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Gartner hype cycle outlines the technologies for workforce digital dexterity

Augmented data discovery, personal analytics, conversational user interfaces and virtual assistants will lead the way for digital workplaces in the coming years, according to to a new Gartner report.

The Hype Cycle for the Digital Workplace 2017 sees Gartner forecasting augmented data discovery and personal analytics to have a ‘transformational' impact in the next two to five years, with virtual assistants' impact coming in the next five to 10 years.

However, Gartner says humans will remain at the centre of work, even as intelligent software and machines become our co-workers.

Matt Cain, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner, says “CIOs must anticipate how trends in business, society, technology and information will converge to change where, when, why and with whom we work.

CIOs must expand their charter to include workforce digital dexterity, he adds.

The report shows personal analytics, insight engines, virtual assistants and rapid mobile app development tools are reaching the ‘peak of inflated expectations'.

Gartner is urging application leaders to launch augmented data discovery pilots to assess the viability of the technology, prove its value and build trust in it.

Augmented data discovery enables business users and citizen data scientists to automatically find, visualise and act on exceptions, clusters and predictions in complex datasets, without having to build modles or write algorithms.

The analyst firm says the technology can reduce time consuming exploration and the false identification of less relevant insights, with segments, clusters, outliers and relationships automatically applied to the data and ony the most statistically significant and relevant results presented in smart visualisations and/or natural language narrations optimised for the user.

Gartner says application leaders should start with a small list of specific business problems that can't be solved with business intelligence and analytics platforms, and build their pilot around that.

The company is forecasting personal analytics, which is the analysis of contextually relevant data to provide personalised insight, predictions and/or recommendations for individual users, to reach mainstream adoption by 2020.

Examples of personal analytics include virtual health assistants, financial advice assistants and shopping assistants.

“Organisations can benefit from personal analytics by using the data collected to personalise products and services, and to deepen and extend customer relationships, or to assist with planning future services that meet new customer requirements,” Gartner says.

However, it notes obstacles include the challenge of integrating personal ecosystems of sensors and data feeds associcated with individual users, as well as the business models required to support product development and marketing.

Further down the track, Gartner is predicting conversational user interfaces (CUIs), in which user and machine interactions occur in spoken or written natural language, and virtual assistants to have a transformational impact in the next five to 10 years.

“CUIs had huge growth in 2017, with chatbots, messaging platforms and virtual speakers contributing to the boom,” Gartner says.

“The explosion in the availability of conversational platforms is making CUIs an alternative to graphical user interfaces.

Cain says application suite vendors are expected to increasingly implement CUIs in front of business applications, leading to hundreds of different chat interfaces.

“Most CUI implementations are not able to respond to complex queries,” he says. “Increases in capabilities will, at first, largely come from improvements in natural language understanding and speech recognition.

On the virtual assistant front, Cain says businesses that haven't begun deploying VAs to interact with customers and employyes ‘should start now'.

Gartner is predicting the Virtual assistants market, where VAs harness the power of artificial intelligence and machine learning, to automate tasks previously only carried out by humans, is unlikely to have a single market leader, due to fragmentation of ecosystems.

However, the company says major technology providers, including Apple with Siri, Google with Google Assistant and Microsoft with Cortana, are likely to remain dominant.

“VAs listen and observe behaviours, build and maintain data models and predict and recommend actions,” Gartner says. “They may act for the user, forming a relationship with the user over time.

“VAs' importance will grow as society moves into the post-app era in the next five years.

Cain says companies should look for opportunities to use VAs to make users more productive with business apps and mobile platforms, and carefully measure the impact of VAs on behaviour and performance.

“Organisations should closely monitor the use of VAs and be prepared to hand off to human agents to ensure customer satisfaction,” Cain adds.

In other areas of the hype cycle, speech recognition has passed into the ‘plateau of productivity', according to Gartner, with crowdsourcing, BYOD, enterprise social networking applications, personal cloud, gamification, content collaboration platform and apps on the ‘slope of enlightenment' over the coming five years.

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