Can Automation/AI Future-proof Work from Home Operating Model?


By – Devendra Singh
(Client Partner | Digitate)

Work from Home (WFH) is not an alien concept for us. It has been in existence since decades, though its adoption was consistently scanty. The COVID-19 pandemic put that into overdrive, resulting in organizations to seriously evaluate people, process and technology aspects of their WFH initiatives.

As per a recent Harvard Business Review article, with most of us working from home these days, an average American’s workday has increased by 40%, roughly three hours a day, the largest increase in the world. Even as enterprises are witnessing a significant improvement in productivity or at least negligible disruptions to their current business operations (due to work location), experts recommend a cautious approach towards WFH as a long term strategy.

WFH has more dimensions beyond technology which can impact an organization’s competitiveness. While adopting WFH, organizations need to understand the implications on leadership, team management, managing, and motivating employees at an organizational level. How will employees cope with stress and manage their work-life balance? These questions need to be answered soon

According to a global study of over 2,700 employees across more than 10 industries undertaken by Qualtrics and SAP during March-April 2020, since the outbreak of the pandemic:75% people say they feel more socially isolated, 67% people have reported higher stress, 57% are feeling greater anxiety, and 53% say they feel more emotional exhaustion.

These findings can be attributed to the uncertainty in the current environment due to health and economic impact from COVID-19. Unmet psychological needs of employees due to an isolated work environment for a prolonged period, and the blurring of motivating factors while working from home are some common challenges. Social psychologists have known for decades that people are motivated to work harder when others are watching and in the current scenario, routine task being performed remotely can lead to a lack of motivation and stress.

During the last few months, organizations’ efforts were largely focused on enabling technologies for WFH. Now, as leaders move forward with WFH as a part of their operating model, they should critically review each task, standard operating procedures, and team structure. Bringing in automation/AI technologies wherever possible to automate routine tasks and functions, freeing up individual or the team’s time to collaborate and contribute towards more meaningful activities should gain priority. Organizations should focus on the following while prioritizing Automation/AI initiatives within their organizations:

  • Alignment with the team’s mission and objectives
  • Providing holistic visibility across organizational silos/functions
  • Bringing intelligence while automating routine task/activities – handing back valuable time
  • Driving collaboration within and across teams

Gartner identified the top 10 technology trends for 2020 which leaders should consider, as many of them have the potential to boost WFH strategy. For example, let’s look at AIOps and how effective use of this technology can support WFH strategies especially for IT organization across identified trends.

  • Hyperautomation – AIOps platform helps in automating IT tasks performed by L0, L1, and L2 teams across application and infrastructure landscape. Effective deployment of such technology requires integration with various other tools in the ecosystem like Infrastructure Monitoring, Network Performance Monitoring, Application Performance Monitoring, IT Service Management tools, etc..
  • Multiexperience – Collaboration capability to bring the right stakeholders together at the right time.
  • Democratization – AIOps platforms help in automating complex IT task enabling a less experienced team to effectively manage IT assets e.g L0 or L1 team can trigger actions which are typically performed by L2 team.
  • Human augmentation – AIOps platforms bring predictive capabilities to anticipate potential issues before they occur. Along with the ability to triage an incident to right SME with evidence-based reasoning and root cause analysis to enable faster resolution.
  • Transparency and traceability – Provides enterprise-wide visibility into the current state of IT landscape cutting across organizational silos including Cloud IT assets. It can provide logs for all actions taken by the tool for audit purposes.
  • AI Security – protecting AI-powered systems, leveraging AI to enhance security defense, and anticipating nefarious use of AI by attackers. AIOps platforms can provide faster insights on ever-growing data cybersecurity issues e.g data volumes and event velocities etc.

Having a robust WFH strategy is more than simply leveraging technology, but the right technology deployed suitably can be a great enabler in this journey.

References

https://www.gartner.com/en/newsroom/press-releases/2019-10-21-gartner-identifies-the-top-10-strategic-technology-trends-for-2020

Reference HBR Articles

We Work Harder When We Know Someone’s Watching, The Downside of Flex Time, The Pandemic Has Exposed the Fallacy of the “Ideal Worker”, How CEOs Can Support Employee Mental Health in a Crisis, How to Prepare Your Virtual Teams for the Long Haul

https://hbr.org/2020/05/we-work-harder-when-we-know-someones-watching
https://hbr.org/2020/05/the-downside-of-flex-time
https://hbr.org/2020/05/the-pandemic-has-exposed-the-fallacy-of-the-ideal-worker
https://hbr.org/2020/05/how-ceos-can-support-employee-mental-health-in-a-crisis
https://hbr.org/2020/05/how-to-prepare-your-virtual-teams-for-the-long-haul

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