[A Look Back – Repost from 2013. Written during a time of shifting to more collaborative tools and redesigning corporate workspaces, this Look Back article discusses tools and technologies of more than 5 years ago. Today that focus has shifted away from large corporate video conference systems to using flexible and lower costs Zoom and Zoom Room systems. Collaborative tools have shifted from wikis to Slack, from desk bound unified communications to BYOD, from IT systems to Platform as a Service approaches. The pace of demands from across the organization on IT increase significantly even in a few short years.]

As IT leaders, it is our responsibility to step back a moment to “raise periscope” and assess what IT is really doing for the business. It’s easy to get caught up in the everyday of IT; deploying new technologies, managing projects, automating business processes, and supporting applications, systems and networks.

No two IT shops are the same but I frequently find myself evangelizing that IT’s focus isn’t really about technology, we’re about work style transformation. Several key strategic forces are at work, which establish this focus on work style transformation.

Changes in culture within medium and large sized businesses are driving initiatives to increase collaboration and innovation within and across departments. Silos are being torn down in favor of cross discipline projects and teams. Work anywhere strategies facilitate work happening in the moment, wherever staff may be, whether at Starbucks, home or at a ball game. Geographic separation of staff, customers and vendors must be compressed to facilitate work, no matter where offices, businesses or people are located.

The strategies I employ to enable work style transformation include many high profile initiatives. Multi-device unified communications enables IM, video, online meetings, and desktop collaboration between individuals and teams within the office, across business locations, internationally and while traveling. Again, the greater challenges aren’t the technologies, it is working with the organization to change work habits, assumptions and adapting to new ways of working.

Increasing use of video conferencing, digital whiteboards and collaboration rooms reduces the geographic separation between office locations – increasing location transparency. A “fish bowl” video wall is one of the tools I use to tie offices together through an aways on virtual portal between offices. I sometimes refer to it as our wormhole between offices. Cloud-based video bridging and online meeting services minimize the technical challenges typical of video conferencing between different hardware and software technology.

Social business tools replace long, unmanageable email chains with familiar social media posts and comments threads, organizing conversations around topics and groups of people with like interests. Wiki and content management systems replace Word and PowerPoint documents as the point of content creation, collaboration and sharing.

Virtualization portals such as those provided by commercial vendors and open source software offer developers the option of provisioning and managing their own servers, instead of waiting on IT to service a help desk request.

All of these are examples of how solutions enabled through IT are focused on supporting increased collaboration, communication, and business interactions – work style transformation – creating more effective interactions between staff, customers and partners. The next time you feel overrun by technology solutions, step back and look at how your IT team is really empowering work style transformation across your organization, and make that your focus rather than the technology solutions.

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.