The irrelevance of ICT
“Many ICT departments are making themselves irrelevant towards end-users.” Such a statement from Benny Corvers, Director at Getronics Belgium, might seem both radical and controversial, but as it turns out (by his own admission) he might even be underemphasising the situation. Getronics is no stranger to radical change, having recently revitalised their company strategy from a ‘we do everything’ to ‘we focus on The ICT Workspace better than anyone else’. Playing into some of the key trends (globalisation, individualisation and ecological awareness) that define the current world economy and the ‘New World of Work’, Corvers feels he can’t stress enough just how big a change the entire ICT sector is about to undergo. The message is simple: change with it or become extinct.
The knowledge economy
Essentially, we see ICT as a business enabler, as an accelerator of innovation and business success. But too often it is treated as a pure commodity, a cost centre that is focused on infrastructure. Mostly this happens at companies that have not been able to control the basics of their ICT infrastructure, and hence they are still spending most of their time keeping the lights on. And now with the crisis, such ICT organisations are under tremendous pressure to squeeze costs further. But in the process they’re alienating the user; and that worries us.
We’re in the process of transitioning to a knowledge economy where the individual is the key production factor. That means that we should be doing everything we can to empower individuals and to ensure they can connect, compete and collaborate more effectively. And at the same time make sure that people are happy at work, that they’re motivated, that the work-life balance is right. Modern ICT is able to play an important role in this regard; but too often it seems to act more as a hindrance. End users are considered a nuisance by ICT departments that focus on the infrastructure and processes that are invisible to most employees. And at many companies the situation is getting worse.
The New World of Work
That’s why we are pushing the concept of the New World of Work on the corporate and political agenda. The New World of Work is a vision on work in the 21st century; you could describe it as a new paradigm for work. Essentially it means that we need to give people the space and the tools to do what they do best, based on the principle of trust and responsibility. From an ICT perspective, this entails giving people access to the information and communication tools they need to work productively, when they want and wherever they may be.
But for some reason these ideas are receiving a lot less attention in Belgium compared to elsewhere, such as the Netherlands. We realised early on that to put it on the agenda a multidisciplinary approach is needed. With this in mind we’ve partnered with PricewaterhouseCoopers, Microsoft and AOS Studley and have created a joint programme to promote the concept. All four partners are early adopters of the New World of Work concept and have learned about the benefits and the challenges it provides. Nine months into the programme we had our launch event which attracted some top people and it showed us that things are gradually changing; people are recognising the importance of this opportunity but still they see more hurdles than opportunities today.
If you think about it, the New World of Work has such potential to address the core challenges in society at present: mobility problems, climate goals, the war for talent, stress and burnout, innovation & entrepreneurship. I’m convinced that our current way of working could use a thorough rethink. And going by the CEOs of our top clients, they are convinced that change is around the corner.
But often when we present these ideas to CIOs the main reaction is “very nice, very exciting, but not right now” or “this just isn’t a priority for us”. I disagree; the time is now, because the user is already reacting and showing deep dissatisfaction with ICT as we know it. If CIOs want to be a relevant species five years from now, they had better start thinking about how they can enable change and business transformation.
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