AIIM 2012: Ted Schadler on Empowering Employees, SoLoMo, and Dilbert

By Bryant Duhon posted 01-20-2012 17:39


The AIIM Conference 2012 is full of informative and though-provoking sessions and keynotes. In this first keynote conversation, Ted Schadler gives us a preview of his keynote session as well as sharing why he finds the convergence of social, local, and mobile so exciting.

Provisioning Today’s Information Worker
Ted Schadler
Vice President, Principal Analyst, and Co-author of Empowered
Forrester Research
Wednesday, March 21. 9:00 AM
[Click here for the details of Ted's keynote.]

BD: So what do workers liberated from their cube farm need to be able to work from a hardware perspective?

Schadler: That’s an easy question: the elegance, wireless, all-day life, instant-on, and unobtrusiveness of an iPad coupled with the extensibility, software support, and device choice of the PC. Today, that means a MacBook Air running a windows virtual machine and an iPad. Tomorrow, it might be a convertible ultrabook running Windows 8. Now, if we can only get that first parts list past the IT prohibitions. See my colleague Dave Johnson’s latest report on Macs in the enterprise (or a forthcoming blog post from me) on this topic.

BD: From a software perspective?

Schadler: It’s software that is the biggest determinant – or barrier – to the work-anywhere future. If the software – meaning collaboration and productivity tools, softphone, business applications, and portal – are accessible from any location, then an employee can fire up their next-generation laptop and be instantly connected and productive. Apps like Cisco Jabber, Microsoft Lync, and IBM Sametime are key to success outside the plug-in network. Employees need to be able to plug into the content, conferences, and conversations of daily work. A solid collaboration toolkit is the starting point, and either VPN access to the network or a good virtual desktop solution is critical to mobile and remote worker success.

BD: Just because employees CAN BYOB (so to speak), should they? Where’s the cutoff between empowerment and exposing an organization to excess risk?

Schadler: Risk is ever-present. Empowerment translates directly into personal productivity – people using the tools they need to get their work done most effectively. Rather than set the bar on risk, companies need to establish a transparent risk-reward equation. Put these three questions up on the virtual whiteboard for any new consumerization or social or bring-your-own initiative: 1) Have we identified the risks? 2) Have we analyzed the risks in the language of business? 3) Have we mitigated the risks as best we can? 4) What would happen if we were to banish the technology (i.e., would employees find an alternative that’s riskier?) With answers to those three questions, it’s now time for a “business technology “discussion about risk to answer the question: Is it worth it? It’s a business decision, not an IT decision, ultimately.

BD: I’ve always liked the cover of empowered, especially “Unleash your employees,” with all the comedic Dilbert implications in that sentence. What single thing can organizations do to unleash their employees?

Schadler: [Thanks for the image – it’s making me smile, even here with the sorry worn-out dregs of post-vacation (theirs not mine) humanity at the Orlando airport.] Unleashing employees is a good if amusing metaphor for culture change: can executive staff imagine letting employees solve problems with technology by giving them permission to experiment and fail, but perhaps experiment and win? If a Dilbertic anxiety pervades the culture, then employees must be kept disenfranchised or locked down. If a certain confidence that the company’s values will dictate and drive good behavior, then unleashing is as simple as pushing decisions as far down the organization as possible, but no farther. One data point to share: employees that feel empowered also have huge support from their immediate boss to make changes. Employees that don’t feel empowered don’t. See the chart below from the report that follows it.

BD: One of the things that struck me about empowered was the amount of structure required to make it all happen. That was lost in the viva la revolucion at the beginning of the social media avalanche. Is hard-nosed business reality making a comeback?

Schadler: One thing we learned in doing the research for Empowered was that every successful employee-led solution reached our attention because it scaled up enough to matter. And you can’t scale things up without structure and organizational support. The IT systems must support the social engagement; the mobile channel must work well alongside the Web channel; the security model must have Chief Legal Officer approval; and so on. So yes, business outcomes and business commitments lie behind successful empowered initiatives. The stories of empowerment supported by the Chairman or Board of Directors are showing up every day. Just last week BBVA, the 110,000-person Spanish Banking group agreed to empower employees to work from anywhere on mobile devices using Google Apps technology. That wouldn’t have happened without a hard-nosed business analysis of the business benefits of going to a cloud provider for a set of critical business applications.

BD: What excites you most about the convergence of social, local, and mobile?

Schadler: These technologies – and I would add wireless networks and predictive analytics or big data to the mix – create a perfect storm of disruptive technology change. The real value lies in the intersection points between these technologies. It’s when cloud delivery enables mobile access or when social pervades the daily work of mobile professionals and executives or when big data analytics anticipate and present an offer to a mobile consumer based on the context of their location that the exciting changes are occurring. I’ve never seen so many technologies that intersect and reinforce each other reach critical mass at the same time before. It will cause an exciting and demanding transition. It will lead us to a world in which technology is embedded deeply in every product and business activity, where business people without technology chops are marginalized, and where the shift to a new generation of business leaders is accelerated. We are all technologists now. And we are all business people now.

Catch Ted live, and 9 other fantastic keynotes and over 40 sessions, by registering for AIIM Conference 2012 now.

See you in San Fran.

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