I've taken as a given in this blog that work in the future increasingly becomes knowledge work. By knowledge work I mean the creation of innovation and ideas and moving information and ideas as effectively as possible. There's less focus in the US on traditional manufacturing. Also, I've stipulated previously that most knowledge work is performed in cross-functional teams. Increasingly, we are called on to work across functional and corporate boundaries to accomplish our goals.
However, our business processes, data and systems aren't configured to support these new working teams. Information Technology has focused on implementing enterprise transactional systems. These systems are great for capturing the everyday transactions that occur between businesses (purchase orders, customer orders, etc) and create vast amounts of new data. However, they are fairly monolithic and do not support rapid redesign and implementation to provide data and systems for cross-functional teams. In fact, its seems while most work is now done in teams and on a project basis, most computer systems are not configured to support these needs. Few "teamware" products exist to support cross-functional teams who are sharing ideas and information and creating documents or recommendations.
Here's a good example of the dilemnas teams face. Recently, a firm I was consulting with in the business intelligence space was approached by a very large consumer goods firm in the US. This firm was in the process of improving its business processes using the Six Sigma concepts pioneered by GE and Motorola. The "Black Belts" - internal consultants who would improve the processes - needed a system to capture data and improve communication in the team. Their IT department informed them that the existing IT systems would require 10 to 12 months before the systems could be configured to support these processes. The Six SIgma project was scheduled to complete in six months. So the Black Belts used Excel and Word and transferred data in flat files from the corporate databases.
Our working teams need simple, integrated tools to improve their effectiveness and productivity. These tools should include a team "workspace" to share information, simple knowledge management tools to catelogue what the team "knows" and some basic document management capabililites to help manage the data and documents the team generates. There's probably not as much money in these systems for the large software developers, but this is definitely an area of need for knowledge businesses. Who will put the IT in Team?