By Gregory Pings

We all know the technology we need to get through our workdays – email, instant messaging, smartphones. The list goes on and changes as time marches on. Some people take a much higher view of the most critical technologies. For instance, Xerox chief information officer Gabrielle Wolfson’s list focuses on capabilities, instead of hardware and software:

Gabrielle Wolfson

“To stay ahead of the curve, we continue to look for new and improved ways to work, collaborate, and raise the bar on customer experiences.”– Gabrielle Wolfson, chief information officer for Xerox

  1. Active engagement with the business. “I need a framework that allows me and my team to understand what’s going on.”
  2. Communications must be effective within the organization as well as with our customers.
  3. Access to research. “We have to reach inside and outside of our organization for ideas and perspectives.”

Email, web browsers or video conferencing are essential, but none of it is any good if it can’t connect remotely, for instance. Organizations must ensure their technology allows for real-time collaboration, regardless of where employees happen to be. It cannot matter if your workforce connects with people on various platforms, or whether they are part of the same or a different organization.

“It’s really about boosting productivity and improving the way we work,” Wolfson pointed out.

New rules

“The ideal working environment allows effective and quick access to information,” Wolfson said. “Communication is the largest challenge we must conquer, especially when your organization has a global footprint.”

These new rules of the workplace emphasize speed and flexibility. Not all workers are hardwired, nor are their offices in a fixed place. Wolfson’s office is wherever she happens to be – home base in Rochester (New York), Xerox HQ in Norwalk (Connecticut), offices and hotels in the United Kingdom or India, as well as airplanes and taxis in between. Her list goes on.

“Flexibility and connectivity are vital when you are responsible for the technology that enables internal capabilities, structure and organization,” she explained. “I must support the entire business globally.”

Even as she emphasizes technology and remote connectivity, Wolfson maintains that you must have opportunities for face-to-face encounters, especially for critical messages.

Next up

“The future is perpetual. “To stay ahead of the curve, we continue to look for new and improved ways to work, collaborate, and raise the bar on customer experiences,” Wolfson pointed out. “How technology interacts is changing: We can use voice commands instead of keyboards or dialing, for instance.”

New ways will be embedded, and the means of collaboration will change.

Expectations for technology “at work” are heavily influenced by workers who consume technology for their personal use. If the app works at home, then why not at work? Millennials get the credit for pushing the technology envelope, but Wolfson recalls when baby boomer and generation X workers asked their IT departments to allow access to corporate email accounts with their Blackberrys some dozen-or-so years earlier.

The pace of work has accelerated, and Wolfson considers that a positive development. Access to information, better collaboration, and the ability to connect across geographies have improved research and decision making.

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Even as Xerox uses “set the page free” in its advertising, we are living it. The page (and work) is much more than images and text on paper. It’s data in all its forms, in all the platforms that hold it and all the tools that we use to share, mine and create. But too much information – data – exists, and not all of it is valuable.

“It’s too easy to connect. We can get overwhelmed,” Wolfson observed. “For example, bad email etiquette can result in overloaded inboxes and wasted time.”

Managing priorities, understanding which communications are critical, and organizing in a way that’s manageable are key requirements in any job description. Human behavior impacts an organization’s ability to set the page free at least as much as technology.

“Without this understanding,” Wolfson said, “you end up with a productivity deterrent.”