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5 Mid-Year Artificial Intelligence Trends to Watch For

We’ve officially reached the mid-way point of 2020, and what a year it’s been so far! Between political turmoil and the worldwide health pandemic, the economy has seen its share of ups and (way) downs. One thing that has remained constant through all the uncertainty is technology – in particular, artificial intelligence. In fact, AI has quickly emerged as a versatile and viable solution to almost all of the problems businesses are facing currently. Let’s take a look at what our experts believe will take place in the AI sector over the next six months.

An increase in availability and accuracy of data will make AI even more useful.

We don’t mean to beat a dead horse, but we simply cannot state it enough: artificial intelligence is only as good as the data it is fed. Because of this, many organizations that have tried to adopt AI in the past have failed, primarily due to a lack of relevant and accurate data. As technology continues to improve at a lightning pace, however, more and more quality data is becoming available. In particular, today’s technology is now capable of simulating real-world scenarios, which reduces risk and cuts costs, resulting in AI that is even more powerful, accurate and ultimately more valuable.

Collaboration between human and digital workers will continue to increase.

Let’s face it. Artificial intelligence is here to stay. And as we’ve learned over the past decade or so, it’s not here to displace human workers, but rather make their jobs and their lives easier. This trend will continue as we wrap up 2020 and move into 2021. As people get comfortable with the idea of working alongside intelligent bots, more processes and workflows will be transitioned from human to machine, skyrocketing productivity and enabling organizations to maximize the human skills that AI isn’t quite capable of just yet. For many, this will require learning new skills, so prepare accordingly.

AI will play a more prominent role in cybersecurity.

They say the best defense is a good offense, and this is certainly true in the area of cybersecurity. The fact is, cybercriminals are leveraging the most up-to-date technology to carry out their nefarious plots. The most effective way to combat these criminals and ward off their attacks is to utilize the same advanced technology against them – essentially, fight fire with fire. AI-powered intelligent automation will increasingly be used to autonomously and continuously monitor systems and infrastructures, identifying areas of concern and raising alarm before breaches occur and preventing sensitive data from becoming compromised.  

Interactions with AI will become more mainstream and far less detectible.

In recent years, despite tremendous advancements in technologies like natural language processing (NLP), interactions with robots vs. human agents were relatively easy to spot. With NLP algorithms becoming increasingly capable of understanding context, distinguishing between humans and machines will become much more challenging. And even though recent numbers indicate that the majority of people prefer to receive support from humans than robots, as technology continues to advance at a rapid pace, there’s a very good chance that will change. In fact, there’s a good chance that over the next several months, we’ll begin engaging with intelligent bots without even realizing it.  

Remote work and augmented workforces will become part of the norm.

Over the past several months, thanks to a global health crisis, many organizations around the world were forced to make sudden changes to their workforce. One of the biggest shifts was toward a remote work environment. Technologies like AI and intelligent automation have made this transition much more feasible for many. However, as the dust begins to settle, business leaders are discovering that, with the right technology and approach, these types of arrangements are not only possible, but are actually more favorable for the long term. As such, many will continue operating either partially or entirely remotely, leveraging artificial intelligence to augment and balance their workforce.

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The Importance of Reskilling Employees for the Future of Work

The Importance of Reskilling Employees for the Future of WorkA few months ago, nobody could have imagined a rampant virus shutting down the world and bringing the global economy to its collective knees. Yet, here we are, several months into the COVID-19 pandemic, and most of us still trying to adjust to this sudden and severe change to life as we know it. Organizations around the world have been forced to adapt to a new way of work, whether having to remain operational with a reduced workforce, quickly having to roll-out work-from-home strategies or some combination of both.

As the dust begins to settle, however, a new business need has begun to emerge. Business leaders everywhere are now recognizing the critical importance of being prepared and planning ahead. And one of the most effective ways to do so is to focus on reskilling employees to get them future-ready. Likewise, those individuals who find themselves unfortunately out of work due to the current crisis have the opportunity to position themselves as much more marketable and therefore more employable by learning and mastering new skills.

