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What is a Modern Workplace?

Sue Woodward | 14 November 2019

What is a Modern Workplace?

Microsoft is calling out to businesses to ‘get modern’ with M365, a cloud-based solution with the benefits of simplifying the IT environment, providing staff with tools to be more productive, improving business profitability, and making the IT environment more secure. It is a pure technology interpretation to a Modern Workplace.

In a series of conversations with people, the notion of a Modern Workplace is explored – the environment, tools, and the culture that enables people to do their best work and enjoy it at the same time. Hear from Essendon’s Head of Technology on what makes a modern workplace.

Essendon CIO’s Perspective of a Modern Workplace

John Edmonds is an experienced CIO and is current head of IT at the Essendon Football Club.  He has a diverse group of stakeholders to manage – from the leadership team which he is part, to staff, coaches and players.  This is his take on the modern workplace and the key attributes. 

“Flexibility, choice and culture are the dominant attributes of a modern workplace,” says John. 

“Flexibility allows choice of place to work, choice of hours of work, choice of devices, and choice of tools.  Culture is paramount. There should be one defining culture which is shared across the organisation and not undermined by individual business unit cultures.” 

“These three attributes make a workplace more fluid. By this I mean, people interact more freely, work across departments more collaboratively and systems and processes are open and shared.” 

How have you seen technology influence the workplace and the way people work?

“Technology has brought the flexibility, choice and fluidity to the workplace.  It has enabled corporate cultures to be more united and to collaborate and communicate more freely. I would argue that technology influences behaviour and has forced people into new ways of working.  For example, seeking someone’s input on a matter is now far less disruptive than has been in the past.  Gone are the days where you need to move from your desk to seek a colleague’s input or advice which was disruptive for both parties.” 

“Now with technology, people work in a new way – they feed information freely on-line, they opt-in and out of conversations at their choice, everything is less physically disruptive and more collaborative. Technology has made this happen.  You could say technology has manipulated the way people work.” 

Are you saying technology is fundamental to a modern workplace?

“I would answer that with a question. Could you run an organisation without technology? You would be hard pushed. I can’t think of any industry that could not operate nowadays without technology.  Technology is now part an organisation’s DNA. It is part of the way we all live, work and play.” 

How important is the human element to the modern workplace?  If technology is more pervasive in workplaces, what’s the balance?

“Technology will only be the enabler.  Humans decide.  Technology does not run the organisation.  People do.  People will always make decisions. Technology will make decision making faster, easier and more decisive.” 

With the growing prevalence of technologies in workplaces, what impact has this had on IT leaders and teams?

“Today we have so many application choices. Gone are the days of having 3 options.  Now there is a plethora of possibilities.  If I am not wise with my time, I could be totally consumed with researching and evaluating technologies rather than strategy and execution. I engage a handful of trusted and experienced suppliers, like XCentral, to do the research and evaluation of technologies. Boards and CEOs are also looking to IT leaders to lead and drive innovation, to move from being technology geeks to being innovation leaders. This requires leadership skills, being visionary, having strong influencing skills and being accountable for the journey. That’s a massive change to the role of an IT leader/manager.” 

Shared thinking. Culture a driver. Technology an enabler.

There are interesting parallels between John’s insights on what makes a modern workplace and that of Flavia Fontana, our millennial, in the last blog on ‘What Is A Modern Workplace’.  Both speak strongly about the importance of a united culture and technology’s place as an enabler of workplace transformation and advancement.  They also see a modern workplace comprised of people who use technology to better interact, collaborate, make decisions, and advance their workplaces. 

John has also seen a significant shift in the role of IT leaders and teams as more and more technology has found its way into business and the workplace.  There is mounting pressure on IT leaders to lead the innovation debate and strategy, and bring modern technologies to the workplace for productivity, customer engagement, to keep competitive and be sustainable.  Added to this is controlling IT costs and being abreast of the latest technologies. A balancing act.  One where leaders like John are drawing upon external suppliers like XCentral to complement in-house skills, contain IT costs, and introduce new technologies so they have more time to lead the innovation debate and strategy and effectively execute on delivering a modern, cost effective digital workplace. 

About the author:  Sue Woodward is Principal of Blueprint Advisory.  She has spent over 20 years in C-Suite Strategy and Marketing for national and international firms.  She is also an experienced Board director.