Does AI really have a place in the modern workplace?

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Workplace technology is advancing at breakneck speed as businesses around the world look to keep up with the race for innovation and achieve full digital transformation. The modern workplace has changed significantly in the last decade, with increasingly dispersed teams causing the need for more intelligent communication systems, which offer seamless interaction for even the largest workforces.

The need to improve efficiency through digitalisation has led to the rise of Unified Communications (UC) systems, as companies look for new ways to bring together their scattered workforces. With productivity and smart interactions at its core, UC has become deeply ingrained in the modern workplace to enable real-time communications across fast-growing teams.

With the global UC market expected to grow to $143 billion in value by 2024, there is no doubt that companies will continue to invest heavily in enhancing the communication capabilities of their staff and look to new technologies to help better connect their business.

AI and the evolution of enterprise comms

The workplace has evolved over the past ten years; with cloud technology, big data and IoT all making enterprises increasingly more agile, collaborative and forward-thinking. It now seems it is time for artificial intelligence (AI) to take centre stage within the business landscape to continue to drive forward innovation and wide-spread digitalisation.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and its place in the modern workplace has become a particular talking point across various industries. Its ability to enable sophisticated predictive intelligence has warranted a number column inches and companies are now experimenting with the technology to understand its place within their business. So much so that it is now seen as one of the key drivers of the enterprise in the years to come, with a recent report by MIT Sloan Management Review finding that 91 per cent of enterprises expect AI to deliver new business growth by 2023.

The power of AI is now being heavily discussed in relation to the next generation of UC-based systems. Communication is at the heart of many enterprises and has in itself evolved over the years. Gone are the days where enterprise comms simply consisted of video conferencing and instant messaging. Interactive whiteboards, cloud-based collaboration software and document management tools now all sit within the realm of unified communications.

As the way companies communicate has changed, they also need to adapt their approach to communication to deliver on the promise of better work processes and productivity for their employees. AI has the ability to deliver on this promise.

For example, AI and machine learning systems can use existing workforce data to enable predictive intelligence, which can map out specific requirements for future communications across the workplace. Using intelligent analysis, tasks such as outlining the appropriate team members required for certain communications, as well as the most suitable time for meetings to take place can be anticipated and automatically booked in.

Making these decisions faster can therefore not only reduce the time spent on manual team coordination, but also free up more time for effective collaborative working to take place.

From the home to the office

AI has continued to make huge waves across the consumer space over the last few years, with global technology brands all introducing their own AI-powered offerings. As the technology continued its transition into the mainstream, it is now used widely by individuals across a range of devices - in their home, on their mobile and even in their vehicles.

This technology and UC are colliding when it comes to the emerging space of AI-powered Digital Assistants. The sector is now being asked to configure deploy solutions that gather user data from Instant Messaging and Presence tools. Advance language processing allows these assistants to book collaborative meetings and physical spaces and take away cumbersome tasks around meeting scheduling and space coordination. 

The same can be applied to document generation, topics and content searches, and interfacing with CRM and Support tools, such as ServiceNow and Salesforce.com. For many, the preference now is for Assistants that require little Professional Services, such as Zoom.ai’s set of tools. However, pre-built AI also allows companies to pull from an enormous amount of Assistant-ready tools provided in Cognitive Services and the Bot Framework modules. What’s more, their outcomes can then be measured, with tools such as Power BI and Graph providing ready-to-use analytics which shows how successful deployments have been.

Should these features be developed for the UC enterprise and used at scale, businesses could benefit from significant time and energy savings, whilst making the communication experience better for everyone involved.

Overcoming the challenges

The rate at which AI is developing comes not without its potential challenges. Despite AI’s rapid development, the technology still remains in its very formative stages across the UC sector. Early AI-enabled systems would require a significant investment from companies of both time and money, to widely upgrade their communication systems and ensure the features are tailored to meet the needs of staff members.

What’s more, these robust systems will also inevitably create a knowledge gap and staff will also require significant training to utilise these tools most effectively. As AI continues to evolve and transform UC solutions, the key is finding the best way to positively influence workflow and productivity. If a technology becomes a burden, staff can become frustrated and business goals aren’t met.

In order for AI-based communication systems to become commonplace within modern businesses, companies must take the necessary steps to provide staff with the tools and development needed to both access and benefit from the technology’s capabilities. It’s important to communicate that the technology is there to help their work, not to hinder or replace them.

Looking ahead to the future of UC, an AI-enhanced future is most certainly on the horizon. The opportunity technology presents to overhaul current processes and make way for more intelligent communication, better decision-making and more productivity amongst employees is clear to see and already showing some signs of its true value. Should the technology continue to advance and overcome the current barriers to widespread adoption, we can ultimately look forward to reaping the full benefits of AI in a UC-driven enterprise environment.

Charlie Doubek, VP of Professional Services, Arkadin
Image Credit: Geralt / Pixabay