Wrapping Your Mind Around a Future of Work Initiative


The concept of the future of work is something we’ve been hearing about for a while now. It often sounds like a bit of science fiction and seems somewhat pie-in-the-sky, but if you think about it, this transformation has already been tiptoeing its way into our work lives. A few years ago we collectively forced IT’s hand with our insistence that we be allowed to use our smartphones and tablets for work. Now we can work anywhere and anytime using our mobile devices. Meanwhile, IT has been leading the charge in improving the way we collaborate across voice, video, and text-based systems to help us manage the surge of globalization and the challenges of working with people across time zones. And, enterprise social messaging is finally finding its place in our organizations. These are not insignificant changes – especially in such a short timeframe.

But most organizations are still struggling to catch up – both technically and culturally – with activities we take for granted in our personal lives. We video chat with friends on our smartphones, find and reserve tables at the best restaurants at the touch of our finger, and quickly learn to do just about anything on YouTube. We can even automate and remotely control our lights, heat and appliances in our homes using off-the-shelf technology from the local home improvement store. Wouldn’t it be great if our work life was this streamlined?  Wouldn’t you want to work at the company that offered this kind of integrated experience? Smart parking, smart office, smart learning, smart wellness, smart meetings, smart everything.

Shouldn’t our workplaces and our work experiences be “smart”?

Business leaders seem to think so and there are some major new trends that will both compel and assist organizations toward these changes. Trends such as the surge of Millennials and Gen-Z’s that are creating a quad-generational workforce and will soon be in the majority. Or the trend that shows employees becoming less and less engaged and motivated by their work. The major the shift to the gig-economy. And, perhaps most importantly, there’s the whole Internet of Things (IoT) disruption. What does this mean for the organization and for the employees? Here are just a few important items:

  • Dramatic cost savings are emerging in big-ticket items like real estate, facilities, and travel.
  • Measurable and significant improvements are possible for worker productivity.
  • Enterprises are focusing on creation of an employer brand to attract and retain top talent.
  • There is a cultural shift from the struggle for a work-life balance to a creation of a work- life rhythm.
  • Onboarding processes and the collection of tribal knowledge must improve to help manage the constant workforce churn.

Industry experts refer to this transformation as the Future of Work or the Digitization of Work. It’s part of the larger Digital Business Transformation that is currently impacting all industries. Organizations that ignore or postpone action must understand the consequences. Ultimately this is not optional and laggards are more likely to become one of the four in ten industry incumbents that will be displaced in the next five years.

The work involved in planning this transformation is complex. It involves rethinking business models, processes, and cultures – plus significant investments in technology and even building design. For leaders in facilities, corporate real estate, HR, and IT, this is a chance to expand the role of their organization – to drive business value using not only people, but also spaces and things. The scope is enormous, often overwhelming, and is prone to fragmented projects that can result in inconsistent user interfaces, unconnected business processes, frustrated users, and missed opportunities. The following diagram shows the six major domains in the digital work landscape.


Digital Work Landscape diagram

Then you must consider these Five Key Actors and Seven Basic Needs of the Workforce across each of these domains as you plan and prioritize:

Five Key Actors in the Digitization of Work diagram

Seven Basic Needs of the Workforce diagram








So how do you approach something that is so widespread, unstructured, and complex? As with any major initiative, you need a holistic, structured, and architectural approach that aligns technical, social, and business drivers. You will need to create:

  • Clear, cross-functional strategies based on business imperatives, not technology
  • Structured frameworks that identify and consider each of the various participants
  • Clarity in understanding the diverse needs of the participants (including all five actors shown in the diagram)

My colleagues and I in Cisco® Advanced Services have developed an approach to the digitization of work that maps the various connections across initiatives and helps to establish priorities. It includes tools and models such as the Digital Work Landscape, Digital Work Framework, and Digital Work Reference Architecture. These are all described in my two-part white paper – The Digitization of Work: A Structured Approach to Transforming the Workforce ExperiencePart 1, Part 2. It provides insights and tools that will serve as guides as you consider how to best utilize collaboration technologies, mobile and location-aware applications, enterprise social messaging, analytics, and IoT solutions to improve your workforce experience.

