Google Exec: Companies Must ‘Reimagine Work’ to Remain Competitive

Technology is changing rapidly now and companies must “reimagine work” within their organizations to remain competitive and thrive, according to Prabhahakar Raghavan, VP of apps at Google Cloud.

“We’re in a world where only the swift can survive,” he said during the “Work, Reimagined” virtual conference webcast June 19. As a result, “all of a sudden, it’s critical for every employee in a firm to be not only productive, but creative” also, he said.

However, employees are spending 20 hours or more of their time each week just gathering information, he said, adding: “That is not a good way to be creative.” Companies must remove as many “mundane” parts of employees’ work as possible, he said.

Companies “need the entire collective wisdom” of employees working for them, he said. To achieve that, it’s important that employees be able to quickly access relevant documents and data, leverage institutional knowledge, connect globally with other members of their teams and be able to collaborate in real time, he told viewers. And all that must be done securely, in a “smart” way by automating repetitive tasks and enabling seamless collaboration, and it must also be “simple” for employees to do all those things, he said.

It used to take many years for technologies to reach 50 million active users, but the amount of time has been shrinking over time, he said, noting that although it took telephones 75 years and automobiles 62 years, it took TVs only 14 years, Spotify just eight years, Netflix only seven years and Twitter only nine months.

Companies that entered the Standard & Poor’s (S&P) 500 in 1958, “could fully and reasonably expect a tenure of over six decades” on that index, he said. But if we fast forward to 2011, the expectation dropped to just 18 years, he said.

“We live in a world of hyper-connected devices and people,” Quentin Hardy, Google Cloud head of editorial, also said during the conference. He added: “There are continually evolving web pages. There are smartphone apps that change all the time. There are connected cars [and] connected supply chains. You get up in the morning and overnight there’s been a new version of an app. There’s more information on your social media account and, quite likely, there’s lots of new data and communications about your customer and your business.”

As a result, teams must “collaborate across the traditional corporate silos, serving their customers together, from wherever their customers are,” and “that means competing in business today is about your ability to empower your workforce to be both productive and creative,” he said.

Meanwhile, “as companies change, workers have different expectations,” Joanna Smith, Google Cloud developer advocate, said. For example, there’s a growing number of people who work remotely, she said, noting that she left Google’s Mountain View, Calif., headquarters to be a remote worker in Austin, Texas, because living near her family was “more important to me as a worker than having a specific job opportunity.”

Citing a recent Gallup study, Hardy said 51% of workers indicated they would change jobs to have access to a flexible schedule and 35% would change jobs to work from home. Another study found that, by 2020, 50% of workers will be working remotely, he said, adding that means, at least in the U.S. but probably a lot of other countries also, “the rules of the game are changing for recruiting and keeping talented employees.”

He added: “If you want to have a happy, talented workforce at your company, you have to enable flexibility, you have to promote work that’s rewarding, and you have to have work that works the way people need – that works from anywhere.”

In addition, there is a “challenge” for companies to make sure that “the work that an employee has is worthwhile,” Smith said, adding that there’s now an expectation by employees that they “shouldn’t have to spend time on tedious things when there’s a better way” to do something. However, “the IT landscape is so complex and varied now that it’s easy for developers to get trapped in mundane, repetitive tasks rather than doing the really creative work that helps a business,” like building apps and features that will make users happy, she said.
“As a starting point, we have to give people tools that help them do their jobs better, rather than a clunky, disconnected set of communications tools that holds them back,” Hardy said.

Employees are increasingly bringing their own consumer software into their work lives, on their company devices and on their own devices, he went on to say. Companies’ IT departments are often unaware of these activities and can’t review the software first, and “this is a problem,” he said. Citing a recent Frost & Sullivan study, he said 80% of employees are using unapproved apps at work.

And those apps “create vulnerabilities for an organization,” Smith pointed out.

Some of the same subjects will be taken up at the Google Cloud Next conference in San Francisco, July 24-26. Topics will include cloud security, artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things (IoT), Smith said.