A new report from Samsung is right to say corporate IT should listen to its employees, says Matt Warman
Even by the standards of attention-grabbing headlines, Samsung took a brave approach to the title of its latest white paper on technology.
“The Future of Work” is subtitled “How businesses can and should adapt to new employee behaviours and technologies”. The italics are mine, and I suppose salesmen have always made suggestions on what might help.
But there’s a surprising certainty to Samsung’s notion that now businesses must adapt.
Except, of course, they have a point. It’s ridiculous to contend that any business can get away with ignoring not just the latest technologies, but also those which its employees impose on it.
Take file-sharing service Dropbox, for instance, used because countless firms are too miserly to give employees the size of email inbox they need to work properly.
Frustrated by an inability to send documents easily, workers signed up for the free service and use it now to send information that once upon a time would have gone in a big brown envelope to a colleague or customer.
Dropbox has 80,000 corporate customers – which is not bad going for a new endeavour – but it is used by four million businesses around the world.
As the Samsung report, written by analysts at Ovum, observes: “The massive growth of the smartphone market, the emergence of tablets, laptops becoming thinner and lighter and new technologies for meetings are all creating new behaviours and expectations in the consumer space.
And in turn – given that all employees are consumers first and foremost – these behaviours and expectations are being brought into the workplace, providing opportunities for new more agile and flexible modes of working.”
This, Samsung suggests without a hint of self-interest, means “Enterprise IT now has to adapt to this new multi-screen, mobile, nomadic reality and enable employees to make the most of these technologies and work in new ways.”
It has, to a degree, always been the case that the latest technologies make businesses, especially smaller ones, significantly more efficient, but indisputably we’re now at a tipping point: “The benefits will be a more engaged and agile workforce, which in today’s dynamic and fast-moving markets is vital to enable businesses to innovate and adapt at the requisite speeds.”
There are serious challenges for corporate security, of course, which both Dropbox and Samsung claim they, along with scores of others, have decent solutions for.
The trick, in essence, is to make it easy enough to operate two accounts or personas: a work one over which the employer has control and a personal one which the employer cannot see.
That requires companies to adapt to a new level of inter-operability, because as those Dropbox statistics attest, if it’s too difficult then workers will simply use the less secure consumer products with which they are already familiar.
For many firms, the rational response may actually be to realise the level of security offered by those free consumer products is adequate.
That may sound defeatist, but it’s in the face of three billion smartphones in circulation by 2017, countless connected screens and 62pc of employees now using their own devices, for which most employers have simply never written an IT policy before. It’s a bit late to start now, so deciding what data really need protecting is vital.
This focus on devices, however, masks a transition to yet newer methods of buying, selling and working.
Amid LinkedIn’s latest results announced last week – shares surged 10pc on revenues of $534m (£316m) – the social network revealed a new product called Sales Navigator. It marks a new attempt by the company that has changed recruitment to do something similar for sales. It will “make it easy for sales professionals to stay updated about key accounts, focus on the right people, and build trusted relationships”, LinkedIn says.
In other words, it means the phone in your pocket will use social networks automatically to suggest sales opportunities. So every worker could be always on, and always selling.