The Future of Work Predictions That Will Shape Your Digital Workplace

Future of work predictions – creating the employee experience your workers deserve in a time of uncertainty


I think it’s fair to say that in many ways, we’re all at the cross roads of an unprecedented time in the enterprise workplace. The workforce spans more generations than ever before, a growing number of workers spend their time in locations other than a traditional office, and the unemployment rate is at historic lows.

So what’s the best path forward to navigate these challenges while still building a digital workplace that increases productivity, reduces frustration and supports business growth?

To shed a little light on that question, we talked with top experts about the big issues that will impact the digital workplace in the coming decade. Here’s who those experts are and what they had to say…


The Panelists

Brett CaldonBrett CaldonCEO, Workgrid Software
[blog] John Ingham 200John InghamPeople & Organisation Strategy Consultant
[blog] gillian mccann 200Gillian McCannCTO, Workgrid Software
SharonODeaSharon O’DeaCo-Founder, Lithos Partners


Questions #1 - What do you think are going to be the biggest changes to how organizations function, and what role with technology play?

Dom Nicastro:

So let’s kick things off with our first question. We're already a few weeks in to 2020 -- what do you think are going to be the biggest changes to how organizations function, and what role will technology play?

Let’s toss this one over first to Gillian. Gillian, it's all you.

Gillian McCann:

Okay. Well I think we're going to see an increase in awareness of the importance of employee experience.

When you think about generational social shifts and how we use technology every day, I think the next generation of workers are really going to expect to see that consumer technology that they're used to as an automatic part of the workplace. I’d also say we're going to see a continued trend towards more remote work, with the expectation and the ability to work from anywhere. So organizations are going to need to work on providing a consistent user experience to employees, regardless of their work environment.

Source: https://www.smallbizgenius.net/by-the-numbers/remote-work-statistics/#gref

I mean, I personally have worked in a global distributed team for over 20 years. I'm a firm believer that the person best suited to a job or role may not necessarily be sitting beside you. So I'm hoping advances in technology such as automatic language translation will really open up opportunities to leverage talent globally and create a more diverse workforce.

And when we think about the future of AI and how we can augment our digital workers, how can we help automate repetitive tasks and really connect our workers together? The reality is, employees’ expectations of technology are only going to increase. They're going to expect those personalized and contextualized enhancements to be available within the workplace. Organizations really need to think about a strategy to deliver that for the next generation of workers.


Dom Nicastro:

I'm sure a lot of folks will be happy to hear that you think AI is going to help us contextually versus replacing workers -- that's good news.

Gillian McCann:

Yes, definitely. I think some of that is really around expectations of what artificial intelligence can do today -- you know, pragmatic uses. I don't think we're going to have robots sitting beside us in the next few years. It’s more about how we can use artificial intelligence and machine learning to really help our workers by automating some of the simpler tasks that are a distraction from high-value work.

Dom Nicastro:

So I'm so happy you brought that up. It's easy to say workers just want to get the work done, they don't care what technologies they’re going to deal with. But as a reporter for CMS Wire, my number one story this year was how AI is helping enable human resources. So this is an issue of big interest to people. So good stuff Gillian, thanks for sharing your thoughts. Now I want to kick things over to Jon with the same question. Jon – big changes the next decade. How will technology fit in?

Jon Ingham:

Thanks, Dom. Firstly I do agree with Gillian, particularly regarding the impact of AI.

So, the question is about how organizations will need to change. Coming from HR as well as organizational design, I do think its important context to recognize that the organizations we’re working in are already changing very broadly.

There’s a lot of focus on purpose, moving towards greater sustainability and the people stakeholder group in particular, and so you know, I'm working with lots of organizations to become truly people centric or human centric and putting the people at the center of what they're about. And of course, the people are changing with a move to different workforce categories such as contingent workers and so on.

Source: https://www.hrmagazine.co.uk/article-details/the-role-of-people-centric-groups-in-organisation-design

I think relationships are becoming much more important. So a lot of my work these days, along with my recent book “The Social Organization,” are all about investing, not just in the people themselves, but the connections, the relationships, the conversations -- all the social capital between people.