Please review the white papers and let me know what you think. I would love to hear about your own insights and the plans your organization is making. Leave comments here or contact me directly at Mark.Eggleston@Cisco.com. Feel free to use these ideas as you begin your Digitization of Work deployment. As you progress, I encourage you to discuss your strategy with your Cisco® account manager, client services manager, workforce experience advisor, or channel partner.



Collaborating Using Whole Sentences

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly - Lego style

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly - Lego style

“There are two kinds of people in this world…”

That’s a line from an old Clint Eastwood movie and it sounds like the start of a corny joke, but bear with me and you’ll learn a bit about helping people think strategically about business and technology.

There are two kinds of people in your enterprise … Noun People and Verb People.

Noun People speak the language of Things.  Things like software and hardware. Applications, laptops, tablets, firewalls, protocols, routers, switches, phones, networks, portlets, databases, etc, etc.  Noun People are solution oriented.  They are typically passionate about supporting the organization and are eager to provide all the tools and infrastructure appropriate to the enterprise.  They know what it takes to support a business.  They can describe which gizmo does what, its total cost of ownership, how fast it runs and whether or not it can interface with the gadget.  Noun people are frequently in IT.

Noun People are Important and you can’t run your business without them.

Verb People speak the language of Actions.  Actions like manufacturing and selling.  Innovating, developing, motivating, purchasing, merging, planning, collaborating, analyzing, managing, etc, etc.  Verb people are results oriented.  They typically focus on moving the enterprise ever forward; to make it bigger, better, more successful.  They understand what it takes to run a business.  They know how to  turn ideas into actions, create treasure from trash and even sell balloons to porcupines.  Verb People are typically in “the business”.

Verb People are Important and you can’t run your business without them.

So, if you have some of each kind of person, then what’s the problem?  The problem is the communication gap.  Noun People don’t speak the language of  Actions and vice versa.  We’ve all seen it.  Look at your last set of business requirements for the big new software application you’re planning.  Do they really make sense?  Look at the new “field of dreams” collaboration suite that’s just been rolled out.  Whatever will you use it for? 

This concept does not shock or surprise many people.   Typically, I get the sage nodding of heads all around the table when I describe this – no matter which kind of person they are.  This is especially evident in the area of collaboration (enterprise social software, unified communications, business video, social media, etc).  Collaboration tools (nouns) have been deployed for many years now without clear connection to business imperatives (verbs).  Likewise, businesses have been desperately looking for ways to improve, accelerate, grow (verbs) without an appreciation for the capabilities, architectures, infrastructure (nouns) required to achieve their vision.  

So what’s the solution?  The trick? You must find someone who can craft whole sentences using the Verbs and the Nouns.   Perhaps this is you, perhaps it is someone outside your organization who has the tools and experience to do so.  But collaboration solutions must never be deployed without a clear business imperative (it’s lacking the verb).  Major business initiatives should never be started without a clear understanding of the opportunities for enhancing collaboration (it’s missing a noun). 

This is not as easy as it seems and I’ll tell you more about the process for making the connections in a later post.  For now, pay attention to the language in your planning and strategy meetings.  Are there any Verb People in the room?  Any Noun People?  If you have some of both, do they understand one another?  Are they even listening to one another? 

A good translator can transform the conversation.  How’s your grammar?

tin cans with broken string

"What we have here is a failure to communicate"

Quotes from:

7 ALIGNED Principles for Effective Leadership

Virginia Tech - Dept of Management building“Bachelor of Science in Business, Major – Management”

 … That’s what my diploma said.  But in 1983 we were in another “Great Recession” and entry-level management jobs were almost impossible to find.   With a little help, I found a role as a programmer for a textile company in my home town and began my years as an individual contributor.  Over the next 14 years I went through 3 industries, 4 companies and 8 managers.   Though they didn’t know it, during this entire time I was studying those managers.  I analyzed their strengths and weaknesses, successes and failures.  I was determined that when my turn came to lead, I would have mastered the techniques and be more than ready. 

When I finally got that first opportunity as a manager, I had sixteen direct reports.  16!  A bit daunting, but I knew I could handle it.  I knew how the perfect manager should behave.  How they should treat their staff.  How they should communicate.  I began to apply all that I had learned. 

