We’re on the cusp of an advanced technologically integrated era. This is the view of several large organisations in the ICT space, and especially so of Dell EMC. The company’s belief stems from the significant changes being wrought by technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT).

One of the arenas where this change will be most felt is in the modern workplace. In order to gain a better understanding of the current landscape, as well as what the next decade could hold, Dell EMC recently partnered with the Institute for the Future (IFTF).

The pair looked at how AI and IoT will shape the future of work by 2030, and how businesses and industries can better prepare for the coming changes.

Dell EMC South Africa’s Client Solutions director, Chris Buchanan, has unpacked some of the key findings for us, with an estimated 3 800 business leaders from across the world surveyed for this study.

Time to invest

“With immense possibilities on the horizon comes expanding responsibility. Businesses need to act now to transform their IT, workforce and security to stay ahead of the curve,” explains Buchanan.

One of the first aspects that the director points to is a need for businesses to have some sort of investment strategy in place to leverage the capabilities of AI and IoT. He says that many already are, with more than half of the businesses surveyed already planning to invest.

Along with hot trends like AI, IoT, VR and Augmented Reality, Dell EMC notes that converged infrastructure is also garnering a lot of attention, primarily for its ability to lessen the burden placed on back office systems.

Added to this are investments into next-generation apps, ultra high-performance compute technologies such as all-flash, and new capabilities to accelerate applications.

“The business of the future is looking for increased performance, be it for insight, training or business applications,” adds Buchanan.

The local outlook 

Looking closer at the South African environment, the director highlights automation and the changes it will bring about as a key concern for many businesses. This concern is unfounded though, provided the way in which automation is implemented gets handled correctly.

“It’s quite the opposite: this is a people revolution and, if we address it correctly, it can help all humans,” he says.

“Even our survey respondents don’t regard technology as leading the change. For example, despite all the talk of remote conferencing, 67 percent feel that face to face interaction will remain very important. Humans are overwhelmingly the secret ingredient to success: today’s businesses still value creative drive and logic as the most valued employee skills, something that remains unchanged even when looking at the future year of 2030,” Buchanan continues.

This he goes on makes it vitally important for businesses to use technology in order to empower their employees to a greater degree.

Human and machine

In order to tackle the impending rise of automation, which 96 percent of respondents said was a certainty, the focus should not be on what jobs will be lost, but rather about what kinds of jobs can be created as a result of emerging technologies.

“The human edge will come from partnerships with machines. Humans and machines will work together as integrated teams – 26 percent already do and 30 percent expect it in two years,” says Buchanan.

Adding that, “Take that view to five years and 82 percent of polled businesses expect to have human-machine integrated teams. But business leaders are torn by what this means for their roles, their businesses and the world at large. 50 percent think automated systems will free up their time, while 42 percent believe they’ll have more job satisfaction in the future by offloading the tasks they don’t want to do to machines.”

Providing support

Building on the idea of finding new roles for employees, Buchanan stresses that the correct support structures need to be in place in order for the vision of the 2030 workplace to come to fruition.

It is in this area where a lot of work needs to be done according to Dell EMC’s findings. 38 percent of organisations struggle to change the culture of their workforce for example, with a further percentage noting that they are nor ready to implement a digital strategy.

“This suggests that companies are not strategically prepared for digital changes, so it’s no surprise they aren’t able to change gears on their cultures,” notes Buchanan.

Despite the majority struggling to develop and rollout digital strategies, the companies that are proving more successful in this regard are able to policies in place that support a flexible workforce environment, as well as 60 percent making the improvement of their customer experiences a priority.

“So as we prepare for the future of work, we must remember that the change begins not with technology or processes, but with our people,” concludes Buchanan.