Archive for May, 2009

Workforce Evolution OR Workforce Revolution? | a Prologue

Sunday, May 31st, 2009

Many people seem to think that technology is a means to innovation, when in actual fact its the people that drive change. Understanding people in the workforce is arguably the most important thing when planning for the future of a business, “Why?” you may ask – well, from now until 2018 and beyond the workforce will be enhanced with new skills and characteristics coming into the mix that have the potential of changing the way we will be working, possibly even as soon as five years time.

 Before we get to the above conclusion though, whats’ more important is to understand how we will be getting there. There is logic behind my madness!

Where we are today (UK)

So today we have four generations in the workforce, but for this post I will focus on the three prominent generations, Baby Boomers*, Generation X** and the Millennials***.

 

The Baby Boomers*, 14 million strong in the workforce and hugely important to industry – A generation born between the years of 1946-1964, began coming into the workforce several years after WW2 with an enthusiasm to change the world by coming up with new ideas, building new industries from the ground up.

 

Generation X**, 11 million in the current workforce, born between the years of 1964-1980 –  The generation that witnessed the inception of the personal computer, worked through the ‘Dot.com’ boom and possibly dabbled in the rise of MTV and Punk music. Gen Xers are also presumed to be ‘Next in thrown’ to the boomers, but is this really true?

 

Millennials***, currently 8 million in the workforce, though having been born between the years of 1980-2000 meaning that there is a huge amount (9 million) still in education. The youngest era of this generation are in fact still at primary school. By 2020 it is possible that there could be 17 million Millennials in the workplace (A deeper look into the fundamentals and importance of this generation in relation to the evolution of the workforce will be explained in the next blog post).

 

These demographics matter, they’re not ‘shock’ facts or over glorified estimates, its a realistic possibility, our workforce is going to change, unless we can figure out a miracle cure for aging…

 

Baby Boomers are important, they carry mass amounts of invaluable knowledge, experience and seniority, the data and information that they hold is imperitive to the organisations that they are part of. Now is the time to start sharing with the generations that will be leading industry in the future, but how? Sharing information is simpler today than ever before, we can consume huge amounts of information from multiple repositories daily, now is the time to experiment with things such as social computing.

 

As stated, there are 9 million Millennials that have still not entered the workplace, but its important that they do in order to fill the void that the Boomers will leave over the course of the next decade. Good education is a must in order to get the rest of this generation into the workforce and fullfill generational blend and insdustry sustainability. But its not all doom and gloom, this generation are going to bring in a whole host of new skills and character into the workplace, not to mention their lack of fear towards technology, but the fact that they couldn’t give a stuff about it. Millennials ‘pick up and play’, not just technology but processes, they can learn from multiple mediums at a worryingly fast pace.

 

So going back to my intro-conclusion, the next generation of workers will change our methods of work, possibly not as drastically as first perscieved, but in terms of such things as sharing, storing and consuming information. Lessons can be learnt, are you going to sit and wait for the changes to be more apparent or are you going to be prepared for the change to occur?

Forgetting, changing and innovating

Friday, May 29th, 2009

Over the past 12 months myself and Jonathan Peach have done so many presentations to different people that I struggle to remember them all. As people this is what we do, we do things and then forget about them. Very rarely do we get the chance to reflect upon what actually happens. Blogging is good for this purpose, because you can go back and read about what you had forgotten. When we present our research around the Workforce Evolution we tell people that things are changing and that it would be wise for them to understand that change so they can prepare for it. The change we talk about is a difficult one. The workforce is already evolving, but it might take more than a decade to see the full effects, and as anyone can imagine it is difficult to tell people to change today in order to prepare for ten years ahead. Although, I would argue that if you cannot respond to the way your workforce will change then you will probably not be in business in ten years time anyway.

I think many business leaders find what we say interesting, but they do as we all do, they forget. Buzz words like strategy, innovation and future are widely used by business leaders, but do they act upon it? Some people argue that short term thinking brought us the recession; business leaders talked the “long term language” then but clearly did not walk the talk.

Over the past couple of months I’ve met with many decision makers and its incredibly tough for them to make strategic decisions as the whole economy seems to be in survival mode. If your ideas do not show quick ROI or saves money then it’s not interesting. To me it seems we have gone from one extreme to another. Looking to the past to determine the future can sometimes work really well and when it comes to recession behaviour this is definitely true. Companies like Proctor & Gamble, Walt Disney, Microsoft and Google were all recession era start ups. Also, let’s not forget that transformational innovations such as the PC and the IPod were invented during tough economic times.

