Successful organisations are realising they need to move away from a traditional command-and-control model, towards one that allows individuals the freedom to be creative and innovative, so they can take advantage of
For many organisations, however, the way in which they work has changed relatively little over the past decade. “We’ve all grown up with Microsoft Office and email as the core way of collaborating and, even with the move to the cloud, most people still use these tools in the same way they have done for a decade or more, with email as the main form of collaboration,” says Chris Baker, senior vice president and general manager, Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA), at Box.
Now things are starting to change, as organisations seek best-of-breed platforms which enable staff to innovate and collaborate, and employees increasingly expect workplace technologies to operate in the same way as in their personal lives. “For the first time, people now have better tools at home than at work,” says Julien Lesaicherre, director, EMEA, for Workplace by Facebook.
“We are living in a mobile-first world where there are more than 2.5 billion smartphones. The current generation entering the workplace will have discovered the internet through a mobile phone and this is changing the way they think about being connected.”
The way people interact is also changing as a result of mobile devices, he adds, with video, pictures and emojis often used as a means of communication, and messaging replacing emails.
The world of work is starting to catch up and there are a number of technologies, which have emerged to help organisations respond to new trends. Workplace, for instance, was initially developed by Facebook six years ago as a means of enabling its own employees to collaborate internally and was rolled out to a wider audience in 2016, enabling employees to share information and collaborate in the same way they are used to in their personal lives.
If people enjoy using technology to collaborate more effectively with their peers and are more productive as a consequence, then they’re going to be happier
“We noticed that people were starting to use Facebook groups for work rather than their company intranets,” says Mr Lesaicherre. “Workplace has the best features of Facebook and Messenger, but is designed for the enterprise.” Some 30,000 organisations use Workplace, he adds, including the likes of Heineken, GlaxoSmithKline, Wal-Mart and Deliveroo.
Cloud content management is also becoming an important part of the modern workplace. “The biggest problem a lot of companies have is content fragmentation, where they have different versions of documents on people’s hard drives, old enterprise content management systems, shared drives in a datacentre or stored in the cloud,” says Mr Baker. “It’s very difficult to govern the data when it’s fragmented in that way.”
Technologies such as Box now mean all content can be stored in the same place, allowing it to be accessed from other applications, such as customer relationship management systems or workforce collaboration tools.
“The example I give is evidence going through the judicial supply chain with interviews and physical evidence, which needs to be shared with the Crown Prosecution Service, various agencies and appropriately shared with the defence. So it’s a very complex supply chain where you absolutely must govern who can access or change it,” adds Mr Baker.
London’s Metropolitan Police already use the system for this purpose, but the same principles can be applied to almost any supply chain, such as surveyors working on plans for a building or insurance firms processing claims.
Importantly, this is capable of integrating with other cutting-edge technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI) or machine-learning applications. “The big change in how people work will be collaboration, not just with other people, but also with machines,” says Mr Baker. “We’re enabling customers to harness the power of the emerging machine-learning and AI engines out there, whether that’s Cognitive Services from Microsoft, Watson from IBM or DeepMind from Google.”
Organisations can encrypt the data stored in the cloud and retain the keys for this themselves, he adds, while Box’s Zones technology also helps firms comply with data protection rules by ensuring it does not leave the jurisdiction in which it was created.
Now Box and Facebook have teamed up to ensure those operating through Workplace can also benefit from the enterprise content management capabilities of Box. “On Facebook you might discover the BBC and then jump off into that publication, and the model is very similar in the enterprise where people are collaborating in a group or project,” says Anand Dass, global head of platform partnerships at Workplace by Facebook.
“People ask where the latest presentation is all the time, but with Workplace and Box this problem goes away. When the user clicks the file, it actually loads in Box, but within Workplace, so they don’t leave the experience or have to switch apps.”
An organisation already benefiting is the international charity Oxfam, which offered Workplace to its employees in a bid to encourage more collaboration and better communication, using secret groups rather than conventional email. The integration with Box means employees can now access documents and other items through multiple tools, ensuring all members of a project are up to speed and can easily, and securely, access the information they require, from wherever they happen to be working, including through mobile devices. Some 71 per cent of employees use Workplace every month.
There are a number of benefits for businesses that successfully implement such collaboration and content management tools. “It can reduce the distance between the organisation and its employees because people adopt more openness and transparency, which significantly increases employee engagement and retention,” says Mr Lesaicherre. “It also creates a more flexible and faster organisation when it comes to problem-solving, by giving everyone a voice.”
Employees feel more comfortable at work as a result of using tools with which they are familiar from their personal lives. “If people enjoy using technology to collaborate more effectively with their peers and are more productive as a consequence, then they’re going to be happier,” Mr Baker concludes. “The whole work-life balance and enjoyment of