I want to be honest with you all, I'm not going to talk to you about the latest technology trends, the cloud or big data because by the time I finish my talk, the information would be out of date.

Predicting the future of technology in the workplace is like a weatherman predicting the weather, you should treat it with a pinch of salt as no one knows exactly what the future holds. I want to talk to you today about how you can prepare your workplace to be flexible enough to adapt to whatever technology is thrown at it and to provide an environment that allows your staff to best do their jobs.

In 1988, I was eight years old and I was given my first computer, a Commodore 64. I thought it was amazing, the technology was revolutionary. This humble twenty shades of beige keyboard brought computing to the home, it popularised video games and pioneered homemade computer-created music. It was my first experience with technology. Last month, me and my wife got an iPad for our daughter Bella, who had just turned two. She was fascinated with the technology so I showed her how to swipe through our holiday photos, she watched me, repeated the gestures a few times and within a minute she was swiping and panning like a pro. In stark contrast, my 64 year old mother in law Gillian was given an iPad last Christmas.

Teaching her how to swipe through photos took most of my weekend and she nearly took out anyone within her close proximity. For Gillian the iPad represented something foreign, something revolutionary, something almost magical whilst Bella saw the iPad as simply the norm. My living room TV is covered in her fingerprints because she expects it to be touchscreen like the iPad. When Bella enters the workplace she will have much higher technology expectations than generations before. Never in the history of the modern world has there been four, almost five generations in the workplace that bring such different values, beliefs and expectations. Never before has a generation entered the workplace using technologies so far ahead of those adopted by its employer. So how can we create environments that embrace future technologies and best support our staff to do their jobs?

Thirty years ago, to design an optimal workplace, the focus was largely on the property and the people, after all they make up the two largest expenditures of most businesses.

Today, technology plays a fundamental role in the design of a successful work environment. Although IT spends are considerably less than the property and people, the right technology enables staff to be more efficient, collaborative and productive. I like how the Dutch name this intrinsically linked relationship; the 3B’s Bricks, Brains and Bytes.

Today my main focus will be the Bytes piece and how we can prepare our companies for the digital revolution.

Learn

We live in a world of constant change and we all understand that for companies today to survive, they have to adapt. But how much have our work environments changed over the last century compared to technology? Vodafone’s UK HQ shows a typical example of what our workplaces look like today. They’re dynamic, fluid, organic and designed to improve collaboration, serendipity and productivity. This plan was taken from 1968 and shares a lot of elements with the previous slide. There are different typologies to suit the different working styles, there's fluid layouts and various collaborative spaces. So our workplaces haven’t actually changed that much in the last 50 years, but what about technology? This was what tech experts believed the home computer of the future would look like in 1954. Technology has not simply evolved over time, it is unrecognisable. This unprecedented pace of technological change is driving fear and indecision in the c-level boardrooms. Just look at this graph highlighting the accelerating growth in technology. Choice has never been greater and the risk in choosing the wrong technology is an ever-present worry? Which hardware? Which software? Is it future proof? Is it cloud enabled? Has anyone heard of Google tap? This is the latest piece of technology coming right out of Silicon Valley (play video), google claims it is the future of mobile communication

Well that was clearly a spoof but you can sympathise that navigating through a sea of technological innovations, it’s easy to understand why so many companies get technology in the workplace wrong. But technology has the power to achieve great things in the workplace. If done right it becomes an ENABLER, it enables your staff to be more productive, efficient, mobile and improve communication. However implementing the wrong technology can quickly become a DISABLER, preventing employees from doing their jobs, distracting staff and causing frustration and angst. In workplace satisfaction surveys, IT regularly appears in the top 3 most dissatisfied parts of the business. So what lessons can we learn from other global companies who have got their IT strategy right? Barclays Bank was faced with a challenge in 2013, the mobile banking landscape was accelerating at an unprecedented pace and they had to do something. They issued a small development team with a challenge, to build an app within 30 days. The executive team knew this was a big ask and offered them any resources they required to complete the task, they could have any office, any technology, any of the latest gadgets, you name it they would of provided it. This small development team surprised them all when they said all they wanted was a nice family home, What they wanted above anything else, was the right environment to do the job and felt that a corporate open plan office wasn't the right surroundings to allow the team to burn the midnight oil. These examples demonstrate how leading global companies are not using corporate policies to drive their IT strategies, they're adapting to the rise of consumerisation and allowing their staff to choose what technology or environment they require to best do their jobs. Studies have shown that allowing staff the choice to choose their technology or environment leads to substantial gains in productivity,

Approach

In September 2012, Ernesto Sirolli told a fantastic story at TedX on the aid work he accomplished in Africa during the 70’s on sustainable development. His first project was to teach villagers in Southern Zambia how to grow tomatoes. As a result, everything in Africa grew beautifully. They had managed to grow these magnificent tomatoes…they told the Zambians, look how easy agriculture is! But when the tomatoes were nice and ripe and red, overnight, 200 hippos came out from the river and ate everything.

