While many digital leaders are caught up with the notion that digital is all about the customer, digital workforce transformation is set to take work away from everyone, right up to the CEO. That's right, using current technologies, around 20% of what a typical CEO does could be automated, freeing time up for higher-value contributions to their organisations. But who is leading this digital workforce transformation?
The stage is set for widespread workforce transformation as artificial intelligence has endured the hype, the debate and the trough of disillusionment. MGI estimates that already, up to 45% employee activities can be automated by adapting currently demonstrated technologies. It's also suggested that around 60% of occupations could have 30% or more of their constituent activities automated.
Just when senior managers and leaders thought their staff roles, responsibilities and processes were finely tuned, they will be tasked to re-engineer them to make way for automation. With studies showing how significant the benefits of automation can be, no CEO will be able to resist the value digital workplace transformation presents them with, and how it can be a serious competitive differentiator.
Organising for the Future
The value on offer by digital workforce transformation will be eye-candy for the CEO, CFO, COO and their shareholders as visions of greater efficiencies and cost reductions creep into their annual reports. At no time during the 21st century have CEOs been served up with such an opportunity to slash costs and increase workplace efficiencies, and digital leaders cannot afford to be obsessed with only the customer.
But before this becomes a reality, it needs to become an integral component of strategy and then well orchestrated, which presents another challenge for digital business transformation leaders. Major restructuring of organisation charts, changes to roles and responsibilities and re-engineered processes will be required, and the impact on people across the organisation will be greater than companies have previously witnessed. This will call for unprecedented doses of change management.
The automation of tasks will take its toll on people as their trusty old ways of working are destabilised, requiring leaders to adjust their leadership styles and invest more in change management. Anything less could bring about a rapid degeneration of organisational health as the digital business transformation of the workforce takes its toll on hearts and minds.
Digital Workforce Transformation – of Management Roles
Roles right across the organisation will be impacted by digital workforce transformation, but it's not only the more basic roles that will feel the automation pinch. To help demonstrate this, the chart below represents management professions in the United States, and how they might be impacted by digital workforce transformation, as automation takes hold. Bottom-right is the CEO. Hover over the bubbles in the chart to reveal data.
Time to Remove the Customer Blinkers
Digital agencies (some of which were previously known as advertising agencies) have done an excellent job of focusing digital leaders on the customer. But as any holistic digital transformation framework will demonstrate, customer centricity is only one area of digital enterprise transformation.
For digital leaders obsessed only with the customer, it's time to remove the blinkers and view the digital journey more holistically. CEOs need ensure that their digital leaders are capable of orchestrating far more than customer digitisation programmes, which includes, but is not limited to, digital workforce transformation.
As with any digital business transformation, the need for innovation, digital solutions and business transformation management and leadership capabilities will be fundamental to determining the success of such ambitious and groundbreaking undertakings.
For more on workforce automation read Organizing for the future by McKinsey