Essay: Information Systems and Digital Workplace

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¶ … Information Systems and Digital Workplace Technologies

The accelerating pace of technological innovation is rapidly reordering the context, corporate culture and approaches to collaboration within every enterprise today. The digitization of the workplace is happening so rapidly, even the most forward-thinking organizations are struggling to keep up. The primary catalyst of this rapid revolution in how context, corporate culture, and the nature of communication and collaboration are the expectations of talented and often highly educated professionals, and their mastery of entirely new ways of getting work done. The most forward-thinking organizations are planning for the digitization of the workplace to erase the constraints and limitations that held back their growth in the past. Breaking down organizational silos through the selective use of digitization technologies and gaining the benefits of collaboration is the essence of Enterprise 2.0, originally defined by Professor Andrew McAfee (2006). His empirical studies of workplaces globally found that the greater the level of communication and collaboration enabled through intranets and related Internet-based technologies, the greater the accuracy and efficiency of operations (McAfee, 2006). In conjunction with his research, Charlene Li, Vice President, Forrester Research completed her own research on why the highest performing clients of her firm were seeing significant reductions in time-to-market, greater accuracy across nearly every transaction in their value chain, higher levels of communication, collaboration and knowledge sharing (Bernoff, Li, 2008). Both Charlene Li and Dr. Andrew McAfee illustrated through their research how critical it is for every organization to embrace the foundational elements of how to become digitally-enabled workplaces that create an organizational context, culture, communication and collaboration. The intent of this analysis is to provide insights into how organizations can create effective digital workplaces that enable greater communication, collaboration and provide contextual knowledge and intelligence so every employee has both the connections and information they need to excel in their roles. Examples are provided of how Google and Toyota are successfully using digital workplaces today to enable greater collaboration and productivity on a global scale today. The technical, formal policy and social perspectives of these company's implementations are discussed. The semiotic layers of these organizations are very specific to the innate strengths of their respective cultures, and this aspect of their performance are also discussed. The future of greater productivity in any organization is predicated on how effectively they manage digital and social media platform relative to employee's information needs. How organizations can align digital and social media to employee practices and behavior are also discussed.

The Digitization of the Workplace

The revolution occurring in the digitization of the workplace is more than just technology, with the technical aspects of Intranets, communication and collaboration platforms including social networks being secondary to the more systemic and semiotics-driven shifts occurring in organizations today. The digitization of the workplace has created an entirely new series of cultural norms, values, contextual intelligence, approaches to communication and collaboration that merely use technology as an accelerator (Huy, Shipilov, 2012). The semiotic nature of Google and Toyota illustrate this clearly in how both of these global enterprises successfully operate their many processes and systems internally on a global scale to produce new applications and vehicles. The digitization of the workplace needs to place communication, collaboration and above all, the creating and sustaining of trust individually and across departments, divisions and teams as the most valued attribute or trait (Platt, 2010). The Web 2.0 framework originally defined by Tim O'Reilly, founder and publisher of O'Reilly Media Publishing Company defines the contextual use of intelligence, communication, collaboration from an egalitarian standpoint (O'Reilly, 2006) and is shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1: The Web 2.0 Meme Map

Source: (O'Reilly, 2006)

Implicit in the Web 2.0 framework are the catalysts that continued to revolutionize the Digital Workplace today. These include the sovereignty of data and information and its egalitarian use by and between individuals, teams and departments. The core competencies of the Web 2.0 model are particularly well-suited for the capturing, aggregating, analyzing and use of tacit and implicit knowledge throughout an enterprise (Velev, Zlateva, 2012). The empowerment of the knowledge worker in the 21st century will be dictated more by the agility and fluidity of Web 2.0-based organizational collaboration structures and networks and far less than traditional, static and often constructing hierarchical relationships that can't change fast enough for today's challenges (Schneckenberg, 2009). Appendix A provides an overview of the applications that exist today as a result of the continued research and adoption of Web 2.0 applications.

