packages for support desk, customer service, finance, human resources, etc. What I find interesting is that this digital connection was not really planned. It came on bit by bit as personal computers were first introduced, followed by email, the internet, then everything else.
Could we have planned it better? Yes, of course, but we didn’t know what was coming. And even when we did know, we didn’t realize the implications. Remember when Wikipedia was considered just a curiosity? Now it’s the world’s encyclopedia. Or the famous prediction that, “The truth is no online database will replace your daily newspaper.” Since then, the number of newspapers has shrunk by 28%, ad revenue by 70%, and the ones that are left are shells of what they used to be.
So can we plan better for future technologies in the workplace? I think so. We’ve learned that we can’t predict what the technologies will be. But looking to the past gives us some clues about what’s coming in the future.
Perhaps the biggest problem has been technology fragmentation. Take a typical HR department for instance. The manager may have different systems for onboarding new employees, the 401k plan, benefits, payroll, recruiting and performance. Operations have systems for shipping/receiving, data input to ERP, production metrics and quality reporting. For finance it’s spreadsheets, ERP, expense control, etc. Could all these systems be part of one unified system? Maybe not, but if managers could have known all this 20 years ago, there would be much less system clutter. Going forward we know this will continue, so we can make better decisions when evaluating new software and making sure it plays nicely with existing assets.
Connectedness is another consideration. The way we are connected – even obsessed – with our digital devices gives us clues about the future, the main one being that we can expect the trend to accelerate. Knowing this, we can put our companies’ important communications in places where we know employees will look, like on digital signage, smartphones and tablets. Overall, any new addition of software should be considered as part of a unified whole; either it should have the capacity to be added to an existing system, or act as a platform for future products.
We are connected and addicted to our technologies. Remembering that will help us make better future decisions.