Three Key Takeaways from Digital Workplace Summit UK

I had the great fortune this week to attend the Gartner® Digital Workplace Summit in London. As I listened to customers, partners, conference speakers, and (maybe) even a competitor or two, I have three high-level takeaways: 

1) The focus of “everyday AI” should be on boosting productivity. 

It is no surprise that conversations and presentations about generative AI peppered the conference agenda and corridor chatter. One new phrase to me, however, was “everyday AI” . This is a fitting way essentially to describe generative AI. Everyday AI is intended to enhance productivity.  

The conundrum, as I see it, is that generative AI still very much needs a human in the loop to validate the output — be it text, code, or images. Accordingly, everyday AI cannot always get out of its own way.  

In one astonishing example,  a certain generative AI model thought that The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks was about a Native American doctor. In reality, Henrietta Lacks was an African-American woman who was disenfranchised by cancer researchers who used her biopsied cancer cells without her consent. To me, the AI model’s egregiously wrong output sounds like an F paper and, worse, a second major injustice against Henrietta Lacks and her legacy, especially given that her story was brought to light in 2010 by Rebecca Skloot’s book and a 2017 HBO/Harpo film. 

So, unless you have robust, relevant data to feed what you hope will become “everyday AI,” proceed with concern and caution. If generative AI implementations are not trained on great data, they most certainly erode productivity itself (the intended goal) or perhaps even make more work for us as humans to validate and correct the AI. And, trust me, no one wants to trade in their day job to correct a toddler AI model that doesn’t seem to listen. Even mature generative AI models can be suspect without high-quality, well-structured data.  

When will “everyday AI” be as pervasive as, say, smartphones? By 2028. That’s when it will be so integrated that we won’t talk about it anymore! That reminds me of what Lakeside’s Chief Technology Officer Elise Carmichael often says about laptops and the Digital Employee Experience: Employees just want their laptops to work so they don’t ever get in their way of being productive. And when it comes to Lakeside’s own generative AI integration, Elise and her team have kept productivity as their North Star to ensure that Lakeside SysTrack’s Intelligent Support capability enhances productivity by eliminating tedious tasks or time-consuming issue investigations.  

2) Digital workplace leaders must become business partners. 

While murmurings about IT being integral to business strategy have been around for at least a decade, IT still wrestles to some extent with being regarded as a support function. This perspective directly influences Digital Workplace (DW) programs, which one conference presenter described as being stuck in a loop — much like running up a down escalator. We’ve all tried that at some point; it’s worse than rolling up the Sisyphean boulder another presenter mentioned that many DW leaders carry around these days as they are trying to validate and advance their Digital Workplace strategy. 

The way out of this loop is to mature the Digital Workplace strategy so it becomes an integral part of the overall business strategy. In other words, invite HR and other business functions to the DEX party! Why? Because the employee experience has a direct impact on employee retention, management talent shortages, and even the customer experience (which affects the brand and customer loyalty). 

The frustrations of disgruntled employees or silent sufferers bleed into customer experiences. That’s why it is essential for Digital Workplace leaders to consider the employee Net Promoter Score (NPS). What’s more, a bad frontline digital employee experience, even among satisfied employees, ultimately will have a negative impact on the customer experience, placing a brand’s trust and reputation at risk.  

There are other HR use cases for using DEX data such as onboarding, which LexisNexis Global Support Director Greg Dolphin has successfully established. 

In addition to listening to these sessions, I walked by this Gartner® stat about a dozen times over the course of the two days, as it was on a pillar on the way back from the coffee area!  

This prediction says it all! DEX must become inextricable from business strategy. Any company — from startups to Fortune 100 companies — is only as good as their employees, so they must look beyond DEX as an IT issue. DEX is a business issue. Nurturing the digital employee experience simply makes business sense.  

That brings me to my last point: making sure employees have a say in the latest tech and transformations companies throw their way. 

3) Change management is essential for a successful DEX and/or AI strategy. 

 IT must enable the “digital dexterity” of employees, especially up and coming employees from the Gen Z and younger cadre and reduce the friction of tech adoption for all employees. Whether employees are analog workers in a digital world (yours truly) or three-steps-ahead digital natives, IT certainly must not be the bottleneck to empowering their tech savviness and capabilities.   

That’s why it is imperative to connect executive vision with worker adoption.  To me, that’s where change management enters the picture. Unfortunately, change management often is overlooked whenever any shiny new tech object rolls out — the equivalent of my dictating to my kids when they were little, “Eat this steamed cauliflower” without getting their buy-in. At all. Blech! I still hear about that one from time to time — even a decade later! 

Regardless of an individual employee’s level of adoption, change management is crucial whenever a new tech tool is required. And that’s not just about deploying the tech; it’s about engaging employees as partners in any major IT transformation project. 

Specifically, empowering a mind shift toward new tech involves training, the gathering of employee feedback, and finetuning to ensure a well-rounded and satisfactory digital employee experience. 

That’s a wrap! 

I should mention that I attended the Gartner Digital Workplace Summit primarily as Lakeside’s “roving reporter” to capture feedback and commentary from our customers and partners in attendance (check out our LinkedIn for the videos and photos I captured!). I was glad to have an attendee pass to use in between recordings so I could absorb all the great commentary and energy from some amazing speakers.  

Returning to my day-to-day role, I’m excited to see how these takeaways play out in the DEX strategies of Lakeside customers… with the help and insights from the leading AI-powered DEX platform, SysTrack, of course.   

That’s a wrap!  Thank you, Lakeside, London, and Gartner® DW! 

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