Associate Professor Sara Walton, Associate Professor Diane Ruwhiu and Dr Paula O’Kane
Department of Management
The University of Otago
In 2018 The Work Futures Otago project conducted a Scenario Development Delphi to explore the future of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in Dunedin. This was just after Dunedin had received the “Gigatown” title and we wanted to understand how this might impact Dunedin’s future. We developed three scenarios, using a time horizon of 2040, using the data from engaging experts in conversations about the future. These scenarios are summarised below:
Scenario 1 – Dunedin ICT workers are global contractors:
- Business in Dunedin is dominated by large, long-standing business-as-usual organisations.
- Lack of specialist ICT companies in Dunedin. Individual ICT workers and micro-firms compete for contracts both globally and locally.
- Dunedin-based ICT workers have developed niche in-demand skills through substantial individual investment in their education and development.
Scenario 2 – Dunedin ICT workers work in-house:
- Dunedin is globally connected but geographically isolated.
- In this digital economy, ICT expertise is critical for business Innovation. Therefore, having ICT skills in-house is essential.
- There is increased digitisation in the form of augmented reality, artificial intelligence techniques such as self-driving cars and the use of robotics across all industries and sectors.
Scenario 3 – Dunedin ICT workers are working in a collaborative vibrant sector:
- Dunedin is a vibrant town. People are attracted to Dunedin as a destination to both work and live.
- Dunedin is part of the innovative change globally, created through small, agile ICT companies collaborating with their peers.
- The growth of ICT firms in Dunedin has been positive for the city. Education and training around ICT has flourished.
At the time of this study global pandemics were not even considered. Not one participant mentioned the idea of a global pandemic, despite questions about potential disruptions. Yet now we’ve experienced two years of significant disruptions to the way in which we work. This experience has changed workplaces forever, and brought forward some positive changes which could have taken years to embed.
When we considered the brief for this publication, we returned to our original report and found that much of what participants had raised four years ago was more relevant than ever, despite no mentions of a pandemic. Indeed it seems that COVID has accelerated some of the trends and innovations that were starting to emerge in 2018.
As well as developing three scenarios from the key themes from participants we also analysed what they were saying about change. We proposed four key areas for change withing businesses and how participants’ thought business might adapt, change and take advantage of the opportunities of the workplace of the future:
Business Models needing to be resilient and future focused; this can be achieved through collaboration, process integration and the development and maintenance of partnerships.
People working differently and need new and innovative skill sets; changing workforce configurations with more cultural diversity and diversity across the board including older workers.
Developing operational capability organisations needing to adapt their core technical skills, business processes, and organisational strengths to survive and remain competitive.
Creating Innovative Infrastructure in order for organisations to adapt their physical configuration and movement of assets, information and resources to the needs of a future workplace to drive innovative capability.
These recommendations are still very relevant today. We are seeing different business models emerging through the lockdowns and businesses pivoting to create and deliver value. Different ways of working are operating for which new skills are needed. Organisations have had to change and adapt to different environments which is driving innovation for organisations in a changing business environment. We suggest that we will continue to see such changes accelerating post-covid driving ICT and digitisation in workplaces.
The pandemic has highlighted the importance of resilient business models that balance the needs and expectations of business, the workforce, society and the natural world. We saw some of the changes starting to occur before the pandemic but would argue that since then these changes have been accelerated. As such, opportunities have been identified (e.g. more flexible working options) and challenges laid bare (e.g. a need for investment in appropriate IT infrastructure) in regards to the digital response needed to support the future of work moving forward.