With advances in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and developments in voice and text interfaces, office work is set to change. By making it easier for employees to interact with their computers to get work done more quickly, organizations will be able to achieve a step change in productivity and an increase in worker job satisfaction. With this in mind, and to help visualize what the future of office work might be like, I wrote this blog to compare a day in the life of an office worker today with that of one 30 years in the future. Here’s the question: What will it take for organizations, and the technology industry, to enable the kind of nirvana I have described for 2049?

2019

On the commuter train heading to a meeting with my client, I look enviously at the neat, small mini-laptop that the man sitting next to me is using. I take out my clunky, large version and boot it up while carefully balancing it on my lap. I’d use my own smaller device, but our IT department doesn’t allow it.

Propping it up on my lap, I use the laptop to make one final change to my presentation before I get to the client’s office. I finalize one of several very cool charts based on an analysis that one of our analytics experts did for me. It took a few days to get these done, but I think the wait was worth it. With the presentation complete, having swapped notes with my colleagues about the client and having researched the company, I’m fully prepared for the meeting.

The train slows and comes to a halt at a station just before the city terminal, and the driver’s voice floats over the airways to tell us that the train has broken down. We’re told to get off at this station and make our way to our destinations via other train services.

I disembark, take out my mobile and ask my personal virtual assistant “James” to give me directions. My phone gets confused as a fast train noisily goes past and masks my voice. Finally, on the fourth attempt, it displays several links that might help. One of them shows suitable train connections and travel times.

I try to send a text to my client saying I might be a few minutes late because of train trouble. But my new phone hasn’t yet learned the words I typically use, so its predictive text comes up with complete nonsense: “I’m stunning wait…” I have to delete and retype several words before I can send the message.

I finally get to my client’s office 20 minutes late. However, because I gave her a heads up, the meeting goes well with the likelihood of a sale remaining high. The only real harm was that I didn’t get a morning coffee before the meeting, and I’m now running late for the rest of the day.

2049

I’m on an autonomous commuter air minibus, heading to our offices in the center of the city for a meeting with my client. I unroll and click into shape my paper-thin personal computer screen that sits neatly on its suction pads on my seat table. I switch on my personal workspace dongle that is hanging on a lanyard around my neck, and using my headphone ask my personal virtual assistant James to open the presentation deck I was working on yesterday.

While I get started, James reads me the notes from our last meeting with the client and reminds me of the key information that it collected from my colleagues as part of the prep for this meeting. James also updates me with the latest news about the client including a troubled contract. When James finishes briefing me, the lanyard projects animated holograms of the charts from my file onto the screen. I say “keyboard” into my microphone, and it appears on the screen so I can make a few finishing touches to my deck. I add another cool 3-D animated chart that James created for me on the fly yesterday.

The air minibus lands at a designated rooftop close to my office building. As I enter the building, my personal workspace dongle flashes in acknowledgement to the face recognition system, and the entry gate opens automatically. When James finds me a hot-desking space, my dongle automatically connects to the laptop that is connected to the desk, and with a gentle welcoming sound my personal workstation comes to life.

When the client arrives, we head for a meeting room where James projects my presentation in the middle of the table, in 3-D, and shares an updated proposal on a screen. As I walk the client through the proposal, James highlights the most relevant 3-D charts along the way, allowing me to point out important data to the client. The meeting goes well, and we seal the deal.

On my way back to my hot desk, I ask James to call my boss. I have good sales news to share with him.

Making This Vision a Reality

In case you were wondering, there are already prototypes if not early versions of the technologies that I have discussed in this blog. There is no doubt in my mind that technology is bringing the next employee productivity revolution within our grasp but taking advantage of it is a different matter.

For example, there is data to be managed and integrated so that personal virtual assistants like “James” can do what I have described here. IT infrastructure will need to be expanded to add capacity for this kind of connectivity and real-time AI decision-making. Policies need to be updated and managed, e.g., data protection and privacy policies. There is also the question of what new roles will be required, e.g., virtual assistant minders who not only train the assistants but also keep them connected and their knowledge up to date. Another question: Is this vision even possible despite tech giants wanting to keep their users working only on their own proprietary technology platforms?

I’ll be keeping a close eye on developments in this space and will update you in future blogs, and Everest Group reports and Viewpoints.

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