The most significant development in the digital workplace market over the past year is the rising level of interest in cognitive technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), according to Shafath Syed.

These technologies have been popularized in the consumer world through Alexa, Cortana, Google Assistant and Siri,” he said. “Employees are expecting cognitive capabilities in the workplace and organizations see these technologies as a way to reduce their operations costs.”

Syed is senior director of product management at BMC Software, where his responsibilities include heading up the vendor’s digital workplace product strategy. He came to BMC in January 2016 after more than 20 years working on consumer products in roles at Adobe, Apple, Barnes & Noble and Microsoft.

Avoid ‘Throwing Technology’ at Digital Workplace Problems

For now, Syed sees different levels of understanding in the market about what cognitive technologies can do and how best to use them.

“Cognitive technologies can certainly help in digital workplace strategies when organizations start with their needs and goals and then determine how the technology can help,” he said. “Simply throwing technology at a problem will hinder efforts when expectations are not met.” What’s needed is for organizations to think about their current processes and how cognitive technologies can help address their challenges.

Syed will be speaking at CMSWire and Digital Workplace Group’s Digital Workplace Experience taking place June 18 to 20 at the Radisson Blu Aqua hotel in Chicago. He will give two presentations at the event: a workshop titled “An Intelligent Workplace is the New Normal” on June 18 and then a case study titled “The Digital Workplace as a Growth Engine #WorkAnywhere” on June 19.

We spoke with Syed about his thoughts on the emerging intelligent workplace, the future of work and digital workplace best practices.

‘Rethink Your Business’

CMSWire: How should organizations start thinking about the emergence of the intelligent workplace? What likely benefits can they expect an intelligent workplace will bring to their organization and to individual employees?

Syed: There are many ways to define the intelligent workplace, so it depends on your definition and the way you look at it. Some examples of the intelligent workplace include using cognitive technologies, IoT devices, robots and big data.

The way to think about the intelligent workplace is that it can increase the speed, scale and efficiency of organizations. In an increasingly competitive market, speed is the key to innovation. The faster you can move, the more iterations you can run and refine your execution. Automation can enable organizations to scale larger than they previously could with the same investment.

Speed and scale can be delivered efficiently so that resources are optimized. These capabilities can help small organizations grow more quickly and large organizations to compete more effectively. For the individual employee, it means that they need to rethink how they are doing their job — so embrace new technologies.

CMSWire: What are your thoughts on the changing nature of work and how work will be performed by humans in combination with AI, IoT and robots?

Syed: The nature of work is changing rapidly due to advancements in technology and new generations of employees with different attitudes. AI, IoT and robots are changing work in profound ways and we need to carefully consider how to best use them at work. They need to solve problems and enable new capabilities for people.

As an example, AI can do a good job of sifting through large amounts of data to get the answer to a question to help a human create a great story. IoT devices can help provide safer work environments and robots can perform repetitive or dangerous tasks.

CMSWire: When looking at the likely future of work, what advice would you give to organizations to ensure that they’re well positioned for the changes and uncertainties to come?

Syed: The key piece of advice I would give is to rethink your business. Everything is changing, so you can’t keep doing things the same way.

Learning Opportunities

Your business will be disrupted, so think about how you can transform your business to embrace the change. If you sell goods, think about how you can offer those goods as a service. If you provide a service, think about how you can scale that service 100 times.

CMSWire: Drawing on what you’ve seen with customers and within BMC itself, which two or three best practices would you share with organizations looking to embark on a new digital workplace initiative or to refine their existing strategy?

Syed: Here are a few best practices to consider:

  1. Create a common vision for the end state that you want to achieve.
  2. Get executive sponsorship to support the vision and manage expectations on a regular basis.
  3. Align people, process and technology to execute strategies towards the common vision. Any one of the three will not be sufficient to make change successful and all three are necessary.

CMSWire: How does a company know when it has a successful digital workplace? What kind of metrics should organizations take and then regularly monitor to gain insight into the success or failure of their DW initiative?

Syed: Success will depend on how organizations decide to measure it. The key is to define the goals and KPIs (key performance indicators) that are important for your organization and to regularly track their progress.

Digital workplace success can be measured through a number of metrics such as:

  1. Employee engagement.
  2. Employee retention of top performers.
  3. Employee and customer satisfaction.

CMSWire: As someone who lives in the Bay Area, in your free time, what are your favorite places to visit and activities to engage in and why? What advice do you have for CMSWire readers on how to achieve a good work/life balance?

Syed: Many people in the Bay Area are so immersed in technology that we sometimes lose sight of the amazing outdoor environment we live in. I enjoy disconnecting from technology and taking in the natural environment. I have a few favorite places and activities such as:

  • Hiking at Rancho San Antonio.
  • Biking along the Bay at Shoreline Park.
  • Walking through San Francisco neighborhoods.
  • Attending art festivals and supporting local artists.

Some tips on achieving a good work/life balance is to 1) spend quality time with family and friends, 2) give back to the community by volunteering at a non-profit organization and 3) travel the world and experience new cultures.

Learn more about the Digital Workplace Experience here.