Thoughts on the future of workplace communication


Earlier today I spoke on a live webcast on the Future of Workplace Communication as part of Viocorp’s Future Forum series.

I took notes during the panel session and posted these live on my blog right after the event. I took notes while the other panellists were speaking: Nicky Wakefield, head of human capital at Deloitte, Philip Cronin, general manager of Intel Australia, and Oscar Trimboli, head of the information workers group at Microsoft.

I wasn’t able to take notes while I was speaking myself, so having had a look at the panel discussion which is now archived and can be viewed at the Viocorp site (requires registration), I’ve written out some of what I said during the discussion.

10:50 – 14:00

Workplace is not a good term to refer to the future – people will be working from anywhere so workplaces will have less impact than they have today. In the bigger context we also have to question whether organizations as we know them today will exist. Transaction costs are going down, meaning that moving forward, organizations will have to justify why they exist. There will be many business models bringing together loosely coupled talent and processes.

I think organizations and workplaces will still exist, but the question will be why and how. One of the most important answers is in building deep mutual trust and tapping the value of those relationships. In my own organizations we draw on global talent. But we still find a reason to have people work in the same place. Part of it is bring the right people together so they can build trust and constructive relationships.

The vast majority of organizations today are less than the sum of their parts. There are so many capabilities, so many resources, that are not accessed. Companies need to tap the networks, to access expertise, to bring together people who can learn from each other. Also, these networks are not just within organizations. They are across customers, suppliers, partners. Workplace communications is just as much about communicating across your extended business network as it is inside the organization.

18:20 – 19:00

There are various social media tools to facilitate connections and networks both inside and beyond organizations. For example Procter & Gamble set up YourEncore to build useful social networks between its retirees and tap their talent. ‘Social media’ is the term we are using to describe tools that are facilitating human connections that are supporting productive organizations.

27:30 – 28:30

Social media is a frame for thinking about enablers of informal communication. What we need to think about is not so much what the workplace of the future is, but rather, how do we get from here to there? The fundamental enabler is governance. Governance is about understanding what are the potential benefits, what are the potential risks and concerns, and what are the policies, guidelines, and frameworks that will enable effective use of these tools. Effective social media governance, as a very lightweight tool, is what enables the value of these tools to flourish.

45:30 – 47:30

My companies are putting a lot of attention into crowdsourcing – both creating content and analysis about it and tapping it ourselves. Platforms such as competition sites, innovation exchanges, micro-tasks and so on are enabling the nature and structure of work is becoming distributed. They are not advanced technologies, but facilitate very different working structures. The APIs to crowdsourcing tools are also very important, in allowing the integration of human tasks and automation within distributed business processes.

The other key issue in workplace technology is very rich interfaces. While today telepresence and similar tools require expensive bandwidth, that quality will soon be commonplace. Man-machine interfaces such as gesture recognition, facial recognition and so on improve productivity. Information visualization tools are also an important way in which we can better support collaboration.


Technology hasn’t been nearly enough on the agenda in this election. To can the NBN would be almost criminal. The internet filter should not happen.