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These days, technology change seems to be outpacing the passage of time. Advances are coming at us faster than our ability to keep up. Another year has come and gone; what are we talking about as we look ahead?
How technology is transforming our lives as managers, workers, customers and citizens.
As we at Sutherland look ahead to 2022, there are four tech-related changes that are top of mind for us as an experience-led digital transformation company. Each involves the rapid pace of technology advancement and how we all struggle to keep up — both in the marketplace and in the workplace.
We think these changes should be top of mind for you as well.
Early adopters of rudimentary enterprise artificial intelligence (AI) embedded in ERP or CRM platforms are starting to feel trapped. In 2022, we’ll see organizations take steps to avoid AI lock-in. And for good reason.
AI is extraordinarily complex. When embedded in, say, an ERP system, control, transparency and innovation of the AI is handed over to the vendor — not under the control of the enterprise. It’s a mistake to treat AI as a product or feature. Rather, AI should be thought of as a set of capabilities that can evolve and grow over time.
The state of the art in AI is also advancing rapidly, with new capabilities and continuously improving methods of training algorithms. To get the most powerful results from AI, more enterprises will need to move toward a model of combining different AI capabilities to solve unique business problems or reach desired outcomes.
That means businesses will be looking to spin up more advanced and customizable options — either deprioritizing AI features in their enterprise platforms, or winding down expensive yet basic features altogether.
Today’s chatbots — whether text or voice-based — have proven helpful. But they still have very limited capabilities. Starting soon, however, natural language processing will begin to be overtaken by neural voice software that will provide near real-time natural language understanding (NLU).
These improvements in NLU speed and effectiveness will likely dramatically raise the accuracy and experience quality of conversational AI.
Near real-time NLU will grow a bot’s ability to:
• Comprehend more complex sentence structures• Break down conversations into better understood interactions• Sense emotion and analyze human sentiment• Classify intents to determine what a user is trying to achieve• More quickly detect keywords and recognize the things being spoken about
In short, these improvements will make it possible for more AI-powered chatbots to derive meaning from a conversation the way a human would. And chatbots — whether text- or voice-based — will be able to handle a wider range of tasks as a result.
So, just what will this mean for businesses and the consumers they serve?
It means more effective process automation and greater augmentation of human work. For example, we’ll see gains in the ability of workers to process documents, acceleration in the digitization of handwritten notes and faster — more meaningful — insight into customer sentiment. Capabilities such as real-time language translation or rapid recommendation of responses to customer queries (based on past behavior or skill level) will make human workers more effective and productive.
It also means improvements in customer experience and satisfaction. With near real-time NLU enabling a better human + machine collaboration, a more natural, positive brand experience is sure to follow.
When employees work from anywhere, IT has to deal with traditional cybersecurity threats plus any additional threats resulting from the employees’ physical environment.
For example, if an employee who deals with highly sensitive information is working from home or, say, a coffee shop or other shared group environment, the business not only needs to be concerned about a phishing attack against their employee but also someone looking over that employee’s shoulder or taking a photo of private company or consumer information.
With flexible work models becoming the norm, demand will grow for new approaches to address this pressing risk. Not responding effectively to that risk could be costly to employers in the form of a data breach, not to mention related commercial and reputational damage.
The big work trends everyone is aware of — the shift toward flexible work models, the talent shortage and “The Great Resignation,” the widespread adoption of new collaboration and productivity technologies and the emergence of AI — are all coalescing, with significant implications for recruiting, retention and leadership in 2022.
Employee engagement will take center stage. Businesses will work to retool team leaders with new skills for creating a culture of connectedness, whether those teams are in an office together or working remotely.
That retooling requires a sharpening of soft skills. Empathy will become a more critical leadership skill. The art of conversation, for example, will experience a revival of sorts as a way to build that sense of human connectedness in the workplace.
Leaders who can use and encourage conversation with a focus on employee well-being will foster more engaged, motivated, high-performing teams. Leaders who mainly speak with colleagues and employees exclusively about financial results, business outcomes and KPIs will do so to the detriment of team engagement and effectiveness.