The best of all worlds

A year ago, Microsoft in the UK launched a white paper on what it called the hybrid organisation. It is the company’s attempt to educate IT departments on the possible influences 21st Century communications technology could have on the way businesses are run.

Much of the thinking is around staff not being tied to the work-place, for businesses to work around their lives more so that they can be more productive.

The initiative is one of a number of responses to an internal call for the company to react to changing practices in the workplace.

Microsoft has assembled an advisory board to help build a practical approach to hybrid working which includes experts from the Institute of Directors, UnWork.com, Volterra Consulting, BDO and Gallup Consulting.

The fruits of their labour is a report entitled Making it work – the hybrid organisation in practice, which seeks to offer practical advice on how to marry up the three main elements of work life - people, the workplace and technology – for the benefit of the business. It outlines five business models to achieve this:

1 Follow me –an organisation that signals change from boardroom action
2 Bump – an organisation that focuses on workplace design to stimulate collaboration
3 Untraditional – organisations with rigid structures that rely heavily on IT to make them more agile
4 People first – organisations that first and foremost support the needs of the workforce
5 Holistic – organisations that approach people, workplace and technology in equal measures

CIO UK spoke to Graeme Leach, chief economist and head of policy at the IoD about the concept and asked him what the panel meant by hybrid. He said it wasn’t so much about combining different elements to make a business, which is what many conventional companies do. A hybrid organisation is more about the mind-set that shapes work processes and the way the corporate culture is allowed to develop.

“Hybrid combines individual elements with joined-up group elements. That is, individual balanced with a corporate view,” said Leach. “In many senses we divide companies up into small medium and large. This model combines the best elements of a small business within a larger organisation.”

So, why now? What is so special about the present that Microsoft and its collaborators in this project feel makes it the right time to start redesigning the way people work? Leach explained that in many ways technological developments in the workplace have allowed businesses to rethink processes in ways which wouldn’t have been possible ten years ago.

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