Over the past decade there has been a revolution in people’s lives. For the first time ever, affordable consumer technology offers individuals more flexibility and utility than the IT they use at work. The inexorable rise of connected devices has unleashed a digital revolution and empowered people around the world.

The irony is that at work, many people remain limited by 20th century technology. The gap in capability is palpable, and with the slow replacement cycles of business technology it is only set to widen further.

When I started work I was given the newest, most powerful IBM PC in the company — as I was the one who “did the spreadsheets”.  It was a fantastic device I could never have dreamed of owning. Today when many people start work, they are expected to log onto old interfaces and clunky systems, often tethered to a desk or locked down for security purposes. They can spend all day apologising for slow, inadequate technology. It is akin to a financial analyst starting work and being given a slide rule and log tables to calculate pricing mix, margin tables and sales commissions. How soul destroying.

In my opinion, in the rush to “become digital,” organisations have missed a trick and have neglected employees and tasks they perform. As a result, consumers often experience disjointed service, characterised by a slick app or interface followed by painfully slow administration and processing. There’s a lot of “show” and often a lot less “go”.

It’s time to re-balance and to deploy technology to transform the way we work and bring process engineering up to date:

  1. When investing in “digital”, map out the key customer journeys and moments of truth. Transform the complete journey — not just the initial customer interface — to deliver an end-to-end modern experience. Invest accordingly.
  2. Ask your employees which tools would help them work better and how they would like to work. Explore the use of multiple devices (bring your own device), collaboration platforms, and new user processes such as gamification.
  3. Challenge sacred cows and the dominant design. Do employees need to be “tethered” to their desktops? Is that the most productive way of working?
  4. Prioritise investment towards enabling employees who have an impact on the most important customer experiences. By doing this, the employees’ capabilities can become a competitive advantage.
  5. Be systematic. Develop your strategy, program for change and structure an implementation model.
  6. Build a network of partners to support you. But own and drive the change yourself.
  7. Be agile in the true sense of the word. Develop a portfolio of ideas and initiatives, continually test and learn. Invest in and nurture the ideas that show promise.
  8. Establish and maintain momentum. Be restless and continually improve the experience for your customers.

I’ve witnessed a lot of innovation in the area of digital working, but it’s been most striking in emerging markets and countries such as Ghana and China, where people use low-cost mobile technology in the most inventive ways to make a better living.

In the more mature markets, as millennials move into management positions, the world of work will change. It will become more virtual, more connected, more flexible and less regimented. Offices, commuting and desktops will become peripheral.

What do you think the world of work will look like in 10 years’ time?