Predicting the unexpected is a tricky process — especially in the world of digital innovation, where change and disruption are a way of life. But that won’t prevent me from sharing my point of view about what’s ahead for work tech and the digital employee experience.
Challenging conventional wisdom is always an uphill climb. Nevertheless, organizations depend on big-picture thinking and agility to survive and thrive. So as the year begins, I’d like to outline four trends that will shape business in 2023 and beyond.
This forecast may surprise you. But don’t be blindsided. Prepare now to seize the day as these four work tech predictions play out over the coming months…
Are These Work Tech Trends on Your Radar?
1. Beyond Malware: We’ll Move From Detection to Prediction
Digital threat actors are becoming bolder and more sophisticated than ever. Hacker “toolkits” are rapidly maturing to include modular malware that lowers the level of skills required to pull off an attack.
Many of these advanced tools and tricks focus on individual workers, rather than organizational systems. These tactics are designed to manipulate employees and contractors into unknowingly letting hackers sidestep effective security defenses like two-factor authentication. With so many people operating in remote and hybrid work tech environments, the potential downside risk is massive.
This is why I believe we will move beyond the age of malware in 2023. Simply detecting malicious code will no longer be enough to protect an organization’s data and technology ecosystem.
The next level of IT security will focus on sensing anomalies and behavior patterns. Systematic analysis of these indicators will predict breaches before they can happen. Advances in AI and machine learning will make it possible to develop and manage these predictive capabilities. Smart organizations will get ahead of this trend, so they can prevent attacks, rather than waiting to react and recover after the fact.
2. The Next Key Tech Purchasing Influencer: Human Resources
Hybrid work has significantly changed the dynamics of our lives – both personally and professionally. This includes organizational software buying patterns.
Traditionally, human resources teams focused solely on purchasing core HR software platforms like Workday, Paycor, or BambooHR. Decisions for other software were typically driven by Chief Information Officers, IT departments, and other functional executives.
But in recent years, flexible work models have become integral to workforce satisfaction and productivity. As a result, HR leaders are more deeply involved in selecting a broader spectrum of digital tools and technology. In many cases, this means HR is more heavily influencing the purchase of hybrid work tech.
This year, look for technology to accelerate its profound impact on culture and employee experience. And look for HR teams to expand their knowledge and influence regarding the selection of all kinds of work-related tools and software.
3. How We Work: Choice Will Matter More Than Mandates
We’ve seen the headlines in recent years. Countless remote and hybrid work employees have resisted a return to rigid, in-office work schedules. Some organizations may choose to double down on return-to-office mandates in 2023, but they will lose in the end.
Smart companies will create a flexible, secure hybrid-work experience and a great physical workspace — one that people will want to visit, but only when they choose to be onsite or their work calls for it.
These organizations will ultimately win on talent quality, agility, sustainability, and worker satisfaction. And eventually, other employers will follow, because they’ll recognize that this strategy leads to long-term organizational strength and business success.
4. Transformative AI: Look for an Uptick in Tech and Ethical Dilemmas
Despite years of promises straight out of sci-fi movies, artificial intelligence and machine learning have mostly stuck to somewhat rote (but helpful!) tasks. Lately, however, some mind-blowing capabilities are emerging. One example is DALL-E, with its ability to create sophisticated art from a verbal description.
The question isn’t, “What will AI disrupt?” The more relevant question is, “What won’t AI disrupt?” (Hint: Not much won’t be disrupted.)
Here’s my perspective. No doubt, even more truly transformative AI use cases will emerge this year. AI engines will be used to develop creative content, write code, drive advanced robotics, detect behavioral anomalies to prevent critical IT infrastructure failures, and so much more.
This next level of AI, and the use cases it inspires, will make a massive impact in 2023 and beyond. And its implications will be both good and bad.
On the downside, as AI takes on more tasks, it can be skewed by harmful programming bias. Potentially, this can affect decisions that impact our lives in fundamental ways, like who is admitted to a leading university, who receives a coveted job offer, or whose mortgage application is approved.
In addition, broader AI use will open the door to even more advanced scams, increased identity theft, and so on. Despite the positive potential impact AI can have on organizations and the world at large, it’s imperative for industry professionals to establish responsible, ethical usage guidelines. And when appropriate, restrictions must be the rule.
With AI, one thing is for sure: Companies that don’t embrace it will become irrelevant much faster than we currently think. Regardless, all of us who embrace AI must ensure its ethical and responsible use to mitigate potential harm. Otherwise, we’ll all suffer the consequences.
Final Thoughts on What’s Ahead for Work Tech
As we see the next wave of work tech unfold this year, I expect that innovators and their innovations will take momentous steps forward when it comes to security, hybrid work, and AI. The winners will be companies that put their people first and understand the technology they need to make the world of work a better place.
This is a time for purposeful innovation and thoughtful investment. And more of the responsibility will rest with HR leaders and practitioners, who will take on more decision-making power than ever.
But the future depends on more than HR, alone. It means diverse business functions, technology vendors and competitors will need to work together across IT ecosystems. With purpose and persistence, I believe that by this time next year, we’ll see real progress in these areas.
Of course, I’m not the only Cisco executive who is thinking about technology and the future of work. To read insights from others, I invite you to visit the Cisco blog.