[Paleopsych] Bill Gates: The New World of Work

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Thu May 26 18:57:23 UTC 2005

From: Bill Gates <billgates at chairman.microsoft.com>
To: johnmac at acm.org
Subject: The New World of Work

Over the past decade, software has evolved to build bridges
between disconnected islands of information and give people
powerful ways to communicate, collaborate and access the data
that's most important to them.

But the software challenges that lie ahead are less about
getting access to the information people need, and more about
making sense of the information they have -- giving them the
ability to focus, prioritize and apply their expertise,
visualize and understand key data, and reduce the amount of
time they spend dealing with the complexity of an
information-rich environment.

To tackle these challenges, information-worker software needs
to evolve. It's time to build on the capabilities we have
today and create software that helps information workers adapt
and thrive in an ever-changing work environment. Advances in
pattern recognition, smart content, visualization and
simulation, as well as innovations in hardware, displays and
wireless networks, all give us an opportunity to re-imagine
how software can help people get their jobs done.

This is an important goal not only because the technology has
evolved to make it possible, but also because the way we work
is changing. Since you are a subscriber to executive emails
from Microsoft, I hope you'll find this discussion of those
changes useful.

Now more than ever, competitive advantage comes from the
ability to transform ideas into value -- through process
innovation, strategic insights and customized services. We are
evolving toward a diverse yet unified global market, with
customers, partners and suppliers that work together across
cultures and continents. The global workforce is always on and
always connected -- requiring new tools to help people
organize and prioritize their work and personal lives.
Business is becoming more transparent, with a greater need to
ensure accountability, security and privacy within and across
organizations. And a generation of young people who grew up
with the Internet is entering the workforce, bringing along
workstyles and technologies that feel as natural to them as
pen and paper.

All of these changes are giving people new and better ways to
work, but they also bring a new set of challenges: a deluge of
information, constant demands on their attention, new skills
to master and pressure to be ever more productive.

For example, "information overload" is becoming a serious drag
on productivity -- the typical information worker in North
America gets 10 times as much e-mail as in 1997, and that
number continues to increase. A recent study showed that 56
percent of workers are overwhelmed by multiple simultaneous
projects and interrupted too often; one-third say that
multi-tasking and distractions are keeping them from stepping
back to process and reflect on the work they're doing. In the
United Kingdom, it's estimated that stress accounts for nearly
one-third of absenteeism and sick leave.

It's also not easy enough just to find the information people
need to do their jobs. The software innovations of the 1980s
and 1990s, which revolutionized how we create and manipulate
information, have created a new set of challenges: finding
information, visualizing and understanding it, and taking
action. Industry analysts estimate that information workers
spend up to 30 percent of their working day just looking for
data they need. All the time people spend tracking down
information, managing and organizing documents, and making
sure their teams have the data they need, could be much better
spent on analysis, collaboration, insight and other work that
adds value.

At Microsoft, we believe that the key to helping businesses
become more agile and productive in the global economy is to
empower individual workers -- giving them tools that improve
efficiency and enable them to focus on the highest-value work.
And a new generation of software is an important ingredient in
making this happen.


Over the next decade, we see a tremendous opportunity to help
companies of all sizes maximize the impact of employees and
workgroups, drive deeper connections with customers and
partners, enable informed and timely decision-making, and
manage and protect critical information.

The next generation of information-worker applications will
build on promising technologies -- such as machine learning,
rich metadata for data and objects, new services-based
standards for collaboration, advances in computing and display
hardware, and self-administering, self-configuring
applications -- transforming them into software that will
truly enhance the way people work --

Improving personal productivity: One consequence of an
"always-on" environment is the challenge of prioritizing,
focusing and working without interruption. Today's software
can handle some of this, but hardly at a level that matches
the judgment and awareness of a human being. That will change
-- new software will learn from the way you work, understand your needs, and 
help you set priorities.

Pattern recognition and adaptive filtering: Rules and learned
behavior will soon be able to automate many routine tasks.
Software will be able to make inferences about what you're
working on and deliver the information you need in an
integrated and proactive way. As software learns your working
preferences, it can flexibly manage your interruptions -- if
you're working on a high-priority memo under a tight deadline,
for example, software should be able to understand this and
only allow phone calls or e-mails from, say, your manager or a
family member.

