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Transforming future ways of working with a solid game plan

To properly implement future ways of working, you need to plan for a staged approach that addresses all the process and governance implications.

Many businesses today are preparing to embrace future ways of working which can help them realise efficiencies. However some managers may significantly underestimate the scope and complexity of the transition process required.

This failure to grasp the full scope involved in transforming the way your business works may prompt managers to overreach, particularly early in the process. For example, they may seek to introduce collaboration tools such as presence, instant messaging and video conferencing at the same time as relocating employees to new offices designed for 'activity-based working'.

Employees in these circumstances can get overwhelmed from having to undergo a number of changes - lockers rather than desks, open plan rather than cubicles and new collaboration tools rather than traditional meetings. Even if managers have secured employees' buy-in to future ways of working, attempting a radical transformation in a short time may erode that goodwill and ultimately, compromise the project. It may also mean key issues only emerge late in the process.

To properly implement future ways of working,you need to plan for a staged approach that addresses all the process and governance implications.

For example, businesses operating in industries that have an extensive compliance burden, such as financial services, need to retain large numbers of documents for several years. However, offices set up for activity-based working may not include room for filing cabinets. So managers need to answer the question: 'How are we going to store these documents?'

Storing documents offsite may be impractical for a range of reasons, including cost and an inability to access them promptly when required.

So part of the preparation for transforming future ways of working may involve assigning employees or engaging contractors to adopt digitisation. Completing this task and implementing the processes to digitise documents on an ongoing basis requires detailed planning and careful execution.

Another issue that you need to address is collaboration. Deploying video conferencing, presence and instant messaging technologies is a great thing, but managers need to properly understand how these tools impact the way people work and collaborate.

Managers also need to assess whether they are implementing the right work space configuration so people can work quietly if they need to, or if they need to meet as a team the right meeting room is available and accessible for booking via an easy-to-use system.

All these issues have a considerable impact on employee productivity. When I talk to customers, my goal is to have them realise that all the systems and processes that support future ways of working working should effectively be invisible to the end-user. Ultimately, the success of these projects depends on the user experience. If users enjoy a positive outcome, they will embrace activity-based working; if their experience is clunky, they will focus on the fact it isn't working and that the old way of doing things was better.

To achieve the best possible outcome, businesses need to avoid a 'big bang' approach and think about undertaking pilots across floors or sites, and test and retest to ensure all issues are properly addressed. Properly managing change delivers the right outcome.

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