Digital Value Creation

Back to Hybrid Work

June 30, 2021 Tamas Hevizi
Digital Value Creation
Back to Hybrid Work
Show Notes Transcript

I went back on the road this week. I was having real meetings with real people in real offices in New York. Returning to normal business? Hopefully. The recurring topic of the discussion was this. How will hybrid work change how we work together and the technologies we use going forward?

I went back on the road this week. I was having real meetings with real people in real offices in New York. Returning to normal business? Hopefully. The recurring topic of the discussion was this. How will hybrid work change how we work together and the technologies we use going forward?

As you could see from that intro sequence, I'm in New York. More importantly, I was out of my home office and back to the real world. This was the first week I started having in-person conversations with clients, as well as advisors on all the changes that they noticed as they went back to their offices. New York is an interesting case because people are still debating two questions at least when it comes to digital transformation.

Question number one is what happens to remote work? What do you do if part of your workforce is in the office while others stay remote? How do those impact work relationships and career paths? 
Do people go back to the office completely or remote is here to stay? There is an interesting cross-section of answers.  Some companies declared remote or hybrid work forever. Even in heavily customer facing sectors like professional services. Others ordered their employees back to the office, like many in the financial sector. 
The mandate varies by role. Customer-facing functions are more likely to go back to traveling while the back office is being considered for hybrid work or even remote work.
I noticed the different plans for this question and nobody yet has the right answer yet. One related question that comes up often is this: what happens with technology? How is technology going to have to shift from the remote enablement collaboration tools to more of a hybrid environment where people are going to be in cubicles, meeting rooms as well as remote? Is the collaboration environment ready for that? 
Also, there are questions that have nothing to do with technology. How do you manage your team that is hybrid? How do you make sure you spend equal time with people that are in the office versus people that are away from the office? 

The second question is even more interesting for this channel. What happens to all the digital momentum from 2020? What became a cliche in the last 18 months, we've seen a massive acceleration of digital transformation across industries and geographies.  The drivers were remote access, cybersecurity, and the disruption in how work got done. People invested in new ways of getting their work done, often creating entirely new and more efficient workflows. 
How is that going to change? Are we keeping the new processes employees invested in out of necessity? Should we revert to the old ways of doing things? Will either work well in a hybrid work environment? Are the changes in business even done yet? Arguably there are some sectors still in a state of supply chain disruption, ranging from technology through automotive to retail and travel. Should we wait until the new normal settles in? Or should we give more freedom to employees to keep innovating? 
Often the discussion led to the interplay between technology innovation and adoption by employees and businesses. 
There was an interesting article in the May edition of Harvard Business Review which dealt with this at the global level. They looked into why China was advancing so rapidly with digital transformation compared to the US or Western Europe? The authors concluded that it had to do not with the pace of digital innovation but with the speed and scale of adoption of these new technologies.

 The primary reason China's advancing so much is that the consumers or the employees at work are adopting technology much faster than in other countries. And then as new technologies come out, they're adopting them even more. Some sectors like consumer, retail, and fintech saw innovation and adoption cycles in weeks not years.

What does that mean for our businesses? The digital adoption insight could be perfect for businesses to consider. If your workforce has been great adopting digital technology during the pandemic, how can you maintain that momentum? How do you foster even more adoption?

There is an interesting virtuous cycle that happens with innovation, adoption, and business impact. Companies just like entire nations go through cycles of innovation. First, they come up with new ideas and technologies that they experiment with. Then they move to adoption, using those innovations at scale in core business processes. Finally, they have a measurable business impact on those innovations that move the needle. Then the innovation/adoption cycle repeats. Having the incentive for employees to lean into the latest technology and move from pilots to scale is what makes digital leaders stand out, whether that is Tencent in China or Google in the US. It is very important to maintain that constant innovation cycle if the goal is to have more impact from digital transformation in the business. 

So how can we encourage grassroots digital innovation? How do we encourage the adoption of those innovations if we don't have the same burning platform that we had in the last 18 months? 

These are the big questions around digital that companies and investors have to tackle going forward, and I thought it was interesting that these topics came up so frequently this week. What happens when we go back to work and what happens to all the cool projects that we all started? I hope you are crafting these strategies in your business and hope you will have some great answers to them. I would love to hear about them.

Talk soon.