On April 26th, Dropbox Open, the company’s first ever European user event took place in London. Showcasing the latest thinking from European business and technology leaders – companies like News Corp., Channel 4, Expedia, Fritz Hansen and Lagardère Active – the event saw one message stand out: User adoption is at the heart of everything, from collaboration and innovation to security and ROI.
As Michael Cook, head of transformation for the infrastructure alliance at Thames Water says: “Human beings are the best way to make things happen. Introducing the cloud into that environment encourages engagement… and what it really does is it helps humans to be better.”
So as businesses get to grips with the complete digital transformation of the workplace, terms like “bottom up” and “top down” are becoming irrelevant. Change is driven by the user, at every level, and in every job role.
It’s a point that’s perhaps best demonstrated by the meteoric rise, and fall, in the importance of the chief digital officer. The task of nurturing corporates into digital trailblazers out-grew the CDO almost as fast as the role emerged. And that holds an important lesson for C-level executives everywhere: digital transformation is bigger than any one exec.
As one CDO recently quipped in an interview with the FT, “you don’t go into a newspaper and ask to see the chief paper officer”, and so it is with all firms that aspire to be productive, collaborative, and innovative. Digital challenges are for the C-suite at large, and no CxO can afford to take their finger off the pulse.
Digital workflows are just workflows: Workflows are changing as users start to take charge and work the way they want. Even so, we still apparently spend 28% of the average work week just on email, much of that time uploading and downloading files and filling hard drives full of different versions of the same document. Digital workflows are not just shorter and more efficient, but they drive productivity improvements among the workforce too. In fact, a McKinsey study found that more connected organisations are up to 25% more productive. It’s time to embrace and foster new workflows as they emerge.
Security is only as strong as user adoption: Keeping data secure is one of the biggest ongoing challenges for technology leaders. But building a digital Fort Knox of company-mandated applications only works if your employees actually use them. In reality, employees will use the tools that they know and trust. And when it comes to popular cloud services, the biggest security risk is not the services themselves—which are at least as secure as on-premise systems—but whether companies ensure that those services are being used appropriately. Gartner estimates that by 2020, 95% of cloud security failures will originate with customers. When enterprises formally embrace popular, established cloud-based tools in the working environment—and put the corresponding security controls in place—it brings user activity into the open and gives CIOs the control they need. After all, you can only control what you can see.
Collaboration is democratic: The dream of collaboration is often just that – a dream. Two fifths (39%) of employees say people in their organisation don’t collaborate enough, and 96% of execs place lack of collaboration and poor communication at the heart of workplace failures. Shelfware is testament to this issue. This is because organisations often see technology as the solution and try to change behaviour afterwards, but adoption is the key to collaborative success. Amongst millennials, half (49%) support the use of social tools in collaboration, and are already using them, whether officially sanctioned or not. Instead of fighting it, organisations will reap huge rewards by focusing on user adoption to drive lasting change that the workforce has already bought in to. Collaboration empowers people to be more productive and empowers organisations to be smarter.
The users have taken charge: IT policy is now being driven from the bottom up. Research by Queens University of Charlotte shows that young workers are so attached to their working practices that even if unsupported by their company, 40% would fork out their own money to pay for familiar tools that increase their efficiency, and make their lives easier. Today, the cost of denying them their tools is measured not just in productivity, but in security and collaborative potential. Leaders who enable progress by swimming with the tide will gain all the advantages of digital transformation, without having to fight the adoption battle in vain.
Technology leaders have superhero potential: Bottom-up technology change can solve the adoption, collaboration, security and productivity challenges, all at once. And that’s great news for technology leaders. Positions like the CIO are morphing as they change their approach and, perhaps more importantly, their image. Where once gatekeepers existed, policing the company’s use of IT and picking up the blame when shadow IT went wrong, a new role now exists. Enter the IT superhero: rebranding technology leadership and delivering the solutions employees know and like, to the problems they face every day. In doing so, technologists are turning scatter-gun user adoption into business-wide collaboration, without new tools, training or policy. Enabling is the new disabling.