Investment in fixed assets are also going down, so perhaps the physical workplace is becoming less important as work arrangements become more flexible and the structure of organizations is changing as well. So, building on hierarchical functions -- which personally I don't think are ever going to go away -- but adding to those in terms of communities, networks, project teams, and particularly agile teams. So lots of changes in the rest of the organization. And I think that's important because I also think that what we do in technology and particularly the digital workplace needs to respond to and align with all of those other broader changes. So if people are becoming more people-centric, the digital workplace also becomes more important.

But we also need to think about how we respond to all of those different stakeholder groups. We need to respond to the growing importance of relationships and think about how we use the digital workplace to help people connect across the organization. We need to think about how we fill the hole that the declining importance of the physical workplaces is leaving and take more of the weight that that used to take itself. And in terms of structures -- this is one of my key perspectives in this whole topic -- we need to see the digital workplace as part of an organizational model and ensure that our workplace aligns with all of those other elements of the organization. So for example, if we're focused on agile teams, our digital workplace needs to emphasize sharing within a team, with synchronous chat functionality and those sorts of things.

So the technology changes are really, really exciting, but I still think the organizational context is, if anything even more important.


Question #2 - How will organizations adapt to support the growing trend of remote work and continue to foster a sense of corporate community?


Dom Nicastro:

Thanks Jon. Let's move on to question number two. So the question is, how will organizations adapt to support the growing trend of remote work and continue to foster a sense of corporate community? Sharon, let’s start with you on this.

Sharon O’Dea:

This is a great question, especially since I'm working from my kitchen right now. Actually, I've worked in a number of kitchens over the last decade or so. Remote work is one of the areas where, when we talk about the future of work, what we're actually talking about is an interplay between what's happening with technology but also what's happening with the broader society. That's everything from an aging population to the changing property market that means people live further from their workplace. But the technology is really enabling us to feel much more connected. If you think about the tools we use back in 2012, they were pretty clunky, particularly if you were trying to do something by video. But now they’re really innate and ingrained into the way that we get things done.

But remote work isn't simply about the technology. It has to be much more around how we enable organizations to work effectively when employees are distributed.


We're starting to see more and more organizations becoming remote first, but that's not simply about giving people the tools, but actually thinking about how those tools are used, looking at the actual user needs and the processes that are used, so that we aren’t just recreating the tasks that we do now but almost reinventing the way work gets done.


The tools that enable us to work remotely are getting better all the time, but how do we then enable people to feel connected to the organization? I've read some stats recently that claim that something like half of all knowledge workers will be working remotely within the next 10 years. I've noticed a definite shift over the last, perhaps two to three years where people used to, you know, do a day a week at home, but now the balance has shifted so they do a day a week in the office. And again, back to Jon's point, what does that mean for the future of the office?


But actually, we need to think about management and training as well. How do we support managers to work with remote teams? I know I've worked with some clients over the last couple of years where we really had to think about everything, right from the language that we used to do we have a two tier workforce where we refer to people who work at the headquarters differently than people working remotely. Actually some organizations are starting to switch that around to focus on the activity and not the place that work is being done.

Another area that I think is quite interesting is how do we recreate the tacit learning that you get from working in an office when you can’t overhear the person next to you and ask them questions, absorbing things without even really realizing. How do we make sure that people are able to do that at distance and at scale? So there's lots of questions that we haven't quite figured out. The tools, I think, enable us to tackle some of them, but we now have to address a lot of those cultural questions and process questions, I think.

Dom Nicastro:

Sharon I love your points on culture. Culture is so key. And it really starts at the top, which segues into Brett. Brett you see this from all kinds of angles because your company has built a product that supports a strong corporate culture in this age of remote work – but you’re also a CEO and have to think about the culture of your own organization.

Brett Caldon:

I agree with the cultural thing entirely. Having a sense of community and connectedness, whether you’re working in an office or remotely, is incredibly important and it just makes sense to use technology to make that happen.

As we consider these issues in the context of remote work, there are a few other important aspects to keep in mind. One is institutional knowledge, which is similar to the point about tacit learning that Sharon mentioned. That’s a critical component of employee experience and the ability to assimilate into a company. You can’t turn around and ask someone a question or have any kind of watercooler interactions with people when you’re virtual, so technology has to step in to help bridge that gap.

There’s also the fact that work is no longer a straight 9-5 thing anymore. Whether someone works remotely or in an office, technology has enabled work to be done anywhere, so it’s becoming blended with our personal lives.


