Technology at Work, a Lifetime of Change – Part 2

Karl McDermott
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On: 4 Feb 2016
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In this blog Karl McDermott, Three Ireland’s Head of ICT, looks ahead to contemplate the evolution of future technology at work.

In last week’s blog I painted a brief but telling picture of what the world of work was like 20 years ago. Just how much it has actually changed due to the evolution of technology is still surprising. This week I am looking to the future, to discuss how technology is likely to change the world of work beyond recognition once more.

Thinking back to the ‘90s for a moment, what was so apparent was how the immediacy and accessibility of technology and data has radically changed not only the way we work but the way we think about work, the timescales we follow and the processes we need (or don’t need any more).

So what will the increasingly tech-enabled working world of tomorrow look like in terms of our access to information and the tools we use to do our jobs?

The big changes historically are: the move from manual to automated processes; and the ability to do anything, anywhere using any device. But part of the challenge brought by increased technology use is growth in the number of devices we access. Most of us still have at least two principle forms of hardware we use to do our jobs – for example a phone and a laptop.

In the future, we’ll centralise more onto one device and it’ll be our choice what device that is. Gartner, the IT industry analyst, estimates that by 2017 half of the world’s employers may impose a mandatory Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy. This will require billions of employees to bring their own laptop, tablet or smartphone to work. OK, BYOD is already in vogue today, but the difference will be the mass adoption of these policies and the fact that the devices we adopt through them will be our central access points to everything we do at work and play.

Recent research by Dell also showed that 87% of EMEA workers think tablets will completely replace laptops at work – again suggesting the future will focus on a single device. And our own research conducted locally in Ireland showed that 48% of business owners now view their smartphone as the single most important piece of technology to their job. Due to the increased power and flexibility of phones, half of Irish IT professionals say their use of PCs has reduced significantly in recent years.

In order to achieve improved working practices through technology evolution, organisations must focus on ways of giving people secure but seamless access as they move from one work location to another. Meeting the demands of an ever more demanding and technology aware workforce who want to use whatever device suits them best is critical.

In order to support this, we will also see more demand for seamless network connectivity. Today, use of Wi-Fi calling means we have the best of both worlds and are able to utilise both mobile and other networks, whichever is most convenient, to make phone calls. But in the future this will be broader. Our devices of choice will need to find and access multiple networks wherever we go, in order to optimise connectivity and allow our workflow to continue without interruption.

We will also need improved device security and management. As the worlds of work and play continue to merge on single pieces of technology, managing use more carefully is essential, for example through mobile device management and containerisation of business apps.

The world of work has changed beyond recognition in the past 20 years and will continue in this vein for sure. Our most powerful computing devices now reside in our pockets and ultimately many of us will not actually need anything else.