We’re all increasingly interacting with smart technology at home. My 4-year-old daughter learned to say “Hey, Google” before she could operate a mouse. As Amazon Echo and Google Home devices start to pervade millions of homes, consumers are growing accustomed to using Siri, Alexa, Cortana or Google Assistant to book appointments, send emails or check the weather. Meanwhile, social media and commerce sites like Facebook or Amazon make suggestions and recommendations to us with uncanny accuracy.
While we’re starting to see an uptake in these kinds of technologies in the enterprise, the bulk of the “smart workplace” opportunity lies ahead, as the capabilities mature and become more embedded and integrated into the workplace fabric. The smart workplace, enhanced by cloud-enabled features, will operate with technologies that not only help us perform our work, but also execute tasks on our behalf, autonomously and accurately, with minimal user direction and intervention.
So the time is right to take a step back and consider how new capabilities may impact the workplace and how to ensure the benefits are realized.
What Will a Smart Workplace Look Like?
A smart workplace will undoubtedly bring a range of capabilities to both employees and the enterprise that will grow exponentially as the technology takes hold:
- Less mundane work and higher productivity. Consider the simplicity of the instruction, “Prepare the latest dashboard, send it to John and request his team’s comments” vs. the manual and cognitive human efforts that would be required to perform that task. Through various combinations of technology such as voice UX, natural language processing (NLP) and natural language understanding (NLU), machine learning and robotic process automation, tasks such as arranging meetings, retrieving information and creating reports could all potentially be automated. A smart workplace will unshackle users from drudgery and allow them to be more productive – not just measured by levels of output, but also by the employee’s ability to innovate and collaborate effectively with colleagues, customers and partners, as well as their degree of engagement with their work.
- Reduced workplace stress. Reducing routine and frustrating tasks will help users manage their more value-added workload more effectively and allay feelings of stress or being over-worked. Have you ever felt bombarded by people asking for things? Imagine instead that the smart workplace could act as your “first line” by handling requests for information, confirmations or content. How much of your mind would that free up?
- Faster and more accurate Work performed by an automated system will be more accurate and predictable, and can be accomplished faster. This applies easily to high-volume transactional work (e.g., customer service) but will also prove invaluable in overcoming the inertia that can overwhelm complex projects (e.g., delays in setting up meetings, communicating key information or informing stakeholders).
Don’t Hold Back Your Users
To avoid limiting the potential benefits, businesses can’t be overly prescriptive with how, when and where users “should” use the technology. Instead, they need to conduct a focused change management effort to ensure users understand the capabilities available and are comfortable using them to augment their own efforts. Intelligent features, like those now found in modern office productivity suites, should be “on” by default, allowing users to rapidly gravitate toward those that are most effective at simplifying their work.
Enterprises should give users the freedom to explore the boundaries and derive benefits wherever they find them – even if they’re not for direct work purposes. After all, we give users access to company cars and phones; if it makes their lives easier, and increases their satisfaction as an employee, then why not allow them to use the smart tools provided by the workplace?
Just the Start of the Journey
Our customers are seeking ways to innovate, deploy and integrate smart workplace solutions, and drive change and adoption within their business. They want to know how to make use of digital assistants, how to leverage voice interfaces for users, and how to deploy the latest smart features of the Windows 10 modern desktop. Though the change is not happening overnight, those that have deployed such capabilities will start to see tangible benefits.
With an open-minded approach, and by continually striving to put the latest smart workplace tools and capabilities in the hand of users, enterprises will give themselves the best chance of realizing the wealth of possibilities and benefits that are opening up; soon the technology will become all-pervasive in the workplace, and those that proactively adopt will reap the greatest rewards.