There are many issues that should be addressed regarding
personal devices on a
firms consider these to be only security related – what happens if an employee
leaves the firm with email on their personal device, for example? In talking with firms who have moved to
accepting personal devices for work purposes, however, the security objections
often mask a larger firm culture objection.
This objection also comes up in other areas of change, but
is most apparent in technology where the ramifications of change can be
mysterious. A characteristic of this
reaction to technology change is the discomfort level and the number of
objections that bring up current practices (personal, preferred or in place and
working). Another characteristic is that
the change often comes through unconventional channels – like young workers,
pressure from media, or partners on the quest for new ideas. Personal devices, moving applications or
entire server rooms to the "cloud” and more fit in this category right now;
they are in the painful process of acceptance in most firms.
Understanding how firm culture relates to technology change
can help you become more effective as an employee, team member and leader in
your firm. This article looks at four
different mindsets that people have when defining "work”. Each has a very valid function when used to
assess how technology change is viewed in the firm.
Mindset 1 – Office
The Office Mindset revolves around the notion that you have
to go to work to do work. This model has
a good reason for existence; in the past, you couldn’t work from home because
the option just wasn’t available. The
Office Mindset values visual accountability very highly. After all, if your supervisor can’t see you
working away, how is he/she supposed to know you are doing your job?
In addition, an office mindset can drive a "one office”
mentality, which is a good thing.
Everyone has the same experience in the morning – they come to the same
place, use the same restrooms, sit in similarly decked offices or
cubicles. There is bonding that comes
Accountability and a one office mentality are both extremely
important in business. However,
withholding access to work if not in the office may reduce the potential of
your firm to do work effectively.
Mindset 2 –
The Departmental/Position Mindset is grounded in the fact
that your position determines your privileges.
This is not necessarily a seniority status (which is covered in the next
section); rather it’s based on what department you work in. Accounting firms have very specific internal
verticals in technical production. Audit
teams routinely go off site for jobs, but tax doesn’t. When you get to the middle of the firm, there
are also differences based on position. Administrative
staff needs to be in the office to answer the phone or be available for
projects. IT may be required to have
access after-hours, especially during tax season.
Who you are or who you manage (or think you manage) can
drastically alter where work can take place.
Would you consider an office receptionist a position that can work from
home? How about a tax professional?
There are obvious choices in terms of who can work where
with a departmental/position based mindset, and with good reason. However, this may lump together individuals
(or teams within a department) that are not like others and can have more
flexible work arrangements. Oftentimes you
may lose out on productive time by treating everyone by position instead of by
Mindset 3 – Seniority
Seniority is something that is being challenged in the
workplace. Actually, has it ever not
been challenged? New employees often
have drive, ideas and enthusiasm that can bring out the "iron hand” of
seniority and reduce privileges for those who haven’t been around as long. Of course, it is also a very valid and useful
tool; those who’ve worked at a location the longest have knowledge and invested
effort in the firm they’ve worked for.
Experience does have immense value, and in an accounting
firm, experience often drives an ownership stake. Having a solid understanding of the balance
between privilege (seniority mindset) and work style (technology mindset) can
drive the value even higher by introducing mentoring and teams where that
experience is a resource and not a constraint.
Mindset 4 – Location
With technology comes change, and this particular mindset has
evolved rapidly over the past 20 years. A
location aware mindset asks the question "What can I do here?” instead of
waiting to get to the office. In many
ways, the consumer technology trends have changed this mindset from one of
convenience to necessity. New employees
are used to being productive wherever they are.
If restrictions are placed on work style and location, a young new
employee might actually feel like a right has been revoked.
This might bring a location aware mindset into a young
generation discussion; much like a seniority mindset might also be
generational. This is not so. In many instances, the technology to perform
a task is utilized by everyone in the firm to enable a location aware
mindset. The key impediments are issues
with mindset – why can’t it work instead of how can it work. Again, there is a balance here. Having a full three monitor tax workflow on a
tablet is possible, but not very efficient.
However, viewing key work papers on a tablet is possible and can be very
effective in client interactions.
Bringing the models
to personal devices
Did any of the models above ring true for your firm? I imagine so.
Understanding your work culture is a key component to adapting to
technology change, because at the moment much of that change is pulling the
control of the hardware away from the firm and placing it in the hands of
others. Personal devices run right
against both the idea of the people/data having to be in the office to work
(Office Mindset) as well as having the right to access their work from anywhere
(both Position and Seniority Mindsets).
The Location Aware Mindset also runs into issues with firm culture
because even though someone may ask for a personal device to have access to work
information, there may be legal/HR issues with granting access.
The key take home from these mindsets is that all can
provide value if used to enable productivity and improve efficiency in the
workplace. If any one of them is used to
prevent either, it should be challenged, and the resulting issue evaluated
against all four mindsets.
The past few years have been blazing advertisements for all of
the gadgets that promote work anywhere, but this can only happen in contexts
that work with a firm’s culture. Understanding
more of your firm’s culture regarding work and access to work can help see
where there are next steps that don’t have high friction for change, or places
where the need is outweighing the risk.
One constant with technology is that is does continually change, and
when it does it challenges the status quo.
Evaluating your culture to adapt will help improve adoption and use of
technology in your firm.
Look at these as opportunities for positive change, and if
the fit isn’t correct, figure out what mindset fits. It’s an exercise that can bring new life,
productivity and innovation to your firm.