Workplace productivity took a dramatic leap forward when email and internet services first appeared on the enterprise scene over 20 years ago. Now, the pervasive use of artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML) and the internet of things (IoT), coupled with collaborative digital tools and increasingly tech-savvy business leaders, signals we are ascending to the next major step change in productivity and innovation.

In 2020 and beyond, five trends will lead the way people and technology work differently to accelerate growth and foster change across companies. 

1. AI Shakes Up Professional Services

The increasingly pervasive use of AI and ML in 2020 will force professional services firms to consider how the technologies can — or should — change the way they operate.

In 2020, AI/ML will democratize professional services by effectively extending personalized services to a broader base of customers via low-cost intelligent agents supported by data and analytics. Additionally, AI/ML will benefit professionals in a variety of industries by providing strategic insights, helping to manage information overload and reducing human error.

But as these decision-support systems become more sophisticated, enterprises will need to conduct internal audits to weigh the value of employing AI-based digital assistance in relation to the potential diminishing of skills to pass to others in the field.

Regardless, AI/ML will effectively bring forward intelligence hidden in digital systems to empower consumers and augment professionals’ capabilities and expertise.

Related Article: Stop Thinking AI vs. Human, Think AI With Human

2. Shifting Design Thinking: From IT Services for People to IT Services for Machines

Throughout 2020, systems design thinking will continue to aggressively shift as IT services are increasingly designed for machines — not people — and as processing moves closer to where data resides.

The thinking behind this shift stems from the prevalence of machine-to-machine interactions and the improved capabilities they provide. The intelligent IT infrastructure beyond the cloud that includes a variety of points where data is located and leveraged — “The Matrix” — will be expanded, ushering in new design choices and transformational architectures while prompting the more aggressive pursuit of IT modernization. 

More pointedly, this shift, in conjunction with the proliferation of microprocessors, will enable enterprises to make better, faster, data-driven decisions more cost-effectively — a competitive advantage for any enterprise.

Related Article: Cloud Computing Takes a Back Seat to Edge Computing. Or Is it Fog?

3. Ecosystems Increase the Value of Data

It’s been said that data is the new oil.

If that’s the case, then shared data ecosystems are vast communal oil reserves that will be on full display in 2020 as enterprises increasingly pool their data to form broader ecosystems to better achieve business goals.

For example, healthcare data can effectively be shared among payers, providers and public health agencies to improve health outcomes; financial data can be shared across institutions to optimize yields aligning with a client’s strategy; and automotive companies can share driving sensor data to augment autonomous vehicle development.

Data ecosystems will be further strengthened by the increased adoption of AI, IoT and distributed ledger technologies, with enterprises having access to the vital analytics needed to glean business-critical strategic insights.

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However, trust mechanisms that verify both the individual’s and the enterprise’s right to share and consume such data will need to be in place to govern the use of these vast data exchanges, ultimately increasing their value and growth. 

Related Article: Open Data Initiative, Meet Cloud Information Model: Do We Really Need Both?

4. Teams Are the New Superstars

In the year ahead, companies will continue to realize that simply having siloed teams do more doesn’t unlock the organization’s full potential. Rather, companies must create high-performing, interconnected teams that are empowered to make key business decisions.

These teams are trusted by colleagues and those higher up in the organizational hierarchy. They champion communication and knowledge sharing across teams. They’re nimble and adaptable.

These teams are made up of “double-deep” professionals who possess both business and technological knowledge — professionals who will participate in multiple diverse teams to further share knowledge across the organization and break down silos to optimize productivity. All this will enable the development of a flexible structure composed of multidisciplinary teams, which will in turn provide organizations with options beyond those available to teams operating in a traditional pyramid structure of siloed teams.

In 2020, enterprises should restructure to emphasize interconnectedness at the organizational level. Thus, better-built teams will build better individuals and, ultimately, better enterprises. This will be an imperative for business success in the 2020s.

Related Article: What Does it Take to Build an Effective Digital Team?

5. A New Wave of Tech-Savvy Leaders Hastens Transformation

As technology marketplaces continue to proliferate in 2020, new business leaders will advocate for the technologies that can improve the enterprise’s speed, agility and overall productivity for competitive advantage.

These leaders will serve as technological evangelists at the CXO level to shape digital strategy while also engaging in major initiatives, such as the adoption of intelligent digital technologies, mergers and acquisitions, intellectual property development, and more.

Instead of focusing solely on technology adoption, the technological evangelists of tomorrow will be more strategic in their roles as they strive to innovate operations in positive ways to secure a better future in an increasingly connected and digital world.

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