Analyst Roundup: The AI-Powered Future of Work | Straight Talk

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No matter what industry you're in, get ready for artificial intelligence to transform your workplace and work culture.

By Pragati Verma, Contributing Editor, Straight Talk

The technologies driving digital transformation are altering the foundations of how organizations work. Analysts at research companies, such as Gartner, IDC and Forrester, expect AI tools and techniques will have an especially significant impact on existing workplaces and their culture.

Get Ready to Work with a Bot

AI and autonomous systems are edging their way into companies across sectors and generating value as they are implemented, write Gartner analysts in the report: Predicts 2019: AI and the Future of Work. The report forecasts that, by 2021, 70 percent of organizations will improve their employees’ productivity by integrating AI into the workplace. “Digital workplace leaders will proactively implement AI-based technologies such as virtual assistants or other NLP-based conversational agents and robots to support and augment employees’ tasks and productivity,” says Helen Poitevin, senior research director at Gartner.

PwC research suggests that organizations are ready. Most executives realize that AI has the power to change almost everything about the way they do business, according to the study Sizing the Price, which predicts that AI will contribute up to $15.7 trillion to the global economy by 2030.The accounting firm surveyed more than 1,000 US business executives at companies that are already investigating or implementing AI and found that upskilling non-AI professionals to work with AI has become a crucial part of workforce strategy.

Digitally Dexterous Workforce

As more and more companies deploy technologies and retrain their workforce, they are changing the way employees perform various tasks. "Technology is changing work as we know it. This impacts organizations' culture, required skills, the way talent is sourced, the workspace, and the nature and makeup of the workforce itself. "Every organization needs to be prepared to embrace the Future of Work revolution," writes Roberta Bigliani, vice president, IDC, in the report, Worldwide Future of Work. The study forecasts that by 2021, 60% of the world’s top 2000 companies will have adopted a flexible, intelligent, collaborative virtual and physical work environment. And by 2024, 50% of structured repeatable tasks will be automated and 20% of workers in knowledge-intensive tasks will have AI-infused software or other digitally connected technology as a “coworker.”

This work transformation is creating a whole new digitally dexterous workforce that, Garner believes, will accelerate agility, collaboration and the adoption of new digital technologies. Poitevin explains, “The digital component of most jobs is increasing. Technical skills are important, but are not enough to steer a successful digital business transformation. Business and IT leaders need to employ the right talent with a specific set of mindsets, beliefs and behaviors — which we call digital dexterity — to launch, finish and capitalize on digital initiatives.”

Digital dexterity has immense benefits. According to Gartner, employees with high levels of digital dexterity are at least three times more likely to gain value from digital initiatives than those with moderate digital dexterity. “They are quicker to launch, finish and obtain the outcomes they seek from digital initiatives,” elaborates Poitevin.

CIOs will be the Culture Change Leaders

Gartner believes that CIOs will have a pivotal role in growing a digitally dexterous culture. During a Gartner IT Symposium/Xpo in Cape Town, Daniel Sanchez Reina, senior research director at Gartner underscored this notion. “Increasingly, it’s the responsibility of the CIO to operationalize the enterprise culture and the prevalence of digital dexterity in the workplace. The CIO will play a key role in supporting desired behaviors and changing the processes, procedures, policies and management practices that shape how work gets done to encourage desired behaviors.”

He went on to explain why: Technology is often the backbone of how work gets done and reinforces the company culture, which is why culture change is becoming an increasing responsibility of IT. To Reina, CIO is the cultural change leader and the Chief HR officer is a key partner to the CIO in shifting the mindset of their own team members from “This is the way we have always done things” to “How can we do things better?” He says, “Mindsets and practices shape culture, and technology acts as an amplifier of that culture. Technology by itself seldomly changes an organization’s culture.”

But it might take sometime before technology-augmented employees become mainstream. Gartner says the majority of digital workplace initiatives will fail to establish new ways of working through 2021. Warning that digital workplace initiatives cannot be treated exclusively as an IT initiative, Carol Rozwell, distinguished research vice president at Gartner says, “When initiatives are executed as a series of technology rollouts, employee engagement and addressing the associated cultural change are left behind. Digital workplace success is impossible without such.”

What is needed is a new way of thinking, according to J.P. Gownder, Vice President and Principal Analyst, Forrester. He argues in his blog, “Your future-of-work initiatives don’t usually fail because of technology or vendor choice; they fail because of a lack of fundamental readiness within the organization to weave those technologies into how your company does business. Today’s employees and organizations too often lack the culture, skills, leadership, processes, structures, and trust needed to succeed with future-of-work initiatives.” Forrester’s data shows that only 18 percent of global information workers agree with the statement, “I have a sense of my career path in a world of automation.” That, he points out, is “one of many gaps that leaders need to help employees fill” to get ready for a new digital workplace.

 

Pragati Verma is a writer, editor, and storyteller exploring new and emerging technologies. She has been a business journalist and managed technology sections at India’s The Economic Times and The Financial Express. Today, she brings the same editorial thinking to thought leadership content designed to engage, entertain, and enlighten readers.