2020 and Beyond: The Future of the Digital Workplace
You don’t need a crystal ball to tell you that AI and digital transformation will continue to dominate this year.
Yet, it is critical to look beyond the tech, and to understand the implications of these current trends in the enterprise workplace.
Looking towards 2020, I aggregated emerging digital trends I see in the digital workplace, and how organizations can navigate the upcoming years.
The Productivity Paradox Will Continue to Thrive
Technology is advancing quicker than ever before, but the benefit of innovation is less and less apparent.
The productivity paradox (also the Solow computer paradox) is a counterintuitive trend observed from the 1970s to the early 1990s. It states that, as organizations invest in information technology, worker productivity goes down instead of up.
Last year, Salesforce invested 1.2 billion dollars in R&D. They had three major releases to Lightning, their reimagined Salesforce platform. However, at the end of the day, enterprise productivity has not experienced improvement in leaps and bounds. What we are seeing is that expensive software updates do not necessarily move the productivity needle.
To truly get the most out of software, organizations cannot ignore the human aspect of technology.
The rift between the promise and the reality of productivity will continue to grow. Organizations must learn to shift their approach from “acquiring more tools,” to “empowering employees to use tools successfully.”
Disruption Will Continue Across Every Industry
At the heart of San Francisco’s financial district, once bustling shopping malls are a ghost of their former glory. Brick and mortar retail outlets across the globe are fighting a losing battle against the eCommerce tsunami.
Blockchain, fintech, and e-currencies are changing the way people think about money. On-demand streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu are reinventing how television is consumed. Airbnb is reimagining the face of travel.
These massive shifts that have left traditional industries scrambling to keep up are far from over.
As we head towards 2020, the world will become more reliant on digital, and consumers will favor businesses that can offer a digital experience. Companies need to anticipate more disruption.
Like a snowball gaining speed and size as it rolls down a mountain, this is one trend that is showing no signs of slowing down.
Successful Companies Will Be Those That are Comfortable with Constant Change
Change is like gravity, you can’t ignore it, you can only prepare for it.
If we look at the tools of the digital workplace, we see the digital revolution brought the “best-of-breed” software phenomenon. Rather than one multi-purpose system, simultaneous use of several software systems has become a best practice. This trajectory will continue, offering a growing selection of ever more specific tools.
For organizations, the benchmark for survival is how they respond to change — whether it is disruption occurring externally, or changes to internal software.
The strongest competitors in 2020 will be those who stop thinking about “change projects” with a clearly defined beginning, middle, and end and begin to view change as a constant variable.
Unless organizations adjust their mindset, it will be difficult (if not impossible) to stay relevant.
AI Will Unleash the Human Potential (if we play our cards right)
Although there are fears that artificial intelligence will cut jobs, I see the future differently. Yes, AI will absolutely cut specific types of jobs — those involving banal, repetitive functions. However, at the end of the day, humanity will benefit.
Computers have clear benefits over humans in certain areas, just as humans have abilities that machines will never be able to replace — empathy, creativity, problem-solving.
AI integration to the workplace will free up employees to spend a larger portion of the day doing tasks computers cannot do.
I don’t see it as computers replacing people by 2020, or for that matter by 2040. If a computer can do something better than a human, transferring responsibilities is an improvement for everyone. Innately human traits will be able to shine while computers remove the busy work.
We will be able to see human capabilities utilized in a way we never have before.
The Employee Will Become a Customer of IT
Looking towards 2020, there is one trend that really excites me.
Once, IT managers were the decision makers and facilitators for any new technology in the workplace. Today, choosing software has moved under the umbrella of the business strategists.
Not only that, but the cloud revolution has eliminated a huge part of IT’s previous role of installing and updating systems.
Without their traditional responsibilities, the role of IT is forced to evolve. Forward-thinking companies will start looking at the employee as the customer of IT — catering to their needs as they would an external customer.
The future of IT will be less, “this CRM can perform x, y, z functions,” and more “this is how to empower better results, boost company-wide productivity and raise the bar for success.” The role of the CIO and CTO will evolve to focus on maintaining a framework for happy, effective employees.
Once this happens, we will see an entirely new era in terms of the relationship between humans and enterprise systems.