Digital Workplace Trends

Part
01
of six
Part
01

Digital Workplace Changes

Changes in an organization to support a digital workforce occur in the areas of hardware, software, primarily using Software as a Service (SaaS), culture, security, and support services.

Hardware

  • When the workplace was bricks and mortar, most employees had hardwired desktop computers at their work station.
  • As the digital workplace evolved, the hardware needs for employees changed. The first set of changes involved laptops with docking stations with a standard keyboard, mouse, and monitor and wireless capability around the building, so employees could work at their desks or take their laptops to meeting rooms. This configuration resulted in a digital workplace but inside the building.
  • As more and more employees began to work from home, their requirements expanded from just laptops to include cameras, headsets with microphones, and spare laptop charges.
  • The home offices required enough broadband to support increased uploading and downloading of large files, streaming, and video calls.
  • If the organization requires the use of a VPN, the system will have to be tested to ensure it can handle the larger number of users.
  • From a policy perspective, the organization may have to revisit reimbursement for internet access or data plans for hot spots.

Software Solutions (SaaS if possible)

To provide a complete digital workplace, the following technology is required.

Messaging

Productivity

Collaboration

Communication

Business

Crowd Sourcing

Connectivity

Mobility

Culture

  • The organization's culture guides the way employees behave and work. Therefore, it ultimately determines how and to what extent your employees leverage the digital workplace to connect, communicate, and collaborate.
  • One of the significant cultural changes in moving to a digital workplace is the increased transparency and autonomy that results. Employees, managers, and business leaders all can track the status of every project and even provide their opinions.
  • The positives in this model of autonomous work environments include everyone knowing their responsibilities and everyone seeing the corporate goals and understanding how their work fits into the big picture.
  • The improved transparency also allows business leaders to see deeper into the organization and have better control and management.
  • This transparency means fewer meetings and more time to focus on the actual work. The sessions that do take place will have to be virtual, which may require some training in both the technology and the etiquette of virtual meetings. Using video is necessary as it helps employees stay connected, regardless of distance.
  • Traditional hours of working will also change. Teams and individual employees will need to be flexible with a potential shift in working hours.
  • Managers will also experience added pressure to make sure their teams are performing well while remote.

Security

  • If the company's remote working strategy allows employees to use personal devices, employees will no longer be working on secure networks and machines but relying on their own devices and home and public Wi-Fi.
  • This accessibility could require changes to security settings such as "multifactor authentication (MFA) to allow the workforce access to the sites and files they need while ensuring the right person is logging in."
  • If requiring access through a VPN, then untrusted personal devices have access to the corporate network.

Support Services


Part
02
of six
Part
02

Artificial Intelligence Trends

Current trends in artificial intelligence (AI) include AI augmentation in decision intelligence, as well as the use of AI at "the edge". More details on the trends below.

AI Augments Decision Intelligence

  • The use of AI in decision intelligence is about using data, artificial intelligence, and machine learning to operationalize and even automate decision-making in business. Decision intelligence should include both predictive insights and prescriptive insights to help guide users in decision-making.
  • In 2019, Gartner categorized decision intelligence as under the "Innovation Trigger" part of the hype cycle for artificial intelligence. This means it's a technology that is at its early stages, and that it's generating publicity while its commercial viability is still in question. Gartner expects digital intelligence to plateau in 5 to 10 years.
  • Decision intelligence is also one of the major trends shaping business intelligence and analytics. This is due to the unpredictability of current decision-making models that don't capture real-time data and uncertainty very well.
  • This trend is driven by global business environments that have become more "volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous" as a result of disruptions in technology, such as growth in digitization, as well as changes in policy. Senior executives then need to use big data and artificial intelligence in their approaches.
  • The use of decision intelligence has become more prevalent as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Xylem, a water technology company, uses decision intelligence to help utilities make capital and operating decisions so that utilities can be resilient and ensure continuity for their customers.
  • In the finance sector, decision intelligence platform provider Quantexa helps Standard Chartered spot financial crimes such as money laundering, fraud, and terrorist financing. Through the help of the platform, bank investigators are able to conduct complex investigations more rapidly, leading to faster decision-making.

