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Data & Technology

How apps will challenge everything we know in the workplace

Did you know there are over two million apps available to us today? These apps have infiltrated our lives from travel to shopping, banking, maps, and dating.

Philip Ross, CEO, Ungroup and Cordless Group
28 February 2018

Apps have transformed the way we interact with people and how we organise and measure our own life. Essentially, they have become our assistants, ready to personalise our experiences, measure our health and organise our diaries.

However, much of this tailored approach hasn’t yet reached the corporate office. Apps have laid dormant on the steps of the workplace, waiting expectantly to be of service. While Global Positioning System (GPS) allows navigation in the public realm, inside buildings we become anonymous, but not for much longer. A paradigm shift is about to create a new realisation for the experience of people in physical space, as the vision for connected real estate becomes reality.

Technology that knows where we are inside buildings will create a ‘location layer’ within which new personalised experiences will emerge. The layer will be driven by new and old technologies: ‘Triangulation’ with WiFi signals will pinpoint our position while new location aware technologies, from Bluetooth beacons to digital ceilings or canopies powered by connected intelligent lighting, will complement a host of new sensors. Whilst this may sound a little ‘Big Brother’, the reality is that it has the potential to rehumanise the workplace as technology once again drives innovation and change.

Workplace shift

Just as apps have changed the nature of our relationship between people, service suppliers and ecommerce providers, we are about to witness a dramatic shift inside the workplace to an experience enabled by an ‘app-centric workplace’. Workplace apps put autonomy and choice for employees at the core of the office, leading to a more ‘consumerised’ approach to technology and workplace. The expectation of the app-centric workplace is a personalised employee experience based on who we are and what we do.

Workplace apps started out life by providing basic information about the office; floor plans and wayfinding, room and desk reservation as well as information about amenities and services. Now they are colliding with social networks to add a ‘people dimension’ in addition to space. Knowing who is in the building and where people are, what specialist expertise is available and how to connect with like-minded cohorts is part of a new dimension that encourages collaboration and grows organisational networks.

A workplace app could engineer ‘unplanned’ encounters. The workplace will be used as an incubator for ‘accelerating serendipity’ and measuring a ‘collision coefficient’. Apps will drive the interactions that create the cultures needed – new ideas and innovation, velocity and fast company behaviours, interaction and collaborative work.

Workplace apps allow users to choose appropriate space and creates an ability to fine tune their experience, for example extending a meeting room booking when a session is in full flight. Not only is employee experience customised and optimised, apps can also improve client experience.

Today it’s anonymous and impersonal, tomorrow, a boarding pass will be sent to a customer’s smart phone with all the necessary detail, then as the client walks into the lobby, Bluetooth beacons will allow an interaction to welcome them and notify their host. The ‘meet and greet’ is transformed from impersonal to personal.

Next steps

The next step in this app-centric workplace will be the creation of a corporate marketplace where resources and human capital are allocated and organised on a real-time basis, mirroring the rise of external market places for freelancers in the so-called ‘gig economy’.

Tomorrow’s dynamic organisations will use a marketplace to cluster people into teams for projects based on their skill sets, experience, knowledge and availability. Will the app-centric workplace be the catalyst for challenging tradition hierarchical structures that we are all so familiar and comfortable with?

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