The ongoing pulse of technological innovation continues to introduce new ways of enhancing business processes. These include augmenting communications within organizations and between companies and consumers, partners and vendors; creating, analyzing and processing new data and information resources; and simply introducing value adding, disruptive forces to traditional business as we know it. An additional factor to consider in this transformational era is that the process has increased in intensity given the recent introduction of the global pandemic that has forced an immediate shift of businesses towards a technological focus.
The rise of cognitive technologies, which incorporates the spectrum of AI, has gained momentum as processing speed of hardware and bandwidth continues to open the gateway for more advanced software based applications. Image and voice recognition, process replication from bots and real time predictive analytics are just some of the components that provide intriguing factors to transform operations across industry sectors.
Adding the Human Element
However, this evolving digital paradigm not only involves technological attributes to conducting commerce but largely entails the human element that is required to combine the power and functionality of these dynamic technologies with other essential factors of production. This combination of resources is essential to providing value to the consumer and the organization by producing innovative ideas to augment the consumption process.
Following the information paradigm shift of the mid 1990s, which involved technological transformations similar to today’s digital pulse, researchers and business leaders quickly realized that technology is simply one attribute of the production process. In order for organizations to achieve success in providing new products and services, several factors of production must be applied in an effective manner. These factors include materials (product subcomponents) skilled labor, social/behavioral and communicative elements, strategic tactics, leadership… and of course….technology.
The Glue that Produces the Transformation
The glue that meshes all the factors of production in a coherent operational entity lies in the know-how of employees that collaborate, communicate and deliberate over information resources to come up with ever more value enhancing ideas. This decision making process entails a knowledge based concept referred to a as Intellectual Capital Management or Knowledge Management. The “IC” of an organization includes the following elements:
- Human Capital (employee skills, know-how)
- Structural Capital (technology/systems, information resources, productive components)
- Social Capital (the way employees work together)
- Relational Capital (the way organizations work with external entities…consumers, vendors, partners)
All the components of IC need to operate as a fine-tuned learning machine. Employees must hone their skills, absorb information, and collaborate with colleagues regarding evolving market trends and new technologies. Upper management must create a collaborative culture, motivate stakeholders and promote the direction of the organization as a learning and collaborative entity to maintain and enhance market share through new ideas.
This process has been a part of traditional management for decades, however the aggressive development of technologies of all types is disrupting the current state of the workforce. New technologies have introduced new resources, functionalities and facilitate new ways of achieving innovation in products and services. All of this requires a workforce with evolving knowledge, skills and perspectives/experience for organizations to effectively harness this phenomenon.
One particular element in the cognitive technology spectrum has promoted perhaps the most disruptive and value creating source in the digital era for which the new worker must adapt, and this is AI. Advanced computational and analytical capabilities of AI introduce three major functionalities that can significantly transform business operations. These include:
- Image and Voice recognition
- Task replication through bots
- Predictive analytics
Other noteworthy technologies (some of which involve elements of AI) include virtual reality, visualization, analytics, information search and retrieval, communication platforms and the list goes on.
All of these are causing disruptions to business models across industries, where organizations must consider how to best implement them in order to deliver convenience and an enhanced experience for the consumer. They must consider new operational systems to streamline communications among internal stakeholders and externally with the marketplace in order to create this fine-tuned learning machine. The new worker needs to become an integral part of a knowledge center. Requirements of the evolving/new workforce include:
-Individual Skills (including the knowledge of both the functionalities and capabilities of technologies with an emphasis on cognitive technologies)
-Diverse team attributes in an optimal combination (stakeholders possessing diverse skills, experience, subject-matter expertise and soft skills including social sensitivity and creativity)
-Modes of communication that consider both face to face and remote communication, considering synchronous and asynchronous elements.
The New Worker is Already Here
The future of work is already being deployed across industries. Consider the use of AI, realignment of experienced subject matter experts and diverse team collaboration incorporated at Mass Mutual to expedite and optimize the insurance underwriting process1. Also consider many new apps that you simply download. These are examples of combinations of knowledge centers that incorporate technology to transform processes. Early adopters/transformers involving a new workforce are more numerous than many realize. Yes, the future of work has begun! For a detailed model that more fully describes the attributes of building a future workforce…see (Kudyba, Fjermestad and Davenport, 2020).
1. Davenport, T. “The Future of Work is Now-The Digital Life Underwriter” Forbes Magazine, October 2019.
2. Kudyba, S. Fjermestad, J and Davenport T. A research model for identifying factors that drive effective decision-making and the future of work, Journal of Intellectual Capital, April, 2020.
3. Stockton, H. Monohan, K. and Filipova, M, “The evolution of work: new realities facing today’s leaders”, Deloitte Insights, Jan, 2018.
Stephan Kudyba is founder of the analytic solutions company, Null Sigma Inc., which focuses on providing strategic analytic solutions for organizations across industry sectors. He is also a professor in the management department at New Jersey Institute of Technology where he teaches courses that address the utilization of IT, advanced quantitative methods, business intelligence, and information and knowledge management to enhance organizational efficiency. He has published seven books and numerous journal and magazine articles on strategic utilization of data, technologies and analytics to enhance organizational productivity and has held management and executive positions in leading organizations. Dr. Kudyba holds an MBA from Lehigh University and PhD in economics from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.