Remote work is also bringing about changes with the evolution of the flexible workspace. Since it’s so easy to work remotely, there’s less of a need to make sure every employee has an assigned desk because there are simply fewer people in the office every day. That’s driving a shift towards employees signing up for desk space when they need it. That’s a huge change to how companies have traditionally managed their physical workspace.


So we're going to see some really cool stuff happen there, and I'm excited to look into the future at the technological changes taking place. We’re already seeing advancements in augmented reality that would go a long way towards bringing a sense of community and continuity together for folks who are working anywhere in a distributed workforce.

Dom Nicastro:

Thank you, Brett. Let’s give the final word on this question number to Jon. Jon, what are your thoughts?

Jon Ingham:

I agree with everything that’s been said about the importance of culture, although personally I tend to focus on social capital rather than culture. I find it a more useful area to focus, trying to understand what we're creating in terms of the connections, relationships, and conversations and then designing for that. But it's a similar type of approach.


I think, in a sense, that this is a bigger issue. I mean I agree, the move towards remote workers is important. I'm actually in our family room today but I normally work in the kitchen, so you know, I'm another example of the shift that’s taking place.


There’s a lot going on. You've got the extension into new workforce categories, including contingent workers and different categories of contingent workers, and you've got the whole shift towards flexible working. And, yeah, different generations, different nations. So much change in our workforce. And we need to take account of all of those sort of things. And so I do think remote work is important, but perhaps let's extend that agenda.

I love Sharon's suggestion around sort of designing for digital first and avoiding the two-tier workforce. I think that's really important. And, again, I think we can do that across the whole organization, not just through the technology, which I guess links to that cultural point. And to me, it's really going to town on things like purpose, relatedness, and belonging, and trying deliberately to build the sort of organization where people will feel compelled to work, rather than struggling to get out of bed every morning because they don't really want to go in. A lot of that is really simple. And, you know, things like social clubs, just to get people together to talk about non-work things I think are really useful -- not very strategic but very effective.

The last organization design project I did involved moving people all around the building. The simplest, most effective thing I did for that was to put people's photos up by the lift, so that if people working on a different floor went to see a different place, they would know who the people around them would be. And so these simple things can be extended to the digital workplace as well.

I do think building a sense of community across a whole organization, if it's a big organization, is a really big ask. So the other thing that I would try to add to that, and builds on one of the points I made in the last question, is also using smaller communities within the organization. You know, a group of 50 people, you can really develop a deep sense of community, and if you've got numbers of communities, then that will spread and provide a feel of community across the whole organization. And I do think that communities within online social networking systems for example, help, but I think it's more than that. I think it's about ensuring that communities are resourced and supported and are seen as an important part of the organization.

And I mean it’s also one of the things that HR is doing some really good work on. So things like employee resource groups, for example, getting people from different minority groups together to share their issues to take their needs to the rest of the organization. There's lots of good learning about how to do that sort of thing. And it can be extended really really simply into things like a community or employee resource type group for remote workers. It’s exactly the same principles -- getting them together to support each other and share their perspectives across the organization.

This is a really, really important issue. One of the other things I do a lot on is sort of organization development interventions across the whole organization. So bringing people together physically to perhaps solve a problem or something but also to develop the relationships, and again develop that sense of community, and some really vital things. But again if you can get people having that sort of conversation within a digital workplace. It's like doing one of those facilitated sessions every day.

So, the digital workplace is a huge, huge enabler for organization development and organization effectiveness. And I think sometimes we don't push the agenda, we don't use the workplace as much as perhaps we should do.

Dom Nicastro:

Excellent Jon, thanks for that very much. Sharon, you wanted to weigh in on one brief point?

Sharon O’Dea:

I just want to say, one of the things I think we really need to address in all this is the fact that traditionally we have looked at how we provide tools, and how we support workers, just by the tasks that they do. But I think in the future we need to take much more of a kind of user research, user needs approach.


We need to think about things like what stage of a career someone is in and whether potentially someone may have been remote since the beginning of their career, and or at least remote with you for the entire time they work with you. We really need to understand the kind of full picture of how those people work, rather than falling into the trap of thinking, you know, that person is a remote worker -- therefore all remote workers need the same thing. Career workers who are remote often need very different support structures, tools, and communities than those who are experienced professionals. So I guess what I'm leading to with this is, if we're going to make remote work “work,” and I think we have to do that in the future of work, we need to take a much, much bigger focus on truly understanding user needs and taking a much more nuanced picture of what those needs are rather than lumping people in around the kind of work that they do.

