The business world will look very different ten years from now – both technology and labor market experts agree on that.
From automation and artificial intelligence to virtual reality to the highly networked, central digital workplace: The following is a presentation of pioneering technology drivers that will have a significant impact on the future of collaboration.
3D printers build entire houses. Robots produce goods independently. Repetitive tasks, such as in accounting, are automated more and more thanks to innovative smart software solutions. Such application scenarios are no longer a dream of the future. Current software innovations have shown time and again that machines can now do more than just manual, monotonous work. Computers are increasingly able to replace brainpower. They can now independently learn things and skills that previously required a thinking person.
The result: computers and robots are continuously killing jobs. According to Microsoft founder Bill Gates and Tesla and Space X boss Elon Musk, powerful computers, and intelligent robots will increasingly replace human jobs without creating new ones for them to the same extent. Whether intelligent machines will take control of the future and drive people out of factories and city offices or not. The fact is: In the future, people will no longer be the measure of all things at work. We are on the threshold of a new era in which we will be confronted with increasingly smarter machines that can not only learn independently but also think independently.
Automation for the Future of Work
As the most important trend of our time, digitalization has already radically changed the business world. First the PC, then the Internet, later the cloud and social networks, about ten years ago the smartphone, then the smartwatch and other “wearables”, more recently connected everyday devices (Internet of Things) and artificial intelligence. With each of these groundbreaking innovations, the way we work together changes fundamentally.
But digitalization as we understand it today is just the beginning. Automation will play a central role in the private and business environment over the next ten years. The best example is self-driving cars, which have been driving autonomously on public roads for years and which, according to current forecasts, will be standard in ten years.
The automation of production and business processes will continue to prevail everywhere and in every industry – not least in classic office work. As the magazine Wired reported, according to a study by the consulting firm PwC, more than a third of all jobs in Germany could be lost through automation by 2030. Another study, this time from Oxford University, comes to a similar conclusion: By 2030, a good 47 percent of all jobs in the United States could fall victim to automation.
Machine learning and artificial intelligence
Automation is primarily driven by developments in the area of machine learning and artificial intelligence. Thanks to the computing power and storage capacity available today in the cloud and an almost endless amount of data that humans and machines generate and from which computers can learn, software is becoming increasingly intelligent.
Digital assistants such as Siri (Apple), Cortana (Microsoft), and Alexa (Amazon) are already an integral part of everyday life for many users. In the next ten years, such solutions will take on more and more tasks independently and will be integrated into business solutions. The cloud giant Salesforce with its new AI solution for companies Einstein and IBM with Watson already shows that the potential is enormous.
The internet of things
With machine learning, companies will also be able to turn the ever-increasing flood of data into a stream of insights. Because in our increasingly networked world, every digital interaction contributes to an ever-increasing flood of data. Since the beginning of the Internet of Things (IoT), cars, refrigerators, sensors, and even textiles have generated millions and millions of data points. Thanks to intelligent business analytics solutions, companies can now use all of this information, for example, to tailor marketing campaigns to customers, to offer personalized customer service, or to develop more reliable business forecasts.
Virtual and augmented reality
In addition to automation, artificial intelligence and connected devices, virtual and augmented reality are among the most important technology drivers that should determine the future of work in the next ten years. Many researchers are convinced that the technology has already reached the point where the Internet was 30 years ago and the smartphone 10 years ago: on the threshold of mass adoption.
With their new VR products HoloLense and Oculus, Microsoft and Facebook respectively are trying to prove that virtual reality will soon be part of our daily life. According to Marc Zuckerberg, virtual reality is a good candidate to become the next big computing platform. In five to ten years, it will be ready, says the Facebook founder. According to a recent study by Dell, over half of the employees surveyed assume that VR technologies could make online meetings more productive in the future. The generation of millennials is particularly open-minded: 77 percent of the employees born between 1980 and 1999 are ready to accept the new communication channels, according to the study.
Digital workplace as a central working environment
As a result, spatial and temporal barriers will continue to disappear. So instead of being in the office at certain times and fulfilling a fixed number of hours per week, work will be more and more about tasks and projects on which employees can flexibly work on whenever and wherever they feel more productive. Working remotely will no longer be an option for just a few knowledge workers, but for entire workforces across several industries.
In this context, the “Digital Workplace” as a centralized, connected work environment that is available anytime and anywhere will play a critical role. Employees can communicate on a single platform and find all the business documents and information they need to work there. The times when you had to search for a long time or switch between many programs to find the urgently needed document will be a thing of the past.
The “Future of Work” is already practiced in many companies today. Mobile working from anywhere, productive teamwork across time and place boundaries, increasing flexibility with regard to working time and location. This has long been a reality for many employees worldwide. Current trends such as automation, virtual and augmented reality, the Internet of Things, machine learning, and artificial intelligence will further accelerate this development and help companies and employees to become more and more flexible, efficient, and productive.
A central digital workplace, in which all business processes and data are brought together, regardless of whether they are generated by humans or machines, will play a critical role.