Collaboration tools and digital software have been around for over two decades and they have been instrumental in evolving the way work is done across the globe. The digital transformation journey fueled by online collaboration tools and digital workplaces are proven by research to increase the productivity of a company by almost 20-30 percent.
We have come a long way from depending on email and excel sheets to managing all work on digital tools. And yet, there’s a lot of scope to expand and grow in this landscape. The ideal digital workplace is one with a seamless tight-knit collaboration and engagement platform and in the current scenario we are far from the ideal. Where are we headed in this journey? What are the pragmatic outcomes? What gaps and shortcomings in organizational systems can hinder this progress? Let us look at the major trends, their current status and different aspects that might affect them in the year 2019.
Unlike a decade back, employees are no more restricted to working under a single roof. The concept of distributed teams and spillage of talent across the globe, or even working in third space workplaces has become quite a norm. And with these distributed teams comes the challenge of having every person of the team on the same page. Silos in collaboration and operational tools only create unnecessary barriers to the already persisting geographical barrier.
A recent Workforce Futures study showed that while enterprise managers allowed employees to work remotely, they were not equipped with the necessary tools by their organizations. Of the total 6600 employees, 44 percent believed that a remote working environment was not championed by their executives, and 38 percent said that they were not equipped with the necessary technology to work effectively when remote.
A well-coordinated platform to communicate and work is an absolute necessity to help achieve productivity without hindrances of the geographical boundaries. With more of such distributed teams, we need to have corporate data accessibility and sharing outside the company’s firewall which is both seamless and secure.
AI and ML getting stronger
Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) is being increasingly integrated in a range of business operations across organizations. According to a study, 46 percent of global businesses have already adopted AI. 43% of decision makers see AI having a positive impact, and only 3% of business leaders think that it will have a negative impact.
But, AI had its shortcomings in 2018, it was too horizontal in terms of usability, lacked proper information architecture and saw data governance issues. Data is key to companies making decisions about product, services, strategy, customer and employee experience. There is a lot of data on hand but research shows that only 1 percent of data is being used effectively.
The GDPR enforcement and growing security concerns will hopefully pave the way for a better data governance system in organizations. In 2019, we hope to overcome these limitations and implement extensive use cases with AI and ML. Customer support can be improved by using AI-enabled systems which recognize customers and provide the customer history, transaction details and contextual cases to help the support agent to solve and offer better products/ services to the customer. Sales personnel can save time and effort by getting accurate sales data on prospects and customers using AI-enabled sales intelligence tools. Project managers can better manage available resources based on real-time information about workload, skills and context to plan projects accurately.
The rise of workplace chatbots and RPAs
Chatbots or conversational user interfaces come with a promise to make our work lives easier. They are designed to tackle information overload and simplify service provisions. Similarly, Robotic Process Automation (RPA) take care of all the grunt work where a predefined set of rules help manage all repetitive work, documentation and tasks with the goal of saving time, achieving consistency and error-free results. However, both chatbots and RPAs have a long way to go before we start getting the output and experience that has been expected out of them.
A survey by chatbots.org showed that consumers are not very happy with the current state of chatbots. Around 53 percent of those surveyed found chatbots to be “not effective” or “somewhat effective”, whereas 22 percent had an opinion that “bots weren’t smart enough”.
Taking into consideration the user value proposition we can utilize chatbots in a variety of everyday work tasks like managing support, organizing documentation, taking care of compliance etc. With the advent of 2019, we can hope for better designed and more effective chatbots at our workplaces.
Virtual and Augmented Reality
Virtual Reality software (VR) has been in the news for some years now, poised as a major transformational thing of the future. But, VR did not see much utility and adoption with businesses and consumers.
Augmented Reality (AR) has slowly but steadily climbed its way up. The AR market globally was valued at $3.33 billion in 2015 and is expected to reach approximately $133.78 billion in 2021, growing at a CAGR of above 85.2 percent in the duration of 2016 - 2021. Whereas, VR is predicted to reach $7.17 billion by the end of 2019 and close to $75 billion by 2021.
With distributed teams becoming a norm across companies, the technologies enabling VR and AR are proving to be useful for businesses. Even with employees not present in the same physical spaces, communication is still possible. Immersive boardroom experiences, changing backgrounds, cataloging body language, supporting avatars are some of the things that are practically made possible by VR and AR.
In an ideal digital environment, we would like to reap the results of chatbots, RPAs, AI, VR and AR collectively. Making better cognitive decisions for complex, multi-channel operations. Digital transformation is rapidly changing the way we work, in every industry across different stakeholders. These technology trends are paving a way for bigger and more impactful technologies of the future.