One of the biggest changes we are likely to see as the world returns to work is greater adoption of a hybrid workforce. That is, humans working alongside digital agents. Many organizations are expected to continue partial or possibly even entirely remote operations, especially after discovering that not only is work-from-home feasible, but it’s an incredibly efficient and cost-effective way to do business. Of course, this would not be possible without the right policies and technologies in place. That’s where reskilling comes into play.

Even before the current health crisis, innovative capabilities, like automation and artificial intelligence, were already causing a good amount of disruption to jobs and the skills human workers needed to know in order to remain employable. In fact, in 2017, McKinsey estimated that as much as 14 percent of the global workforce would either need to acquire new skills or change occupations by 2030 due to AI and automation. To put this into perspective, that’s some 375 million workers. Another recent McKinsey report revealed that 87% of executives said they were either expecting an increased skills gap in the near future or were already experiencing one.

This latest pandemic has brought this need to the forefront and made it much more urgent. Employees across almost every industry must find a way to adapt to the rapidly evolving conditions and organizations must figure out how to transition those workers into new roles and responsibilities. While the two go hand in hand, the “new normal” will ultimately be more about the role of AI and automation than it will about remote work. It will be about how business leaders across the board are able to retrain or upskill their existing workforce to prepare them for the post-pandemic reality.

To rise to this change, organizations must develop strategic talent strategies that include advancing and honing employees’ skills from a holistic standpoint. That means strengthening their digital capabilities as well as their cognitive, emotional and social skills. If there’s ever been a time for companies to commit to and invest in the education of their workers, it’s now. Focusing on this, along with investing in the right tools and technologies, will help bolster a company’s posture against future business disruptions.

Likewise, employees themselves should be taking this opportunity to further their skillsets and adapt to the changing landscape. Whether their employer is resistant to the topic of reskilling or they are one of the millions currently unemployed, individual workers would be wise to seek out available learning opportunities on their own. At a time when job security is virtually non-existent and the skills gap is widening, embracing intelligent automation will undoubtedly create opportunities for new positions in the future of work.

Whether you are an organization seeking to get ahead of the next potential crisis and strengthen your position in the marketplace of tomorrow or an ambitious individual looking to future-proof your career, Ayehu Automation Academy is a great place to start. Find out more about the academy and enroll yourself or your team today by clicking here. 

eBook: 10 time consuming tasks you should automate

Preparing Your Business for the “New Normal”

So much has changed over the past few months, with the COVID-19 pandemic bringing the world to its collective knees. Businesses in just about every industry have felt the sudden and devastating effects of what such a global crisis can do, both from a human health as well as an economic standpoint. And with a projected timeframe to exit of anywhere from six to 12 months, the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel is still but a faint glimmer of hope.

If there’s one positive that has come from this crisis, it’s that business leaders now have a better sense of what their organization can or cannot do. They’re also beginning to understand how they can expect to move forward once the dust settles and the economy finally opens again. And while we all look forward to getting back to normal, the reality is, the workplace as we once knew it may never be the same again.

New social behavior, added restrictions, travel precautions and such are forcing decision-makers to think about how to do more with less. Less complicated, less expensive, yet at the same time agile and effective. Just what will this “new normal” look like and how can businesses prepare? Let’s take a look.

Remote/digital will become a permanent solution to a temporary problem.

Oftentimes we have to be forced out of our comfort zones before we can accept and embrace change in a positive, productive way. This can easily be said for the many organizations that were abruptly thrust into the world of remote work. Suddenly, business leaders found themselves scrambling to enable work-from-home capabilities in order to keep operations going and avoid, or at least limit, disruption as much as possible.

What many have discovered during this trying period, however, is that – provided it’s supported by the right policies and technologies – not only is remote work completely feasible, but it’s also a much more attractive option for the company’s bottom line. As a result, more business processes will likely permanently transition to fully digital.