Unified communication: Integrated communication will provide a
single "point of entry" to the networked world that is
consistent across applications and devices. People should have
a unified, complete view of their communication options,
whether by voice or text, real-time or offline, with ready
access to tools like speech-to-text and machine translation.
You should be able to listen to your email, or read your
voicemail. Project notifications, meetings, business
applications, contacts and schedules should be accessible
within a single consistent view, whether you're at your desk,
down the hall, on the road or working at home.

Presence: We're just beginning to tap the potential of
presence information to help information and notifications
flow where they're needed and better enable ad-hoc
collaboration to solve problems and get things done. Presence
information connects people and their schedules to documents
and workflow, keeping you close to the changing data and
expert insight that is relevant to what you're doing.

Team collaboration: Over the next decade, shared workspaces
will become far more robust, with richer tools to automate
workflow and connect all the people, data and resources it
takes to get things done. They will capture live data and
documents in ways that will benefit teams that work across the
hall or around the globe. Meetings will be recorded with
sophisticated cameras that can detect and focus on speakers
around the room. Notes taken on a whiteboard will
automatically be captured and emailed to participants, and
attached to the video of the meeting. They will also serve as
lasting repositories for institutional knowledge, so teams
won't have to "reinvent the wheel" and work with limited
knowledge of the company's past experience.

Optimizing supply chains: XML and rich Web services are
increasingly making it possible for businesses to seamlessly
share information and processes with partners, and build
supply chains that stretch across multiple organizations but
work as a unified whole. But there's still plenty of friction
that can be removed from the way companies work together.
Employees shouldn't have to manually match purchase orders
with invoices. They shouldn't need to print and mail bills
that could easily be sent in electronic form. Expanding the
reach of Web services can help optimize and reduce the amount
of unnecessary manual work and make these supply chains vastly
more efficient.

Finding the right information: A new layer of
context-sensitive services will give you flexible and
intuitive ways to manage information that go beyond the "file
and folder" metaphor of today. You shouldn't have to "think
like a database" and formulate search queries to ask for the
information you need. Pattern recognition can help tag and
organize information automatically, as well as extract meaning
from documents and enable them to be queried in more natural
and intuitive ways.

Spotting trends for business intelligence: Sophisticated
algorithms will be able to sort through millions of gigabytes
of data to identify trends that human analysts might miss.
Software should be able to find meaningful connections in
mountains of data and present them to experts -- or even
automated processes -- that can act on them. Software can
ensure that actions which result in changes to other work
processes will automatically ripple through the system, making
the entire business more agile and responsive to information
that affects the bottom line. Over time, software will "learn"
what information people use -- and what they don't -- and will
adjust its behavior accordingly.

Insights and structured workflow: Software should take a more
holistic view of workflow, providing data and metrics on
specific activities to make it easier and faster to spot
inefficiencies and points of failure. Smarter workflow tools
will use pattern recognition and logic to find problems such
as repeated customer complaints or inventory problems, and
route them to the right person for resolution. This will go a
long way towards reducing frustration, lost time and errors
that result from broken or inefficient processes.


In a new world of work, where collaboration, business
intelligence and prioritizing scarce time and attention are
critical factors for success, the tools that information
workers use must evolve in ways that do not add new complexity
for people who already feel the pressure of an "always-on"
world and ever-rising expectations for productivity.

We believe that the way out of this maze is through
integration, simplification, and a new breed of software
applications and services that manage complexity in the
background, and extend human capabilities by automating
low-value tasks and helping people make sense of complex data.

We aim to make this happen through a next-generation
productivity platform that builds on the solid foundation of
today's Microsoft Office system of programs and services. We
will enable people to create more effective professional
documents, access work information from anywhere, and better
manage personal, team and project tasks. We're investing in a
secure infrastructure that makes it easy for anyone to
securely collaborate on documents and work processes. We're
offering better data visualization and analysis tools that
bring out the trends and patterns buried in mountains of data.
We're making it easier for businesses to create, track, manage
and distribute content both within and across organizational
boundaries. And we're offering open XML standards and rapid
development tools so corporate developers can build and extend
applications that specifically target their needs.

Microsoft has been innovating for the information worker for
more than two decades -- and in many ways we've only just
begun to scratch the surface of how software can help people
realize their full potential.

Bill Gates

You can learn more about our vision for the New World of Work
at http://www.microsoft.com/mscorp/execmail.

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