New, newer, newest. We love to focus on “the next big thing,” forgetting that current technologies such as the iPhone are hardly ready for obituaries. Although impatient inventors may feel blasé toward mobile, its evolution has only begun.
In fact, the smartphone is poised to completely reshape our workforce for the better.
I acknowledge that the smartphone may feel “old” for tech industry leaders. But we need to get over our desire for premature burial: The real world has just reached full mobile adoption mode. The question isn’t “What comes after the smartphone?” — it’s “What business innovations are ready to explode thanks to the popularity and possibilities inherent in mobile innovations, starting with augmented reality and artificial intelligence?”
AR hit the scene years ago, and Google Oculus, not to mention others, had their spotlight moments. Now, attention has moved on to other topics, but AR is still thriving. Everything we see, hear, and feel is poised to be augmented. How do we pick a lunch or dinner place when visiting a city unknown to us? Not by streets and directions — we seek a composite picture overlaying the physical world with the knowledge and opinions of others. How do we redesign our office spaces? We move digital images of desks and screens across the physical layout of our buildings.
Similarly, AI is far past the startup phase. Sure, the majority of business news featuring AI focuses on bots, but hard-hitting tech players are gearing up for the full reality of AI. Just as we no longer memorize phone numbers, we needn’t do little jobs that could be outsourced to machines. The inevitable progression of life and work thanks to AI will bring massive changes.
How will we expand smartphone uses and capabilities to change the future of work? Here are five predictable — and remarkable — ways:
1. Companies will expand employee reach through mobile.
Businesses are waking up to the reality that the best way to reach employees is through personal devices like smartphones. The past was dominated by a desire to protect phones and phone use; now, we see a power shift toward using phones. This has been happening without corporate consent anyway: Most teams already utilize mobile phones and apps to increase performance and decrease stumbling blocks.
2. Companies will concentrate and combine their communications.
In many industries, you see a huge fragmentation of mobile tools. This is typical for innovative phases but unnecessarily hampers a working population. Aggregation of tools for the benefit of employees is on the rise; one employee app is a huge improvement over 20 different special-purpose apps. Plan to rely more on a single aggregated experience over multiple destinations like portals or intranets.
3. Work will become a concept.
The core idea of work equaling a physical destination is officially old-fashioned. The office, the desktop computer, and the “this is mine” workstation are all things of the past. With the cloud offering ever-present storage and the smartphone providing an access point to the digital world, purpose overshadows destination. Why we do something is much more important than where we do it.
4. Your job will become a mindset.
Work is heading in an intellectual and less physical direction. Even manufacturing is about underlying physics and chemical processes rather than movement of parts. As machines get smarter, they can take on jobs highly educated people once did. Certainly, there are physical jobs that require tools not related to mobile. Yet even those employees are not starting work at 9 and wiping their memories at 5. Work stays with them, and companies need to remember this. If you assemble Teslas, you are fundamentally different from those who assemble Fords. You carry the cause, the brand, and the culture with you at all times.
5. Work and life will continue to blur and morph.
Mobile tech is just the first step toward a more automated world. As developments continue, fewer people will be needed to get work done as we know it today, giving us more time to apply to social causes, physical well-being, the community, etc. However, this brings up an interesting challenge: If value is created without the involvement of people, will the people still be paid? And for doing what, exactly? Determining our role in humanity — and how we are compensated for purposeful living — will require serious thought on a global scale.
That smartphone in your hand is not going away. Instead, its capabilities and power will transform your working and personal life, allowing you and your company to achieve efficiency and balance in ways our forebears never dreamed possible. Still hunting for “the next big thing?” It’s the thing you already have.
Daniel Kraft is the president and CEO of Sitrion. Sitrion provides award-winning mobile productivity solutions for the digital workplace, making work better for working people every day. Sitrion solutions unify and extend communications, information, and processes directly to mobile devices from business systems like SAP, Oracle, Microsoft, and Salesforce. Daniel is a public speaker on topics involving employee engagement and productivity and was featured on TEDx.