COVID-19 has become the single biggest driver of digital transformation today, as a contact-less economy takes shape. This is also impacting the Future-of-Work as Work-From-Home (WFH) became business-as-usual. Digital transformation is ushering in a platform architecture for organizations to connect customers, partners and employees with the devices, machines, hardware and equipment that form the physical/digital assets of the organization. This is the convergence of Internet of Things (IoT) with the customer-partner-employee ecosystem. Digital Dexterity of employees thus becomes a critical factor in this transformed organization which has reconfigured the Future-of-Work.
The Future-of-Work is about rethinking the way work gets done. It is a fundamental shift in the work model to one that nurtures human-machine alliance, enables new skills and worker experiences, and supports an environment unrestrained by time or physical space.
Technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), data analytics, robotics, augmented reality and virtual reality (AR/VR), and intelligent process automation (IPA; including robotic process automation) are rapidly changing who – or what – is doing work. As these digitally dexterous workers make up a larger share of the workforce, a new generation of skillsets are required. Organizations are now grappling with accessing digitally dexterous talent, supporting a workforce that spans generations, and reskilling existing employees. At the same time enterprises must also provide a modern workspace to securely, effectively and productively support this increasingly diverse, distributed and dynamic workforce.
Digital Hire-to-Retire Process
Organizations are adopting technologies across the spectrum of activities and functions. For instance, the human resource functions spanning the entire employee lifecycle from hire-to-retire, is being digitally transformed. Automation now starts right from the recruitment process through better tracking of applicants, screening and skills assessment, profiling and resume processing, and identifying talent inside or outside the organization. Artificial intelligence technologies are managing skills inventories, creating and managing job requisitions, identifying appropriate employment candidates, coordinating team collaboration within hiring processes, facilitating resource planning, and deploying workers to appropriate jobs, projects, or teams. Companies are even on-boarding employees in a contact-less environment, new employees are on WFH mode from day-one; remote working has become the norm.
The Future-of-Work framework is related to enabling and empowering the new digital worker and embracing opportunities for human-machine collaboration. Such opportunities include both information work and operational work, being equally applicable to knowledge/information workers and frontline workers.
To take full advantages of automation, augmentation, and human-machine collaboration, organizations must acquire and/or develop talent with new skillsets. The work environment must be intelligent and agile, connected and secure, and definitely location- or time-agnostic. Organizations must facilitate access to corporate resources and support collaboration to enable all workers contribute effectively – whether full time or part time, local or remote, permanent or temporary – and whether they are human or machine.
Intelligent Process Automation & Mixed Reality
It is therefore clear that Work Force Analytics, Artificial Intelligence Analytics and other AI-based software tools and platforms would offer a crucial lifeline in the “new normal” to support data analysis and presentation life cycles. These tools will be more used by information consumers, business analysts, and data scientists rather than by professional programmers. Analytics and artificial intelligence examples include query, reporting, multidimensional analysis, dashboarding, data mining, statistics, various text-image-video-audio analysis tools, and AI software platforms.
Intelligent Process Automation (IPA) has become central to this digitally transformed organization. IPA includes a cluster of software technologies that manage, automate, and integrate processes to improve quality and speed while driving down operating costs per unit of work. Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality have become extremely critical in remote monitoring, managing and even operating of equipment. AR allows the user to stay within and interact with real-world surrounding while simultaneously transporting the user into a new reality much removed from the one currently being inhabited.
Organizations are also experimenting with Mixed Reality which is the next evolution in the three-way human-computer-environment interaction process. It unlocks possibilities that before now were restricted to our imaginations – made possible by advancements in computer vision, graphical processing power, display technology and input systems. As everything becomes a remote experience, sports and event organizations are among the first to use mixed reality.
From concerts that have your favourite musicians interacting with digital props, to watching a football game being played live within the confines of your living room, developers are working on many mixed-reality apps that could create similar experiences. Medical professionals could view and share patient records and data in a more interactive form with mixed reality than is possible with 2D charts. Toshiba predicts that 82% of enterprises will use mixed reality to solve their problems within the next 3 years.
Robotics & Drones
The transformation to the Future-of-Work cannot be complete without the use of Robotics and Drones. Robots will perform application-specific series of tasks or be capable of performing a variety of functions and movements that could supplant the human range-of-motion. And not just physical movements; the new-age robots will come with cognitive capabilities suitable for decision making and reasoning.
Drones are already being used for remote tracking and logistic purposes – right from disease control to vacuuming ocean waste to delivering pizza, and more. They may be remote controlled, semi-autonomous, or fully autonomous. Based on the usage context, some will require manually operated remote controls while others would be pre-programmed to perform specific tasks on a specific flight path.
Many of the most dangerous and high-paying jobs within the commercial sector are ripe for displacement by drone technology. The use cases for safe, cost-effective solutions range from data collection to delivery. And as autonomy and collision-avoidance technologies improve, so will drones’ ability to perform increasingly complex tasks.
Geopolitics & 3D Printing
3D Printing is an important piece in the technology stack that is shaping the Future-of-Work. 3D printers enable the creation of objects and shapes through material that is laid down successively upon itself through any number of print technologies from a digital model or file. 3D printers have become highly sophisticated and are being used across industries from manufacturing to healthcare, retail or even construction.
These printers can convert designs to functioning prototypes in a matter of hours, instead of months that used to be taken in the earlier process. From prototyping to mass manufacturing, 3D printers are now covering the entire spectrum. Volkswagen is the first automotive manufacturer to use the latest 3D printing technology for mass scale manufacturing – reportedly improving productivity by 50 times.
As geopolitical tensions push nations to redesign global supply chains, 3D manufacturing will find even greater use cases. By allowing consumers to dictate demand, 3D printing lends itself to increased supply chain mobility, flexibility and adaptability – thereby reducing costs and waste. Companies no longer need to gamble on how much of a product they will sell by predicting consumer demand; 3D printing ensures infinite flexibility as manufactures can print on demand and assemble what they need.
So there it is! A full technology stack that enables automation, augmentation and human-machine collaboration through mixed-reality; transforms decision-making through extracting actionable intelligence from big data; redefines logistics with the use of robots and drones; and uses 3D to mutate and expedite manufacturing processes. It is taking place right now, as you read this, and will completely alter the Future-of-Work – fuelling demands for a Digitally Dexterous workforce.