Watch your edges

How do you define the edge of your organisation or any unit within it? The fourth of the five effects of technology-driven change that I’ve noticed is the softening of the edges of every scale of organisation.

The falling friction in our interactions has meant that for many operations we no longer need to be co-located. The obvious effect of this is a more flexible and mobile workforce. But not only can the workforce now be on the move, or even located elsewhere in the world, they no longer have to be part of your organisation at all.

Relative friction

We’ve always had outsourcing, of course. But the relative friction involved in sourcing, integrating and, if necessary, ending and replacing, partners is so much lower now. We can pick up freelancers for a single job. Integrate someone else’s technology stack with a few lines of code — and replace it if necessary, without needing to rebuild.

Watch the interfaces

The key points to watch in this trend are the interfaces. The online marketplaces for freelancers. The APIs for software stacks. The systems and processes — face to face and electronic — for communication between organisations and their partners, or internally between departments. Get these interfaces right and you can achieve great things: high efficiency, good transparency and happiness on both sides. Get them wrong and you will be left at a significant disadvantage, held back by excessive friction.

Of course, some organisations like friction. It’s how they make their money. But that’s a story for another day…