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.



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


“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.