The Man and the Machine and the impact on the Future of Work
Blog: End to End BPM
Companies, “expect to hire wholly new permanent staff already possessing skills relevant to new technologies; seek to automate the work tasks concerned completely; and retrain existing employees. The likelihood of hiring new permanent staff with relevant skills is nearly twice the likelihood of strategic redundancies of staff lagging behind in new skills adoption. However, nearly a quarter of companies are undecided or unlikely to pursue the retraining of existing employees, and two-thirds expect workers to adapt and pick up skills in the course of their changing jobs. Between one-half and two-thirds are likely to turn to external contractors, temporary staff and freelancers to address their skills gaps.”
I was invited as a speaker to the Halliburton Life conference in Abu Dhabi. One of the trends I noticed – as part of the reinforcement on how intrusive artificial intelligence is enabling a new set of possibilities, like for example, improving decision making in terms of financial impact while making seismic data interpretation in terms of addressing exploration and production viability – is how hard is for individuals with strong domain expertise to work. I heard during sessions people expressing frustration on manipulation data sets, being not able to work of the same updated version of a data set, becoming unproductive waiting weeks for results and deal with uncertainty.
I am having a series of meetings with HR function and I’ve been told that the way people work is becoming frustrating and unproductive, despite all ubiquity of cloud, social, bring your own software / device or putting into a different perspective, it is not achieving the expected results. There was definitively productivity improvements, mostly in terms of mobility, meaning individuals can work anywhere at their pace, have access to information they commonly use on every day. However, mirroring self-expression, self-development (be digital ready), achieving a true networked work environment – far from being reached, companies with workforce size higher than 5.000 individuals find how difficult it is to reach out experts, knowing what is happening across domain of expertise which people operate, be part of working groups to construct new identities to replace old ones, avoiding to become redundant as a way of personal fulfilment – and ultimately, how technology ubiquity is bringing lack of integration, distraction shifting our attention on meaningful activities. As an example, people envision a future which individuals participate in a meeting, don’t need to search for meeting content in “teams workspace”, don’t need to connect to a projector, don’t need to write meeting notes, spark and track action items.
- Slow decision making and limited agility;
- Employees being over-managed;
- It was possible to gain more than 300 FTEs worth of time by rethinking how work and management is distributed;
- Cross-functional processes becoming bloated and expensive.
3 pillars of Human Led Design
To address this, it is necessary to rethink how technology should pursue a human led design strategy:
- Help people achieve what is important to them. This something that during all the years companies have worked in operational improvement did not fully deliver. For example, can’t we let people organize and define their own User Interface in a way they will focus on what is really most important to them?
- Building relationships. There is an intense debate on methods to discover how to get to know individuals and understand their real needs and wants based on trust, re-quoting Elizabeth Tunstall that provides an interesting perspective, as our universal individuality is cannot separated by the sacred, profane and spirituality, instead of creating personas framed on a stereotypes which we must be forced to fit.
- Design technology that seamlessly integrates into the human world. Design for the capabilities and limitations of the human body. Adjust to the human needs dictated by the physical conditions of an environment or device. For example, designing an application to be operated in an explosive and noisy environment is different for designing the same solution to be operated in a control center.
- Digital assistants may include a digital shadow that will observe behaviors, build and maintain work preference rules, search information, predict and remind you about important actions to accomplish based on the nature of the work you are working on.
- Unified interactions allows employees to take actions on tasks, gain access to the data feeds they follow, collaborate with other individuals, all without ever leaving a single customized interface according his needs and wants, instead of jump from application to application.
- Digital upskilling is about training the workforce, with content hyper-personalization based on a role definition execution requisites and performance review feedback. In a world that is becoming digital, the workforce is must be digital ready instead of digital impaired.
- Collaboration (at large) as a digital extension of individuals senses, contextual knowledge support it serves as an interface for humans to the physical world. Enhance the user’s surroundings with relevant, and/or actionable information, using as an example, mixed reality to augment our ability to perform.
- Reasoning leveraged on recommendation agents based on past interactions and other sources of information to jump-start and kick-off knowledge-oriented activities. Incorporate specialized Artificial Intelligence technologies processing functions tuned specifically to answer questions, create models, to support decision making.
You can’t optimize for everyone, but it is worth making a profound change happen in our working habits this will help organizations that they cannot digitally transform unless people do.
 I am Microsoft employee when this post was written.