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The Lightning-Fast Evolution of the Digital Workplace Continues

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The digital workplace evolution has had a tumultuous year. Tech that was out of reach of many is now accessible. Here's what you need to know.

If companies have been talking about digitizing content for years — remember, for  example, Kofax and the first mile and even the early days of document management — the terms digital transformation and digital workplace are relatively new phenomenon. However, the technologies behind these concepts are not new even if they have been changing rapidly in response to the rapidly changing workplace.

In much the same way document management evolved into enterprise content management and capture fused with artificial intelligence made the process of pulling content into the digital workplace quicker and easier, the development of technologies driving enterprises now is far from static. Even over the last 12 months there has been considerable movement.

AI in Enterprise Platforms

Glen Rabie, co-founder and CEO of the Melbourne, Australia-based business intelligence and analytics software company Yellowfin. He argues that the single biggest shift in the past 12 months in enterprise platforms has been the maturation of AI technology embedded into enterprise platforms. “What we are starting to see is that almost every enterprise software vendor has either brought to market or has a future product roadmap that incorporates AI to augment their product offering,” he said. “Whether it is CRM, support software, supply chain optimization, or analytics, AI is being seen everywhere. The rush to AI is being driven by the huge potential to streamline processes and improve organizational performance.”

The goal is to reduce the amount of manual intervention in processes and allow humans to do more by removing the mundane and repetitive parts of their work. A good example of this is in analytics where automation enables all data to be analyzed programmatically looking for changes in patterns in data. Whilst this type of analysis could be done manually, it is highly inefficient and prone to human error and biases. Instead automation finds and ranks these changes in terms of importance to the business and notifies the people that need to know. “AI enabled enterprise platforms fundamentally change business workflows by reducing time spent on low value tasks and allowing humans to focus on value added decision making and creative tasks,” he added.

Related Article: What a Digital Workplace Is and What It Isn't

Role Of Centralized Communications

As remote collaboration becomes standardized, companies need to have a centralized and rapid means of communications for teams stationed around the world. Email, while still the norm, no longer entirely meets this purpose. The socialization of workplace communication has been a lifesaver. Social media was once taboo in the workplace and seen as being detrimental to productivity, Larissa Lowthorp founder and CEO of St. Paul, Minn. TimeJump Media told CMSWire. “My clients who are the most successful in trans-global communications are intelligently leveraging these tools to help employees communicate with one another — the business analyst in Toronto can quickly ask the developer in Delhi a question that arises during a meeting, screens can be shared and remote workspaces established,” she said.

These social apps feed directly into the popular agile project management methodology. Google Hangouts is another staple and Facebook has recently launched Facebook Workplace, another remote collaboration tool. The market for this is quickly becoming over-saturated, and larger companies will have the challenge of identifying one app that will work across various departments within the company and their internal operating sub-cultures.

There are problems, however. “The increase at socialized productivity can come at a cost of employee work/life balance and mental health. Just because you can set your phone to notify you of any work communications doesn't mean that you should answer them at 11:45 pm,” she said. “These tools have helped people reach business goals more quickly and efficiently as people are not waiting for 2, 10, 20 hours for an email reply, when other factors may have rapidly changed.”

Related Article: 9 Components Your Digital Workplace Platform Should Have

Managing Data Problems

Arturo Bentin is SVP of strategic engagement at London-based Optymyze. He pointed out that while today’s enterprises are fully driven by data with more data sources available than ever before, organizations are struggling to consolidate this data and make it actionable.

Learning Opportunities

As a result many are turning away from traditional platforms like CRM and instead toward digital platforms that are able to automate the integration all of this data across sources — including CRM, sales performance management (SPM), HR and others — to create a “de facto” single source of truth that puts them in a better position to analyze key data and drive more effective business decisions.

Take sales data as an example. As a huge component of business intelligence — it provides insight into sales and revenue forecasting from which the C-Suite makes critical business decisions. Enormous amounts of sales data are created — but it’s much too disorganized and decentralized to help with effective business strategy on its own. Making it worse is an over reliance on often inaccurate CRM data. “The result is a lack of timely insights into sales performance, which leads to slow decision-making, costly implementation of incorrect strategies based on gut feelings rather than facts, lost opportunities, lower revenue, dwindling market share, and ultimately C-level and board dissatisfaction,” he said.

In fact Gartner predicts by 2023 the majority of companies will have moved beyond reliance on CRM and instead turn to their own sales technologies and data for unique applications that will drive process outcomes.

When organizations can connect all those data sources together, they can draw accurate and timely insights from all that valuable data. Ultimately they are more successful because:

  • The data consolidation process is automated, freeing up resources to focus on executing strategy rather than manual data entry.
  • A “single source of truth” makes it easier to actually process the data from a variety of sources.

Connecting People And Work

The biggest difference change over the last twelve months is the acknowledgement that work happens when people connect and have conversations. The big beneficiaries of this have been Microsoft (with Teams), Slack and Zoom. “You could say the software has driven it, but I think it’s more that the software is finally catching up to the way that people work most productively — when we talk with other people and work together toward a common goal,” Rich Wood, VP of alliances at Rightpoint said.

He added that people communicate over distances with the written word. This always happened with email, but increasingly text and group chats have surpassed it. Enterprise users aren’t starting their day in email or an intranet homepage anymore, they’re starting it with chat-enabled meetings, files and conversations.

As a final thought, today’s US workplaces might look similar in a decade, but the world of the knowledge worker will likely be very different indeed, with technology playing a more important role in their jobs than ever before, Holger Reisinger, SVP large enterprise solutions for Denmark-based Jabra, said. This change will require businesses to invest in skills and training to ensure that employees make the most of the productivity dividend that such systems promise.