Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Economic Times – ET Edge Insights, its management, or its members

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The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic forced organisations around the world to rethink how work gets done. Few predicted, by December, we would still be navigating the world’s largest experiment in distributed workforces. But the pandemic has quickly dismantled outdated perceptions of waning productivity outside of the office and pushed the bounds of how employers view the employee experience.

ServiceNow’s “The Work Survey sought perspectives of 100 Indian C-suite executives and 1,000 local employees, from a total 9,000 global respondents.

The results revealed Indian organisations led the uptake of digital experiences in the last nine months at pace – driving experimentation and new thinking – compared to the rest of the world.

Leading organisations are approaching the ‘new normal’ as an opportunity to redefine work for the better and give choice to employees. We are entering an era for the employee experience where business functions work much more closely together. Systems and access must be easy, seamless, safe – and available across devices. Accessibility is key, so that employees can self-serve, if they prefer, whether they are at home, in the office or out in the field. Those aren’t options with yesterday’s legacy technology and slow, outdated manual processes.

The way work has traditionally been done, no longer works and business leaders are seeking ‘digital first’ solutions. But the focus on technology and the tools alone will not make the biggest difference. The opportunity is really about people and empowering them with technology so they can work better, in any location, at any time. This is how to protect revenue and increase productivity. Being digital first really means having systems in place that break down departmental silos and create digital workflows that deliver great employee and customer experiences, increasing productivity across industries.

It’s no surprise, in my conversations with India-based executives and employees that there is consensus, the pandemic has helped companies forge new and better ways of working. You’re only as good as your people and winning today means delivering new digital business models, faster than the competition, to make it easy for employees to do their best work, anywhere. Technology has made it possible for people to stay connected, engaged and maintain productivity away from the office.

As the months have passed it has also become clear that in the next normal, the “office” will become a more fluid destination with an entirely new rhythm. The future of work will be less about where people work and more focused on how people get work done.

We’re moving to a predictive world with the power of new technologies like 5G, IOT, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML), making work better for people. We’re going to be in an instant-response world. In the future, businesses are not going to be dealing with incident management that isn’t first predicted, and in many cases taken care of before the problem even shows itself up to the customer. This frees up people to do the work they signed up for, to innovate and deliver better products and services.Looking to the workplace next year, agile, ‘anywhere, anytime’ workplaces will be the norm rather than the exception, with strong, digital workflows, laying the foundations.

With India taking charge of its digital future, one of the biggest challenges still to overcome is transforming the many old processes of the last half century that remain disconnected across systems and departments that leave them vulnerable to the next major disruption.  Less than half of Indian employees (49%) and executives (42%) believe they have a fully integrated system for workflow management across business functions.

In the decade ahead, business leaders will be tested on how they’ve enabled employees and their organisation to make the most of this digital workflow revolution. The right strategy is essential: when you connect every corner of the organisation through digital workflows, getting things done is easier and location ceases to matter. Businesses that have embraced digitisation are more resilient and will fare better.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Economic Times – ET Edge Insights, its management, or its members

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