5 ways that digital is changing the workplace

2016-09-26 14:50 - Gareth van Zyl, Fin24
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Peter Sondergaard, senior vice president of technology research firm Gartner. (Gareth van Zyl / Fin24)


Cape Town - Every worker, no matter their role, is now part of the digital workplace and the technology innovation in this space is expected to accelerate even further.

This is the view of Peter Sondergaard, senior vice president of technology research firm Gartner, who was addressing attendees of the Gartner Symposium in Cape Town on Monday.

New roles such as ‘chief digital officer’ and ‘chief technical officer’ are springing up in organisations across the globe.

But Sondergaard said the chief information officer, or CIO, is still in control as they will need to lead by influence.

And in this increasingly connected world, Sondergaard said there are five aspects of the digital platform that CIOs need to take into consideration: IT systems, customer experience, things, intelligence and the ecosystem.

IT systems

READ: Digital tsunami to hit SA workplace

These systems are the traditional systems that are already in place, such as the back-office infrastructure.

“It's building on what you've already built,” said Sondergaard.

While the likes of customer relations management (CRM) and human resources (HR) are delivered through the cloud, there are systems that started on site in offices that will stay there, such as supply chain management.

"While the general trend is towards the cloud, it's time to put these two systems in balance,” he said.

Peter Sondergaard addressing the crowd in Cape Town. (Gareth van Zyl, Fin24)

Mobile is also becoming a key consideration for IT systems, said Sondergaard.

He said that local banking group Nedbank has reduced its core systems by 10% each year while embracing cloud and mobile

"Make cloud, mobile, social and data part of your core capabilities,” he added.

Customer experience

Sondergaard said that "leading organisations are creating new experiences that are enabled by ambient interfaces”.

"To compete in this new world you have to design differently," he said.

But Sondergaard said that creating an integrated multi-channel experience for customers, is however, not enough.

He explained that a new competing differentiator is understanding the customer's intent by tapping analytics tools, especially those that provide real-time insight.


The ‘internet of things’, which refers to connecting objects such as cars to the internet, requires “a mix of disciplines, blending traditional engineering with computer engineering”, said Sondergaard.

READ: The internet of things in the workplace

He explained that there are potentially “billions of devices” that can be connected to the internet.

Adoption of cloud computing is growing dramatically, according to Gartner. (Gareth van Zyl, Fin24)

And integration is also a key initiative amid this environment.

"Hundreds of vendors are claiming to have the core IoT solution...which means that integration is a top priority for you,” he added.

"Early adopters find that they have hard realities with IoT,” he said.

Moreover, two-thirds of organisations found that they had to rework their systems, with the hardest task being integration.

On top of this, real-time analytics is key to success in this space.


Machine learning and artificial intelligence are further becoming key parts of the future working world.

"Artificial intelligence and machine learning moves at the speed of data, not at the speed of code releases,” Sondergaard said.

"New commercial artificial intelligence systems will proliferate.

"We will employ new people to train these systems, not just to code them,” Sondergaard added.


Finally, technology-enabled ecosystems that encapsulate the likes of smart cities and even digital oil fields are expected to proliferate.

The question then becomes as to how you build these ecosystems.

One way to do this is through application programming interfaces, or APIs.

Application programming interfaces allow the creation of applications which access the features or data of an operating system, application, or other service.

"APIs are as important to your ecosystem as synapses are to your brain," said Sondergaard.

He said that smart ecosystems will open themselves up to “connection points” so that “others can build capabilities that you haven’t thought of”.

"Ecosystems are the future of digital,” said Sondergaard.

"That's the future digital platform,” he added.

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