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COVID-19 may have upset even for the most prepared businesses when the pandemic struck. As organizations were cornered by the crisis, their capacity for change only increased. While businesses in Asia Pacific and the Middle East (APAC & ME) were already ahead of their western counterparts in digital investments, the pandemic forced them to accelerate deployments and increase their resiliency.

The Cognizant Center for the Future of Work (CFoW), working with Oxford Economics, recently surveyed 4,000 C-level executives, 1,200 of whom were in APAC & ME, to understand how they are putting digital to use and what they hope to achieve in the coming years. The CFoW found that digital — and the technologies it encompasses — has already transformed how work is done. It also uncovered five key actions that all APAC & ME organizations can take to more fruitfully apply digital in the work ahead:

  • Speed data to speed human intelligence. To stay ahead of the curve, businesses should set a target for the next 12 months to match their decision-making speed with the anticipated growth in data volumes.
  • Keep humans in the loop for the unknown consequences of intelligent machine failures. Our study revealed a significant jump in executives’ concern about trust and ethics. Businesses need to focus on self-regulation by building ethics into AI applications.
  • Rethink organizational and team structures. As AI and automation take over more repetitive tasks, work demand will change team structures. Smaller teams will emerge to replace large hierarchical team structures, allowing individuals and teams to become more fluid and flexible.
  • Train humans to enhance their human skills. While it’s relatively easy to train someone on how to follow a particular process, how does one teach empathy? Think about focusing more on fundamental attributes and behaviors than on skills.
  • Keep away from the dark side. This new way of working, doing business and generating value will come at a cost. Cyber fraud, digital terrorism and winner-takes-it-all economy are the top three concerns raised by respondents.

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