It was a disaster. 

My staff hated me.  The team was in an uproar.  Goals and deadlines were vague memories.  And I was completely at a loss as to what I was doing wrong.  Thanks to two great mentors and some serious introspection, I began to see the issue.   The problem was not the implementation.  You see, I was treating my staff exactly the way I wanted to be treated.  I was the perfect manager – for me.  The problem was the in the assumption.  The way I wanted to be treated was not the way they wanted, or needed, to be treated.  Thus began the first of my seven principles of leadership – Attune.  Attune yourself to the needs of the team and its members. 

Over the years, I continued to learn and refine my style.  I became a good leader – or so I’m told – and others began to ask advice.   My best advice is to understand that a manager’s job has many aspects, but the most important one is leadership.  To be a good leader, I believe you must be ALIGNED – aligned with your team, your mission, your peers, your management and your own values.  Below are seven principles that I believe can help you focus on your effectiveness as a leader:  Continue reading

Collaboration Calculus

Why is it so difficult to incorporate new collaborative processes and tools into an organization?  I’ve recently been observing a small team in a Fortune 500 company as they wrestle with this Calculus is the study of change...question.  They have the necessary tools at hand, plenty of technical knowhow, and they uniformly express a desire to build community within their geographically dispersed team.  But they are still struggling to get things moving.  What more could they possibly need?

Collaboration initiatives fail for a variety of reasons.  The problem is typically multifaceted and unique to the situation.  However, I believe there is a central theme that can help break down this complex equation.  In short, collaboration requires participation.  My friend and colleague, Joe Moran, recently postulated in a discussion forum on Cisco Community Central at cisco.com a key principle that he calls the Participation Theory.  He set this up as a simple equation that I think gets to the heart of the matter.  I’ll let him describe it here:

Ultimately, I think participation in any activity is tied to what I like to refer to as the: Participation Theory (PT).  Broken down simply as:  

Likelihood of Participation (LoP) = Reward / Effort

Now, of course that oversimplifies things immensely because the perception of Reward (R) and Effort (E) will vary significantly from individual to individual.  Ultimately, I think if we spent enough time we could come up with a core set of variables that would serve as common inputs to determining the weight of each factor.  Perhaps basing it off of Utility Theory or other like decision theories.  Of course we would need to factor in global variables which widely impact a given population, such as everyone within an enterprise.

However, in its simplest form when LoP > 1, we participate.  When LoP is < 1, we don’t participate.  If LoP = 1, then participation may be intended, but follow through is not certain.

So, the Reward must be greater than the Effort required to participate.  When true, collaboration happens.

Sounds simple, but if you read the follow-on comments in the discussion, you will see that there are a variety of other variables that make up R and E.  Things like Inertia and Availability and Awareness and Time to name just a few.  Continue reading

Innovation Velocity – Developing Agile Innovation Leadership through Gaming (via InnovoFlow – Freedoms to Innovate)

Accept the Absurd game cardI’ve been working – on and off – with an exciting startup in London called Innovoflow PLC. They have a fascinating view of innovation and the necessity for development of a supporting ecosystem (i.e., framework) in organizations. They have developed an “innovative” way to help executives and other stakeholders better understand how this works using business gaming. This creates a safe and effective way to learn more about innovation and to experiment with ways that the pieces fit together to permeate enterprise culture and to create lasting value.

I’m pleased be permitted to re-blog one of their early posts describing some of the theory and mechanics of this approach. For more information including an excellent white paper or to contact my friend and sometimes colleague/partner Simon Evans, please visit Innovoflow.com

Innovation Velocity – Developing Agile Innovation Leadership through Gaming

Celebrity Endorsement game cardThe Problem with Innovation

It is a truism that armies tend to continue to fight their last war and need to go through bitter learning experiences before they can understand and adapt to the new, emergent rules of conflict.  Present innovation thinking is constrained by legacy successes achieved within a context of unsustainable economic market growth patterns and obsolete models.
This recession is heightening a natural fear of risk and failure, which combined with a perception of increasing innovation difficulty (as highlighted by the Boston Consulting Group reviews in the past couple of years), is encouraging management caution toward innovation. This is reducing leaders’ ability to recognise, understand and manage the full range of options available, and this is slowing the pace of innovation (innovation velocity).
We need some new tools to help us deliver approaches to innovation that better suit the emerging realities of the 21st century environment.

