I have just caught up with this very interesting paper by Rod Boothby looking at the way that new web technology will affect knowledge workers.
Today, many knowledge workers feel overloaded because they are forced to react to a constant stream of email, phone calls and instant messages. Email, the phone and instant messaging have one thing in common – they are all push work flows. In other words, they interrupt what you are doing. Theoretically, people can ignore all three, but generally, socially, it is difficult to get away with ignoring all three when you are at the office. Web Office will change that. With Web Office, knowledge workers can pull the information they need when they need it. They can use directories to go straight to the right People Page or Project Page. If that doesn’t work, they can use enterprise search tools. Knowledge workers can also post information, and know that their colleagues will find it when they need it. Gone is the need to blast out an email to everyone in a large group, providing them with information they might need in the future. My colleague, Dan Hoover, puts it this way: “Web Office replaces the current manual processes of reacting to emails, and organizing emails with a system that lets the computer do the filtering and organizing for you.”
There is a revolutionary change going on here. The kids graduating from college today regard email as my generation regarded carbon paper: it is their parents’ technology. The new generation uses instant messaging, MySpace, and wikis, not email and read-only websites.
As a manager, everything I have been taught, and everything I have learned on the job, has been about the management of people in an office – sharing information in meetings, with back to office reports, exchanging comments on draft papers, implementing central systems. But the office of the 21st century will be different: staff will work flexibly, from home or on the road, maintaining shared knowledge for others to access as they need it. We have not begun to understand how to organise and manage the enterprises of the future.