Australia is slow on the uptake of the latest generation of teamwork tools, hampering its ability to be “future ready”, support economic growth and compete in a global market.
There is a worrying level of procrastination in harnessing social media or leveraging smartphone functionality. And there is ambivalence towards improving workplace productivity by taking up workflow and content management tools, mobile management, and video-conferencing.
These insights from the ADAPT 2019 Workplace Productivity Study will provide minimal surprises for those working in the public sector who have seen slow transformations in their business practices.
But the business of change is important to support the next leap forward, and to enable government to make better use of its time and resources. Smarter communication and flexible working solutions are a key part in this change. But the tools and systems need to be simple, intuitive and support work needs.
Within Australia’s public sector, it is the middle management within departments and agencies that are critical to the success of solutions.
They interact with the technology on a daily basis to facilitate the achievement of corporate objectives. They know the challenges, the risks and the problems. And they know what needs to be improved to allow them and their staff to spend more time on work that matters.
“Middle management is at the forefront of trying to solve these issues,” Todd Vandenberg, National Connect and Collaborate Manager with Ricoh Australia, explains. “They’re the ones who have got the headaches. They’re the ones under the pump and copping the heat to make systems work. And they are the ones tasked with solving these issues. They are looking for partners to do that. They are looking for expertise and people that can take the hassle away from them.”
Transitioning to a modern working environment
In the government space, there are a range of common challenges in managing the business of transformation to benefit from new technology that enables a more productive – and flexible – working environment. The first challenge is interoperability.
“We are finding a lot of departments have multiple systems – and this is when they are talking within their own department or to other departments,” says Vandenberg. “In communication and for meetings, departments could be using Skype for Business, Cisco WebEx or a multitude of other platforms. But the challenge is in talking to one another.”
Typically, these communication platforms are designed to act in silos.
“If you are using Skype for Business you can talk to Skype for Business but only in your own department,” says Vandenberg. “If you need to talk to another one it is very limited.”
Within government departments, there has been traction in providing platforms that are cloud based where a cloud first strategy exists. Bringing these siloed solutions into a secure cloud environment means the different communication platforms can connect together; intelligent cloud solutions act as a bridge to bring platforms together. And the department does not have to manage and maintain the infrastructure to support smarter communication.
Supporting an agile workforce
“Among our government clients, we are finding a lot more contractors as well as permanent staff who are choosing to work from home or out of the office,” Vandenberg says. “So the question is how to bring them into the collaboration space. That’s the challenge we are seeing and how we are using these cloud-based solutions to bridge the gap – from wherever they are.”
Supporting flexible working has resulted in another challenge that Ricoh has identified – the issue of real estate. With the cost of office space at a premium, there is a need to do more with less space. Hot-desking is a solution that is being encouraged within the public sector, but for workers the question is how to find space in which they can work.
“A lot more government agencies are looking at hot-desking, and we have solutions to make that successful,” Vandenberg says. “Staff can open an app before going into the office to find and book available desks.”
And this in turn can give departments the information they need on the use of their real estate – and design spaces that suit the particular needs of their organisation.
It is middle management within an organisation that can benefit from these solutions to better engage with staff, stakeholders and analyse corporate trends. They also need to communicate the need for change to senior staff within an organisation.
But where to begin?
Building a case for change
When Vandenberg is working with a client on the business of change within an organisation, he sees Ricoh as a partner to build a solution that meets the customer’s needs and objectives. He looks at their issues, user cases and current state.
“Importantly, we need to align solutions with their current business strategy,” he says. “If its cloud first or the need for an adaptive workforce, we need solutions that will bring it all together and take the client on that journey. We are a partner to understand those challenges, and help them on the next step.”
Collaboration is also important. Solutions will need to work with existing systems to make them simple to use and valuable. Whether this is working with an IT service provider or other partners that support solutions, working together for an outcome is critical. And starting smaller to building a proof of concept is often a way of successfully achieving support for change.
“This helps getting it into the environment and enabling the business to see how it looks and feels within their environment,” Vandenberg says. “When you talk about collaboration technology, unlike other services, you can see how it works within the organisation. And in taking the middle management on that journey, when we do talk to the CIO or CFO or other senior managers, we can help them in putting the business case forward to the business.”
“We’re not talking about the nuts and bolts – we’re talking about the vision for the business and their strategies and have the case studies to back it up.”
What are the potential areas of push-back?
Being aware of the common barriers, and having solutions ready is also important. According to Vandenberg, security is always at the top of everyone’s list of challenges – especially with cloud-based solutions.
“It’s no difference if you are talking commercial or any other industry,” he says. “For government it is in the top two or three items to tick off in due diligence. People are always scared when you say cloud – they say it is not on their premises and they can’t look after it. But it has come in leaps and bounds in terms of the security.”
Vandenberg recommends documenting the security and using white papers to help tick all the boxes and create comfort.
“When an organisation is comfortable from a security benefit, it is then up to them to decide the benefit of not having to manage these systems. At the end of the day, why people shift to cloud is to remove responsibility and management of these systems to a partner.”
“It then allows government – especially middle management at the center of this – to focus on what they do best.”