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Ready, Willing and Agile

5 Questions with Jim Joyce on How Convergence Is Creating New Agility for Today’s Workforce

Chief Optimist Exclusive

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

There’s a lot of talk about the way converging technologies are changing how we work. What tech forces are creating the changes?


The first is the advancement of mobile technology. It’s estimated that by the end of this year, almost 40 percent of the world’s workforce will have a mobile device that they’ll use for business, not just communication. Expectations for what they can accomplish on a mobile device will continue to grow.  


Number two is greater access to unstructured information, including information outside the walls of the corporation. Industry analysts predict that 90 percent of the information that’s going to be used in this convergence world is going to be unstructured—growing from 1.5 zettabytes in 2010 to over 35 zettabytes in 2020. Unstructured data is more commonly logic-based information and very content rich. Packaging it, accessing it, repurposing it, whether in document form or some other form, is critical.


Third, on top of the mobile platform, we have evolving and advancing infrastructures like the cloud, which enable us to use unified communication and collaboration tools such as WebEx and FaceTime. We can collaborate in new ways and in real time—ultimately improving employee agility and effectiveness.


How does this affect the worker?


It’s driving agility down to the level of the employee, enabling people to work in incredible new ways. Employees in all industries have the potential to be more competitive and more flexible and to impact their customer satisfaction and win rates.


Imagine a repair tech who pops open his tablet and gets an exploded view of the device he’s trying to fix, even if he’s an Army tech working on an Apache helicopter that just landed in Turkey. Or a salesperson collaborating on a new business deal via Skype while she’s on the road. Fast, efficient, accurate and highly effective.


The greater the amount of agility you can enable with the right data analytics and the right management of unstructured information, the more effective your workers are and, ultimately, the more successful your business or organization becomes.


What about examples in areas like education or the public sector?


One example is a teacher with a class of students at multiple levels, from advanced placement to those with documented disabilities. In today’s world, where inclusion is paramount, the teacher is obligated—often by law—to help those children achieve similar results. Yet the reality is they learn in different ways and at a varied pace. The agility of the teacher really comes into play. If a student with a learning disability is struggling, the teacher can take out her Apple iPad®, access best practices, get ideas from other teachers, find relevant tools purchased by the district and help the student on the spot. 


In the public sector, you could have an on-site building inspector looking at his tablet to see where lot lines end, where gas lines or water lines are, what the zoning regulations are, all kinds of things.


Another example is in healthcare, where a nurse might have an iPad® mini in her smock pocket—connected to the wireless devices monitoring multiple patients and receiving real-time alerts as she moves from room to room. If necessary, she can drill down into a patient’s orders, precautions, etc., to react more effectively to the needs of that individual. The possibilities are tremendous.


What’s needed behind the scenes to make this happen?


It varies from workplace to workplace. What’s required to make a teacher more agile in the classroom is not what a retailer requires to be more effective in stores. That’s why you need agility behind the scenes—application agility, infrastructure agility, research agility, marketing agility and so on. And everything has to work together. It’s harmonious agility at the point of need. I like to use Dwight Clark’s touchdown reception from the 1982 NFC Championship as an example. If you think back, you ask, what had to happen to make that work?


First, someone had to have the vision to draft Joe Montana and Dwight Clark. Then they had to practice, run their plays and win all those games to get to the Championship game. Those were all steps in the process. But in the moment of truth, Joe Montana had the opportunity to change the play and he did. So there’s an empowerment aspect. When he dropped back, the blockers blocked, the players running deception routes surrendered, and Dwight Clark ran his route, beat his man, caught the pass and the rest is history. Many things happened in harmony, in a matter of 11 seconds, and that’s what we’re talking about here. Harmonious agility has to happen at the point of Dwight Clark making that catch, at the point where a teacher faces a student, at the point where a salesperson stands in front of a customer or a nurse responds to the need of a patient.


What’s driving the need for agility—the market, the technology or the employee?


All of the above. It goes back to technology as an enabling function. Employees are used to mobile devices and the cloud. Some, like the millennials, are demanding them in the workplace. But the technology is ahead of its adoption in the market. It’s more advanced than today’s processes, procedures and use models. Our job is to close that gap, to build the infrastructure for people who take that step, that leap of faith, and support them effectively. I’ve spoken to several Fortune 500 CIOs who are concerned that their current environment won’t be enabling enough to retain the millennials they plan to hire over the next decade. They realize the push for improved agility is coming from both sides of the market—employees and those they serve—and they want to do something about it. 


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