Introducing Gaming as a Tool

We propose to use gaming as a tool in this context… Read More
via InnovoFDevelopment Team game cardlow – Freedoms to Innovate

Going Viral in the Enterprise

SisyphusHow can you tell if you are succeeding in your campaign for adoption of new enterprise collaboration tools?  How can you define that magic moment when you can breathe a sigh of relief and say “That’s the tipping point.”  Metrics maybe?  Sure, they are important, but for me it’s when some idea goes viral on your network.  Viral, like the Old Spice guy or the BPGlobalPR twitter feed, but inside your organization.         

More about that in a minute.  First, it’s obvious that user adoption for collaboration tools is becoming a hot topic.  Rightly so.  Even with all of the transformational capabilities at our disposal – wikis, blogs, microblogging, social networking, folksonomies – and the money we are pouring into them, we are still held captive by the ” inertia of the inbox”.  Try as we might to espouse and adopt the benefits of social media or web conferencing we still find ourselves caught in lengthy email threads with a dozen or more people – most of whom wish they weren’t on the CC list.  Personally, as a Collaboration Solutions Architect, I am overwhelmed by a sense of irony (or hypocrisy depending on my mood) every time I exceed my inbox quota.  Solving this is a huge challenge and opportunity.  The benefits are apparent but not easily measured.  I’ll write more on User Adoption in a later blog, but until then I highly recommend you look into The 2.0 Adoption Council.   You should also see Gil Yehuda’s blog and his white paper titled “Framework for 2.0 Adoption in the Enterprise“.         

Angry GooseNow, back to the importance of going viral.  The first time I experienced information that “went viral” was in 1997 at a major pharmaceutical company.  (The term “viral” actually meant something entirely different in that time and place!)  A visionary in the IT department sponsored a system on the intranet for idea collection and harvesting.  Continue reading

“Social” Perspective on the 2010 Enterprise 2.0 Conference

Raise your hand if you attended this in 1994.

I give it a B+.  That’s my initial reaction when people ask about my first trip to Enterprise 2.0.  I always grade conferences based on my level of enthusiasm when I leave.  I’ve been to some conferences that scored “C” or even lower.  I once awarded an “A+” for the Second International World Wide Web (WWW) Conference back in 1994. I still have the T-shirt and, yes, I know it’s sixteen years old and should be in the rag bin.   

Dozens of people have already blogged extensively about the E2.0 conference. Their articles range from overviews of the whole event to notes taken right on the spot during the conference sessions and keynotes.  By and large they’ve done a much better job than I could, so I’m not going to waste precious keystrokes repeating them.  I will, however, provide a list of some of my favorites at the end of this article.  Instead, I’d like to entertain you with some thoughts about the “social” aspects of the conference.  By “social” I don’t mean social networking or social media or even the very social IBM boat party which, I hear, was quite the event.  I’m talking about how the leaders in the field of “social computing” – movers and shakers in the industry – act and interact when they are put in close physical proximity of one another.     

First, let’s look at the demographics. While the ballrooms echoed with the term Millennials (another name for Generation Y), actual sightings were extremely rare. I would even say that the GenX-ers comprised only about 50% of the audience (if any of you have real numbers, I’d love to hear from you). The rest of us were Baby-Boomers or, as Rick Ladd so aptly named us, the BooMillennials – Boomers who adopt the best practices of the Millennials. What can we read into this? I can only speculate, but here are some possibilities:        

  • In these cost-constrained times, the older you are, the more likely you are to have a travel budget – or a huge number of frequent flyer points.
  • Millennials don’t value physical conferences. They do all of their meeting online and create sardonic vlogs about the “old folks” who feel compelled to travel.
  • Hopefully and importantly, there are a lot of Boomers who understand the value and importance of this new way of working. They recognize that organizations must evolve to embrace these tools and practices to invigorate collaboration and innovation. Fortunately, many of these BooMillennials have achieved positions of respect and authority in their organizations. They nurture the seeds of change.





My second “social” observation was the new dynamic of presentations. Up to now, presentations have generally been Continue reading