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:

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

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


“Controlled Falling”.  An odd name for a blog that’s mostly about Collaboration, Innovation and Risk Management.   I spent a lot of time thinking about this and believe it’s a good fit. Consider…

It is often said that “walking is controlled falling.”   You’ve seen a toddler learning to take those first steps.  They have a clear objective and incredible determination but they spend a lot of time with their bottom on the floor.  Fortunately for them they don’t have far to fall and have a bit of natural resiliency.  There are some rough tumbles though, and some tears.  It’s important that someone create a good environment without sharp edges, hard surfaces or tripping hazards.  And they get better with practice.   Soon, with each step, their foot seems to catch them just in time.  The whole body begins to align – arms and head for balance, eyes for threats, hands to catch (just in case).   

So it is with recent attempts to enhance Collaboration and Innovation in the enterprise.  So far there seems to be a lot of falling.  It’s not necessarily a bad thing.  Like the toddler, we wouldn’t achieve our objective without a few setbacks.  Given time, we’ll start to put one foot in front of the other and gain a little control. Of course, we want to minimize the damage (aka Risk Management).  There are a number of things we should do to reduce those “sharp edges, hard surfaces and tripping hazards”. Basic things like focusing on business objectives instead of technology; starting with a strategy and an architecture; and implementing a user adoption program.

But there’s a problem with this perspective. Successful organizations cannot be content with being a toddler. We all see that the rules have changed. A common mantra in business journals is “innovate or die”. Collaboration is an imperative for the savvy executive – whether they be IT or business. Novel technologies are emerging faster than we can grasp them. One directory lists 2830 Web 2.0 applications in 175 categories! Organizations cannot afford to toddle in this new environment. Real success amidst this rapid change requires that we become more like a stunt-person than a toddler.

Really? A stunt-person?

Think about it. I’m not talking about a daredevil who takes foolish chances. I’m talking about the professionals. Stunt-people practice. They learn to fall gracefully. They take chances – sometimes big chances – but these are based on knowledge, experience, and a careful understanding of their environment, capabilities and goals. They have a plan. They manage the risks. And the smart ones know when to walk away.

Our organizations must develop these skills. We begin by creating collaboration and innovation ecosystems. These are environments where the occasional fall is acceptable and sometimes planned. We must nurture the staff who have the proper knowledge and experience and sheer intestinal fortitude. We acknowledge our limitations and reach outside to the experts when we don’t have them in-house. Finally, like the professional stunt-person, we control our environment and manage the risks by implementing a comprehensive governance program around our collaboration and innovation initiatives.

We are falling headlong into an uncertain future. It’s obvious to me that enhancing collaboration, facilitating innovation and managing the associated risks are critical activities for our survival and success. So the trick is to control that fall – to do it with grace and skill. If we work at it, then someday it will be as natural as walking.

Fear of (Blog) Commitment

I’m finally taking the next step in the relationship.

My relationship with Social Networking, that is.  This next big step is starting my own blog.  I have an intimate understanding of the commitment required for tools like Facebook, Twitter and Yammer and enjoy those casual encounters.  But blogging?  Sure, it looks easy and everyone seems to be doing it, but I’ve been very deliberately putting it off for years.  It’s obvious to me that I shouldn’t start blogging unless I’m truly committed to putting fingers to keyboard every week or so at a minimum – willing to string together thoughts of more than 140 characters.  This is certainly the advice I give to others.  Even when I’ve built and managed blogging tools, I have coached senior executives NOT to start a blog because they aren’t passionate about it.   I explain that if they start and don’t keep at it, then they will lose credibility with their staff, many of whom have their own blogs and DO find the time to write about things they know on a regular basis.

That’s the trick though isn’t it.  Writing what you know.   Writing about your passions.  Mine?  To name a few – Collaboration, Innovation, Risk Management, Environment, Home Renovation – all of which are hot topics right now (ever heard of HGTV?).   It’s easy to think there’s nothing new I could offer.  After all, even if I read all day, everyday, I wouldn’t be able to consume all of the information that’s being posted about these topics.

But friends and colleagues keep asking me for the web address to my mental musings.  They want to know what I think about things.  It is good that those who know me well also trust my insights and opinions.  They want to know what I  find relevant and what I feel about this opinion or that commentary.  In some cases they want me to be their filter – to help them sort through the masses of information or offer a shortcut solution to their problem.  It can be a bit daunting.  I wouldn’t want to let them down.

BSA Project SOAR patch from 1971Fortunately for me there’s a lot of history to draw upon.  I’ve been developing collaborative solutions since before the term “intranet” was coined; working closely with a firm specializing in innovation; managing risk before Enron; working for environmental change since Project SOAR in 1971; and remodeling houses before HGTV aired its first show. 

The fact is we all have something to offer.  Perhaps a wealth of experience.  Or some new or different way of seeing things.  Maybe the ability to listen and assess when others are busy talking.  There are times when something that seems incredibly obvious to you will be the “Eureka!” moment for someone else.   So here I go, starting my blog.  Finally taking that big step.  Making the commitment after years of flirting.   It feels right.

Take a minute to consider your own situation.  I assure you that you have something to offer.  Start collecting a list of topics.   Pick a good blogging tool (most are free, and easy).  Experiment a bit.  Then, when the time is right and you are comfortable with the situation, take the step – hit the publish button.