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Tomorrow’s Digital Workforce

Almost everyone agrees that business productivity is heavily reliant on the successful execution of the overall strategy. A business requires highly motivated and engaged employees to execute goals which are aligned with the objectives of the organisation. Since employee productivity is key, the question, therefore, is how do we engage employees to ensure they work at optimal levels?
Optimizing the workforce requires an understanding of workplace demographic and the role technology has played in their lives. Earlier, software deployment in an organisation used to be a one-way street from provider to IT and finally the end users (employees). Employees would often receive an email mandate from the IT department stating that all employees had to use the particular software. The top to bottom approach worked well back in the day when IT did extensive product research and was responsible for configuring, installing and maintaining software. Employees were also in uncharted territory when it came to new technology and generally were more receptive to learning.
However, the workforce has undergone a tremendous transformation. Young adults who have grown up with technology, commonly classified as “millennials” have disturbed the balance and want more say in the technological choices in the company. Living in the smartphone age, they are the first adopters of new technology and prefer to customise applications to tailor their needs. A recent study by Dell found that for 80 percent of millennials, workplace technology was a deciding factor while seeking employment.
On a parallel note, technology has been constantly evolving as well. Cloud applications and Software as a Service (SaaS) is the new normal. Deploying these applications do not require significant time or manpower. Maintenance activity has been more consistent while downtimes are limited to minutes or maybe an hour. There is no longer a need for additional hardware or backend services. This frees up IT to focus on enhancing the capability of the application to match the organisation’s need.
CIOs across the board realise the technological innovation is the way forward. However, there isn’t a one fit all solution available for everyone. Every business is different and has a different approach to meet their objectives. Getting the right software and applications for the right employees at the right time is key to getting the mix right. The same tools and techniques which work for sales and marketing may not be a fit for manufacturing or R&D. For Mayur Danait, CIO, Lupin the task at hand is complicated further as the pharmaceutical industry is a highly regulated industry. However, he believes every challenge represents an equal opportunity. Speaking to CNBC-TV18, Danait said, “For us, any technology, whether hard software or even equipment needs to undergo validation which defines the rate of adoption. It’s a lot more incremental and calibrated. However, on the flip side, because of the rigour involved in our testing and qualification processes, the failure rates are far better under control.”
Clearly, the future ahead is one of disruption and constant change. With the “intelligence explosion”, one defined by AI capable of recursive self-learning and automation rapidly replacing blue-collar workers, there is a need to re-skill and re-educate the workforce. Companies will be required if not forced to rethink strategies and leverage technology to go that extra mile. The CIO in any organisation is as important a decision maker as a CFO or even a CEO, as they constantly look to shore up their technology needs. For Vijay Sethi, CIO, Hero MotoCorp this means that CIOs should always be ready to review decisions periodically stating, “The decisions taken last year were based on that context and may not be right today(sic).Because technology is changing so fast and the organisation and workforce needs are consequently changing, you need to review the strategy, blueprint and the needs (of the departments) regularly.”