As Technology Changes ‘Everything,’ Don’t Forget About People
In a constantly changing world, getting the right talent focused on the most pressing challenges is essential — not just for companies, but for service providers, cities, and countries.
Today, the key driver of that rapid change is technology, particularly the explosion in connectivity known as the Internet of Everything (IoE). Cisco predicts that IoE will have connected 50 billion “things” by 2020, compared to 10 billion today. But for all the talk of things, IoE is not just about embedding sensors in shoes, jet engines, refrigerators, and shopping carts. The true opportunity arises when people, process, data, and things are connected in startling new ways.
In such an environment, collaboration is critical. Indeed, IoE-related innovations have the potential to improve and transform our world in profound ways. But no one company can solve these challenges. They will require partnerships and the open sharing of ideas and talent.
Technology companies, in particular, will need to change the ways in which they utilize their talent. For many decades, there was one way to access talent — by hiring it. Today, workforces are flexible and may be spread across time zones and continents. Knowledge workers still contribute as employees on company payrolls, of course. But increasingly, they are just as likely to collaborate on a specific project as partners or as subject-matter experts sharing knowledge within cross-functional or cross-industry groups.
That is why I feel so strongly about a recent out-of-court settlement in Silicon Valley regarding the free flow of talent from one organization to another. Apple, Google, Intel, and Adobe agreed to pay more than $300 million to 64,000 engineers who claimed that the companies’ hiring policies were hindering their career paths and access to higher salaries.
I believe such policies also hurt the companies that implement them.
For me, the settlement brought home the need for the tech industry to evolve. The model in the past may have been built around controlling the value chain amid a competitive race for the best product. Today, it is about cross-industry collaboration and the sharing of ideas. Such an open forum is the way to foster rapid innovation.
In allegedly agreeing not to poach one another’s talent, Apple, Google, Intel, and Adobe reveal the hubris of the tech industry. But while their central assumption may have been built around controlling talent, this is changing.
As Managing Director of Cisco Consulting Services across Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, I am in the fortunate position of hearing first hand from our top customers concerning their expectations for a tech partner. My team is constantly out in the field, engaging directly with workers and executives at the forefront of key global trends. That includes working with older companies adopting new technology amid stagnant European growth; disruptive enterprises riding the wave in surging Middle East economies; and bold start-ups that reflect the great potential of African markets. But regardless of whom or where, one theme pervades: change.
Given the speed and extent of the changes being driven by IoE, it is essential that technology companies lead the way for their customers. To do that, we will need access to many kinds of talent, along with the freedom to blend talent across multiple channels.
Tomorrow’s world will require entirely new approaches to solving our biggest challenges. Hopefully, this out-of-court settlement signals the end of an era when technology companies sought strength in controlling talent, rather than nurturing and sharing it.
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