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Phil Wainewright

Get Ready for Chaos at Work, Warns Gartner

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The world of work is going to become increasingly chaotic during the coming decade and organizations are going to have to plan for "radically different technology governance models," warns industry analyst Gartner this month. The firm recently published a list of ten changes the world of work will witness during the next ten years, and plans to discuss how they will affect social software and collaboration trends at its upcoming Portals, Content and Collaboration Summit in London next month.

I found much to like in the ten-point list compiled by Gartner fellow and vice president Tom Austin. I'm increasingly talking about how the cloud in all its manifestations is transforming business (I spoke in a webinar on the topic only last week) and Gartner's research bears out the message that powerful trends are at work, including the finding that, over the next five years, the proportion of an organization's work that is 'non-routine' will surge from 25 percent today to 40 percent or more in 2015.

Of the ten points, three themes in particular stood out for me:

Hyperconnectedness. For me, this is the trend that underpins everything else. Real-time, global connectivity enabled by the Web and cloud-based automation increases our interdependencies on each other. This phenomenon not only crosses enterprise boundaries, it also breaks them down, with many resources and activities subcontracted to external providers or independent freelancers. This has huge implications for how IT provisions, secures and governs the application infrastructure to support business activity.

Swarming. Teaming is already overtaking solo work as a standard way of getting things done because it's become so easy to connect people up. Swarming takes teamwork to a new level of dynamism, rapidly bringing together people who may know each other only barely but who have a common interest in working together to respond to an ad hoc need for action, before dispersing again once the storm has passed. It's a bit like a SWAT team, but with digital collaboration tools and social media taking the place of training drills and deep-rooted camaraderie.

Spontaneity. I've picked up this word but I might just as well have picked another term from Gartner's list, such as "De-routinization of work," light-handed "sketch-ups" of non-routine processes, or the simple observation that the workplace is becoming an anytime, anyplace phenomenon for a new breed of intensely mobile worker. People at work now have the tools that allow them to analyze information and take decisions wherever they are. This engenders more autonomy of action but it also requires a greater willingness to interpret and adapt to changing circumstances. No longer can people "work off of linear models based on past performance," warns Gartner. The corporate world is about to become far less predictable, far less certain.

1 Comment

You and Gartner have it on the things that IT managers and CIOs have tried so hard to limit: chaos and non-routine work. But the need to be agile, especially during the recession, has overridden those efforts and will likely continue. We're all working more, collaborating more, getting connected at warp speed, and mostly just trying to survive. To a certain extent, many of us are already there.

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Phil Wainewright blogs about how businesses are using the Web to get better plugged into today's fast-moving, digital economy.

Phil Wainewright

Phil Wainewright specializes in on-demand services View more

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