Strategy

Office of the Future: Four Steps to Modernize Your Infrastructure

Key steps executives can take to transform their work place into a true office of the future.

Despite growing awareness of the impact of globalization and technological innovations on nearly all aspects of financial management, many senior executives are not properly prepared to effectively confront and capitalize on the dramatic changes looming on the horizon. In light of this pace of change, financial organizations need to foster a culture of forward-thinking openness to adjust to the emerging challenges and opportunities of the future.

Here are some key steps executives can take to transform their work place into a true office of the future:

Develop a strategic sourcing methodology.

Confronting increasing levels of competition necessitates a far more strategic approach towards all sources of labor support. Executives should ensure that there is an organizational-wide understanding and alignment on why and how your organization is using senior leadership, internal team members, management consultants and transactional-oriented external vendors for each work requirement. Working with your team so they understand the strategic sourcing methodology and consistently use it enterprise-wide will become even more crucial as remote, cross-time zone and international team members become ever more standard. The growing competition for talent that possesses financial expertise, is data conversant, familiar with new compliance regulations and proficient in new technology, as a few examples, will require new levels of creativity and flexibility with regards to tapping alternative sources of talent and in truly optimizing the impact of available labor costs. A strategic sourcing methodology ensures that all your leaders are tapping the right sources of support at the right time for the right price.

Rapidly embrace new technology and tools.

The rapid rise of a new generation of technologies—particularly in data visualization, automation, predictive analytics and artificial intelligence—are beckoning to financial executives to take a leap into the future. Those executives not prepared to take this technological leap will rapidly find themselves confined to the past. Effectively embracing new technology will require multi-faceted changes in management plans that will include a component of leadership training and development. It will not be sufficient to merely engage external consultants to provide advice and end-to-end knowledge on how to capitalize on the opportunities afforded by new technology. And, due to the rapid evolving nature of technology, it will not always be possible to hire new talent as quickly as it is needed to keep pace with the competition. Hence, executive training will emerge as a key corporate competency. Senior leadership will require enough technological insight and knowledge to critique, evaluate and, if needed, move technology-based functions to alternative sources of support.

Provide sophisticated support for your key knowledge workers.

Financial executives can maximize the impact of their knowledge workers by providing them strong support services that provide the right helping hand at the right time. While the salaries of educated knowledge workers constitute the lion’s share of an organization’s labor spend, it has become the norm for companies to provide little or no educated support functions to allow these employees to truly focus on their core contributions to their companies’ missions. It’s not uncommon to find an important director wasting valuable hours polishing a PowerPoint presentation, or for key subject matter experts forced to do their own data collection through rudimentary means, which results in highly time-consuming research.

As talent is increasingly recognized as a key growth bottleneck, offering on-demand educated service support functions that cater to sophisticated knowledge worker functions will be recognized as a key differentiator in the marketplace. Examples of this include data cleaning, interactive dashboard design, machine learning model creation, predictive analytics, innovative data visualization, creative presentation design, narrative support, translations and SharePoint site design. The support needs of executives of the future will go beyond the general admin pool support functions of the yesteryear.

Become a data-literate organization.

A few years ago, a data science or statistics executive was primarily responsible for an organization’s data. Today, every department must be data-aware. Almost every function works with and uses data to get the job done, and leaders in organizations will be expected to make routine decisions based on sound data analysis. Embracing the new norm of data everywhere will necessitate the development of a data-literate organization in terms of a new level of pervasiveness of data knowledge, standardized enterprise-wide data governance models, rapid deployment of data visualization tools, and a full understanding of the implications of routinized data-driven decision making. Executives must be fully educated on the implications of data for the workplace of the future or they will run the risk of becoming obsolete and irrelevant.

As we look forward to the office of the future framework, successful financial executives will be those who understand and practice the balance between technology and people, tap innovative service providers for emerging support functions and continually work to focus each on the tasks that best suit their unique skill sets. This will allow executives to focus on innovation and strategy, respond to the rapidly changing market context and drive business forward.

Seth Appel is vice president of productivity and product management at RRD.