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12
Apr

A glance at the future: The workplace in the digital transformation era

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Researchers at Purdue University recently demonstrated that a rudimentary form of "mind reading" is possible. They decoded what the human brain is seeing by using artificial intelligence and deep learning technologies. In the future, as the digital transformation era truly takes over, organisations may even adopt "mind reading" to get the most out of their employees. For example, employees could use this technology to prepare the first draft of a report, or create a "mind -map" of their thoughts on a project which they can quickly share with collaborators.

While this may sound like it's straight out of a sci-fi movie, we can't totally dismiss it. Such radical innovations may soon become the norm for daily work. Here are just five ways in which the workplace of the future will change:

 

1. Automation will revolutionise the nature of jobs

Within the next three years, it won't be enough for an employee to be skilled at just "one thing." And by 2025, being multi-skilled—particularly in communication and other soft skills—will become all the more important as the ubiquitousness of automation, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and deep learning will mean that much of the teachable, hard-skill work done by humans today will be done by robots.

Mya, an A.I recruiter already available in the market, indicates the extent of possibilities. It can handle time-consuming tasks like phone screening and interview scheduling, freeing recruiters to focus on qualified candidates and convert hires. When all mundane, repetitive tasks are automated, employees will need to develop computational thinking and superior presentation skills, both of which robots have yet to replicate. An employee with those skills will have the ability to draw from varied experiences, connect the dots, infer conclusions from data available across sources, and persuade stakeholders with a strong story.   

 

2. Digital operational excellence will be the only point of difference

With operational excellence, organizations have been seeking on-going improvement through problem solving, teamwork, and leadership. This management philosophy has led to empowered employees, continual improvements of current activities, and most importantly, an unwavering focus on customer needs.

Going forward, digital operational excellence will further tap the power of technology to accelerate the pace of on-going improvement and extend the employee and customer advantages realized through operational excellence. In fact, digital operational excellence will allow organizations to do more than focus on customer needs; it will enable them to compete on customer experience.

At a CIO exchange forum organised by IDG and ManageEngine in Melbourne, Michael Barnes, research director at Forrester, said, "It is not about great products or services anymore. Organisations must go from being customer-aware to customer-led, from data-rich to insights-driven, from perfect to fast, and from siloed to connected. Now, it is all about customer obsession." All of this requires each IT department to lead its organisation's digital operational excellence programme—and each employee to embrace and adopt digital operational excellence as part of work culture. 

 

3. New media will transform fantasy to reality

We're already in an age where most employees need to have digital skills. For content creators, it’s imperative to share and create content using information technologies and the Internet. In the future, those employees will need to learn to work with technologies such as virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). After all, the VR and AR market could be worth as much as 122 billion USD by 2021.

The power of VR and AR can be readily seen in the news and journalism space today—; in the future, audiences will be able to choose different story paths instead of following a linear progression. The unrestricted, immersive experience that customers, prospects, and other audience members get with AR and VR technology is unparalleled.

 

4. Radical collaboration tools will increase productivity

In the future, employees will be able to work and collaborate with each other in some revolutionary ways. For example, the combination of holography and brain decoding technology may create a society in which people have meetings between their virtual selves in the office. An even more radical technology that can take collaboration to new heights is the digital twin, which is a real-time and dynamic representation of a real-world entity.

According to David Cearley, vice president and Gartner Fellow, city planners, digital marketers, healthcare professionals, and industrial planners will all benefit from a long-term shift to the integrated digital twin world. Digital twins can enable collaboration by helping employees across functions work simultaneously from remote locations, and see how simulations affect products in real time.

Employees in every department will need to adopt such radical collaboration technologies in the days to come. We can also expect companies to incentivise employees to adopt and adapt to these changes.

 

5. Employees will need to make accurate and fast decisions

In his 2016 letter to shareholders, Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, talked about the importance of high-velocity decision-making, advising that most decisions be made with somewhere around 70 percent of the information an employee wishes they had. If the employee waits for 90 percent of the information, he or she is being slow. At the same time, research at Columbia University and the University of Pittsburgh found that when making choices between a right and wrong answer, people’s accuracy in making the right decision increased dramatically when they gave themselves a small amount of time.

One way to reach a happy medium between speed and accuracy is through analytics tools. In the future workplace, organisations will need to give employees access to big data analytics tools. In this way, they will be able to comfortably make high quality, quick decisions within their realm.

 

What does all of this mean for the organisations of the future?

The digital transformation era is coming fast, and it's going to have a huge impact on the way future employees work. The adoption of disruptive technologies and new digital policies will have numerous benefits for organisations. But it will also be fraught with risks.

Let's imagine a situation in which a police department of the future adopts "mind reading" technology to predict a crime before it even happens. What if a criminal were to somehow intercept the network and alter the results of a prediction? If that new prediction led to the conviction of the wrong person, the consequences could be severe (Minority Report, anyone?).

This is where IT needs to step in and create an environment that is conducive to automation, digital excellence, new media, radical collaboration, and fast decision-making, all while ensuring the highest levels of security, scalability, and reliability.

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