Edge AI

  • There's also an increase in the use of edge AI, which is about helping machines and applications implement AI locally, closer to "the edge" where data is collected. This allows them to respond and make decisions faster.
  • This trend is driven by the growth of real-time data usage. By 2025, 150 billion devices and sensors will continually stream real-time data that needs to be processed locally or closer to "the edge," according to research from IDC and Seagate. In 2017, this data only represented 15% of the datasphere, but it is expected to rise to nearly 30% by 2025.
  • NVIDIA is one of the companies at the forefront of the Edge AI trend. In May 2019, NVIDIA launched its edge computing platform, NVIDIA EGX, which helps organizations gather, analyze, and act on data in real-time. This platform was created "to meet the growing demand to perform instantaneous, high-throughput AI at the edge." NVIDIA EGX counts 40 organizations and companies among its early adopters, including BMW Group Logistics and GE Healthcare.

Part
03
of six
Part
03

Machine Learning Trends

Using machine learning to improve personalization in marketing and increased adoption of voice assistants are trends in machine learning. The requested information about the trends is provided below.

Using Machine Learning to Improve Personalization in Marketing

  • Machine learning has started to play a fundamental role in improving personalization in marketing. Through machine learning, companies are now able to read and react to customers’ emotional cues.
  • Complex algorithms are allowing programs to deduce new forms of data, both auditory and visual, and draw conclusions about emotions much more accurately. Machine learning is also powering targeted advertisement and personalized content.
  • Renowned internet giants are embracing machine learning as the only feasible way of satisfying millions of customers with personalized services.
  • The need to develop more personal and people-centered experiences across the numerous buying stages is diving this trend. The need to increase revenue and enhance marketing-spend efficiency is also spurring the trend.
  • Netflix is one of the companies at the forefront of this trend. The entertainment giant uses machine learning to comprehend the kind of shows its customers like. Netflix also uses machine learning to make on-the-fly suggestions to its existing customers.

Increased Adoption of Voice Assistants

  • Machine learning is the force behind the increasing popularity of voice-enabled assistants. Increased automation has seen businesses delegate manually redundant tasks to machines.
  • As a result, voice assistants are becoming a commonplace in the contemporary business environment. The assistants are helping in making reminders, setting appointments, and reading books, among other tasks.
  • The voice assistant technology utilizes voice queries and natural language user interface to respond to questions, recommend, and execute actions by delegating requests to a designated internet service.
  • The need to perform complicated and important tasks effortlessly while improving productivity is a key driver of this trend. Companies are using machine learning to develop custom-designed voice assistants to help in processing operations efficiently and with ultimate accuracy.
  • Google is one of the companies at the forefront of this trend. RankBrain, the company’s voice assistant, is one of the in-demand intelligent voice assistants. It is designed to recognize phrases and words in order to learn and better foresee outcomes. RankBrain and other voice assistants are relying on machine learning to handle unexpected search queries.

Part
04
of six
Part
04

Automation Trends

Two trends in automation include robotic process automation and the use of automated machine learning in data centers. Details regarding these trends have been provided below.

Robotic Process Automation

  • Robotic process automation (RPA) is the use of technology guided by structured inputs and business logic to automate business processes. Using RPA tools, companies can configure robots or software to interpret and capture applications for triggering responses, manipulating data, processing transactions, or interacting with other digital systems.
  • According to Forrester, robotic process automation (RPA) is going to be a $2.9 billion market by 2021.
  • Many businesses are using RPA because it increases productivity and efficiency by automating important tasks that are repetitive and time-intensive using automated software tools.
  • Some early adopters of the technology include the finance and accounting sector.
  • In addition to giving employees the room to concentrate on core tasks, RPA ensures that there is data accuracy and process consistency. It helps companies to execute processes “five to ten times faster with an average of 37 percent fewer resources.
  • Global insurer Zurich is an example of a company that is at the forefront of the trend. Together with its RPA partner, Capgemini, the company won the “Paragon Award” by Information Services Group. RPA has enabled the company’s underwriters to focus on more complex policies.