These companies believed in innovation and the long term but still managed to survive tough times. Maybe focusing all efforts on driving down costs will work for some, but the real winners will be those who can do what’s right now and act upon what they predict will happen in the future. Too often innovation is associated with technology and inventions, but it’s much more than that. Innovation is “a new way of doing something”, so how about behavioural innovation? Businesses will have to change their culture and behaviour to suit the most diverse workforce ever witnessed, and the way in which they respond will have a massive impact on their future success.

Breaking into Higher Education – Consumerisation takes hold…

Monday, May 18th, 2009

University of Washington – actively promoting students to Twitter during class - another great example of organisations trying to harness the power of these tools for good rather than simply blaming them for our ills.

Why can’t more institutions take this approach? Does yours?

The Envisioners Podcast – Now Live!

Thursday, May 14th, 2009

envisioners

Just a quick note to let you know that the Envisioners podcast feed is now live and available via iTunes or your favourite podcatcher.  Click on the image above to add the podcast to your iTunes library.

Click here for the regular RSS feed for any other podcatcher…

Architect Insight Conference 2009

Friday, May 8th, 2009

aic2009So, it’s late on friday evening and I’m just reflecting on a successful day at the Architect Insight Conference 2009 held in London with 200 or so of the UK’s best IT Architects and CTO’s.

Despite some fairly challenging budgetary restrictions, Matt and his team did a great job of providing a pretty diverse forum for people to come to learn, challenge, inform and discuss – from the buzz at the end, it seemed to have worked out pretty well.

Not only was I was lucky enough to get a slot to present my “6 themes” pitch to around 80 or so of the attendees (Hey – I was competing with 4 other sessions with more interesting and articulate speakers – you know who you are Ulrich ;-) ) but I also got to interview the keynote speakers in a kind of “behind the scenes” exclusive for the event portal that will be launched soon.

All of the sessions were recorded and I will also be creating a special webcast edition of my session (Oh, you lucky people) for the Envisioners podcast feed that is now live on iTunes (N.B. other podcatchers are available).  There was also a little bit of a Twitter experiment going on during the day (to prove we’re “down with the kids” if nothing else).  Although rather amusingly now, we’re finding out all of the other events/groups that use the hashtag “AIC”.  There is also a Flickr stream from the event although in retrospect, this is not always a good thing…

Finally, there are also plans afoot for a “Virtual AIC” sometime over the summer to open it up for those that weren’t able to get to the event in person – I’ll keep you posted on that.

The Security Sledghammer

Sunday, May 3rd, 2009

Another week, another data security problem hits the headlines. It’s the same old story, human error results in the “misplacement” of a piece of technology (disk, USB stick etc) but the easiest way to deal with it seems to be to blame the technology and chase after that as the source of the problem.devilusb

The thing for me is, that people have been leaving important things on trains since Mr Stephenson stepped off the Rocket and said “Welcome to the Age of Steam, now where did I leave my umbrella?” so why is it now that we find ourselves in a world where the the humble USB key finds itself transported from “friend of the networkingly challenged” to Satan’s portable storage device?

The problem of course (beyond our own inability to deal with the implied human failure) is that we don’t have a sufficiently granular way of dealing with information risk.  We simply don’t have access to pervasive, infallible technology solution that on a file by file basis, enables us to protect data that is sensitive while leaving less important data alone.

As a result, organisations and Enterprises face a binary choice in deciding how to prevent this from happening again (which is often made even worse when they are reeling from the headlines and embarrassment of another data loss).  They can secure everything or secure nothing – it’s the only option they feel they have.  Guess which one they choose?

I’ve worked with organisations who have an outright ban on portable storage devices, some even go so far as to glue up the USB ports on their PC’s.  Let me tell you these are not organisations from the Security, Defence or Intelligence sectors, these are regular Enterprises just like yours.

sledgehammerDon’t get me wrong, I don’t blame them for doing this, but it’s a bit of a sledgehammer for what is essentially a walnut. The technology vendors have a big part to play in this, as do the various Governments and legislators that care about encryption standards, but importantly, the real challenge lies with you, dear reader, and it is one of data classification.  There doesn’t seem to be much point in having a pervasive, granular data security solution if you don’t know which bits of your data are sensitive and which aren’t.

So what are you doing about it in your own organisations?  Easy for me to say I know, but trust me, I know how big a deal this is.  I know it’s a mammoth task and involves getting the “business” to agree on a classification schema (and sometimes for some hard truth that their “sensitive” data really isn’t all that important) but no matter how arduous or tortuous the route, you have to take it if you want to be that agile, innovative organisation you always wanted to be. 

Ignore this and you might as well breakout the Araldite ™ and get cracking…