Service: Strategy and Execution
The Future of Work: A Nexus of Strategy and Execution

The Future of Work: A Nexus of Strategy and Execution

Digital confusion in the workplace reigns because of multiple platforms and systems. Widely used tools such as email and spreadsheets aren’t designed for the collaboration workers need today, often keeping critical information in silos while also failing to provide dynamic realtime visibility for strategic planning and execution. To deliver products and services at an ever-accelerating speed, teams will need to work across functions seamlessly to meet strategic goals. As a result, the future of work will rely even more on a constant flow of data and real-time communication. Executives in every function and line of business must find new ways.

The lack of interoperability between different applications and platforms, however,is the greatest impediment to achieving the operational coordination needed for the workplace, according to a Harvard Business Review Analytic Services survey of 597 global executives from a wide range of industries.

Thus, it follows that respondents’ top choice (52%) to coordinate operations and better manage their work and resources is to have a single platform that combines workflow management with  intelligent automation and collaboration.

There are similar specialized platforms and systems of record for nearly every other function, including customer relationship management (CRM) and enterprise, enterprise resource management (ERP) systems as well as human resource and IT platforms. But most organizations lack such a system of record for operational management. According to Margo Visitacion, vice president and principal analyst in an October 2018 Forrester Research report entitled Portfolio Ecosystem: The Central Nervous System for Delivering Business Strategy, “there is no equivalent system that informs firms about their ability to act on strategic plans.”

Executives are looking for a better way to manage resources, measure execution against strategic goals, and orchestrate work in a more coordinated, collaborative environment. This paper will examine just how highly they value the need for strategic work management tools that can form a nexus of planning and execution ecosystems to become an operational system of record.

When the systems that manage work don’t mix well together, the disorder that results drags down productivity, creates confusion, and fuels frustration that can get in the way of achieving strategic goals.

Most executives are using many more tools now than they did five years ago. For most of us, that means switching between multiple platforms several times a day. But creative designers should be spending most of their day in a creative suite, human resource teams in an HR suite, and financial professionals in an ERP system—not going in and out of workflow tools or checking things in and out of other repositories. Eight out of 10 executives say that the applications, software, and platforms they rely on do not work well together, and an equal number say using so many different tools creates data silos. In fact, lack of interoperability was the leading impediment to better operational coordination, followed by horizontal silos between departments and lines of business and data silos. 

When the systems that manage work don’t mix well together, the disorder that results drags down productivity, creates confusion, and fuels frustration that can get in the way of achieving strategic goals. “There is such an increased focus on shared outcomes now,” says Amy Heidersbach, chief marketing officer at CareerBuilder. “It’s critical to have the right automation and the right digital tools in place to make sure that everyone—from product, marketing, and sales teams as well as all the supporting business functions such as finance, operations, security and risk, and customer service—is moving together toward the same goals and can report back on their progress toward achieving them.” To adapt to how work will be done in the future, operational leaders will need to improve data integration and data sharing between systems, according to 63% of respondents.

Making data accessible to everyone who needs it to do their work—employees internally, contract workers and trusted vendors externally—is nearly as important (60%). Establishing an operational system of record is also named as an important step for the future of work. Nearly half (45%) of respondents say COOs and operational executives will need to establish a comprehensive and managed system of record for critical data that can serve as the backbone to work processes in the future, just as a CRM system serves as a platform for front office processes or an HR platform for talent management.

The Tools We Use

Respondents reinforced what most of us encounter every day—the dominance of email, spreadsheets, and video conferencing as the most common tools for managing work today. Some 95% of respondents say email is the most common tool they use for work, followed by spreadsheets (84%). We use these tools not because they are the best but because they are familiar and easy to use, says Robert T. Monroe, teaching professor of business technologies at the Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon University. “Email is awful, but a lot of business happens through email. It’s on every device, and everybody knows how to use it. It is the lowest common denominator,” he explains.

The challenge, says Monroe, is balancing a directed management system in which you need to plan work and resources with a range of existing work styles and the tools people already know. “Traditional workflow solutions are often rejected because they are too rigid, and everyone goes back to email,” he says. “Or we end up trying to do things on consumer devices or social media platforms that are not designed for work.”

Five years from now, executives expect far greater reliance on more sophisticated meeting and collaboration tools. The greatest increases in usage will be in data management tools, workflow tools, and CRM, respondents predict.

Executives say that spreadsheets may finally become a thing of the past and email use will also decrease sharply. They also expect to see greater use of automation and intelligent technologies, such as machine learning, business intelligence, and intelligent automation.

Source: Harvard Business Review, 2019

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