Not so long ago I had an inquiry call with Tom Austin, vice president and Gartner fellow. We talked about the Information Workplace and my approach that businesses are not predictable, decomposable structures, but complex adaptive systems like everything that consists of individual human agents. I explained that this was the reason for my ADAPTIVE approach to IT and especially to process management. He pointed me to a piece that Gartner Group had done on The Future of Work.
Tom Austin: “Work will become less routine, characterized by increased volatility, hyperconnectedness, ‘swarming’ and more. By 2015, 40 percent or more of an organization’s work will be ‘non-routine’, up from 25 percent in 2010. People will swarm more often and work solo less. They’ll work with others with whom they have few links, and teams will include people outside the control of the organization. In addition, simulation, visualisation and unification technologies, working across yottabytes of data per second, will demand an emphasis on new perceptual skills.”
Maybe swarming and perception skills for yottabytes of data are somewhat farfetched, but I was positively surprised at the forward looking perspective. However, the analysts observing the various market fragments don’t share that view at all. Most are stuck in old-style IN-THE-SILO thinking. That is one reason for me to reiterate how much the adaptive process perspective for complex adaptive systems is aligned with Tom Austin’s and Gartner’s predictions.
- De-routinization of Work – to empower the knowledge workers:
The primary reason for my ADAPTIVE PROCESS concept is that people can’t add value in flowchart-automated processes! Human analytical knowledge work is focused on discovery, innovation, teaming, leading, selling and learning.
- Work Swarms – a flurry collective of anyone available?
I think that swarming will not be as prevalent as suggested. Why? We aren’t bees! For the same reason that extrinsic motivation with money doesn’t work. Humans need relationships and in them they look for recognition. That is the core concept of a stable team. While I agree that much of the bureaucracy, including ‘agile’ BPM governance will have to go, it won’t be replaced by loners who are only loosely connected with their co-workers through a mobile. They key will be to give teams in different locations a stable and reliable process collaboration infrastructure.
- Weak Links – supported by Social Media:
I have just posted on the problem that Social Media works at best for weak relationship ties and does not create strong ones. So I will pass on this one. I see adaptive processes connecting smaller teams – that have strong links – with others for the creation of customer-focused, end-to-end processes.
- Working With the Collective – in the social network:
I am ok with the collective. Employees, partners and customers working together towards a common and well defined goal. How, with BPM and a little social? Never. Yes, executives need to realize that they have no control over the business and they will find it harder and harder to influence people. Which leaves no more than EMPOWERMENT as the means of driving towards customer outcomes and business objectives.
- Work Sketch-Ups – which emerge as stable work patterns:
Gartner does not expect that work patterns for unstructured processes will emerge easily. That is a lack of imagination only. First, if there is an infrastructure that captures unstructured work then the patterns will be immediately visible. Additionally, what about our User-Trained Agent that is a PATTERN MATCHING engine for business processes. It doesn’t need any effort to collect work pattern information. The agent does it automatically and immediately provides recommendations. It seems we are technology-wise not only years ahead of the competition, but also way ahead of Gartner’s imagination!
- Spontaneous Work – more dynamics means more spontaneity:
If we take a serious view at businesses being complex adaptive system then most work would be spontaneous and people would be able to react to problems as they appear and correct them. It is once again the concept of BPM that kills the natural dynamics.
- Simulation and Experimentation – requires real-world models:
Finally, here is a point that I can whole-heartedly disagree with! Boy, am I glad. I take issue with ‘simulation’. People will be working in environments that model the real-world, but it won’t be simulation in the sense that it predicts behavior of systems. It will allow people to work with IT that can keep up with the dynamics of the real world. So maybe I am not fully disagreeing, because it will be active manipulation of a model that represents the real world entities. That does require a model-driven application environment such as the Papyrus Platform.
- Pattern Sensitivity – because of an increase in volatility?
The business world is not becoming more volatile. It always was. People just see now that they have less control than they thought. Technology does speed things up and makes the volatility more visible. There is not less visibility in the future than before. There never was visibility. The predictability was man-made and unreal. There is no predicting the future from past data. The very analytics that are used to figure out the future are changing it! Doesn’t anyone understand that? The best and only way for an organization to deal with the real-world unpredictability is to have an empowered organization without rigid processes that can react to the dynamics of markets. Complex adaptive systems are resilient to outside changes.
- Hyperconnected – and hypervolatile:
Is on the one hand a good thing, but at the same time a huge risk. Not only can the connectivity be lost or one of the connected entities that create the functional network might fail or be lost, creating havoc i.e. in your supply chain. Once again, stable collaboration environment is needed that allows the unstructured, unpredictable processes in the hyperconnected network to be handled with ease. A hyperconnected process produces more exceptions and random events that have to be taken care of inline and without breaking the current execution.
- My Place – in the cloud with 24/7 access and communication:
One of the biggest issues is information overload. To stay sane I had to turn off TV and radio a few years back. The same will happen to people who are constantly on Facebook and Twitter. We can and will not work and communicate 24 hours. Rather less. Working from home kills the team spirit and no one is accountable. I predict smaller business units and teams in common locations, who will need to collaborate globally and asynchronously and it won’t be flowcharted processes. To avoid information overlead the key will be to provide only the essential data context for the decision at hand! Social Media is not the solution.
So all in all, the adaptive (not the bureaucratic agile) approach is already providing the work environment TODAY that Gartner sees happening in the next ten years. Let me point out that I don’t think that work is changing. Work is already in principle dynamic, chaotic, and spontaneous today. It is just held down by management methodologies, BPM and a lack of real-world understanding. There is a substantial executive and management challenge ahead to come to grips with that understanding.
The future of our working world is shaped by technology and the only way to survive in it is with technology empowerment!