COVID may be an unprecedented pandemic, but that doesn’t mean another one won’t happen again sooner or later—and brands and businesses are figuring out that there’s no good reason for not being prepared just in case. New research by digital transformation software firm Pegasystems reveals that intelligent automation will play a critical role in shaping a new, technologically-enabled, post-pandemic future of work.
The global survey, conducted with research partner Savanta, found that preparedness for future pandemics or similar disruptions was still the main focus for many, with an overwhelming majority (84 percent) of respondents identifying it as a high priority—an unsurprising figure when you consider that nearly one in three (31 percent) said they were either totally unprepared or not very prepared for the impact of COVID-19. It also found that intelligent automation has emerged as one of the key technologies used to future-proof businesses against disruptive events.
Seventy-six percent of respondents said the pandemic will cause them to increase their intelligent automation investment. Meanwhile, 74 percent of survey participants agree that further external shocks that temporarily remove people from the workplace will result in more intelligent automation and artificial intelligence investment, while 76 percent also say that unpredictable mass illness and/or self-isolation will drive increased business demand for intelligent automation. Over half (51 percent) of respondents also said they would increase investment in artificial intelligence and cloud solutions to guard against the business impact of future pandemics.
More broadly, the study found that technology will have a profound effect on the way we work in the future, with 86 percent of respondents expecting technology to either ‘significantly change’ or produce ‘quite a lot of change’ in the way people in their organization work over the next five years. Tellingly, zero percent of respondents said that technology would drive no change over that period.
“The events of the last few months have shone a light on the important role technology can play in enabling collaboration and ‘business-as-usual’ practices when disruptive events take place,” said Don Schuerman, CTO of Pegasystems, in a news release. “Organizations must invest in transformational technologies such as intelligent automation, AI, and cloud services or potentially face even worse consequences when the next disruptive event hits—it’s now non-negotiable. Businesses were understandably unprepared for the impact a global pandemic could have on their operations, but when the next global disruption occurs, there’ll be no excuse and no place to hide as technology-proofed competitors jostle to pick up their lost customers.”
Additional findings highlight how other types of technology could also profoundly change the way we work, our job satisfaction, and also who—or what—we work with:
Technology is now ‘one of us’
Eighty-four percent of respondents say they would be comfortable working alongside intelligent machines, with 73 percent agreeing that the term ‘workforce’ should include both human employees and intelligent machines. Sixty-one percent say they would even be happy being managed by an intelligent machine. Employees are also playing a leading role in driving the use of technology as a force for change within businesses. Sixty-six percent of respondents said employees are asking for better technology to improve the way they work, while 76 percent agreed that increased use of technology is improving employee satisfaction.
Low-code is on the rise
Eighty-two percent of respondents say IT should provide platforms and systems that allow employees to build and implement their own technology solutions. Meanwhile, more than half of respondents (55 percent) say that either ‘everyone’ or ‘the majority’ of the workforce within their industry will need low-code skills in the next five years.
Intelligent automation can save time and improve creativity
Eighty percent say that intelligent automation is helping them to reduce human workloads, with more than one third (36 percent) saying it has already saved them between one and nine working hours per week over the last two years. Almost half (47 percent) say they are using the additional time to do more creative activities such as ideation and innovation. Forty-four percent say they are using the additional time to conduct more analysis and critical thinking tasks.
“What this study makes clear is that technology is one of the top trends shaping the future of work,” said Jacob Morgan, best-selling author, futurist and founder of FutureofWorkUniversity.com, in the release. “In my own research, in which I’ve interviewed over 140 of the world’s top CEOs, it’s become apparent to me that every company today is a technology company – whether they know it or not. What this means is that every leader needs to be a technology-driven leader. If your organization doesn’t think about and plan for the future of work, then it will have no future. And neither will you for that matter.”
Pegasystems and research partner Savanta surveyed over 3,000 global senior managers and frontline IT staff for their thoughts on technology’s future role in a significantly altered business landscape.