"...if we're going to make remote work “work,” and I think we have to do that in the future of work, we need to take a much, much bigger focus on truly understanding user needs and taking a much more nuanced picture of what those needs are rather than lumping people in around the kind of work that they do. "


Question #3 - How will organizations tackle the challenge of creating personalized digital experiences for each employee?


Dom Nicastro:

Excellent Sharon, thanks for those final thoughts. Moving on to question three: How will organizations tackle the challenge of creating personalized digital experiences for each employee? How about we go to Gillian to start that one. Gillian?

Gillian McCann:

Yeah, I think this follows on from what Sharon was saying. It's really understanding the user as an individual, not as their job role or the remote worker. Little things play into the experience, so the first step is really understanding personas like that to see how you can improve the digital workplace experience. To really provide a personalized experience, you need to be thinking about the data that you have to understand employees better. Like who they are, their needs and their context in each moment.


It's quite a hard thing to do, so I just wanted to give a bit of an example. Earlier we talked about personas, but you know that's really quite static information. You really need to be more dynamic and have contextual information at the point in time that say, your employee is asking a question. So there are chatbots in HR, chatbots in employees workspaces – there’s a proliferation of chatbots and there's a bit of hype around them. But when you think about it, if we take an example of an employee chat bot and you ask about an expense limit for daily expenses or per diem, context is key in that conversation. If you asked a person, think of all the implied questions and assumed knowledge that they have to give you the correct answer. So things like, who is asking? Well it's me, Gillian. What office location? Well I’m based Belfast in Northern Ireland, but actually, I've traveled to visit Brett in Boston so I’m not in my normal place. And what about my job role? There are potentially limits based on my grade.


So that's the type of contextual information in the moment that we really try to bring to Workgrid so that we can deliver the right answer, because the answer for me might not be the answer for the person beside me because I am an individual.

Source: https://www.gartner.com/smarterwithgartner/chatbots-will-appeal-to-modern-workers/

It really is about understanding my needs at that time as Sharon was saying. That can be quite hard to achieve. And obviously it's the continued improvement in areas of artificial intelligence like natural language processing that really helps understand that but also machine learning to really understand patterns of usage.

So I am very technology focused. That’s my role so I mean I always think ahead. I'm always looking at what's happening in research around AI. You know, is there going to be a concept such as personalized artificial intelligence? I mean there is research at the moment about how to compress really large-scale models that run in the cloud today. Are we able to deliver them on personal devices? Are we actually going to have personalized machine learning models that are, you know, specific to me? Those are the types of things that I think about -- how we can use technology to really deliver the kind of experience that we all want.

Dom Nicastro:

Gillian, thank you very much for that. Personalized digital experiences for employees, Jon. Where do organizations start? How can they get it done?

Jon Ingham:

It is a big task and firstly, I loved Gillian's point around individuals -- I do think that is important.

If we only think about a person as an employee, when we think about their experience, it's not going to be as effective or holistic enough. And, you know, whenever HR talks about “candidates” or “learners” or IT talks about “users” -- or my favorite of all is when Property talked about “seats,” it doesn't go down very well in the workforce. So yeah, let's talk about people, particularly when we're talking about their experience. And if we can -- and I know that a digital experience will perhaps be the only experience that people have if they're working remotely -- but for most people in the office, it’s the broader experience, with the digital experiences as part of that. So the more we can think about that, that full rounded experience, I think the more opportunity we have to respond to people's individual needs.


Again, I think we can do that, outside the technology, and so that sort of move towards customization that's been going on for some time, I think is really important. In fact, just going back to Sharon's point about people at different stages in their careers. I did a project at the end of last year on performance management, looking at segmenting and differentiating the approach according to how long somebody's been inside an organization, the different roles they were working on, and their different propensity to invest in their own development as well. And so that's sort of a move towards different nuanced approaches, I think it's really important.

But then outside the technology, it's difficult to do much more. You know you can customize, but you can't really personalize to an individual. So I do think that is a unique opportunity to use the digital workplace, and the data that’s available, use of algorithms, increasingly AI, to learn about way the individuals are interfacing with the organization, then deliver something to them that is truly personalized. It's hugely important. And again, I think that first place to start is just thinking about that full experience from the individual’s perspective.

