Businesses and employees alike are being faced with new and innovative technologies that are disrupting business practices - and the way people work, across Europe. Whether it is automation, AI or new business applications, these innovations are not just disrupting markets and creating even greater levels of competition but changing the very fabric of the organisation itself. This is leading us to a critical juncture where business leaders have the opportunity to reshape responsibilities, change the culture and drive innovation into the hands of the individual.
But how did we get here, and what can companies expect when they embrace new tech applications?
Only a few years ago, the digital culture of companies operated along the lines of a benevolent dictatorship, with IT being the source of all knowledge, and employees coming to IT for permission to do almost anything that had an impact on the whole organisation’s technology landscape.
This culture was defined by a lack of trust. It was assumed that employees would make the wrong technology decisions, select the wrong device and prevent integration across the enterprise. The sheer number of technology variables forced IT to push for uniform solutions, and the relationship between IT and end-users was one of command-and- control.
As technology advanced, and powerful devices that were previously limited by IT found their way into the hands of employees (for instance the introduction of the iPhone and the App Store), expectations started to change. Employees have become increasingly hungry to do more with the technology available to them, and as businesses have started to introduce business applications – defined as user-friendly apps that working professional use as part of their job – our report with Forbes Insights showed the profound impact these applications, and the culture that allows these applications to be used across the organisation, had on company performance.
A cultural transformation
Benjamin Franklin famously declared that “nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes”. For many organisations now, that feeling of uncertainty, and the changes that come with it, centre around their ability or readiness to digitally transform.
The IT team is now no longer the sole enabler of this transformation. It is not just about introducing the latest hardware or software, but about a shift in culture – trusting employees to use the new technology to enable them to be creators and innovators in their own right.
Our study highlights the need to create a new digital culture within the workplace; one where CIOs create an environment that allows employees to have access to the right applications to thrive at work. Collaboration tools, for example, can enable a supply chain director in Gothenburg to collaborate with a Milan-based supplier in real time. A VP in London finds her team is making decisions faster because they use applications that automate previous manual tasks. These are the kinds of incremental work improvements that can be driven by better access to applications and underpinned by a change in culture at work.
The empowered enterprise and its workforce
The impact of empowered employees, where users can access any application they require, at any time and on any device, also translates to a more productive workforce, which ultimately improves the performance of an entire company.
Our research indicates that in EMEA, empowered employees are five times more likely to report gains in productivity. A strong correlation was also found between the availability and accessibility of applications and a number of enterprise metrics such as global capabilities, for instance the ability of a company to expand, as well as a return on revenue. Two-thirds of EMEA empowered employees reported that applications have been very important in helping their companies build their global capabilities, compared to only one third of traditional workspace employees (those that are not empowered).
With employees finding applications so useful and critical at work, they tend to go beyond what IT can procure and source their own. Yet getting to this point, where employees can procure, install and manage the applications they need for their job, requires a fundamental change in the way the business views technology and the equilibrium between the IT department and the employees. Though giving frontline employees the freedom to make their own technology decisions breaks many of the historical chains of command, forward thinking CIOs are recognising that the impact of empowering employees with this responsibility is too large and positive to ignore.
Lufthansa Cargo is just one example of a company leveraging business applications to improve employee satisfaction. A wholly-owned subsidiary of Deutsche Lufthansa AG, Lufthansa Cargo uses an electronic flight bag (EFB) system when onboard planes, giving the company fast and easy access to aeronautical charts, airport information, route information, weather reports, and much more. The mobile devices enable the company to quickly provide employees with updates, new apps and new approaches, saving the company money.
As the world becomes more digital, many believe that the morale and commitment of the individual employee is becoming an even more important driver of the overall performance of the company.
The revolution from below
Digital transformation and the disruption of different markets is more than the simple deployment of new technologies. Business applications like collaborative software, project management suites, and process automation solutions, are becoming an integral part of an employee’s working day. We found that more than 40 per cent of EMEA employees questioned stated that applications have reduced the time they spend on manual processes - more than three times the impact being experienced in traditional workspace companies. As agility and speed to market become central to companies’ ambitions, business applications are speeding up decision-making by enhancing collaboration, putting information at employees’ fingertips and providing real-time, group communication.
Business leaders need to quickly adapt and foster an environment where innovation is embraced and new technology adoption can be effectively exploited. Those that can empower their workforce to help drive digital transformation will be on the winning side.
Duncan Greenwood, Vice President of End-User Computing, VMware EMEA
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