Digital workplaces thrive when there is an architecture of participation (O'Reilly, 2006), data and knowledge is in remixable form that can be quickly aligned to specific information needs (Levy, 2009) and the enterprise knowledge and social information ecosystem's sociomaterality is engrained into everyday communication processes (Orlikowski, 2007). Web 2.0 technologies today continue to accelerate the semiotic nature of communication, quickly putting data and information into a contextual frame of reference that is relevant and immediately usable within the Digital Workplace. This re-ordering of sociomaterality and semiotics is leading to a more egalitarian-based approach to aggregating, analyzing and using tacit and implicit knowledge in all organizations today. This in turn creates compression on the traditional definition of semiotics, accelerating the myriad of interactions and integration elements, leading to greater technical, formal policy and social perspective changes in organizational development. Google and Toyota's ability to quickly assimilate and customize digital and social media into their global operations provides insights into how effective enterprise 2.0 frameworks defined by Dr. MacAfee, lessons learned from Charlene Li's research and the Web 2.0 framework created by Tim O'Reilly are making an impact in digital workplace performance.

How Google Innovates

At the center of Google's approach to new product development is the belief that information and knowledge shared widely between departments and organizations becomes a growth multiplier. Every year Google managers' performance is evaluated with 360-degree feedback from peers, superiors and subordinates and the one attribute that matters the most in terms of raises, bonuses and promotions is knowledge sharing and transparency (Google Investor Relations, 2013). Google's remarkable achievements of generating over 50% of their revenue from ideas that began through their Rule of 20% program serve as quantifiable evidence that enabling a more agile, high performance digital workplace delivers profitable growth (Google Investor Relations, 2013). The Google approach to innovation is predicated on creating a shared culture of knowledge capture, sharing and analysis, so much so that every engineer is also evaluated on how they approach this requirement of their jobs (Iyer, Davenport, 2008). What's made Google stand above their many direct and ancillary competitors is the alacrity of information and knowledge sharing combined with the quickness of new product development, two of the core values of the company's culture.

In choosing to create and sustain a very strong network of information and knowledge sharing, Google accelerates each step of the semiotics ladder while engraining their continual improvement deep into the organizational culture. Google has for years had a "follow the sun" development methodology in place based on agile programming practices that include continual cycles of code and feature improvement (Google Investor Relations, 2013). The formal approaches to new application development, long since defined to be global in scope, are further supported by a global organization all unified to a common set of programming precepts and quality standards that serve to further accelerate the compression of semiotics layers within the company. Google's hiring process seeks out engineering talent who can quickly traverse the layers of the semiotics model, deliberately looking for engineers and programmers who see human activity systems from an information system, and more fundamentally, an algorithmic vantage point. This forces the acceleration of pragmatics and semantics to syntactics and empricis even further, as can be seen from the intuitive yet powerful structure of their applications.

Google provides a glimpse into how a knowledge-centric enterprise can use specific personnel- and system-based approaches to compress and consolidate the semiotic model by creating teams with exceptional logic and programming-based skills. The interview process at Google deliberately seeks out these unique skill sets through difficult and often highly complex problem-solving scenarios applicants must solve (Iyer, Davenport, 2008). The recruitment and onboarding process are specifically designed to create a unique and resilient culture that values knowledge propagation and proliferation over information hoarding (Iyer, Davenport, 2008). All of these elements are institutionalized through formal policies regarding new employee recruitment, training, 360 degree peer reviews and providing engineers with the opportunity to define entirely new application initiatives and pursue them (Google Investor Relations, 2013). Google creates a cultural foundation for enabling greater collaboration, communication and trust in their digital workspaces before ever deploying software or more likely, designing it on their own (Iyer, Davenport, 2008). Google's senior management is continually working to orchestrate all of these elements together to continually fuel innovation, knowledge transfer and nurture leadership in its managers.

Toyota's Ability To Innovate Its Supply Chain

Toyota's approach to streamlining the semiotics of its globally diversified operations is to concentrate on creating collaborative supply… [END OF PREVIEW]

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