When the pandemic began, many IT managers relied on digital workspaces to give employees secure access to apps and data. But as businesses begin to plan for an eventual post-pandemic future, hybrid work models – in one form or another – are set to take hold.
As this model becomes the norm, companies will need to look for ways to improve employee performance while still keeping them engaged and, just as importantly, secure against increased cybersecurity risks. The key to success lies with a digital workspace powered by Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) technology.
Automating Repetitive Tasks
The current potential of an AI and ML-enabled workspace lies in the significant opportunities to remove the burden of monotonous and repetitive tasks for your employees; acting much like a virtual assistant (VA) within a workspace.
Virtual assistants are set to take off this year. Gartner Inc. recently predicted that by 2021, 25% of digital workers will be using a VA on a daily basis, and this is only set to increase in the future. A 2020 study from Citrix, titled ‘Work 2035’, found that 83% of professionals foresee a future in which technology like VAs will automate repetitive and low-value tasks, freeing employees up for more valuable work.
Past uses of VAs were essentially the equivalent of a chatbot. In the near-future, capabilities will allow users to schedule meetings, log new contacts, and automate data collection and data analysis, especially for deeper and more complex data pools.
Through deep learning, VAs in a digital workspace will be able to analyze a worker’s decision making with the goal of eventually being able to instantly manage these routine tasks, solve any number of problems, while making the employee’s day more productive.
Minimizing Distractions and Improving Efficiency
Shockingly, employees deal with as many as 11 different apps a day to get their job done. This creates massive inefficiencies that bog down an employee’s workday. Along with the potential to streamline your workforce’s operations through the automation of repetitive tasks, AI and ML, when implemented into a digital workspace, are also able to create efficiency through the ability to guide and focus your employees.
By learning usual behaviours and patterns of actions, these technologies will be able to provide suggestions to your employees on how best to structure their day to set themselves up for success or identify the most optimal tool or combination of tools to achieve the task at hand.
Additionally, it can remove distractions by muting notifications during certain times of the day or while working on tasks that require more focus, and by suggesting more streamlined ways to do some of your more inefficient tasks.
Employees not only envision such a future being a possibility, they desire it. According to the Citrix Work 2035 study, 79% of professionals stated they would welcome their workspace technology to monitor their work habits and help them improve if it significantly boosted their performance. Being able to provide this to employees during a time when they are forced to work from home – and deal with the many added distractions that come with it – will be invaluable in terms of productivity and achieving a better work/life balance.
Securing the Workforce
The reality is that employees are the first line of defence in preventing potentially devastating cybersecurity attacks. Working from home has added another layer of risk. Employers must now contend with the fact that, as their workforce becomes distributed employees are accessing company data from multiple personal devices and networks – the number of “attack surfaces” is rising. The need for a cybersecurity strategy that can adapt to a range of security scenarios has never been more pronounced.
AI and ML-powered workspaces operate at their peak effectiveness when given the time to study and learn the behaviours of whatever operation they are assigned to. While learning a worker’s habits can be very beneficial to eliminating inefficiencies and distractions, it becomes critical for AI-powered cybersecurity to be effective.
By understanding a person’s unique behaviour, cybersecurity solutions powered by ML can recognize when something out of the ordinary has occurred and immediately restrict access to company assets, like sensitive data and apps.
Ideally, these types of measures are prevented by modifying employee behaviour over time. The power of an ML-enable workspace lies in its ability to predict an outcome and then personalize a set of actions or recommendations based on the user. In a hybrid work model, where employees are distributed across a city, country or the world, ML can provide a customized solution based on the role, seniority and work habits of each employee, ensuring your company is solidly protected on the frontlines.
2021 and Beyond
The promise of intelligent products and services to help us live better lives and work more efficiently has been touted for years – with various degrees of success. But it’s important to understand that powerful and advanced intelligent workspace solutions are real and in use today successfully solving a number of pressing business issues. As we continue to push through the pandemic and shift to a new working model, embracing intelligent technologies within work environments will be critical to ensuring your employees are productive, happy and secure.
Edward Rodriguez is the Vice President of Sales and General Manager of Citrix Canada, where he is dedicated to helping Canadian businesses realize a better way to work. With technical knowledge and forward-thinking vision developed over his 20-year career, Edward has refined his expertise in product sales and management, marketing and consulting services with a specific focus on cloud, mobility, virtualization and SaaS. Edward began his career in technical consulting, and in prior roles at Citrix, led teams that focused on emerging markets and channels and brought new products to market.