It’s time to be technology inclusive by taking colleagues on a digital journey

The consumerisation of IT has happened and businesses need to respond to stay ahead of the game and engage the best of today’s talent.

Think back to when you woke up this morning, what was the first thing you did? Did you pour that much needed coffee to fuel the day ahead? Maybe you jumped in the shower? The more likely answer is you reached straight for your smartphone to digest what happened in the digital world while you were sleeping. And you wouldn’t be alone in doing so. Every day, 91 per cent of the 41 million 16-75-year olds who have a smartphone in the UK use their device, and ownership is expected to hit 90 per cent of UK adults by 2020 (Deloitte Global Mobile Survey 2017).

In our personal lives, we have become accustomed to being ‘always on’. We’re used to shopping, banking, watching content and more at any time, in any place, and on any device. We’ve reached a point where technology in our home life has become pervasive, irrelevant of our age or background.

But it’s not just our personal lives that we expect round-the-clock connectivity. It’s become such a central part of our daily routines that we’ve now arrived at a reality where we want that same experience in our place of work. Technology exists to enhance the world, not to hinder. We cannot be constrained by the technology we’re given at work, and a failure to acknowledge that presents risk. The consumerisation of IT has happened and businesses need to respond to stay ahead of the game and engage the best of today’s talent.

Exploiting our digital identity

The modern workforce has evolved significantly from those that have come before it. Flexible working is a concept growing in prominence, and an increasingly mobile workforce needs to be properly equipped to get their job done, whatever and wherever that may be. Businesses are responsible for making mobile possible. Historically this has been a challenge financially and operationally – making hefty investment in multiple devices is simply not a viable option for most organisations. However, that doesn’t need to mean mobile is a no-go. Those 85 per cent of UK adults who own a smartphone carry an access point in their pockets every day, a method of communication ready for the taking if only we can confirm their digital identity.

It’s common that many groups and individuals within an organisation are excluded digitally, often through no choice or fault of their own. Expensive technology is prohibiting businesses taking colleagues on a truly digitally enabled journey, a barrier which needs to be broken down. Providing access from personal devices in a consistent manner is just one opportunity we have to achieve this and ensure that we become digitally inclusive for all.

Take a retailer as an example. While staff in a head office environment will likely have daily interaction with emails and instant access to a central intranet or employee portal, there are many roles where this simply isn’t the case. A customer-facing shop floor sales assistant, a warehouse worker, or a delivery driver for example don’t have this interaction but they’re no less important when it comes to being communicated with. Businesses need to consider the advantages of giving these employees access to applications from personal devices, helping them become digitally enabled with minimal financial output.

Technology = Talent

Technology is crucial in not only enabling today’s workforce, but tomorrow’s also. A business which fails to include all its staff digitally is a business which excludes itself from attracting and retaining top talent. The consumerisation of technology means that all generations now have not only high expectations of how to access and exploit technology in the workplace, but also how businesses support them in their use of it and allow them the flexibility to consume information and perform their roles in a location or device agnostic manner.

Businesses which provide 20th century technology to a 21st century workforce will miss out on the best talent. For talent to be secured and retained, digital thinking must be encouraged and nurtured. The right technology for agile and flexible working can no longer be a nice to have, it is a necessity.

Organisations need to balance flexibility, security and delivering best value. Corporate IT has a bad reputation for restricting access, and restricting creativity. It’s time to strive for more flexibility than this has previously allowed. When staff are given the tools to access information in the way they want to access it, regardless of location or device, engagement increases, productivity increases and satisfaction is high.

It’s rare to find a CIO who isn’t consistently challenged by business colleagues who perceive they consume an outdated technology service – however it may look. The bottom line is often the bottom line for many businesses, but that should no longer be a prohibiting factor. It is possible for us to unlock substantial and sustainable savings in property, travel and physical IT infrastructure costs by making our colleagues truly mobile for example.

Cloud solutions are entering the market which enable digital inclusivity for everyone within an organisation, regardless of how complex and multifaceted it may be. These solutions bring corporate provision of IT services to colleagues that are more in line with their personal digital experiences of self-service, access from any location and from any device. As businesses embark on their digital transformation journeys, technology will only increase its prevalence in our lives, meaning there’s never been a more important time to introduce a more user centric approach to technology in the workplace. Exclusion is not an option – inclusion is.

This article was first published by Information Age