Dom Nicastro:

It's all about getting to the Netflix of the workplace, right Jon?

Jon Ingham:

You never know, maybe we'll get to that point.

Dom Nicastro:

Before we move on I just want to give Brett one more chance to add some comments. Brett, what say you?

Brett Caldon:

Personalization is key to a good employee experience, but what’s also important is removing friction in employees’ day-to-day work. Because of all the silos in most organizations, employees often have to deal with dozens of systems just to get their work done. In addition to using data to create contextual, personalized experiences, it’s also important to create a simplified, unified experience that does away with all the fragmentation. Focus on this is already underway with the creation of roles like Chief Experience Officer, so it’s really going to be a movement to rein in the more horizontal experience and address the 360 degree aspect of employees’ day.


Question #4 - What do you think will be the biggest and best use cases of AI in the workplace in this new decade?


Dom Nicastro:

Thanks for the add Brett. Now on to question four. What do you think will be the biggest and best use cases of AI in the workplace in this new decade? I'm going to start with Sharon on that one

Sharon O’Dea:

So we know that these technologies often have a bit of a lag getting into the workplace. But I actually think we're starting to see them become incorporated into the tools that we use every day, which is great to see.


I'm on the industry body for communicators in the UK, the Chartered Institute for Public Relations. We've got an AI in PR panel so we're actually looking at the role that AI is playing within the communications industry. For instance, we did a study and asked communicators whether they were already using AI in a limited sense as part of their communications role. We also asked people to forecast where they think it's going to go in five years’ time. What was interesting there is, there was a lot of consensus around the fact that it’s starting to replace the things that we're doing with analysis, forecasting, and measurement -- ultimately things that we just not very good at as humans, like passing huge volumes of data. That allows us to get on with the things that we'd much rather be doing. We can start to extrapolate that across other use cases in the workplace. There are things that are quite frankly beneath us, things like transcribing or taking notes. Why do I need to touch six different systems to book a meeting room or find out when three different people are free?


So, those are things that are already common in the workplace. I think it will take probably until the middle of the decade for them to be really ingrained into the way that we get things done. And so I think it's really about making us more effective rather than robots taking our jobs. It can augment our skills but enable us to get on with those things that we are much better at doing as human beings, you know, things that require empathy, creativity, and so forth.


And so by taking on all that heavy lifting, it enables us to sort of simplify and streamline the user experience in the workplace. So for me, I guess the biggest three trends will be:

1. Bringing together things in the context in which we need them
2. Streamlining and simplifying the workplace
3. Getting rid of a lot of the grunt work that frankly we wouldn't want to do anyway

Dom Nicastro:

Sharon, thank you very much. Gillian, why don’t you weigh in on that one? I know you're very invested in the arena of AI.


Gillian McCann:

Yes. So actually, I agree with a lot of points Sharon made. I think we're coming out of a bit of a hype cycle around artificial intelligence. And I think in the next few years we're just going to see a more pragmatic and realistic expectation of what can be achieved, where artificial intelligence is talked about more as augmented intelligence, because human intelligence is far superior. But yes we can train the machines and narrow domains to be more productive, like the translation, transcription and notetaking we talked about.


And then really, the aim of that is to reduce the time spent on those specific tasks because, you know, people are too valuable to waste time. We have other things that we can do. And like I said, I call that practical or everyday AI. We’re starting to see it, you know, suggesting responses to emails or other wee small things. I think you’re going to gradually see more and more products that have that type of capability built in.

Source: https://www.accenture.com/_acnmedia/pdf-77/accenture-research-conversational-ai-platforms.pdf


The three areas of artificial intelligence, which is a massive field, that will see the biggest areas of growth I think we’ll be things in computer vision, conversational AI, and machine learning. Those will really start to improve employee experience.

But to bring that down a wee bit more into the sub phase and you know, the types of use cases you might see, such as speech recognition and natural language understanding -- you know, the conversational agents, chat bots, question answering and document comprehension. Search is not solved. You know, how artificial intelligence and machine learning can be applied to search demand is really interesting to me because actually what we're talking about there is machines understanding human language. You know, understanding and extracting data out of documents so that instead of giving you a link to the policy, the technology can actually read the policy and extract the paragraph or sentence that gives you the answer you need. So we're seeing a lot of those more productive or productivity sort of gains. They’re small things, you know. Instead of spending five minutes trying to find what you need on the Intranet, you can refer to a chatbot with magic search capabilities and find it in seconds. Those time savings add up across your day. It's not about the robot beside you, as I said before, it's about augmenting the human intelligence that we all have.

