- Vodafone employs 5,000 people at its Newbury HQ, but only has chairs for 3,500 of them.
- Blackberry – famous for its mobile phones with keyboards – is doing away with buttons and will be launching new touchscreen software and hardware soon.
- Microsoft is no longer an IT company – it’s all about devices and services these days.
- We’re all doing unpaid overtime equating to 240 hours a year, thanks to our smartphones.
- There’s still a place in our digital world for the humble ballpoint pen.
Those were some of the bombshells dropped at the Swindon Technology and Innovation Forum yesterday (Wednesday).
Organised by Thames Valley Chamber of Commerce and Swindon-based IT and communications experts Excalibur, business leaders flocked to the County Ground – home of Swindon Town Football Club – to hear about the latest technological advances, and to fiddle with cutting edge devices.
Opening the event Darren Beggan, head of professional services at Excalibur, introduced a concept that would be repeated time and again: “Work is what you do, not where you are.”
Devices like smartphones and tablets were being integrated into businesses both large and small, and changing the way we work, he said. “The average employee gets another 240 hours of work a year done now, just by using their smartphone,” he added.
Vikie Crowe, online partner business development manager at Microsoft, heralded a new era for the company with it’s 365 product. “We’re moving away from Microsoft being an IT provider to devices and services,” she said.
The cloud-based 365 “offers a connected user experience,” she explained. “Your phone, tablet, PC and Xbox all offer the same user experience. Data, mail, contacts and even settings are common across all devices.”
Being cloud-based also guarantees that users will always have the most up-to-date version of the software, she added.
“Getting things done and still having fun” was the new mantra at Microsoft, she said. “That’s what we’re all about at the moment.”
From Blackberry, channel sales manager Mark Simpson showed off the soon-to-be released Blackberry 10 operating system, running on a developers’ handset. The new one, he promised, would be sleeker.
The QNX software, he said, is able to run eight or nine applications simultaneously, and ‘sandboxes’ business and personal apps to keep work and home life separate.
“Blackberry is famous for keyboards, but now it’s all about touch screens,” he said, showing off a new form of predictive text that guesses the next word in a sentence and floats it above the virtual keyboard.
“Typing the next word is as simple as touching it with your thumb,” he said.
And Roger Berry, head of small business at Vodafone, said technology could be embraced to slash costs, increase productivity and create a happier workforce.
Under the leadership of Guy Laurence, work stations had been done away with. “No-one at Vodafone, including the CEO, has their own desk,” he said. “You sit with the people you’ll be working with that day. And coffee shops have replaced meeting rooms.”
“It costs £12,000 a year to maintain a desk, which is used 40 percent of the time,” said Roger.
“There’s no need to be at your own desk any more. Everyone has a mobile device on which to take calls and emails, your documents can be accessed via your laptop, and you don’t need to print anything, so there’s no need for filing and storage.”
Around 5,000 people work at Vodafone’s Newbury HQ every day, but space is required for just 3,500 of them. Only three percent – mainly receptionists and security guards – require a fixed point from which to work.
“We’ve saved a huge amount of space, because people are working from home or at events like this one,” said Roger, “and people like to work this way.”
“Technology has enabled a cultural change,” he said, adding in a later Q and A session that trusting employees to ‘get on with their work’ was not an issue.
“You give someone a piece of work to do, and you monitor that,” he said. “When you need to interact with your colleagues, that’s when you come into the office.”
“Presenteeism,” he said, “is not the same as working.”
Following the forum, there was a chance for delegates to try out hardware and software.
There were also plenty of promotional gifts available, with the most popular suggesting there is still a place for Victorian technology in our digital age – almost all of the corporate sponsors offered branded ballpoint pens.