Artificial intelligence, analytics help speed up digital workplace transformation

New study says gaining competitive advantage and improving business processes are among companies' top goals.
Written by Bob Violino, Contributor

Artificial intelligence (AI) and analytics are helping to speed up the pace of digital workplace transformation in industries such as energy and utilities, financial services, manufacturing, and pharmaceuticals, according to a new report from Dimension Data.

Gaining competitive advantage and improving business processes are among the top goals of digital transformation strategies, according to the report, "The Digital Workplace Report: Transforming Your Business," which is based on a survey of 850 organizations in 15 countries.

While AI technology is still in its "infancy," it is sufficiently advanced to be working its way into companies in the form of virtual assistants, Dimension said. Manifested as bots embedded into specific applications, virtual assistants draw on AI engines and machine learning technology to respond to basic queries.

"It's no longer enough to simply implement these technologies," said Krista Brown, senior vice president, group end-user computing at Dimension Data. "Organizations have grown their use of analytics to understand how these technologies impact their business performance.

About three quarters of the organizations surveyed (64 percent) use analytics to improve customer services, and 58 percent use analytics to benchmark their workplace technologies. Thirty percent of organizations said they are far along in their digital transformation initiatives and are already reaping the benefits.

Others are still in the early stages of creating a plan. One factor that could be holding some companies back from deploying a digital workplace is their corporate culture. In a lot of cases, technology and corporate culture inhibit rather than encourage workstyle change, the report noted.

Still, the top barrier to successful adoption of new workstyles was IT issues. The complexity of the existing IT infrastructure can present a huge hurdle to implementing new collaboration and productivity tools to support flexible workstyles, Brown said. Successful transformations are achieved when IT works closely with line-of-business leaders, she said.

IT leaders in the survey were asked to rank which technologies were most important to their digital workplace strategies, and they most often cited communications and collaboration tools, as well as business applications. Half said conferencing systems have resulted in business processes that have become much more streamlined and effective.

"The digital workplace is transforming how employees collaborate, how customers are supported, and ultimately how enterprises do business," the report said. "However, the digital workplace is not a destination that most--or many--enterprises have arrived at. It is a journey that enterprises have started to take and that remains ongoing."

Making workplace technologies available to employees and other stakeholders, while important, should not be the first step, Dimension said. "Actually improving processes is a complicated set of tasks that requires more than an investment in new technology."

Results from the study show that a successful digital workplace effort starts with a comprehensive strategy that a company's leadership team has carefully defined. Along the way, new technology is deployed and new working practices are introduced.

"A successful digital transformation strategy also must have clear and measurable goals from the start and must receive continued support throughout its implementation from heads of business units across the enterprise," the report said. "IT departments then need to make sure that the right digital tools are being made available to the right set of workers, and that those workers understand how best to use them."

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