Automated Machine Learning

  • Machine learning falls under artificial intelligence and is based on the concept that systems can interpret data, identify data, and execute tasks with minimal human intervention.
  • Data centers consume approximately three percent of all the electricity in the world. Increasing the efficiency of these centers when it comes to power consumption has proven to be challenging. Automation software powered by machine learning programs have become useful in improving data center efficiency practices.
  • In addition, machine learning is used for predictive maintenance in data centers.
  • Google is at the forefront of this trend. The company uses a machine-learning driven artificial intelligence program that manages the cooling systems in its data centers. It was developed by Deep Mind. Using the program resulted in the energy consumption of the cooling systems being reduced by 40 percent.
Part
05
of six
Part
05

Security and Data Privacy Challenges

As businesses face greater threats like data breaches & "phishing", IT leaders face greater challenges in strengthening internal resources and developing stronger cybersecurity measures. Addressing these challenges have a wide range of impact from an organization's supply chain to avoiding the current trend of "Zoom bombing".
Companies around the world face a potential $5.2 trillion loss in income, making cybersecurity in any organization paramount. IT and data professionals face five key challenges: addressing the lack of trained cybersecurity talent, dealing with ransomware; fostering internal collaboration; acquiring a real time view of risks; and securing/protecting data.

ADDRESSING THE TALENT GAP

FOSTERING INTERNAL COLLABORATION

REAL-TIME THREAT ASSESSMENT

RANSOMWARE

DATA SECURITY/PROTECTION

RESEARCH STRATEGY

Our research team began this analysis by crafting unique search terms to determine general areas of conversation around threats to cybersecurity. Focusing on specific threats and challenges to IT and data professionals, the team then chose specific areas that would be faced by these professionals on a regular basis. Once those categories were selected, industry-specific articles published within the last 12 months were examined and cited in order to provide tangible examples and evidence. This analysis examines specific challenges that higher-end industry professionals would be likely to face and how those challenges can be addressed.

Part
06
of six
Part
06

IT Operations Best Practices

Some best practices that were identified for IT operations in light of the COVID-19 crisis focusing on technology needs for larger work from home work forces include: using online bulletin boards, providing video conferencing capabilities, ensuring all remote workers have capable online access, work devices and accessories, and securing the company Virtual Private Network (VPN) while still allowing remote access.

Best Practices

  • With a larger percent of the workforce working from home, traditional internal company communications such as phone calls and web chats are not ideal with participants being distracted by situations arising at home; a best practice is using an online bulletin board (i.e. Slack) as that method allows for immediate communications when meetings/agreements are needed quickly.
  • Video conferencing capabilities are a best practice as it has many advantages over e-mail or phone calls; for smaller groups, the ability to discern visual cues allow for increased understanding and knowledge about coworkers and also help reduce the sense of isolation among teams. For any firm, video is ideal for complex or sensitive conversations; its more personal format allows for these conversations to have a lesser chance of being misunderstood. According to a recent survey of video conferencing users, around 90% of respondents stated that video conferencing provided increased productivity, better quality of discussions, and quicker decision-making.
  • Ensuring that all remote employees have adequate online access; some workers may have irregular and/or slow systems. Best practices involve equipping these workers with mobile hot spots and/or an associated data plan, which allows mobile users to access a certain amount of data from a wireless provider.
  • Providing suitable work devices to the remote staff; a best practice is for the IT department to survey existing user devices to determine if they are capable for company requirements. This practice has the advantage of being the quickest and least expensive way to get a remote staff up and running, as opposed to outfitting all users with company-supplied devices.
  • Another best practice is to equip users with accessories to provide an optimum experience for remote working such as; a webcam if the worker device does not have one, a high-quality headset with mic, and signage that a user can place near their work area to alert others they are on a conference. These accessories will ensure the best results for clearly understood communication during web or phone conferencing.
  • Safely securing remote access to the company's Virtual Private Network (VPN); best practices achieving this objective include testing all remote devices to ensure the VPN is working reliably, having clear and detailed VPN usage guidelines for remote users, and requiring two-factor authentication (requiring additional information beyond user IDs and passwords) for user access. Because the VPN may allows remote users access into many areas of company data, the practices are key to ensuring secure access to company information.

