Digital Prism Managing Director Jason Bacon has led digital proposition development and digital transformation initiatives in Finance, Travel, Sports, Media, and Business Services. Here, he helps us to understand the careful balance between the old and the new in the new digital workplace.
What internal trends do you see in the digital economy? How are companies successfully reorganizing themselves?
Companies are increasingly moving away from hierarchical and matrix structures to more flexible and "agile" frameworks. Workers have a home base within an organization but spend most of their day-to-day working in cross-functional teams. These new flexible operating models require a greater focus on developing communication and strategic planning skills.
The increasing use of digital platforms for resource and process management (ERP’s) as well as Automated Marketing and Sales Platforms tends to lead to more uniformity in job roles and functions. Having said that, it also means that a significant number of people in the organization require a strategic perspective in how best to design and change these tools when needed.
Also many industries are becoming less predictable in terms of how companies within them operate. Companies are operating in a mix of business models, ecosystems of partner companies and deconstructed value chains. Internally, the boundaries between, Research, Product Development, Marketing, IT, Sales and Customer Service departments as well as support functions such as Legal, Compliance and Risk are increasingly being blurred.
What are some points of tension between digital and the traditional in the workplace?
The forces of digital continue to change the workplace... on the one hand, there is less human interaction going on between colleagues and also between staff and their clients and suppliers. On the other hand, the digital revolution requires communication skills to be stronger than ever, as what interactions there are tend to be on important issues and complicated projects outside of process driven tasks. As the workplace becomes more fluid, the ability to communicate effectively with people you don’t know very well will be more important than ever.
The irony is that our use of digital tools is undermining the very skills that are needed so urgently. The prolific use of email, enterprise messaging tools and apps in the workplace is taking even more opportunities away from people to communicate face to face. At the same time, digitization and technical advances are influencing organization structures and job specifications in a fundamental way.
What advice do you have for workers and managers as the digital continues to conquer all?
The future worker will need excellent communication skills and be ready for a wide variety of interactions with colleagues, as they are more likely to be working in much more fluid “agile” environments. They must be able to handle constant change rather than a stable team structure with consistent roles and accountabilities.
This trend involves a growing dichotomy in the workplace, one that demands a strategic response in terms of defining and articulating an organizational structure which is as agile as the way people within it are being asked to work. At the same time the recognition of the importance of excellent communication skills can be easily overlooked in the drive for automation and technology to deliver consistent processes.