The Mobile Internet: Changing the Way We Work – Part 4

Posted on 29th November 2016


Welcome to the Business Empathy Forum and thank you for your visit. In this post I would like to wrap up our discussion of positive changes that information and communications technology (ICT) is bringing into businesses and other organizations around the world. A key driver for almost any discussion of ICT in large enterprises is the opportunity to reduce costs. I will focus here on three facets of cost reduction: savings at the individual or ‘micro’ level, operational efficiencies gained through process improvements related to ICT, and costs for business travel.

Practical Consequences of ICT, Part 4: Cost Reduction

Personal Savings. We touched on one example of ICT-enabled cost savings in an earlier post: in the discussion of remote work and telecommuting we highlighted possible savings in office space costs if an employee decides to work from home. To that we might also add savings related to commuting or parking if the employee works from home. One European client has even calculated a significant reduction in her firm’s ‘carbon footprint’ if a number of employees opt to work from home and thus reduce their car usage and fuel consumption. So there are clearly savings to be realized at the personal level.

Process Improvements. On the process side of large enterprises, the automation of certain repetitive tasks supported by ICT innovation – automated telephone services, self-service checkout at grocery stores, automatic teller machines, for example – may permit the reengineering of internal business processes, allowing machines to do jobs that were formerly done by people. These are not always welcome developments for employees who lose their jobs, but there are often new jobs and development opportunities generated by the latest advances in technology. This means that “re-skilling” and the capacity to continue learning and adapting throughout one’s career are increasingly important characteristics in the virtual workplace. Regardless, the economic arguments for more automation will usually prevail.

Business Travel. A third cost reduction leverages advances in communications technology to allow multinational firms to collaborate across geographic distance while economizing on communications costs. Long story short, leveraging virtual communication tools such as instant messaging, Skype, web conferencing, and data and whiteboard sharing is much more economical than flying people around the world. At its best, this approach can also mitigate several challenges inherent in long-distance international travel, such as time spent in transit, fatigue and the need for recovery time, and differences in time zones.

At the same time, too much reliance on virtual communication can generate other challenges in terms of empathy, trust, and efficiency, and we will explore those in some depth in later posts.

Good luck, and until next time…