I'm about to write a piece on leading in a Work as a Service (WaaS) world, but I'm guessing that outside of the information technology community, which is consumed by questions of Software as a Service (SaaS, related to computing in the "cloud"), some explanation is required. WaaS is an idea where work isn't bounded by an organization's walls, or even an organization's roster. Software used to come in a box, now much of our software is available on-line. Similarly, work used to be contained in boxes in organization charts, but now can come from employees, contractors, machines, and/or crowd sourcing.
Stop for a moment and think about what that means…
How does such a shift affect your work? How about the work of others who you currently rely on? How might this change the way you see you organization meeting its goals? How much do the answers vary across early stage start-ups to established firms?
Salesforce.com has been the poster child of a transition to SaaS. Organizations like Elance, oDesk, Amazon Mechanical Turk, Kaggle, Innocentive, and CollabWorks (Disclaimer: I'm engaged with CollabWorks as we try and develop thought leadership around this topic) are some of the leaders in WaaS activities.
These organizations are providing the pick axes and shovels as well as the transportation for this possible gold rush. Each of these services looks to support a work process where talent and work opportunities are matched quickly, flexibly, with quality controls. Their networks vary across software & web development, writing & translation, accounting, marketing, administrative support, data entry, big data analytics, talent valuation, design, customer services, and scientific discovery.
I'm still wrapping my head around how this changes organizational design across all of its human, technical and organizational dimensions and would appreciate your help.
Here are some of the things I'm reading as my homework:
- All work can be viewed as service by Michael Grove
- Is your organization ready for a “work swarm”? by Marla Gottschalk
- From Filling Positions…to Matching Talents by Joachim Stroh
To match the "software as a service" model with work, we need to find a way to parallel the always on, on demand, flexible nature of tools like Salesforce.com. My goal is to help individuals and organizations best prepare themselves for this new work -- acknowledging that for many work has always looked like this.
A starter question (to go along with your comments around the likelihood of this vision becoming reality):
I think about freelance photographers and other freelance design professionals. What other jobs have always been designed around Work as a Service?