The future of work

Image courtesy of IBM historical archive
“We need to invest in a computer. Period. We need to tell our clients we are thinking about the future.”

Jim Cutler, a character in the TV series Mad Men, had this epiphany to share with his colleagues. He, like many others in the late 1960s, was realising that computers were about to change how work got done.

When the computer finally arrives at SC&P, the creatives of the agency are kicked out of their space to install the new behemoth. Technology replacing humans in the most literal way. One of the creatives, Ginsberg, actually has a nervous breakdown and mutilates himself. In a bizarre turn of events Ginsberg cuts his own nipple out.


The future of work is already here

Digital transformation is no new thing. It has been happening for decades.

Every wave of transformation has its own characteristics based on the technologies involved. What remains constant is that key to the actual change is a change in the “hearts and minds” of people that will be using the technology and adapting to new processes. Understanding the driving forces behind the current digital transformation wave and learning how best to make use of new opportunities (without causing anyone any nervous breakdowns) is our goal at Future Work and GreenShoot Labs.

In particular, we focus on the cross-section between conversational interfaces and automation. Digital transformation has multiple facets and ways to be done. We think there is something specifically interesting to do with conversation, chatbots and how they are becoming our interface into automated services and access to data.

Conversational Interfaces

There is a new breed of tool and it is taking over business everywhere. The main ingredients, as with any popular recipe, are simple:

  1. A means for teams to chat through any device.
  2. Subdivisions in channels (or rooms or groups) to focus on specific subjects.
  3. Some form of team directory with associated (although not crucial) presence indicator.
  4. Integration into other systems via APIs and exposure of that functionality through chatbots.

Slack is perhaps the most recognisable one, but it is by no means the declared winner. Just looking at the landing pages of some of the main players tells us a lot, check out the bold statements for each one:

Slack

Slack Website

Stride

Stride Website

Workplace by Facebook

Workplace by Facebook

Microsoft Teams

Microsfot Teams

Slack states it most boldly. It is “where work happens”. We agree. That really embraces the concept. It is not a tool like any other tools. It is the actual interface to work.

Data and Automation

Communication tools for teams have been around for many years. Skype is fifteen years old. What is different about these new tools is, on the one hand, their ability to easily capture the fluid structure and relationships of a team and, on the other hand, their ability to integrate with all the other tools we use.

The ability to pull into the context of conversations the data that enables decisions to be informed and to push out of the context of conversations actions that get carried out by other tools is revolutionary.

Pulling in

Say you are having a discussion about next steps for marketing actions. A marketing data bot can be queried to inform the debate.

“How many conversions did we get from our last campaign?”

It is easy to underestimate how disrupting and currently hard for most organisations it is to actually inform their conversations in such a fluid way.

Conversational interfaces, bots and data allow us to augment our conversations in a more natural and fluid way. Just like Picard and his team on the deck of the Enterprise we can invoke the “Computer” to inform our debate of whether to fight or flee from that Borg ship.

Pushing Out

Similarly, we can push out work from conversational interfaces. Stride tackles this head on by allowing us to highlight decisions from conversations and pull them out of the flow.

Stride has native support for tasks and decisions.

More generally though, bots allow us to perform actions that would otherwise require a complete context change, remembering how a different interface works, etc.

What’s next

We are excited about how conversational interfaces, bots and automation are going to change the workplace. We are working to make it a more efficient, friendly, creative and ultimately human place. The tools are here to augment our capabilities and free up our time to do better, more creative work and to be at work less. We are looking forward to discussing and sharing findings.

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