Research Strategy

A number of sources were used that specifically addressed the IT needs of remote work forces that has arisen from the COVID-19 crisis. No available metrics were found that quantified successes of implementation of these best practices resulting from COVID-19; because the crisis is so recent, possibly not enough time has passed for meaningful metrics to be measured. A search was made to see if success metrics were available for IT best practices from previous crises, such as after 9/11, but no specific metrics could be determined from those searches. Some general metrics on benefits from video conferencing were found and have been provided.
Sources
Sources

From Part 02
Quotes
  • "The business environments of companies around the world are progressively becoming more volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous, often denoted by the acronym ‘VUCA’. As a result, companies experience that their existing business models are increasingly challenged by developments such as swift policy changes, fast macro-economic and social changes as well as disruptive technological innovations and advancements."
  • "In such dynamic environments, the information and intelligence requirements of senior executives to formulate competitive strategies are exacerbated. Senior executives and other decision makers therefore increasingly rely on big data-driven approaches.At the same time, the way individuals, groups, organizations, and industries work and collaborate are being transformed by the capacity to store, communicate, and compute information."
Quotes
  • "NVIDIA EGX was created to meet the growing demand to perform instantaneous, high-throughput AI at the edge — where data is created – with guaranteed response times, while reducing the amount of data that must be sent to the cloud."
  • "By 2025, 150 billion machine sensors and IoT devices will stream continuous data that will need to be processed(1) — orders of magnitude more than produced today by individuals using smartphones. Edge servers like those in the NVIDIA EGX platform will be distributed throughout the world to process data in real time from these sensors."
From Part 05
From Part 06
Quotes
  • "Phone calls and chats are not going to be fast enough,especially with all the home-life distractions. Consider using online platforms for your planning and communications"
Quotes
  • "Remote workers benefit from having a “richer” technology, such as video conferencing, that gives participants many of the visual cues that they would have if they were face-to-face. Video conferencing has many advantages, especially for smaller groups: Visual cues allow for increased “mutual knowledge” about coworkers and also help reduce the sense of isolation among teams. Video is also particularly useful for complex or sensitive conversations, as it feels more personal than written or audio-only communication."
Quotes
  • "Quickly survey or otherwise gather data from the workers included in your remote work strategy and determine where the gaps are. For some workers, be prepared to invest in mobile hot spots and associated data plans."
  • " I advise companies to seriously consider assessing workers existing computing hardware to see if they are capable, as they are least expensive and quickest option to enable for a crash remote work program. "
  • "A high-quality headset or headphones with mic. While workers almost always have headphones, you'd be surprised how many don't have good enough microphones in their headphones for phone or web conferencing."
  • "A webcam for web conferencing, if the worker's base computing device does not have one."
  • "Workers located at home or shared locations are at risk of being disturbed during remote meetings by those around them. Inexpensive On the Air signs with remote controls can be purchased at Amazon and make a real difference in the overall quality of the remote work experience during meetings and at any time"
Quotes
  • "A data plan is an agreement between a mobile carrier and a customer that specifies how much mobile data the user can access, usually per month, for a specific fee."
Quotes
  • "2FA is an extra layer of security used to make sure that people trying to gain access to an online account are who they say they are. First, a user will enter their username and a password. Then, instead of immediately gaining access, they will be required to provide another piece of information"
Quotes
  • " In a survey of 4,700 users, the top benefits of video conferencing were cited as: Increased efficiency and productivity – 94% Increased impact of discussions – 88% Expedited decision-making – 87%"