This includes industries like remote medicine, remote shopping and delivery and remote physical fitness, as well as functional areas like marketing (move to online marketing and virtual events), sales (a fully digital sales cycle – from demo and remote installation/remote POC, to remote deployment without ever physically interacting with a customer) and yes, even IT…which brings us to our next point.

IT projects will continue (they have to!), but they will require re-prioritization. With time frames being compressed due to uncertainty, IT managers will need to find ways to break projects down into smaller, more manageable pieces. Because they don’t know what type of budget they will have to work with in three to six months, they must focus on tasks that can be completed in shorter time frames – say, three months, or three to four weeks at a time. 

Automation is the key to the future of work.

The organizations that will be leaders in this “new normal” are the ones that will quickly make the needed changes to adapt to these remote work/WFH situations – and automation can play a key role in this adoption.

Specifically, automation can accelerate the transition, enabling businesses to retain knowledge even when people aren’t available. It also enables ITOps – even those that no longer operate on a single on premise infrastructure – to keep the lights on while simultaneously becoming more efficient by doing more with fewer people on-site. Likewise, IT projects can more easily be broken down into milestones with automation either augmenting or handling them entirely autonomously.

With the right automated platform, organizations will be able to accelerate out of this situation and position themselves stronger and even more effective on the other side. The good news is, this technology is easy to access and can be ramped up in less than one day. If you are a business leader or key decision-maker and you’re trying to figure out how to prepare your organization for the future of work – the “new normal” – Ayehu can become your saving grace.

Get started today by downloading your free 30-day trial of Ayehu NG.

3 Steps to Get Your Organization Intelligent-Automation-Ready

Over the past several years, intelligent automation has begun to revolutionize the workplace, facilitating digital transformation and enabling forward-thinking organizations to position themselves on the right side of the future of work. Getting to this point, however, isn’t something that happens overnight. Without the right approach, companies could easily be missing out on the tremendous advantages intelligent automation has in store. So, what’s holding other companies back?

Relatively speaking, the primary obstacle is simple. Many IT decision-makers approach implementation by attempting to merely automate existing processes. What they should be doing instead is changing their entire mindset. In order to do this, there are three key things that must be done, as follows.

Reconsider processes and workflows from start to finish.

Understand that deploying intelligent automation isn’t just a one-off project for the IT department. Rather, it should be an aggregate change that occurs across and throughout the entire enterprise. In order to implement automation at scale, buy-in is needed in every facet of the business.

Incorporating intelligent automation presents an opportunity for leaders and teams to reimagine what they’re trying to accomplish and completely redesign their workflows and processes. Only by starting from the foundation and working automation into each step of the process will the optimal level of efficiency be achieved.

We’d even go so far as to recommend building automated processes first and then working humans into the mix as needed. The actual need for human intervention – or lack thereof – will be quite surprising.

Pose the right questions, right from the beginning.

The right questions can help guide and facilitate the development of a strong, effective and long-term intelligent automation strategy. The problem is, many leaders simply don’t know what those “right questions” happen to be.

If you are among them, we suggest you start by thinking critically about which workflows and processes you currently have in place, and – more importantly – which of those processes and workflows would be best suited for artificial intelligence.

Still having trouble? Flip the switch and instead, start by asking what tasks are intelligent bots not capable of doing? This may help you more clearly pinpoint which processes still require some level of human mediation. The tasks remaining can then be shifted to automation.

It’s also pivotal to keep specific goals in mind when incorporating intelligent automation into the fold. Specifically, asking what you want this technology to help you accomplish should help you identify which pain points for which an automated solution could provide the most value.

Seek opportunities to meld the digital and human elements of your workforce.

At the end of the day, intelligent automation is most successful when it’s implemented with the goal of creating the best possible experience for everyone. Again – it’s imperative that the mindset evolve from automation being an “IT project” to something that permeates the entire organization.

