It may not have been the ideal way for a trend to explode in popularity, but the coronavirus pandemic has set the stage for what many feel will be an improved way of working. After a somewhat hectic introduction via enforced remote working, organizations, their employees, partners and customers are starting to see the shape of what working culture might look like post Covid-19 – it could even be signalled as the fifth Industrial Revolution.
The first Industrial Revolution mechanized manual labor, the second drove workers off the fields and into factories, turning workdays governed by the rhythm of the sun and seasons, to 9-to-5 day jobs governed by the introduction of electric light. The third saw the introduction of computers while the fourth introduced automation and smart machines, with the internet of things (IoT) taking the lead.
So why a fifth? Haven’t we reached the pinnacle of what technology can currently deliver? Perhaps. But the fifth Revolution isn’t necessarily about yet new tech. Instead, it could be seen as an evolution of how we deploy it to enhance our work…and our working lives.
Which brings us to the post-pandemic ‘new normal’. Certainly, pre January 2020, remote working was not a new concept with many organizations integrating home and flexible working.
However, the wholesale enforced remote working scenario revealed where the true opportunities – and challenges – of a distributed workforce really lie.
The first thing the pandemic demonstrated was that more workers wanted to work remotely, at least part-time, with 72% stating in one study that they prefer the hybrid remote-office model .
Covid-19 was also the best possible crucible to try out remote-working technologies. Soon Skype, the doyenne of VOIP (voice and video) connectivity, found itself utterly trounced by Zoom, Teams, Hangout, and more.
The power of collaborative technologies soon became clear, as organizations realized that simply trying to work together on projects via something as basic as email was time-consuming and prone to errors. In December 2002, Salesforce announced its acquisition of collaborative messaging platform, Slack for $27bn indicating that collaboration across a distributed workforce was a trend that was very much in it for the long haul.
As we move beyond the initial shock of the pandemic, the blended workforce will become the norm. Employees will expect to be able to move seamlessly, not just physically between offices and workstations, but between workflows – picking up projects where they left off, safe in the knowledge that assets haven’t been altered or moved while their attention was elsewhere.
One example of how technology can support the blended workplace is through Integrated Content Management, or ICM. Defined by Theresa Regli in her whitepaper, Compellingly Connected , as “the practice of bringing content and data together from different sources into a unified, single tool, and often a single user interface, also.”
This is more than just a convenient storage solution. Integrated content means employees have access to a single source of truth for any asset they need to use in the course of their work. They can be certain that rules applied automatically to assets ingested into the system mean that they are used for the correct purpose, that they are current and accurate and that, should they be superseded, out-of-date versions will be removed.
The ICM system (or as we call it – Universal Content Management ) allows permissions to be attached to certain assets, ensuring that employees don’t inadvertently access sensitive information or breach data rules. It means workflows can be built and executed within the same system as where your assets are housed, avoiding disruptions and duplications of tasks or approvals. At its very core, is the fact that employees do not need to be sitting next to each other, in an adjoining office or on the other end of the phone, in order to know exactly what needs to be done, when and by whom.
Of course, there are also many other benefits to ICM, not least the ability to scale quickly, through localization and cost efficiencies from a streamlined content operation. But as organizations emerge from the pandemic, they will be faced with an entirely new shape to the world of work. The connected nature of an integrated content management approach will be key to a smooth transition to a permanently blended way of working, one that benefits company, employee and customer alike.