'The New World Of Work'
Bill Gates describes his vision of smarter software
Bill Gates, Microsoft's chief software architect believes new software will help businesses make sense of the mountains of data they generate, reducing 'information overload' and letting you concentrate on your highest-value work.
Over the past decade, software has evolved to build bridges between disconnected islands of information and give people powerful ways to communicate, collaborate and access the data that's most important to them.
But the software challenges that lie ahead are less about getting access to the information people need, and more about making sense of the information they have.
Now more than ever, competitive advantage comes from the ability to transform ideas into value - through process innovation, strategic insights and customised services. We are evolving toward a diverse yet unified global market, with customers, partners and suppliers that work together across cultures and continents.
The global workforce is always on and always connected - requiring new tools to help people organize and prioritize their work and personal lives. Business is becoming more transparent, with a greater need to ensure accountability, security and privacy within and across organizations. And a generation of young people who grew up with the Internet is entering the workforce, bringing along workstyles and technologies that feel as natural to them as pen and paper.
All of these changes are giving people new and better ways to work, but they also bring a new set of challenges: a deluge of information, constant demands on their attention, new skills to master and pressure to be ever more productive.
�It's not easy enough just to find the information people need to do their jobs.�
For example, 'information overload' is becoming a serious drag on productivity. It's also not easy enough just to find the information people need to do their jobs. All the time people spend tracking down information, managing and organizing documents, and making sure their teams have the data they need, could be much better spent on analysis, collaboration, insight and other work that adds value.
At Microsoft, we believe that the key to helping businesses become more agile and productive in the global economy is to empower individual workers - giving them tools that improve efficiency and enable them to focus on the highest-value work. And a new generation of software is an important ingredient in making this happen.
New software will learn from the way you work, understand your needs, and help you set priorities. As software learns your working preferences, it can flexibly manage your interruptions - if you're working on a high-priority memo under a tight deadline, for example, software should be able to understand this and only allow phone calls or e-mails from, say, your manager or a family member.
�As software learns your working preferences, it can flexibly manage your interruptions.�
You should be able to listen to your email, or read your voicemail. Project notifications, meetings, business applications, contacts and schedules should be accessible within a single consistent view, whether you're at your desk, down the hall, on the road or working at home.
We're just beginning to tap the potential of presence information to help information and notifications flow where they're needed and better enable ad-hoc collaboration to solve problems and get things done. Presence information connects people and their schedules to documents and workflow, keeping you close to the changing data and expert insight that is relevant to what you're doing.
Over the next decade, shared workspaces will become far more robust, with richer tools to automate workflow and connect all the people, data and resources it takes to get things done. They will capture live data and documents in ways that will benefit teams that work across the hall or around the globe.
There's still plenty of friction that can be removed from the way companies work together. Employees shouldn't have to manually match purchase orders with invoices. They shouldn't need to print and mail bills that could easily be sent in electronic form. Expanding the reach of Web services can help optimize and reduce the amount of unnecessary manual work and make these supply chains vastly more efficient.
Software should be able to find meaningful connections in mountains of data and present them to experts - or even automated processes - that can act on them. Software can ensure that actions which result in changes to other work processes will automatically ripple through the system, making the entire business more agile and responsive to information that affects the bottom line.
Over time, software will 'learn' what information people use - and what they don't - and will adjust its behaviour accordingly. Smarter workflow tools will use pattern recognition and logic to find problems such as repeated customer complaints or inventory problems, and route them to the right person for resolution.
�The tools must evolve in ways that do not add new complexity.�
In a new world of work, where collaboration, business intelligence and prioritizing scarce time and attention are critical factors for success, the tools we use must evolve in ways that do not add new complexity for people who already feel the pressure of an 'always-on' world and ever-rising expectations for productivity.
We believe that the way out of this maze is through integration, simplification, and a new breed of software applications and services that manage complexity in the background, and extend human capabilities by automating low-value tasks and helping people make sense of complex data.
Microsoft has been innovating for the information worker for more than two decades - and in many ways we've only just begun to scratch the surface of how software can help people realize their full potential.
This article is an abridged version of 'The New World Of Work', published in May 2005 as part of Microsoft's Executive E-mail series. To read the full article, to see previous e-mails in the series, and to sign up to receive future e-mails direct to your inbox, visit www.microsoft.com/mscorp/execmail.