Angela Salmeron
Angela Salmeron (Research Director, EMEA Sustainable Strategies and Technologies)

An IT strategy with a “people first” approach is crucial for a company’s survival in this rapidly changing world.

IDC hosted its UK Future of Work Conference on March 20, featuring keynotes from industry leaders such as HP, Ricoh, Dell Technologies, VMware and Slack, as well as IDC analysts. This blog shares some of the event takeaways and key messages from delegates.



How Can IT Departments Drive a Future of Work Strategy?

IT departments have a strategic role in the Future of Work. From change management to talent retention, a people-first IT approach is pivotal for the success of their digital strategies.

Companies’ average life expectancy is becoming shorter and shorter, and they need to be at the leading edge of change to survive. Technology can help drive organisational change and agility if implemented correctly. IT departments have learned from their past mistakes. Rolling out technology without broadly thinking about its organisational impact — such as the behaviours it might foster or inhibit — is doomed to fail. IT now understands that technology is not an end in itself, but is first and foremost instrumental in driving employee engagement and productivity.


At the conference, technology partners and delegates shared the following messages:


  1. Firstly, IT departments have learned that the traditional approach of “command and control” leads to the proliferation of shadow IT, which creates a serious security risk. As a result, IT is changing its management style and partnering with its business counterparts. Sourcing technology with a people-first approach and strong business credentials is now a top selection criteria. This approach is very effective for talent retention and attraction, but it doesn’t imply that IT is softening its management and security stance. Quite the opposite, in fact — IT is actually smarter. Its goal is to implement security without getting in the way of employee productivity. Best practices include taking a “zero trust” approach (with users, devices, etc. needing to be authenticated before access to enterprise resources is granted) and the use of analytics to detect and prevent security breaches.
  2. Secondly, IT has realised that the traditional one-size-fits-all approach is costly and underproductive. There are many examples of organisations investing large sums in top-notch technologies but failing to drive adoption. IT needs to make the technology meaningful and develop “end-user personas” for employee experience and business impact. Personas are not determined by one single factor (employee title, for example), but rather by a combination of role and personality traits that account for their working style, comfort level with technology and cultural background. As such, end-user personas evolve throughout employees’ careers.
  3. Thirdly, IT acknowledges that technology adoption needs employee bottom-up engagement — hence the importance of technology “champions” and gamification. Champions influence and support adoption across a particular group of employees, while gamification (through contests and leaderboards, for example) can turn adoption into an entertaining challenge. Both are very effective in driving change management.


Lifelong learning and career progression are becoming part of the new work culture

But it’s not all about technology implementation. Sourcing IT skills is also challenging for most IT departments. With a widening skills gap — with vacancies not being filled due to a shortage of job applicants — IT departments are reskilling their workforce and promoting them to higher-value roles. Lifelong learning and career progression are becoming part of the new work culture and are instrumental in talent retention. Given this, it’s not surprising that the cultural fit of employees is now as important (if not more) than their skillset during the recruitment process.

To summarise, technology does not drive organisational change, but it can support and accelerate it. Using collaboration software tools, for example, won’t make an organisation more agile if management are not committed to fostering collaboration and shared leadership.

To this end, IT departments need to work closely with HR and business managers to build an integrated Future of Work strategy across their workspace, work culture and workforce. A fragmented approach will deliver an unsustainable and short-lived digital strategy, as history has shown.

The appointment of a chief workstyle officer or a chief workplace transformation officer can help organisations develop a Future of Work strategy and “join the dots” for a successful execution.

So, next time you’re implementing a technology, ask yourself what behaviours it might foster or inhibit. Your answers must line up with the overall culture and strategic direction of the company.



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