Digital workplace, artificial intelligence, big data, social intranets; some of the latest technology buzzwords out there, but do you know what they actually mean? Are you slotting these into presentations and discussions with colleagues and clients and assuming they know what you mean by them? Are you hearing others use these in different contexts when meaning very different things?
These phrases take on a life of their own when they start to be used wider and wider, and the original aim for what they were for can often be lost. So should you avoid using them and aim to be a lot more specific when it comes to what you are talking about?
Catching People’s Interest
What often changes is the fact that people do not know the details of the phrases. I work a lot in the digital workplace space and listen to a lot of discussion from people with plenty of experience like the Digital Workplace Group and Christian Buckley of CollabTalk, among others, and they have a good understanding of what they mean when they use the phrase and are clear on this. However, when talking with clients, some have different expectations of the phrase ‘intranet and digital workplace,’ which just sounds like a fluffy thing where you will be sitting in a virtual reality room looking around with your headset on – not something they see happening any time soon. As is right; they do not live their lives reading about intranet and digital workplace and so their understanding is sculpted by little snippets of information they have heard from others.
The reality, though, is that the world of work has changed a lot now, even if it is not immediately obvious. Many people work a lot more with their documents and their files from anywhere. Their applications are starting to move away from being Excel spreadsheets to PowerApps and other digital based media. Many organisations are really pushing away from their paper based forms, taking things like expenses to be tracked electronically from wherever you are instead of having to sign a piece of paper and hand it over. They are using the digital workplace, they just do not know it and do not necessarily bring all the individual elements under the same umbrella. So the benefit of these buzzwords is to help bring each of these together for people to understand.
The Future of Work
The future of work – technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics – will sneak up on many people, it won’t be a massive step change to what they do now. It will just be a gradual change and sneak in to what people are doing – then they look back on the way we worked was very different. So if you are out there and talking about digital workplace and artificial intelligence it is okay, yes. Yes artificial intelligence can be highly clever and complex to create, but people can understand exactly what you wanted and take you to the right things. Or it could just be something that looks at the last few items you’ve opened and get your recent items from whatever device, as you do with Office 365. So it’s easy to bunch a load of things together under artificial intelligence that may mean very different things as long as you’re being more specific when you need to be.
So Are the Trends for 2018 Just a Load of Hype?
When Gartner released its trends for 2018 there were plenty of buzzwords, especially as many of them seem to be exactly the same as last year, suggesting nothing has changed. AI, digital, bots, blockchain – they are many of the same phrases that cropped up in similar reports for the previous year. What is changing is that these are reaching people as real products rather than just ideas. There are articles like these ones in Chatbot Magazine and Business Insider UK highlighting the growth of bots and the amount they are now being used. The growth of Bitcoin highlights the excitement about blockchain, along with the new games starting to impact the speed of ethereum. These buzzwords are not going away any time soon.
The Positive Side of Buzzwords
Inevitably you will still hear people using phrases in completely the wrong way. You will still not know what some people are trying to communicate with a buzzword. Use the phrases to know that people are interested in these topics and find out more. Find out the facts to back up the buzz and be ready to talk about it.
By Kevin McDonnell, Senior Technical Architect at Ballard Chalmers
Kevin McDonnell is a respected Senior Technical Architect with a Master of Engineering (MEng), Engineering Science degree from the University of Oxford. Specialising in .NET, Azure and the Office 365 development suite as well as a broad understanding of the wider Microsoft stack, he listens to what clients are looking to achieve and helps identify the best platform and solution to deliver on that.