Technology in the workplace

Suppose a dispatcher came into your office straight from the 1960s. What would be his first impression? Certainly he would notice the radiant colors and details of applications running on your thin-screen monitor. He might also wonder why you, and others, keep swiping the screens of your mobile devices while he’s trying to talk.

Some technology would probably seem too revolutionary for him to comprehend, at least at first. But once the initial shock wore off, you might start by explaining that most of the technology in your office has evolved from tools he is familiar with.

Consider e-mail, instant messaging and the other electronic delivery systems you use to transmit documents and data. These modern technologies evolved from telecommunications devices that are widely used in the 1960s and earlier.

Teletype devices, for example, were popular for intra-office communications. On one end of a telephone line, someone would type a document into a device. An identical copy would print out immediately from a device on the other end. Computer terminals and leased phone lines soon replaced these devices and added more capabilities for creating and moving information.

By the late 1960s, IBM had developed a backbone for computer networks. Businesses began to lease phone lines and connect the “dummy” computer terminals in their offices to a vendor’s mainframe computer system at an offsite location. This was an early form of cloud computing before the Internet.

By the late 1980s, cellular and satellite networks had emerged. With these mobile networks, workers became linked to their corporate structures through voice and text-based communications. Soon after, the Internet emerged in the mid-1990s. Coupled with the availability of Global Positioning System, companies could quickly locate mobile workers and monitor their progress and performance throughout the day.

With the emergence of the Internet, employers realized workers no longer had to be physically present to access files, database and software applications to perform their jobs. Computer networks became virtualized.

With present technology, workers can access information and perform routine work from any computing device with an Internet connection. The cloud computing model, championed by Google, has changed how companies create, edit, share, and store information. For many workers, the Web browser has become the front end of their workstation. They now have the flexibility to use any computing device that they feel makes them most productive and efficient. 

The proliferation of mobile devices in the workplace, however, has raised new concerns over security and control of corporate information. Cloud computing, and more devices, can also mean additional burden on a company’s IT resources.

Companies are able to protect their data and documents by using technologies designed for “mobile device management.” For instance, companies can restrict mobile access to certain files and make some content available for display purposes only.

Overall, smart companies today want to be seen by employees, prospective employees and contractors, as a provider of value to their work environment. Companies are using cloud computing and other technologies that make it easy for new workers to come onboard and get to the information and productivity tools they need to be effective, immediately.