Imagine this scenario: Margaret comes into work on Monday, and within an hour, she chats with an online bot to help answer her health insurance questions, uses the speech-to-text function on her mobile phone to send an email to a co-worker and remotely adjusts the thermostat in her office while sitting in a chilly meeting room. These three seemingly routine activities each support the notion that the broader world of artificial intelligence (AI) is everywhere, and are increasingly present in the digital workplace.
“Over the next decade, AI will offer employees unprecedented information awareness and insight, freedom from low-value-add activities and the ability to easily use complex technologies,” says Bern Elliot, Distinguished VP Analyst, Gartner.
What does AI look like in a digital workplace?
The term “artificial intelligence” covers a broad and continuously evolving range of technologies in the digital workplace. For most individuals, search engines are the most common and well-known exposure to advanced AI. Each time employees use Google, AI helps improve their search results while also tracking their activity. Amazon’s Alexa and other virtual personal assistants are also common instances of AI. Many employees will often be exposed to AI services without even knowing it, especially as organisations start to resemble digital workplaces.
Applications pertaining to cloud, collaboration, human resources, knowledge management and meeting facilitation, to name a few, will all soon contain AI-based features. “This slow but steady introduction of AI services will expose the workforce to the benefits — and limitations — of AI in the context of everyday work,” says Elliot.
Everyday AI in the digital workplace
The digital workplace will benefit by leveraging “everyday AI” — services that employees will recognise as mere feature upgrades within existing workplace applications. Everyday AI will come in the form of improved personalisation, recommendations and alerts, augmenting the tasks that employees already perform rather than creating new ways to do them.
“Everyday AI in the digital workplace can be thought of as a starter kit for longer-term, targeted AI investment,” says Elliot. “We anticipate the greatest source of everyday AI will come from SaaS applications that have the largest penetration rates in the business and government markets.”
Why is everyday AI in the digital workplace so important?
It’s hard to overestimate the long-term impact of AI on employee digital dexterity. Everyday AI brings steady but substantial value to organisations, increasing employee efficiency while also providing cost savings. It does not disrupt employee work and avoids the hesitation brought on by the introduction of new AI process initiatives.
Google Assistant, for instance, was a simple adjustment within Gmail that suggests email responses for users and saves them time. By the same token, virtual meeting solutions can identify appropriate attendees, build a meeting agenda and track action items. Most importantly, though, they can reduce unnecessary meetings, which elevates the employee experience.