The Workday Will Be Televised

B. Shimmin
B. Shimmin

Summary Bullets:

  • The fast-approaching conjunction of social analytics, the YouTube generation, and pervasive mobility will radically alter the workplace as employees begin broadcasting the telemetry of the workday.
  • Companies that head down this road must prepare now for the inevitable ethical, legal, and even technical conundrums that will follow such ubiquitous and pervasive exposure.

When I go out for a bike ride, I never go alone.  That is, anyone who has befriended me on MapMyRIDE can follow my progress in real-time, noting some very specific telemetry data generated by my iPhone and the MapMyRIDE app, including my altitude, speed, direction, and exact location.  Later, my friends and I can review a given ride, analyzing my performance (like average speed over distance) or just going along for a virtual fly-along ride.  With bespoke devices, the gobandit GPS-HD, for instance, I could take this to an entirely new level, recording and later broadcasting my daily sojourns using the same telemetry data tied to a high-definition video feed.  Soon, corporate employees will begin broadcasting their daily work routines in much the same way.

That may sound a bit fantastical, but it is already happening.  Many enterprise social networking solutions from IBM, Jive, Cisco, Telligent, and others actively collect implicit knowledge throughout the day, whenever users post to their activity streams; “like” someone else’s post; create, open, and edit documents; post comments; create wiki entries; etc.  All of those data points flow into a collective data warehouse where business-savvy algorithms can extract valuable knowledge.  Moreover, thanks to the ascendance of mobile devices as a primary means of communication and collaboration, this sort of information gathering has taken on a physical form, with our mobile devices actively gathering data in the background as we work.  Much like the gobandit GPS-HD camera, mobile collaboration apps can automatically record and then post events such as a phone call or Web conference, imbuing those recordings with valuable information such as location, participants, referenced documents, and the like.  This all happens automatically, without imposing additional work upon the employee.

As the Facebook/YouTube generation continues to build toward critical mass within the workplace, bringing with it a much freer attitude toward sharing personal information, these tools will inevitably expand their role, gathering deeper information across a wider array of activities.  What better device through which to gather this information than an Apple iPhone/iPad or Android-based device, which typically accompaniesthe owner throughout the entire day and rivals desktop/laptops in features and access to corporate data?  Even when a user works on a desktop or laptop, their actions are typically synchronized with a mobile device, furthering the importance of these always-on telemetry collectors.

Even if users are becoming more accustomed to broadcasting their every action, and even if the accumulation of that information can make an organization more nimble, more insightful, and therefore more successful, there are some serious issues IT professionals must consider before racing or trundling down this avenue.  Before turning on any auto-collection routine for social software, IT managers must engage with representatives from legal and HR departments to ensure that they understand what information is being collected, how it will be used, and by whom it can be accessed.  IT managers must then ensure the security and integrity of any social analytic data gathered.  This is of particular importance for information generated in the field, on mobile devices.

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