As workers become more mobile and global, gaining access to information needs to be quick and simple. Getting work done in the field or at affiliate office branches shouldn't be challenging — and offices of the future simply can't afford this inefficiency.
But how do you realize this standard when you're working with offices worldwide, all using different tools? That's exactly what Marco van der Brugge, Business and IT Analyst at Oxfam International, is trying to solve.
As he develops a uniform workplace environment where the Oxfam staff in 100-plus countries can work together, Marco is bringing his organization one step closer to having access to anything, anywhere.
"Our focus was that it doesn't matter where you go, you have access to your stuff everywhere," van der Brugge explains. "Say you're coming from the UK traveling to South Sudan, you can just get to work without remotely connecting and setting up anything."
A standard model office in the cloud
At this year's Box Hack for Good — an event that brings nonprofits together to launch a project from the ground up in 24 hours — van der Brugge and other ImpactCloud leaders utilized cloud-based tech to create a standardized field assessment tool that aims to speed up disaster relief efforts.
After the hackathon, Bryan Breckenridge, Executive Director of Box.org, sat down with van der Brugge to ask him about his 'model office' vision and how Oxfam uses technology in the fight to alleviate global poverty.
Q: Thousands of Oxfam employees and volunteers are doing important work enabled by technology in some manner. How does technology show up?
We've been trying to design the first standard model office. So, everybody has the same network environment, tools and content and can get to work without remotely connecting or setting up anything. A couple years back, this would've been impossible. Now, it's effective and makes work much quicker than before.
Q: Now there's a digital place to work, access their content and collaborate. What about the future of work for an Oxfam worker in 10 or 15 years?
Our focus for the future — at least for Oxfam Netherlands — is that nothing will be in the office anymore. It's all in the cloud. We don't want to host or have much stuff on-premise, and if it's all in the cloud you can access your information anywhere. So you just plug into the net and get to work.
"Nothing will be in the office anymore. It's all in the cloud, and you can access your information anywhere. Just plug in and get to work."
— Marco van der Brugge
The need for speed in crisis response
Q: What kind of impact does the ability to do quicker work have? What results does that bring?
Emergency response is all about speed. You need to be speedy, you need to have information available really quickly. People shouldn't have to stop and think, "Where do I get my information, how do I connect to my affiliate's environment?"
Q: So if tech is used better and more nimbly and autonomously by Oxfam workers, what can they do more of? Why is that important in their world, even in the future?
It's definitely a speed thing. For example, we have a lot of people traveling, so they are at airports, at programs in countries and out in the field, at home, wherever. They need to have access, online or offline. People should be able to do their work wherever they are, regardless of systems. It's just available in the cloud and less is managed by Oxfam personnel itself.
Q: And that allows for the planning, the execution, the assessment of programs that are alleviating poverty to be more scalable and in a more efficient way?
Yes, absolutely. And it's tools like the ones we created during the hackathon — FACT, or the Field Assessment Content Tool. By having access to important content and relevant data easily, it speeds up the process for first assessments in-field when an emergency response is needed. That's such a big impact, especially when people are putting their lives at stake.
"You see how big that impact is, how people in the field get data, share data. It's motivating having a direct impact on making people's lives better."
— Marco van der Brugge
The blueprint for building a modern workplace
- Standardization is key: with a familiar network environment, tools and content setup, anyone can get to work immediately.
- Everything is in the cloud: when everything is stored in one central location — instead of siloed servers — access is open to anyone, anywhere, anytime.
- Speed makes the difference: the faster a worker can connect and get up and running, the more efficient and effective they will be doing their actual work.
About Marco van der Brugge
Based in the Netherlands, Marco van der Brugge is a Business and IT Analyst for Oxfam International. By utilizing cloud-based technology as a powerful ally in their work, he hopes Oxfam workers can truly be productive anywhere and fully focus on their mission.
Oxfam International is a global movement of people working together to end the injustice of poverty. With groups in more than 90 countries, Oxfam takes on the big issues that keep people poor: inequality, discrimination, and unequal access to resources including food, water and land.