The workplace in the digital age is undergoing transformation. Wirearchy is at the heart of this transformation.
You may not yet be familiar with the term, but you are very likely already experiencing wirearchy to some degree. Jon Husband created the term over ten years ago and defined wirearchy as: “a dynamic two-way flow of power and authority, based on knowledge, trust, credibility and a focus on results, enabled by interconnected people and technology”.
I have conducted research on the internal digital work environments of organizations for nine years, starting in 2006. Each year I publish data and analysis based on input from several hundred organizations around the world. A multi-year perspective shows that organizations are moving towards ways of working that reflect the principle of wirearchy.
Digital is a new way of working. It simplifies. It accelerates. It clarifies. It humanizes. Technology is only a small part of the digital way of working. Most people misunderstand this. They think “technology” when you say “digital workplace”.
The digital workplace framework created in 2013 and described below is based on “the intersection of People, Organization and Technology”. In fact, it is more accurate to talk about the “workplace in the digital age” rather than the “digital workplace because there are key dimensions that are not digital in nature even though they are facilitated and enhanced by digital.
This article takes you through the nine dimensions, sharing data that show we are moving in a wirearchy direction:
- A maturing digital workplace enables individual voices to be heard. Basic as this sounds, it has not always been the case.
- Clients and external partners are being integrated into maturing digital workplaces. Previous internal-external barriers are decreasing.
- People self-declare and enable others to find them and connect.
- Communities balance hierarchies. Community management is becoming an official role.
- New processes accelerate problem-solving and lead to new practices.
- The internal digital divide is slowly disappearing. More people can reach and be reached.
- Decision making about the digital workplace happens at both executive and operational levels.
- Cultures in organizations with maturing digital workplaces are open to experimentation and entrepreneurship.
- When it comes to getting results, leadership from the top of the hierarchy is not always the most important.
Thanks to Frédéric Williquet (@fredericw), I have a great summary of the opening keynote I gave at the 2015 Enterprise 2.0 Summit in Paris.
You’ll get a feel for the action over 2 days from these two stories:
Published simultaneously on Pulse.
IBM is very much in the news these days because of weak business growth. However, I’m not a business analyst and this article is not about financial issues, at least not directly. My focus here is on people. By people, I mean both workforce and customers.
I remember listening to an IBMer presenting the IBM Global Values Jam in 2001 at an online conference in London. The enthusiastic audience loved it, asked lots of questions and wished their organizations had a similar culture based on trust. As IBM explains here: “Research showed that IBMers trusted and relied on their intranet at unprecedented levels—even more than their managers or the grapevine. Seeking to develop and extend that trust, the company introduced World Jam in 2001.”
IBM adds here that Jams are “radically open and democratic—everybody has the same capacity to participate, regardless of level or expertise—jams speak to the expectations of today’s professional worker.”
Favoring shareholders over the workforce: a serious business misstep?
What went wrong with the global jam pioneer?
An interview of me after a short workshop in Utrecht organized by e-office and work21.
This is the first in a series of short, regular “early insight” posts I’ll be doing as I work through the data and comments from the many participants in the 9th annual digital workplace survey, which closed January 9th. In the spirit of “working out loud”, I will be sharing insights and observations as I advance in the analysis and writing of the 2015 report. (Publication planned for the second part of March.)
Today, let’s look at a question about how the digital workplace serves the customer-facing workforce. The question and answer options were:
How easy is it for your customer-facing people to …
- Find the information they need,
- Provide rapid service,
- Collaborate with their customers and colleagues,
- And in general have a smooth and efficient work experience?
- Very easy
- Relatively easy
- Somewhat difficult
- Very difficult
Only 10 organizations out of 303 participants responded “very easy”!
I was not surprised. Last year only 9 responded “very easy”.
How do these 10 organizations differ?
Most organizations are just starting the journey.
A long road with major barriers.
Two recent studies, Social Business: Shifting out of First Gear from MIT Sloan Management and Deloitte (here) and the other from myself, The Digital Workplace in the Connected Organization, (here) have drawn very similar conclusions:
- The internal digital work environment is becoming more social and collaborative, but there’s a very long road ahead.
- The main barriers are strategic and organizational issues, not technological challenges. And that’s why the road is so long!
There are lots of hurdles to jump.
Different questions, different terms but similar discouraging results.
In an early experiment by educational pioneer Sugata Mitra, he broke a hole in the wall between his office and a slum in India and made a computer available to children who had never before seen one. A quote from the BBC article about this caught my attention back in 2005:
You find that the noise level begins to come down, and from somewhere a leader appears. Often his face is not visible in the crowd, but he is controlling the mouse because suddenly you see the mouse begin to move in an orderly fashion.
That’s true leadership. It emerges from a conducive context. It happens because it can.
You can “let” leadership – you cannot “make” leadership
Leadership happens in a given context at a given point in time: You lead in one situation; you follow in another.
Digital is a new way of working. It simplifies. It accelerates. It clarifies. It humanizes. Technology is only a small part of the digital way of working. Most people misunderstand this. They think “technology” when you say “digital workplace”. My definition of the digital workplace is “the intersection of People, Organization and Technology”.
The path to a meaningful digital workplace is long and not always smooth.
Last year’s Digital Workplace Survey of 314 organizations around the world showed distinct differences between Early Adopter organizations (top 20 percent) and the Majority of organizations. The Digital Workplace Framework helps understand these differences. It is based on three perspectives: Capabilities, Enablers and Mindset. Each perspective is divided into three dimensions. (Read about the framework here.)
I decided to extend the survey participation period this year to the 31st of December.
The publication date will not change, and the 2015 Report will be published in early March as previously announced.
Why the new deadline?
In fact, it opened later than usual and quite a few previous participants wrote to me last week saying they could not participate because they are in 2015 budget preparation period. So I decided to give everyone more time. (Calendar)
Use the extra time to involve some of your stakeholders!
Read here to see how you can involve more people in your organization. The Digital Workplace Collective Scorecard will bring new insight to your organization. It will definitely help you build momentum for your 2016 ambitions.
Get in touch if you have any questions or would like guidance on organizing a team session to do the survey.