Expertise-as-a-service needs an agile workplace

12 Feb 2020

There’s a seismic shift in the workforce today that’s all too well documented: Technology is driving not only the way we work, but the types of jobs and skill sets we need in order to participate fully in the workforce. It’s become important not just to have a flexible workplace – but an agile one as well.

The rise of the liquid workforce
The norms of how we work are shifting – long careers in a single role or at one company are disappearing in favour of shorter stints at more companies, with a number of complete career changes along the way. It could be said that the days of the “company man” are gone and emerging in its place are the “guns for hire”, professional consultants who hone their expertise and offer up their services to the highest bidder for shorter periods or for specific projects.

In our recent ADAPT 2018 Workplace Productivity Study, Australian CIO’s anticipated that around 32% of the workforce would be contractors or ‘adaptive’ workers by 2025. This represents a 23% increase in a single decade, based on the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ 2016 study that showed just 9% of the Australian workforce was made up of independent workers in 2015.

And these figures don’t even consider how many full time, permanent workers are seeking more freedom through flexible hours or the ability to work remotely.

The agile workplace
With so much of the workforce either offering independent “expertise-as-service” or looking for more freedom, companies need to take a more adaptive, agile approach to how they operate. Merely changing the company policy to allow for a more “flexible workplace” is not enough. In fact, you’re headed down a rocky road if you don’t match your “freedom” policy with equally significant changes to the work processes, systems and tools you implement to get the job done.

This is where the difference between flexible working and agile working becomes most important: While flexible working simply permits people to work where and when they want, an agile approach is embedded in everything the organisation does (and doesn’t) do. Agile working expands on the concepts of agile project management and incorporates “agility” into the everyday running of the business.

The foundations of agile work and project management
One of the key characteristics of the agile workplace is that it actively promotes and encourages more face-to-face contact. This may seem a little counter-intuitive, given that you are remoulding your company to rely more on workers who may never physically be in the same room together. But actually, the opposite is true: with the right work process, systems and tools in place, you can actually have a better connected, more collaborative team who focus their expertise in more efficient and productive ways.

Here are a few of the key elements you will need in order to build a more agile workplace:

Content services platforms: With workers and experts collaborating from almost anywhere, it’s important that you have a central, secure repository for knowledge, data and documents created and accessible for each task at hand. Efficient collection, digitisation and storage supported by anywhere/ anytime access is the bedrock on which an agile, remote teams can innovate and make decisions.

Unified communications solutions: Quality video collaboration solutions bring your people together affordably and simply from any device, network or location. But it’s not only about the quality of the video. Teams are only as good as their ability to collaborate. So it’s important to have collaboration tools that seamlessly integrate into the video-conferencing experience. For example, connected and interactive whiteboards can aid in developing, collaborating, capturing and sharing the team’s ideas in real time.

Automated workflows and processes: Removing the barriers to remote efficiency and productivity is essential. You can integrate document management systems that digitise and store your data and content, invest in software solutions that automate time consuming manual workflows or choose smart print solutions that allow workers to produce company documentation anywhere they happen to be. The goal is to make your people more productive, less bogged down with menial tasks and able to instantly response, wherever they are located. That way you can enable them to spend more time doing the expert work you hired them for.

If you want to upscale to create a truly agile workplace – and not just pay lip-service to being flexible – you need to take a step back. Analyse how you are enabling and empowering the people who work for your company to deliver what’s asked of them. This applies both to your contracted expertise-as-a-service as well as your full-time workforce.