The Workplace of the Future – Disappearing Technology

The workplace of the future will be an arena for technology that matures and becomes ubiquitous. Many have called this “Disappearing Technology.” Data is at the heart of modern work processes. The office of the future will move that data in to a journey integrating the user and learn to predict and manage the journey with state of the art software with minimal user input.

Screen Shot 2015-05-28 at 10.03.36 AMThe technology exists and is in constant development, from scan to route, through enterprise content management (ECM), to follow you printing, with some machine learning software from Microsoft for the best user experience.

For a future office technology to reach that stage of maturity it must:

  • Reduce paper use. The U.S. Government has introduced the Paper Elimination Act primarily for speeding up their processes and reducing mountains of paper in the office.
  • Reduce time for work processes and improve workflows. A fair definition of the office of the future, starting with the assessment of the current state.
  • Increase security. Healthcare in the U.S. has had several high profile data breaches. Fines have been imposed.
  • Integrate an enterprise. Every department in an office needs to be on board and able to use the technology.
  • Be scalable. The technology can expand with and throughout an organisation.
  • Be ubiquitous, vital, and user friendly so the users don’t even think about the complexity behind it in the office.


“The internet will disappear.” Said Eric Schmidt, Google Executive Chairman at the Davos World Economic Forum when questioned about the future of the web. The web becomes so entrenched in every part of our lives we don’t even think about it, the technology becomes ubiquitous and disappears.

Twitter founder Jack Dorsey was quoted “I think the best technologies – and Twitter is included in this – disappear.” He gave electricity as an example, for the parts of the world that have electricity on demand we just plug in, we don’t even think about the plug and what is behind it, we hide it away. Dorsey also hit the nail on the head when he said “it’s really complex to make something simple.”

The Journey and the Technology

The Office of the future is as much a digital world as it is a physical space. Data, documents, information, analytics will enter that digital world via intelligent scanning.

The Entry – Scan To Route

In the simplest terms, a single push of a button can securely send the information wherever it needs to go. Office desktops, cloud repositories, case management files, enterprise content management systems, compliance software, mobile devices, just to name a few. A medical testing laboratory could scan a test result. That result then disseminates to the cloud, the doctor, the specialist, insurance companies, and a research team. Those users don’t have to search for the information or wait for a printout, they have it instantly and securely for instant use or archiving. One button to push means the tech will disappear once the rules are set, the button pusher need not think about the technology behind the button.

Inside – Enterprise Content Management

This type of software automatically allows documents, information, and analysis to be managed so it can be found easily by those who need it in the office of the future. The information can be stored in the appropriate place for an organisation, information system, and further processing software. The information can be integrated to most applications, and can provide reports and a real time view of the business data in an organisation. The software can then deliver the information whenever and wherever needed. OnBase by Hyland are leaders in this field for the Healthcare industry. FirstMile by Kofax are also recognised as leaders in ECM software. The ECM system is usually a combination of intelligent software packages. Scanned documents, faxes, electronic forms, web content. Any type of file in fact can be automatically sent to the correct destination or software. A healthcare insurance form or Medicaid claim could be filled in automatically with correct compliance using information from many sources captured and managed by ECM then sent to patients, tax authorities, claims experts, hospitals, whoever needed it. Again the tech disappears when the users don’t need to be software experts, just users who can push some buttons and start an integrated process.

The Exit – Follow You Printing

A system to securely release documents for printing. No wasted paper, no security breaches from documents lying around. Users can print from wherever they happen to be and when they need it. Printing from desktops and mobile devices. The office of the future may not have dedicated desktops, users will be mobile and efficiently work from specialised areas or hot desk with others to maximise space and user interaction. Equitrac by Nuance is a well known name in follow you printing and widely used.

Productivity for the User –  Machine Learning Software

One of the most intelligent software developments for users in the office of the future is Machine Learning software. It can predict what you need, retrieve it, present it and suggest it to you at the right time. Microsoft has added their Delve system to its Office package using their innovative Office Graph technology. Microsoft say “after all, your job isn’t just to search, you use search as a tool to get your actual job done.” Their Delve system shows a user what they need to know today (see picture below) and what’s likely to be important in the near future. Trending information from associates, colleagues and the user network is presented to the user for easy scanning. Using their Office Graph (see representation below), Delve automatically fills with activities it has learnt the user does every day. Private and public activities can be shown and kept secure. The Delve display is totally unique to the user, no two users will have the same. A powerpoint presentation that a user was given weeks ago at a meeting could be automatically presented to them when Delve sees it is needed. Delve knows when the meeting was, who was at the meeting, and the information that was shared. The user need not email around to get the information, Delve using the Office Graph will have it ready and waiting. Disappearing technology, productive technology, secure technology, scalable, integrating, this type of technology ticks all the boxes for the office of the future.

Pointing to the Future

For integrating technology in to the everyday office experience MIT in Boston is leading the way. Their latest generation of buildings use built in sensors and technology. Currently used for research to enhance the experience of the users of the future. Their newMedia Lab extension contains motion and light sensors, microphones, humidity sensors etc. tracking the movement and actions of the users, what they do, when, and where. It all works behind the scenes, data is collated and is being used for a variety of analytical studies. It is exactly this type of integrated technology that will be extended to systems that improve workflows, productivity, security, and the user experience in the office of the future that will help the technology disappear. Imagine an office that knows where you are, what you have been doing and presents you with the information you need at the right time, or connects you with the people involved automatically.

The office of the future requires technological leaps forward. The technology of today needs to be compatible with all the varieties of office systems from printers to laptops. The separate software packages can be integrated with each other and act in concert borrowing features. Secondly, technology today and tomorrow will have to be built in to the physical as well as the digital space. When we walk in to an office of the future we will expect the technology to be there without even asking for a software package. We expect electrical power points in our offices, we don’t think about them or what it took to get them there, they exist and they are used constantly.

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Learn More:

US Department of the Interior, Government Paper Elimination Act

Good Data, NewField IT, London

Win – Win with assessments, NewField IT, London

Data Breaches, May 7th, 2014. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services

Eric Schmidt, Forbes Economics and Finance 24th January, 2014

Jack Dorsey, Huff Post Tech, February 12th, 2015

Tech Crunch, Jack Dorsey on Charlie Rose, January 11th, 2011

What is Enterprise Content Management (ECM)? AIIM, Glossary

Follow-You-Printing, Nuance Products

Xerox Corporation, Software and Solutions

Microsoft Corporation, Azure Machine Learning

Hyland, OnBase

Kofax, First Mile

Microsoft Corporation, Blogs, March 11, 2014, Introducing Delve and The Office Graph

Massachussets Institute of Technology, Media Lab

British Broadcasting Corporation, MIT, 16th November 2012, DoppelLab

Click here for more information about NewField IT