Back to the Future Day: 01/01/2016

It’s Back to the Future Day – no better time for us to look into our crystal balls and think about the trends and topics that we’ll be using in years to come. Unlike Marty and Doc, we’re not (yet) brave enough to look 30 years hence so here’s a peak into our immediate digital workplace future.

Naysayers, here’s your handy pocket-sized, irrefutable, authentic, focus-group tested guide to the key trends coming to a workplace near you soon. We’ve optimistically labelled them as trends for 2016 which means that some of you will see them in 2018 but that means the few who work in painfully-hip-Hoxtonesque-bare-brick exposed type operations, will already yawn these off as so very last decade. So be it. Let’s get on.

Notification Communication

Twitter, snapchat, kik and even SMS (wow, remember those…) prove that people like quick updates. We’re certain we’re going to see mobile-enabled IC messages pinging to your notification centre soon. Breaking news got sexy.

Gamification gets smart

We’re not talking about enterprise games, remember. We’ve done this before: gamification is about the application of game techniques and theory to our painful real-life corporate world to give it a bit of shuzz. Games are games and we don’t want people playing games at work. Be it gamifying news comments or encouraging e-learning, we’re sure 2016 will be the year of smart gamification.

BYOx/BYOS … Bring your own everything

2016 will be the year when IT finally throw their arms in the air shouting “I give up — ok — you CAN use your Apple Newton for work if you’re sure you want to”. Bring your own device (BYOD) is one trend that’s been creeping up in popularity, but 2016 will see more and more employees bring software, devices, tools and more to work. Hey IT? Just relax… it’s fine.

Someone figures out what value an ESN really brings

We’re not sure anyone really has this nailed down yet. Anecdotes about engagement, about collaboration, about increasing route to market are excellent. They’re welcome. They’re believable. But remember that the plural of anecdote is not evidence and that’s really want we want to see. Is 2016 the year? We suspect so. ESNs have been around for many years and their maturity is likely bear fruit sometime soon.

The content firewall breaks changes

The content firewall that notionally divides internal and external content has been under some stress for years. Many companies separate their communications functions into these rather quaint silos, pretending that content should be isolated for individual audiences and that, somehow, employees would never be customers, stakeholders, shareholders or other external party. It’s ridiculous and it’s hampering business.

Companies need to embrace the new reality that it’s good to share. Develop deeper, impactful, employee-advocacy tools by adding share buttons to your intranet and allow folks to share with the outside world. Allow them to show their pride in their company.

Let the outside world flood in. Put your company twitter-feed on your intranet and make sure that your employees can see what you’re sharing and what customers think of your organisation. Such radical transparency will speed up and improve business.

We also predict an intranet transparency divide for certain roles, functions or companies. Transparency has great appeal unless you’re dealing with sensitive data.  Data loss prevention may mean even more restricted access, including geo-restrictions for some.

Mobile First… but really mobile first

Way back when, we predicted that intranets and digital workplaces would eventually be developed as a mobile tool first and foremost, with desktop versions as the extra. Despite that, we’ve not seen much evidence of it coming true. Responsive design is welcome as it means that the same intranet can be used on every device the user chooses, but this is not mobile first. It requires focused thinking about the device and the nature of the mobile worker. It means thinking precisely about use cases, functionality and content. It does not simply mean you provide the same stuff in a different place. 2016 will see a ground-breaking, developed-for-mobile digital workplace. Share it when you see it.

Unified Communications

We’re all super connected at work but often in communication islands. If you’re using Cisco Jabber for example, you can instant message, file share, desktop share, voice and video conference with colleagues. It’s also your desktop phone, your gateway to WebEx and to telepresence. More often than not, these technologies are separate from your intranet and your ESN and that must change. Enterprise collaboration is super-asynchronous (through intranet knowledge bases),  asynchronous (such as that through an enterprise social network) or synchronous through Lync or Jabber-like tools. To be truly unified, these all need to work together. 2016? Hope so.

Employees still moan about search

They’ll still moan about it. It’ll still be number one on your fix list and it’ll still be incredibly important. Sadly, it’ll be even harder to deliver well and the expectations for enterprise search will get even higher. You won’t win. Hire a consultant.

Wearables won’t wear

We can’t see wearables being a 2016 trend. We do think that the digital workplace will come to such devices but until they’re able to replace the mobile in entirety, companies won’t stump up routinely for the new hardware simply for notifications and elementary apps. It’ll come, but not yet.

Content is still king

Sweet user interfaces and brilliant functionality are all good, but unless your content sings then you’ll still not win the intranet game. Your content needs to make people care, the images need to be visually compelling and your videos must be concise, thoughtful and work on every device, in every location. Time to stop using tired stock images of your CFO with the big cheque.

Hey Intranetizen! What about 30 years in the future? Chickens!

Ok, fine: here goes.

  • There will be no intranet
  • Workplaces will all be digital. Physical workplaces will only exist for face-to-face meetings with all other work taking place where the employee chooses. Like floating space cafes.
  • Employees will not work for single organisations. We’ll all have tens of micro-employers.
  • There will be a harmony of HR laws across EU, US resulting in unified working practices.
  • Every surface is your device.
  • We’ll be wearing self-tying shoes.


In the meantime, we hope our 2016 predictions are slightly more useful.