A seismic shakeup of the workplace is underway. A little over a century ago, electricity completely transformed manufacturing and the World. Whereas steam power had helped spur the Industrial Revolution long before the development of electric power, it's the advent of electricity that ushered in manufacturing productivity on previously unimaginable scales—and entire industries were created in the process. In a way, the history of electricity is the history of modern society.
Now, fast forward to our modern world, digital technology is on the precipice of transforming society and the economy pretty much the same way electricity transformed manufacturing. Today, businesses need to reshape their structure and operations to survive, much less thrive in this second machine age. Technology is advancing at an unprecedented rate, and organisations and human institutions are struggling to keep apace.
A decade from now, your workplace will perhaps be completely unrecognisable. This really isn't news, considering how rapidly technology and employment dynamics are reshaping organisations. And therein lies the challenge. Business leaders must figure out how to align business, organisation, and technology to capture value from these changes.
A New Era in Work
The future of work has arrived much earlier than expected to the dismay of many. The impact of COVID-19 was both immediate and far-reaching, spreading across economic, demographic, and geographic realms at the same time. The pandemic pushed organisations into unchartered waters forcing companies to rapidly migrate to digital technologies at a historic, unprecedented rate. And this is just the beginning.
To recover from the pandemic, companies must further accelerate their digital technologies. Organisations must leverage technology and innovation to produce lasting change and support recovery. Never before has there been a time in which tech leaders have been so pivotal to their organisation's future.
Businesses must now switch focus from surviving to thriving. The question now facing business leaders Worldwide is, "Where do you want to go, and how will you get there?" While every organisation is different and will face its own unique challenges, there's one common denominator: every company must redefine the human dimension of work.
Reimagining the Role of Technology
In the wake of COVID-19, one thing is clear: every company must become a tech-enabled company. As the pace, scale, and impact of technological innovation escalate, how do you become a tech empowered company?
Here's how you can keep ahead of the changes.
1. Use data analytics, robotic process automation (RPA) and machine learning (ML) to improve data accuracy and increase process efficiency
It's no secret that companies must adopt a "data-driven" approach to operational decision-making if they're to remain competitive. Data can improve decision-making, and for this to be the case, it requires the right processor. But the processor doesn't always need to be human. Leveraging RPA and ML to automate manual data processing is a good first step, digitising data collection improves speed to serve and enables quicker business decision-making.
2. Refocus digital efforts toward changing customer expectations
Organisations must assess the needs and behaviours of their customers and whether or not they have changed. COVID-19 has changed the way customers interact with brands and this has led to a considerable shift in consumer habits. No doubt this will persist long after the pandemic has passed. Almost all product touchpoints are now digital, and companies must adapt accordingly.
3. Invest for business value
The technology stack is ever-expanding, and companies must selectively modernise their tech capabilities. IT cost management is a significant concern for companies worldwide, especially considering that most economies are in a downturn as a result of the global pandemic. Companies must cost-effectively accelerate digital transformation. Investing in customer-facing digital solutions that support and grow the top line. Simultaneously, looking to upgrade legacy infrastructures and operating systems, where appropriate and practical moving away from on-premise data centres to cloud-based hosting companies and harnessing Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications.
4. Embrace agile organisational models
Remote working can help organisations tap into new talent pools that include remotely located specialist expertise. Technology has empowered the ability to communicate and collaborate remotely, and businesses can now thrive by harnessing the potential of remote teams. Remote working is here to stay, and organisations must embrace a more agile operating model if they want to take advantage of a wider talent pool.
5. A Human Touch
In the past year, companies have quickly moved to bridge digital business gaps to better support their customers and employees. A lot has been said about the future of work in terms of three interconnected dimensions: the workforce, work, and the workplace. Whereas companies have focused on the technological implications of these three dimensions, one crucial piece is missing from this framework, and that's the human dimension.
See, humanising the future of work is not about finding a place for people in a machine-riddled world. Instead, it's about creating a landscape where human potential can thrive in a technology-driven world. By shifting how you think about work and using technology to elevate human capabilities, you can create an environment where people are empowered with the tools and culture to reach their future potential.
There are three crucial elements to humanising the future of work:
1. Redefine work, organisational aspirations, and outcomes, and produce a playbook for future disruptions
2. Unleash the workforce – Use technology to enable and elevate human potential
3. Adapt the workplace by structuring your workplace to centre on collaboration, engagement, and communication. An expanded work environment comes with organisational and cultural shifts.
Crises, like the coronavirus pandemic, are catalysts for innovation. To thrive in the face of disruptions, companies must act and act quickly. The dawning digital age calls for resilience and agility. Companies must support and enhance the workforce and secure technology to thrive in the new work environment. The future is here. It's time to embrace change and expect it.
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