Have you read my latest research paper on the future of work and the workplace? It’s entitled,”People—Not Just Machines—Power Digital Innovation.”

The piece was challenging to write. My original title was based on an earlier blog I had written on “The Future of Talent.” But it quickly became clear that the word talent could confuse readers. It’s too subjective. One person’s view of talent could be totally different from another’s. Also, the issues I discuss in the report go beyond what is traditionally referred to in human resources as talent management.

More than Just Talent

Instead, I looked to elucidate the essence of what makes a company what it is, how it works, and why it is successful in this new, digital era.

What does the massive ongoing migration to a digital business model mean for the workforce of the future? I asked myself. How do companies find the people they need? And put them to work? Where should companies begin building the capabilities—platforms—that are essential to underpinning their digital futures? And what needs to happen to make big data, algorithms, and machine-learning vital tools?digital transformation

The report looks to explain and quantify how the workplace (however that is conceived) and the workforce are experiencing a progression to digitization in much the same way as customer and supplier engagement became digitized before them.

Then comes the successor question: What might this digital transformation mean for you, me, our colleagues, and, of course, for the next generation? Those in that next generation will enter the workforce–wide-eyed and wondrous–in much the same way we all did at the start of our careers. (Myself? I’m reminded of looking at a Lotus 123 spreadsheet for the first time, in 1995. How times have changed!)

Beyond the point of no return

Today’s forward-looking companies have crossed a digital Rubicon. We’re past the point of no return.

Digital is changing everything—upending business models, switching revenue flows, realigning customers, and impacting cost structures in radical new, uncertain, risky, and exciting ways. As described in my research, legacy businesses are actively building and strengthening digital capabilities to speed innovation, because it’s imperative for them to cycle faster and faster. The pace of change in many industries is now measured in months, not years.digital transformation

Sometimes the advantages flowing from excellence in customer experience or innovative service models can be achieved in weeks, not months. In these frenetic times, executives are frantically scanning markets, monitoring competitors, and listening to customers, all with the healthy fear that a recent technology innovation or well-capitalized startup will blindside them and rip their business model to shreds.

Building advanced digital capabilities is critical to countering slow innovation cycles and instilling a culture of speed in today’s dynamic and volatile business world.

Digital transformation powers the workforce of the future

Laying the foundation for the digital workforce of the future is critical to any company’s survival. Companies unable to proactively accept, adopt, and evolve with the digital tools, technologies, and techniques that surround them set themselves up for failure. Their fate is a steady sink to the bottom, marginalized and viewed as irrelevant by their customers.

However, adopting technology is one thing; adapting the workforce is another. My research, conducted with the help of the Economist Intelligence Unit and covering over 420 decision-makers in the U.S. and Europe, reveals that most companies need to reframe their tactics surrounding their ability to attract, retain, and reward, and put people to work in this game-changing digital age.

That’s what “People—Not Just Machines—Power Digital Innovation is about. The report is a provocative and exciting take on the sector we all find ourselves working in these days, and there’s a lot to explore. I’ll be addressing different aspects of this topic in the coming months: new platforms and a new architecture for work; the gig economy and new talent-clusters; the “hipster” workforce; organizational realignment vs. silos; robots and automation; new rules, new leadership styles, new mindsets, new workers. The list goes on, and I’m sure you can add to it.

Chime in! I’d love to have you join the debate.

Euan Davis

Euan Davis

Euan Davis leads Cognizant’s Center for the Future of Work in EMEA. A respected speaker and thinker, Euan has guided many Fortune... Read more