by Ade McCormack

The high performance workplace

Jul 11, 20125 mins
CareersCloud ComputingIT Leadership

The Olympics has us all thinking about performance. Over the years the topic has extended beyond those involved in anxiety-inducing sporting endeavours and entered the corporate arena.

In the business world today Key Performance Indicators are much talked about and in some cases even used properly.

But we are rapidly approaching an era where performance is not only a topics relevant to the quarterly figures and the corporate A-Team, but to every worker in the organisation.

The emergence of talent analytics attests to this. So now our workers are in effect corporate athletes. And our athletes need the best tool and facilities if they are to truly achieve their potential.

This is an opportunity for the CIO to improve his perceived performance in the eyes of the senior management team.

It is also an opportunity to extend your remit, which in a Cloud-centric world is worth exploring. The converse is also a reality.

If you do not act on this reality then you may become the victim of a politically smart land-grab by either Human Resources or Property Management.

Today’s CIOs need to offer more than just a technology solution because it is very likely that the CIO-killer app is in the pipeline.

So to be in shape for this we need to be aware that the high performance workplace is much more than a technology issue, even though it cannot be delivered without new technology.

In the digital economy work and place are increasingly decoupled. The notion of having to be in a certain office at predefined times generally applies to less and less people.

So there is a need for a virtualised office that can be accessed from wherever the worker chooses or needs to be.

Like highly strung athletes, modern workers will increasingly exhibit their own diva-like behaviour. So imposing hardware constraints and eventually software constraints will result in a solemn meeting with your colleagues in HR.

A talent-short market puts the worker in the driving seat so a command and control approach to IT management will not be an option.

Hot on the heels of IT-as-a-service will be property-as-a-service. Having to grow one’s organisation in quantum property leaps is too risky with today’s volatile markets.

There is no reason why the CIO with their increasing capability of moving items off the balance sheet onto the profit & loss sheet cannot embrace this service-oriented approach to property.

Does your existing property manager really understand the new technology implications of acquiring new buildings?

With the emergence of big data, getting this wrong can leave your new Qatar-based team without sufficient bandwidth to conduct business for months if this is not pre-emptively addressed.

The high performance workplace means spending more time actually doing business and less time monitoring volcanic ash distribution from an airport departure lounge.

Collaborative technologies ranging from corporate social media texting through to poker playing-resolution video need to be in place and accessible when and where they are needed.

This collaborative infrastructure needs to easily support the formation of temporary taskforces that do not fit the traditional hierarchical organogram.

So hardwiring the set up to reflect the reporting lines is not an option.

Money is no longer the most precious commodity. Time is and increasingly energy will be. You as the CIO are in a strong position to be the hero in this respect.

As the iPad becomes the 21st Century company car, you need to ensure that it moves from a self-help support model to one that is central to the organisation.

Similarly, the corporate customer-facing apps will increasingly sit at the centre of your business strategy.

A revision of security policy will be necessary, as a fortress-model is unsustainable in a socially-connected, hand held device-oriented world.

Like the arrival of the Blackberry, this is yet another tsunami that you cannot control.

Industry’s attempts to fold nature’s reproductive cycle into the corporate business planning cycle has been unsuccessful and has led to wasteful under-utilisation of about half the workforce.

A high performance workplace is one that enables women to do their best work as well.

There are softer issues that also need to be considered. Migrating the workforce to premises that can only house a third of them has its issues.

Some people simply do not want to work from home or the coffer shop (which, by the way are increasingly blocking their power outlets) and it’s not just the boomers who are ill at ease with this.

How can I Iet my colleagues know how important my family, football team or pet labrador is to me if I no longer have a permanent shrine set up on my desk?

And I like my corner office with my idiosyncratic swivel chair. So the last thing I want to is move to some impersonal hot-desking or hotelling model.

Today’s 21st century CIOs need to be a social anthropologist as well as an information leader.

As far as I can see HR, Property Management and the IT function all have a part to play in the high performance workplace.

So do you proactively step up your collaboration with these other interested parties? Or do you go for the winner takes all land grab?

It appears 21st Century CIOs need to be well versed in Game theory as well.

Ade McCormack is a Financial Times columnist, speaker and adviser on the digital economy (