This begins with culture, and changing a company’s culture starts at the top. Not only must the “powers that be” be fully committed to intelligent automation adoption, but they must proactively and consistently send the message that both humans and robots can cohesively work together in a connected ecosystem that benefits both the employee as well as the organization as a whole.

Conclusion

Successful digital transformation occurs when an organization is able to strengthen and grow by empowering its workforce to trust and depend on advanced technology. Without question, intelligent automation is poised to become the foundation of this digitized future. By rethinking how automation fits into the big picture, posing the right questions and merging the digital/human experience, you’ll dramatically improve the chances of a smooth and profitable transition.

Ready to jump in and test the waters? Get up to speed with intelligent automation within minutes by taking Ayehu for a free, 30-day test drive.

Best Practices for Managing a Remote Workforce

Best Practices for Running a Remote Operation

The latest health crisis has forced many organizations into making the transition to remote work much more urgently than many would have liked. As such, a scramble to manage the logistics, like what kind of equipment will be needed, how to provision remote workers and how to maintain maximum data security have become the focus. What’s not being talked about nearly as much, but is equally as important, is how leaders who are used to managing staff in-person must adjust their approach in order to make the transition as seamless and undisruptive as possible.

Be intentional about individualization.

Not every employee is motivated or driven by the same things. Some may work best when given autonomy while others may require more hands-on leadership. Under normal circumstances, focusing on the unique needs and preferences of each employee is strongly recommended. When managing from a distance, this becomes even more critical. Managers must take the time to determine the circumstances and conditions under which each individual employee will perform at his or her best. Taking a one-size-fits-all approach to remote work simply won’t cut it.

Set clear expectations right from the start.

Did you know that nearly half of all employees in the U.S. do not know what’s expected of them? Add remote work into the mix, and things could go off the rails pretty quick. To mitigate this risk, remote managers need to set crystal clear expectations with each and every employee. Specifically, employees should know exactly what the work entails, what the quality of that work should be and precisely when it is due. There should be no ambiguity whatsoever.

Arm them with everything they need.

You can’t simply hand out tasks and expect your team to perform them if they don’t have the equipment, information, guidance and support they need to carry out those tasks successfully. This is the case in an on-site operation, but even more so in a remote working environment, where people can tend to feel isolated. Implement technology that facilitates collaboration. Provide self-service options, like virtual support agents, so remote workers can receive the support they need on-demand. And make sure leadership is available to answer questions, provide feedback and offer guidance as needed.

Communicate openly and often.

One of the biggest challenges of working remotely, as mentioned earlier, is the feeling of isolation that comes along with it. This is magnified for employees who are accustomed to working on-site, where colleagues and managers are present in the flesh. Understand that managing a remote team may require more frequent communication, whether it be team meetings or one-on-one sessions (ideally, a combination of both). The key is emphasizing relationships, which are more challenging to forge from a distance.

Be supportive of front-line management.

Executive leadership needs to recognize that front-line managers are suddenly being forced to adapt to an entirely new way of working, and practically overnight. It’s an adjustment that brings with it a unique set of concerns that must be taken into consideration. For example, some managers may worry that they’ll be held accountable for disruptions to workflow that they have no control over. Others may find it difficult to trust employees that they cannot physically see working. Support and guidance – practical and emotional – is needed to make this transition as painless for managers as possible.

A Look Ahead…

A recent Gallup study found that 43% of employees in the U.S. are already working remotely to some degree. Thanks to recent circumstances, that number just skyrocketed. And although there will certainly be some growing pains, there’s a significant chance that once the dust settles and life returns to normal once again, far fewer employees will actually return to the office. By learning how to manage a remote operation now, you’ll position your organization for a much smoother ride, both today as well as in the future.

Click here to find out how Ayehu is helping organizations across the globe make the transition to remote working.

