It’s Time to Reimagine Your Business

October 9, 2013 Balakrishna Narasimhan

re-imgaineThis week, both Gartner Symposium and HR Tech are underway. In different ways, both conferences provide a barometer of how technology affects business today. Today’s keynotes from Daryl Plummer at Symposium and Don Tapscott at HR Tech provided two complementary perspectives on the future of technology and how it affects businesses today.

Daryl Plummer talked about the digitization of business. He highlighted 3-D printing, machine learning, the internet of things and autonomous devices in his keynote and talked about how businesses of all types, even manufacturing businesses, are becoming increasingly digital and information-centric.

In contrast and rather fittingly, Don’s keynote at HR Tech, focused on how technology is removing the barriers between people and returning the power from organizations back to people. Don’s thesis is that social technology is enabling collaboration at a very different scale than ever before both within companies and outside them. As a result, companies will evolve.

Both Daryl’s and Don’s views of the future are about the possibilities of technology and using it to radically reimagine one’s environment. Daryl, as a technologist, imagined a world of autonomous devices, sensors and 3-D printers. Don’s people-centric vision (vs Daryl’s tech-centric vision), imagined a world where individuals will organize themselves to tackle causes their passionate about.

Across industries and functions, leaders are using technology to imagine a radically different future, both in terms of how they operate and in terms of how they engage their workforce and customers.  Mary Meeker refers to this the “reimagination of everything.” We’ve seen this happen rapidly in our personal lives. We think nothing of depositing checks using our phones, buying coffee without taking our wallets out of our pockets, calling a cab using Lyft, recording and broadcasting our workouts or communicating with our friends using Facebook. But, so far, things haven’t moved as quickly at work. Changing established processes, infrastructure and ingrained behaviors in a business setting is especially challenging.

As we start our annual countdown to Dreamforce, where Salesforce will showcase their reinvention as a customer engagement platform, we’ll be profiling a number of companies who are using technology to change how they operate in fundamental ways. Here are a few examples:

  • Mobile and social employee engagement – Virgin America is an innovative airline that’s known for their cutting edge and fun brand. Unfortunately, their face to their employees was a static intranet that didn’t reflect their brand or engage employees. Virgin decided to change this by creating a mobile and social employee experience with a social intranet. Now, they’re employees can connect with each other wherever they are and engagement has gone up by a factor of 6x.

  • IT as a driver of innovation – Over the past few years, the technology team at the Museum of Modern Art has become very focused on engaging members and extending the reach of the museum. They started by migrating many of their core systems to Google and Salesforce from on-premise mainframe-based systems. This freed the technology team up from managing complex and siloed infrastructure. Now, they’re able to focus on innovative ways to engage members including mobile apps.

  • HR as data scientists – Google’s People Operations team is rethinking how HR operates. True to Google’s engineering roots, their People Operations team brings data and advanced analytics to HR policy decisions. The results have been surprising and show the way for a new type of HR department. The team has used data to determine everything from the optimal number of interviews (4), time spent in the lunch line (3-4 minutes, long enough to meet people without wasting too much time) to the right raise. They’ve also used data to change long-held beliefs such as the importance of GPAs and brain-teasers in the hiring process, which they found to be of little value.

The idea of reimagining one’s business or function seems daunting and abstract but these examples are inspirations to us. Over the coming weeks, we’ll look at these stories and more. If you’d like to share your story of reimagining your business or function, leave us a comment or tweet us @appirio!

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