And really what we're seeing is the increased power of the open source research and things like Natural Language Processing, and also the computing power, even on your mobile device. It’s just increasing so much that we're able to take technology that maybe used to sit in a research lab 10 years ago into the workplace. And then we talk about machine learning and predictions on being able to actually understand more based on patterns of use. And on the knowledge, as I say, the personalized knowledge of the employee as an individual and make suggestions and be proactive. I think proactive assistance is definitely something we're going to see a lot more of.


But just something we have to think about is, as we bring this type of technology into the workplace -- product design itself needs to change. You know, we need to think about how to bring things like voice and multimodal and interactive capabilities into the things that we deliver into the workplace. And to go back to the one of the initial points is, employees are probably going to start to expect that, because they're used to talking to machines.

But there are things I think in general around artificial intelligence that requires more discussion. You know, how do you scale AI into product? It’s not just a research thing or a toy, it's used by millions. That actually changes engineering itself and how we build some of these things.

I also think it’s really important, like we talk about machine learning and supervised machine learning using historical data. Is there bias in the historical data? Are the models that we're going to build actually going to, you know, perpetuate societal bias within that? So I think there are general points around AI, not so much digital workplace but just in general. I think we're going to be more focused on ethics, on policy, and regulation potentially.

Dom Nicastro:

Jon, you wanted to add in a little bit about how AI is going to impact HR. Go ahead….

Jon Ingham:

But it's really that point that Gillian just made, the key one for HR is, as you know, it's very difficult, impossible, to be unbiased as a human. AI clearly finds it difficult at the moment as well. I'm sure everyone's heard of some of the cases where attempts to reduce bias through AI have not worked.

But, you know, there are things we can do to reduce bias in humans in terms of assessment, learning, behavioral nudges, those sort of things. But it's difficult to do that much. Whereas, I think currently, it’s more difficult to remove bias from AI, but it's possible to do. So when we get to the point that we can do that, we can hopefully make totally or very nearly unbiased decisions, which humans are never going to be able to do so there's that unique sweet spot for AI there as well.


Question #5: - What does the future of the intranet look like in the next 3/5/10 years? Will they even exist in a decade?


Dom Nicastro:

Awesome, thank you Jon for that addition. And let's move on to the next one. I'll start with Brett on this one. What does the future of the intranet look like in the next 3/5/10 years? Will they even exist in a decade? What do you think….?

Brett Caldon:

There's a lot of talk about, you know, are Intranets dead? Yeah, the answer is no. They're not. I think what you're going to see is a continuation of what's happening now. We've seen industry trends going from real intranet- driven societies to now digital workplace societies. So the view of what that capability is is broadening for employees.

You know when you started in the early intranet days, it was about knowledge management. It was about information taxonomy of documents, finding things out about the company and things like that. You know, the rise of social and mobile and all the other capabilities of the enterprises really turn that a little upside down and I think that's where the progression is going to continue to go. Intranets are not going to be just this portal application driven experience anymore, it's going to be multi-channel. You're going to start to see the need to blend both productivity -- the personalization aspects -- with knowledge. It’s not going to be just a communications tool. It’s really going to evolve into a team sport that is going to go horizontally across the organization.

And it’s really going to start evolving into apps that are about engagement, not just the knowledge piece, but like I said, productivity and bringing together experiences across the organization. The Intranet will become much broader. You're going to have the artificial intelligence channels for chat bot and things like that, integrated as all options will be. It’s also going to be much more diverse as you push out into other places where people do their work and that's really what's it’s going to be about, bringing the work to where the person is. Less about a centralized portal, but still an important piece of the overall employee experience.

Source: https://powell-software.com/en/5-reasons-why-you-still-need-a-corporate-intranet/


Dom Nicastro:

Sharon, what are your thoughts on this question?

Sharon O’Dea:

I've been working in the intranet space now for about 15 years and I guess to paraphrase Mark Twain, rumors of the intranet's death have been greatly exaggerated. I think for the entire time I've worked in that field people have said intranets are going away and they haven't.