Three Steps To Prepare The Enterprise For The Digital Workforce In 2020

Article originally published in Forbes Technology Council.

There’s no longer any uncertainty or ambiguity. Automation absolutely, positively will impact the way every one of us works. The degree to which that impact occurs will vary, but make no mistake: Humans in every industry and position, from warehouse workers to C-suite executives, will someday soon be working alongside digital workers (a.k.a. virtual agents).

Just what will this future digital enterprise look like? The answer to that lies in how organizations implement artificial intelligence.

The ‘How’ Vs. The ‘What’

For many workers, the way that automation and artificial intelligence technologies are adopted will be more effective than the technology itself. The same goes for organizations as a whole. To succeed in the digital age, business leaders must begin to shift their viewpoint from opportunistic to a more systematic approach. In years past, automating on an ad hoc basis was sufficient. Over time, however, that strategy led to silos that were not adequately governed, nor were they scalable.

The future of automation in tomorrow’s workplace must be rigorous and robust, policy- and data-driven, and, above all, enterprise-centric. In other words, it’s not so much about the “what” as it is about the “how.” This will be the main differentiator between organizations that succeed in achieving digital transformation and those that fall irreparably behind.

Three Steps To Success With Intelligent Automation

1. Build. New technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning will inevitably affect some workers in adverse ways. This has always been the case, as people continue to be displaced from one economic sector to another. In fact, according to one estimation by McKinsey, up to 30% of the global workforce (and between 400 million and 800 million workers) could be displaced by automation by the year 2030.

But while some jobs will ultimately be eliminated, the current and ongoing technological innovation we are experiencing will simultaneously create new opportunities.

Perhaps it is more than fitting that a fictional Borg from the futuristic Star Trek series uttered the infamous words, “Resistance is futile.” Like it or not, AI and automation technologies are already having an impact on the workplace, and they’re not going away any time soon.

The future of work will ultimately belong to those individuals who are willing to embrace and leverage artificial intelligence to their advantage. This may come in the form of self-automation — that is, the foresight and desire to automate portions of one’s own job in the interest of productivity and efficiency. Organizational leaders can and should meet them in the middle by seeking out key employees who show promise, optimism and a willingness to adapt and reskill, if necessary.

Investing in human capital with the ultimate goal of developing an automation center of excellence will create a compromise between top-down mandated automation and bottom-up, enthusiastic support and participation. This is the ideal scenario and one that will drive ongoing innovation and success. Some key roles to focus on for the future include:

  • Automation architects.
  • Automation engineers.
  • Site reliability and DevOps engineers (SRE).
  • API product managers.
  • Data scientists.

2. Standardize. With the right people and teams in place, the next step toward leveraging intelligent automation for digital transformation should involve the standardization of processes and the creation of best practices.

To start, the focus should be on delivering continuous value rather than aiming for one major change. This is achieved via strategic increments.

Centralized governance will then help to ensure ongoing compliance and support future growth and expansion.

3. Invest. Many will find it surprising that technology is actually the final piece in the automation puzzle. This is due in large part to the old-school, opportunistic way of thinking. The new recommended approach is one that involves a strategic cultural change and focuses on people and processes first, and then tools and technology.

Once these first two factors have been determined, the search for the right automation platform can begin. Ideally, the criteria should include no-code or low-code solutions that are both robust and agile. This will enable the eventual proliferation of automation across the entire enterprise while also supporting the future growth and changing needs of the business and/or industry.

Closing Thoughts

What will the workplace of tomorrow look like? For human workers, it will be markedly different and require new skills and greater adaptability. For the enterprise, it will be a composite of real and artificial intelligence — humans and machines — working together toward a common goal of innovation and success.

Dare to take risks despite your fear. Organizations and their employees who approach these challenges with eagerness and optimism, a willingness to adapt and evolve, and the ability to strike the ideal balance between humans and machines will ultimately be the ones who rise to the top.