playing with light and fire
PHOTO: Jeff Fielitz

Over the past few years, the digital transformation of the workplace has picked up pace and changed the way businesses are run. The advent and subsequent growth of fast and reliable communication tools has changed the dynamics of the way we work.

No longer are we tied to an office or a phone line. Today’s teams work from virtually everywhere as they collaborate easily and build amazing things faster. This transformation is an ongoing process, and workplace collaboration technology will continue to evolve in new ways in order to facilitate that process to the fullest.

Here’s a look at three trends that I believe will change the workplace in the near future.

Customer Experience Will Redefine Products and Services

Customer experience (CX) has always been vital for any product or service. However, with the proliferation of tools available via the software-as-a-service (SaaS) model, and the importance of curbing customer churn, CX is more important than ever.

How important is CX to the enterprise? CX can make or break products and the businesses that make and sell them. Enterprises in the B2B market will take a page from the B2C playbook and become more customer-centric. Products with complicated setup and configuration needs will be shown the door, and enterprises will increasingly expect seamless user experiences, regardless of how segmented their user bases may be.

A quick look at any successful workplace collaboration product shows that CX is a differentiator that leads to better adoption. This trend will grow to cover all enterprise software and services, redefine products and services across the board, and ultimately change the workplace for the better.

Related Article: How Customer Experience Drives Business Strategy

Process Automation Will Lead to Increased Business Efficiency

An often overlooked part of any business is its dependency on processes. Functions such as IT, human resources and finance, in particular, rely heavily on standard operating procedures, which typically involve a lot of human interaction, data entry and information routing processes.

Automating these repetitive tasks and business processes is the next big change in the workplace. There is a small but growing set of services that are automating processes such as ticketing for IT departments and HR services, but that market is ripe for disruption.

Enterprises have specialized needs based on function, so they will look for systems that allow for varied triggers and workflows. They need systems that can integrate with their existing infrastructures, derive logic from existing workflows and automate processes.

According to McKinsey & Co., automation will play a big role in raising global productivity in the coming decades. The consulting and research firm reports that automation helped raise global productivity by 0.8 percent per year in 2015 and predicts that that figure will hit 1.4 percent in 2065. To put that forecast in context, McKinsey reports that the steam engine was responsible for global productivity growth of 0.3 percent per year from 1850 to 1910 and that information technology was the catalyst behind global productivity growth of 0.6 percent annually from 1995 to 2005. It looks like automation is going to be a game-changer.

In the near future, enterprises will focus on automating processes such as IT service requests, employee onboarding, corporate expense reports and approvals, and marketing collateral requests.

Related Article: Is Robotic Process Automation Finally Here?

AI Will Transform , Not Replace, People

The doomsday sentiment seems to be that machines will take over the world. However, this is far from true. Regardless of the doomsday predictions, artificial intelligence (AI) has the potential to help people be more productive and efficient, not replace them.

Over the past decade, AI technologies such as machine learning have helped increase the accuracy of search engines, image and voice recognition systems, autocorrect tools and a lot more. In the workplace, the increased integration of bots into communication tools is helping teams do more. This is just the beginning.

AI can help workplace collaboration tools adapt to users’ needs and workflows, and thereby foster exponential jumps in productivity. An example of software adapting to users’ needs is Microsoft Translator, which enables real-time in-person language translation akin to Star Trek’s universal translator. No apps, just APIs for on-the-fly translation!

Artificial intelligence will also transform data analysis. Natural language processing (NLP) systems will be able to parse vast amounts of structured and unstructured data to derive insights with almost zero human intervention. These insights will help people and enterprises make better decisions. This transition has already begun, and the recent announcement of Amazon Comprehend, an AI-based text analytics platform, is another milestone to note.

Enterprise adoption of AI technologies will make teams more productive by making it easier for people to work together.

If it feels like a lot of these thoughts about the future workplace are unrealistic, consider the vast impact of the adoption of team communication platforms on workplace collaboration. Teams made up of people working in multiple locations are now increasingly commonplace, instant video calls have replaced the old conference room meeting, and Post-it notes are a thing of the past.

We are on the verge of an evolutionary shift in the way we work. Technology trends such as CX-first products and services, process automation and a host of AI technologies will lead the charge to unify and simplify enterprise communication, making workplace collaboration easier and more efficient.