The Who, What, Where of the Future of Work in Tech

Part 1

What is the future of work in technology? Usually, the question just points to the threat of automation but Deloitte, one of the largest accounting organizations and the largest professional services network in the world, probes deeper, breaking them down in three dimensions — as the work itself, who does the work (workforce), and where the work is done (workplace), knowing more questions will unravel. 

Every company’s journey to the future of work will have a different starting point. However, regardless of entry point, businesses reportedly should first define new work and work outcomes before considering workforce or workplace transformations.

  • Work (what): It’s likely that technology work increasingly will be performed by humans, machines, or human–machine collaboration; leaders should determine how to deploy people, bots, and algorithms separately and in partnership. Technology teams’ focus should turn from IT capabilities to work outcomes as they move from project- and process-centric operating models to those that prioritize products and outcomes. 
  • Workforce (who): Jobs and roles, talent and skills, and organizational structure will evolve. Businesses can access talent via a range of on- and off-balance sheet solutions. And finally, instead of being specialized technologists, technology workers can become collaborative co-creators of business value.
  • Workplace (where): Technology workplaces are evolving from location-centric to relationship-oriented. The geographic location of the work will vary, and workspaces should be redesigned to maximize collaboration, productivity, and co-creation. Seamlessly integrated technologies such as collaboration and digital reality tools can help support connections among humans and machines.

Beyond that, there’s a need to reimagine the role of technology in work in terms of outcomes, whether they can be exponential increases in productivity and cost efficiencies that extend beyond productivity and cost to value, meaning, and impact. How does it all relate to global mobility, for instance? 

Savvy business and technology executives are reportedly working together to reimagine how technology delivers business value and competitive advantage. “Because of technological advances, technology’s role within the organization is itself shifting,” says Satish Alapati, CIO of Media & Entertainment Customer Experience at AT&T. “The role of technology has evolved from automating the business to actually being the business.”

It’s also important to think of technology’s relation to work as business innovation and disruptor. Disruptions come in varied forms, ranging from competitors using technology at scale to the convergence of physical products and technology — the Internet of Things. 

Still, CIOs and other technology leaders still struggle with the perception of IT as order-taker rather than business. Only 29 percent of business leaders who participated in the survey agree that the technology organization and its leaders should be deeply involved in developing enterprise business strategy.

Deloitte has identified four significant shifts that are changing the role of technology in organizations that companies and global mobility professionals need to be aware of: 

From trusted operator to business co-creator. Many technology teams are shifting from traditional project- and process-focused operating models to those that are more product- and outcome-centric, which prioritize cross-functional collaboration, acceleration of time-to-customer value and other user/customer needs, and business outcomes.

From service delivery to value delivery. Automation, cloud, and as-a-service technology models are taking root, streamlining and speeding IT delivery, and changing the way technology teams and business functions work, collaborate, and create value. 

From cost center to revenue engine. Data suggests that if technology teams need to drive innovation and be change agents, reducing costs should take a back seat to strategically investing to increase revenue, growth, stock price, or other measurements of business and shareholder value. 

From cybersecurity to risk and resilience.  While cybersecurity will always be critical, leaders also should focus on business resilience and risks and disruptions inherent to having a combined business-technology strategy—risks whose reach extends beyond traditional IT environments into factories and other workspaces, products, and even customer locations.  

Many technology leaders recognize these shifts are happening but may fail to understand their fundamental implications on technology work and the workforce and workplaces required to deliver it. As a result, some leaders have approached the evolution to the future of work with disjointed, ad hoc efforts. 

This evolution goes beyond semantics. New technology disciplines represent more than simply a different way of operating. Collectively, they define a fundamentally new type of work that extends beyond the boundaries of the technology organization to business and functional areas. Ultimately, these new disciplines can help transform the technology work, workforce, and workplace.

  • Business co-creation. Business co-creation is a shift in the role of the technology function from supporting character to costar. This likely will require unprecedented levels of collaboration among business and technology functions during the design, development, and deployment of products and services.
  • Value realization and measurement. The future of work in technology likely requires traditional IT governance and performance metrics to evolve to focus on realizing and measuring value. Clearly articulated business goals can provide clarity on objectives and metrics. KPIs such as revenue, market growth, and customer satisfaction can help monitor overall progress, maintain business-technology alignment, and keep teams jointly accountable.
  • Product management. When a product mindset is applied to the traditional IT disciplines of application and program management, technology work can be viewed as a product that solves business problems, rather than a project that implements an application and delivers functionality.
  • Experience and design. This new technology discipline focuses on tasks such as embedding technology into the end-to-end customer life cycle to provide products and solutions throughout the customer journey and help ensure that critical bottlenecks are quickly identified and resolved. Analytics and AI can help predict user behavior and provide a differentiated experience, thereby enabling revenue growth.
  • Technology architecture. Decisions about cloud adoption or off-the-shelf software purchases can be evaluated not only on cost, features, and functionality but also on their ability to offer future options, flexibility, agility, scalability, and speed to market.
  • Data and insights.  Business data can improve decision-making, while product data can be monetized or used to help improve reliability and experience. Yet data on its own does not drive value—it first should be normalized, aggregated from across the organization and external sources, and analyzed to deliver insights that can be monetized.  
  • Product delivery and operations. Continuous delivery can enable faster, more iterative delivery of technology work, with continuous attention on improving quality. This likely includes migrating to approaches such as Agile development and DevOps to deliver greater, faster business value. Because legacy environments often use a mix of delivery methods, many organizations that shift to these methods may employ a hybrid approach.
  • Talent continuum. Talent of the future likely will be valued not only for technical skills but also for agility, flexibility, ability to collaborate, and other soft skills. 
  • Partner and ecosystem orchestration. Ecosystem partners can help organizations identify and understand emerging technologies that may be relevant to business strategy and objectives.  
  • Security, risk, and resilience. The historic IT risk, security, and compliance discipline typically is not designed to help companies evaluate, manage, and harness risks related to growth. 

Many savvy organizations are already managing such risks by using AI to protect against a rapidly changing threat landscape, managing risks to customer and company data and intellectual property used for value creation, bolstering organizational resilience to meet the requirements of a hyper-connected era, and owning digital responsibility and ethics.