My expectation is pretty much like websites. You know, 10 years ago people said “we don't need a website, we’ve got a Facebook page.” But you do need a website. There is a need for people to be able to go to a trusted place where they know that they've got the official version of the information they need to do their job, whether that’s a policy or whatever else it may be. Intranets need to get a lot smarter, more contextual, bringing together tools from across the myriad systems that we touch all day. With my cynical hat on, I would say that because enterprise projects are pretty slow to get off the ground, not only will intranets still be around in 10 years, I would put money on many of them being exactly the same intranets you have today.

That's a problem because actually the workforce is changing really fast. So the World Economic Forum have reduced their future of work forecasts down. They used to forecast things 10 or 20 years hence. They shrunk those things down to five years now. If your Enterprise Project takes three to five years, which they do in say a bank, then you're already a long way behind what your workforce needs. So, the intranet is not dying. It's probably not evolving as fast as it really needs to though to keep up with the demands of a changing workforce.

Dom Nicastro:

Brett, quick follow up on that?

Brett Caldon:

Totally agree. I think what you're going to see over the next few years is defining what the future proof technology approach is that allows you to be very agile and plug and play, and make pivotal changes as you progress because things are going to be changing much faster they ever have been.


Question #6 - When we meet 10 years from now, what’s the next big trend we'll be talking about that will transform the workplace?


Dom Nicastro:

Wonderful. All right, one more question for our panelists. When we meet 10 years from now, what’s the next big trend we'll be talking about that will transform the workplace? Let's start with Sharon.

Sharon O’Dea:

I guess mine is as much a hope as it is a prediction, but I would like to think that in 10 years’ time, all enterprise and digital workplace technologies will stop being the poor cousin, that organizations will start giving them the same degree of planning, discovery and applying the same standards of design in response to vastly improved or raised employee expectations. So I think we need to think about having the same processes of continuous iterative product improvement rather than the, you know, big bang and slow decline that that has characterized so many enterprise and particularly digital workplace projects over the years. For me it's that the digital workplace will be much more of a product or a series of products. Maybe we’ll start talking about the workplace web rather than the digital workplace and make it more of an ecosystem of tools.

Dom Nicastro:

Jon, your thoughts on where we’ll be in 2030?

Jon Ingham:

Yes, this is the point that I get to disagree with everybody. Or perhaps to disagree with the premise of the question anyway. Again, this is a hope rather than a prediction really. I hope that in 10 years’ time, we won't be talking about trends anymore. Trends are important. What matters is understanding the context and the context changes. But what's important is about understanding our own response to that context, particularly because people are becoming more important. To take the full opportunity to provide competitive advantage to what we do in our people, we need to differentiate. We need to do things differently rather than the same. Let's stop copying everybody else following the trends. Let's work out what smart, strategic, development use of a digital workplace needs for ourselves, and let’s do that.

So in 10 years’ time, I’m hoping we’re going to be talking much more about that.

Dom Nicastro:

Alright, moving on to Brett. 10 years from now Brett – what do you think?

Brett Caldon:

I honestly think it’s going to be a lot of the same. I think that the things that we’re talking about now, and even that we talked about 10 years ago, should really still be focused on making work better. We’re going to see things change continually, including the technology. I think it’s naturally going to keep changing at the pace it has been, but the intent is going to remain the same – all about making employees more engaged, more productive, with a better work environment, so when I look 10 years out, I don’t really know. The crystal ball doesn’t show what the key technologies are going to be, but I can guarantee that we’re going to be focused very much on data and probably on the democratization of data that makes things easier for people when you start talking about how you learn and do things like behavioral patterning and proactive assistance.

It’s tough to predict, not knowing what the technological enhancements are going to be, but the intent is going to be the same.

Dom Nicastro:

And lastly, Gillian McCann taking us to the final thoughts. What do you think Gillian?

Gillian McCann:

So obviously we’ll all be talking about where to park the flying cars 😊

My personal hope is voice interfaces and how we interact with computers. Voice is the most natural interface that we have, and I think it solves a lot of accessibility and digital literacy issues.

If we’re able to converse with a machine and have it understand what we want to do, I just think that would be a very joyful experience. I’d love to see a personalized network of assistants that work in small, narrow domains, working together to help me in my daily work.

So yeah, that’s my thing, voice. Voice is the future. We will build voice-first systems.

Dom Nicastro:

Thank you everyone for your thoughts.

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