For most enterprises, the pandemic really pressure-tested their technologies, processes, and people. IT teams raced to equip remote workers with devices to do their jobs and, at the same time, expedited digital transformation projects to keep enterprises running – and in many cases grow their market share.
Of course, it wasn’t all seamless. What we saw with our clients was that sometimes the tech failed, and the process failed. But the people were the safety net. They proved resilient. Because of that, enterprises that are looking to adopt new technologies and to digitize manual and repetitive workflows – a key to maintaining business resilience – are now putting people at the center of their future-proofing strategies.
"What we saw with our clients was that sometimes the tech failed, and the process failed. But the people were the safety net."
So, to be smart and strategic about what they automate, business leaders are asking themselves four questions in this order: What work needs to be done? What work can be automated? What work is created or remains for people? And what skills are needed for people to deliver that work? That’s how you design a strategic workforce. That’s how you successfully automate manual and repetitive tasks. And that’s how you free up workers and give them the capacity to innovate, to skate to where the puck is moving and toward the problems that will need to be solved. We call this “future workforce blueprinting.”
One aspect of blueprinting is making your workforce sustainable. You do this through upskilling versus getting rid of workers and hiring new ones with new skills. The World Economic Forum estimates 50% of today’s workforce will need to be upskilled by 2025, primarily as a result of workplace automation.
Future skills are now top of mind. As one chief technology officer told us, “I need people to be tech proficient. But I also need 360-degree thinking, for hyper collaborating across the business.” That means workforce planning needs to be done hand-in-hand when planning major technology investments.
There’s this newly popular notion of a composable business, a term first popularized in 2014 to showcase the transformative power of cloud computing on enterprises. This notion has gained traction since the start of the pandemic. It means combining agile business models with digital technologies to adapt – not just to a pandemic but to market needs, customer needs, and internal enterprise needs.
It’s important, but it’s not people centric. It’s still in many ways technology and process centric. It’s good because it forces you to think about assembly rather than build. How you leverage ecosystems. How you leverage services. How you leverage assets that you bring together and combine in novel ways.
But let’s not forget people. It takes all of these – automation, the assemblage model, and most of all a strategic workforce – to create resilience. Whether it’s a pandemic, a cyber attack, or market challenges. That’s how an organization and its people remain vibrant, healthy, and strong for whatever comes next.