By Jen Sweeney
Gartner Research predicts that in three years, digital business will require 50% fewer business process workers, and the total cost of ownership for business operations will be reduced by a third through smart machines and industrialized services. In addition, the firm predicts that in 10 years, three out of 10 jobs will be replaced by software, robots or smart machines.
When you consider these and other predictions being put forth about man vs. machine, the fear of a “rise of the machines” future doesn’t seem so far-fetched.
But it is, according to Gartner. In its 2015 Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies, Gartner highlights the critical role of people, rather than machines, in successful digital transformation. Gartner calls the approach “digital humanism,” and defines it as “the notion that people are the central focus in the manifestation of digital businesses and digital workplaces.”
In other words, although algorithms and smart machines can deliver enormous value to organizations, a people-centered approach is required for true innovation and digital business success.
How can organizations incorporate digital humanism into their approaches to digital transformation? Gartner recommends the following broad guidelines, which it has included as part of its “digital humanist manifesto”: Put people at the center, embrace unpredictability and respect personal space.
Although algorithms and smart machines can deliver enormous value to organizations, a people-centered approach is required for true innovation and digital business success
To find success with a digital humanist approach, however, another element is required—digital dexterity—which Gartner describes as a “core employee cognitive ability and social practice that will define digital business success.”
In a May 2015 report, Gartner contributor Christy Pettey notes the ease with which people use technology in their personal lives. They set up and use wireless networks, use a variety of devices and operating systems, and use apps and other tools to pay bills, watch movies, communicate, manage their health, conduct research and practice hobbies.
“All this digital activity is generally done with great enthusiasm and skill, and with very little vendor-supplied support,” she writes. “The result is that an increasing number of people get unprecedented awareness, agility, efficiency and enjoyment from technology.”
The challenge, writes Pettey, is for organizations to “tap that skill set for better business outcomes.” This involves more than teaching employees how to use new tools and applications. Rather, digital dexterity results when organizations inspire workers to be resourceful, encourage them to identify and share successful collaboration approaches with each other, and provide them with the freedom to think beyond standard job descriptions.
As of today, those are skills the machines have yet to master.