Picturing the Future of Office Technology Today

Picturing the Future of Office Technology Today

Jeff Hutchinson, North America CIO at food product giant Groupe Danone, explains how the firm’s innovation team develops solutions like videoconferencing.

We all have a tendency to only look directly at what we're doing today, and not step back and say: "What do I, what does my company, need to be focusing on now, for the future?" Taking that step back is the step toward innovation and away from stagnation.

Maybe you don't need to be on the bleeding edge, and maybe you don't have a lot of resources to be investing in multiple areas, but you need to ask the question: what do we need to be focusing on, not just to make our own IT organization ready for the future but also to ensure that we are enabling the businesses we support to be ready to go forward. At The Dannon Company, a business unit of Groupe Danone, we call it "Today. For Tomorrow."

Within Groupe Danone North America we have business solution and infrastructure technology teams that focus on maintaining, enhancing and running solutions. They are responsible for the things that we have to do just to operate and make sure that we have the right balance of investment. But those of us in technology leadership positions have a responsibility to think about how individuals are going to be using technology in the future.

I'm part of the generation that remembers life before the internet and that does not wish to go back from email to written correspondence. Yet the generation now coming into the workforce is turning its back on email in favor of instant and text messaging. They are not restricted by physical or political barriers, they operate in global communities, and they don't believe in being held captive by email, but operate using social networking tools.

They will change the way we do business, and while there is no way to predict the changes that will come beyond then, we have to be ready. We will need new skills and tools to remain relevant in the global community.

To help prepare for this change, at Dannon we have an innovation and collaboration focus that we've brought together as a separate team called I&I, which stands for 'Informing and Innovation'. It's a small team, and its charter is to look at emerging tools and technology and find ways to bring them into the business mainstream, not just into the IS/IT groups. I&I is not necessarily evaluating only the ideas emerging in academia, or the technologies 10 years out in a research lab; they are looking at what is starting to come into the business workplace, and at technologies that we haven't necessarily thought of as tools, such as Facebook and Second Life. They examine leading technologies and tools from three standpoints: enhancing market share, creating sales, and increasing internal operational and resource, or employee, efficiency.

It's hardly rocket science. Improving these areas are goals for every company but, more often than not, the solutions are focused on the present. We created the I&I team to look past that. Our goal is to have them introduce new tools and new technologies, and migrate those into our everyday way of doing things.

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Tags smartphonesunified communicationsWeb telephony and conferencingcorporate issues

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