The italians were shocked! The Zambians said, that's why we have no agriculture here. The Italians questioned, Why didn’t you tell us? And the Zambians simply replied ... You never asked!

How often have we observed cutting edge technology implemented into offices that is never used, not because they don’t do the job, but because there wasn’t the need or desire from the staff in the first place. Sirolli came to Zambia with preconceived ideas of what they needed to do to improve agriculture, by listening first and acting second he would of learnt about the hippos earlier. Technology in the workplace is not about having the latest most expensive gadget, it’s about identifying the needs of the people. What do your staff require to best do their jobs? How many staff in your companies have the same laptop, the same specification? How many of your staff have the same mobile phone contract?

The same cloud storage? How many have two screens? The same size? Within large organisations, IT frequently apply a ‘one size fits all’ methodology which makes the IT departments lives easier but often leaves staff on the floor with the wrong tools to do their jobs.

Workshop

To help you understand what technology your office requires, I’m going to share a workshop tool we use at Morgan Lovell to begin framing what technology roadmap will best support your staff to do their jobs.

Gather representatives from each of the teams, get the accountants, marketing, sales, analysts and creatives together in a room.

Then you need a list of the top 20 common activities, these are activities that your staff routinely do in a daily week and ask each team to choose 5 activities that they do every week on a daily basis.

For each of those activities, break it up into 3 sections to reflect the optimal working environment, people, property and technology.

Once you’ve collated all the data, start combining the parts your staff specifically need to best to their jobs. Then start to create group shared technologies across departments to create a 'kit of parts' for the organisation. If we are all provided with exactly the same parts, we would get the same output. Truth is in our jobs we all do different things, and to get the most out of what we do we need a kit of parts for each activity.

Flexibility

This is one stage in understanding what your technology road map could look like. Imagine with me for a second that you're going on a road trip.

The car is your company, the equipment inside the car represents your assets including all your technology. You know what equipment to bring on this road trip as you've run the prior workshop and taken an audit of what your staff want. Your car is fully packed with what you need for today's drive. Now this road trip could last a long time, a few years, there's bound to be many twists and turns, even a few punctures. A few months pass and you realise you need some entertainment. Do you purchase an expensive, bespoke inlaid leather fixed iPad holder that is integrated into the dashboard or do you purchase a flexible option that hangs off the seat.

In a few months’ time you might need to upgrade or throw out the iPad and install a plasma sunroof? When you don't know where the road is going to take you, you need flexibility, the ability to adapt and change as the road infront of you moves.

What works for your teams today might not work tomorrow. The same approach can be applied to your work environment. Can we replace the technology easily? Can we upgrade? How flexible has my environment been designed to accommodate technology breakthroughs? When investing in technology, start to think about 5 years from now?

Consumerisation is driving a lot of the technology trends we are seeing in the workplace. Samsung now sell all their TVs with a replaceable graphics card allowing you to upgrade your TV as new technologies are released with plug and play simplicity.

But even great companies like Apple sometimes get it wrong, when they changed their charging cable design they impacted homes and offices around the world who had docking systems designed to hold the old iPad. Hot off the press I received this from a company last week, how long until this furniture solution becomes obsolete. Prioritise flexibility and versatility into your workplace environments so that if something new comes along, you can easily replace it.

Conclusion

So what are the trends of the future. What can I incorporate into my office that will make me more efficient, more productive, more collaborative. The truth is whatever I tell you today, in 6 months time it will be out of date, within 3 years it may be obsolete. Technology is moving at such a pace that its impossible to keep up.

At the beginning of this talk I showed you the three circles required for an optimal working environment.

I believe for your workplace to be able to adapt to technology will mean it has to become less intrinsically linked to the physical environment and more flexible.
Technology is there to support and enable not to anchor and dictate. Environments today need to have almost organic adaptability so as the trends change, your infrastructure is in place to cope. They say that "great design will stand the test of time" well technology definitely won't.

Designing a 'one size fits all' solution for your workplace and technology needs is not the answer, but at the same time, it's also not realistic to tailor everything to individuals needs. But engaging with employees to learn about the many facets of their working lives allows designers to put together a standard 'kit of parts' with various configuration possibilities. This approach results in spaces that feel personal and encourage empowerment, engagement and ownership that have a prolonged positive impact on well being and productivity of those who occupy them.

By shifting your peoples culture, behaviour and desires at the centre of this ideal, we can begin to focus on the most important aspect of your company, your staff and what they need to best do their jobs and hopefully when you wake up one morning you won't find your crop eaten by a herd of hungry hippos.