The thought of software robots and artificial intelligence (AI) in the work place may make some knowledge workers nervous. Depending on what report you read, the UK can expect anywhere between a net gain in jobs from AI or over 30 percent of jobs lost to automation by 2030.
Every role in every industry, from car mechanics or dentists to HGV drivers or lawyers have been named as being especially vulnerable when it comes to jobs being replaced by AI algorithms or AI-based robotics. But, instead of seeing a threat of being “replaced”, people should think of the new technologies as empowering, allowing them to be more productive, satisfied and effective in their jobs.
Why? AI can make several elements of daily communication and collaboration in the enterprise easier, and possibly solve some of those persistent nagging problems. This can not only improve workplace engagement, but also increase collaboration and productivity.
Here are ten scenarios to consider, all supported or enabled by the intersection of AI with team communications and collaboration:
- Electronic learning platforms have been around for a number of years, but AI can make this a far more powerful tool. Instead of attending training classes, reading through manuals or struggling on your own, imagine a virtual “helper” that leads, coaches and teaches you how to use new communication and collaboration tools. You can ask a question and get an answer, or be guided proactively as you continue to learn.
- How much time have you lost on conference calls where you couldn’t hear anything over background noise or a poor line? According to a recent transatlantic study, 15 minutes per call is spent on needless distractions of one kind or other and this equates to more than £26bn worth of lost time in the UK and US. These annoying line interference or background interruptions can taint many a conference call or online web meeting experience. Imagine that your software tools can automatically detect the source of these problems, and either move your communications seamlessly to another network mode or filter and mute those disruptive background noises in real time so you can focus on the content of your exchange.
- If you missed a meeting, instead of poring through endless pages of meeting notes, transcriptions or minutes, AI developers are already plotting tools that are able to “learn” the topics and subjects that you are most interested in and extract and present those relevant meeting highlights proactively for your review.
- When you are trying to figure out who are the right people (skills, knowledge, experience, availability) across your organisation to bring into a conference call or online meeting, imagine your software automatically selecting and recommending them for you, based on your business context and project needs.
- Many companies are global – visualise meeting transcriptions not only automatically produced but also automatically translated into local languages, along with a self-generating to-do list and suggested task owners – all based on what the system learns about your project team and their work.
- Imagine if a virtual team “assistant” can start and run every meeting on time, monitor and ensure that each participant is encouraged to contribute proportionately, and produces automated follow up and reminders for team members to keep things on track (and to ensure work load is distributed fairly!)
- They say a large percentage of communication is through facial or body language expression – imagine when working remotely, your software can discreetly monitor, detect and relate the sentiment of others on your team who may be thousands of miles away – so you can truly understand the people issues that affect the outcomes of your project team.
- Through immersive capabilities like virtual reality and augmented reality, imagine that you can sit at the same table in the same room as the rest of your team, even if you are on a different continent! Again, the immediacy of being “virtually” there in person can offer a much greater personal connection with your team members.
- We all have sat through meetings where topics are re-hashed unproductively or the team gets unnecessarily “stuck” on a topic or discussion point (but everyone is too polite to call it out). In fact, according to research released by the Pew Research Centre, UK workers spend as many as two hours each day being unproductive. Imagine if the team’s cognitive assistant monitors teams communications in real time, making suggestions to improve team productivity and even redirecting attention to meeting goals and objectives when the team focus gets diverted or off-track.
- When you are double booked, instead of missing an important meeting, imagine your own software bot “stand-in” who can attend, monitor, abstract the content and even notify you of a prioritised situation within another meeting where you might intervene (in person) at a critical moment.
It’s clear that AI and machine learning hold great potential to enhance enterprise communications and team collaboration – to make things more productive, more streamlined, easier to manage, and even create a more engaged workforce.
But it is inspiring to know that the road ahead contains many exciting new possibilities to improve how we all communicate and collaborate across the enterprise. And whilst most, if not all, of the scenarios above may have seemed like science fiction a decade ago, many of these tools are not too far away from becoming a reality. Businesses and workers across the globe will no doubt start to see elements of these appearing in their daily lives in the near future.
Ross Sedgewick, Vice President Global Marketing, Unify
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