Significance Of Digital Skills In Today's Scenario With The Advent Of New Age Technologies

Apratim is responsible for engineering, product management, cloud operations, and IT across all products in the Skillsoft group of companies. He has extensive experience in supporting rapidly growing technology companies including General Manager and SVP of SaaS at SevOne where he was responsible for its on-demand/ SaaS business segment, after holding the position of SVP Engineering.

Prior to SevOne, AP held senior technology positions including Group President in ACI Worldwide and Director of Software at IBM. AP has a PhD in Computer Science from Duke University, an MS in Computer Science from Washington State University and a BS in Computer Science from Jadavpur University, India.

The ongoing crisis has changed our lives fundamentally. Effectively, we need to rapidly reinvent a digital equivalent of our professional lives. This includes all aspects of our professional lives: having a meeting, making a client presentation, negotiating a contract, and having a friday afternoon team break. Multi-channel collaboration using phones, web meetings, online documents, messaging tools, team-based tools, video communications, are suddenly not optional but critical.

Being able to quickly diagnose problems with connectivity, mastering basic device management and IT tasks by yourself, adjusting ambient lighting for video conferences, are things we did not need to deal with personally before, in general. Also, our professional lives are not devoid of personal responsibilities and commitments. Helping our children navigate online learning, helping parents use video-based tools, are also part of the overall equation.

Traditionally knowledge-based companies are better prepared but now several companies like manufacturing, healthcare, etc. will need to go as virtual as possible

Future Of Work And Workplaces
There is an opportunity to fine-tune collaborative technologies. Though we are largely dependent on collaborative tools today, yet we can still do much better in terms of personal experiences such as working with peers on a specific project. Technologies will be developed to a point where we might use AR, VR, and AI as regular staple rather than something esoteric. We will be able to capture gestures and to some extent simulate a meeting space for an almost real experience soon. Commercialization of collaborative technologies using holographic techniques can also take over.

In addition, businesses will realize the cost-benefit of working remotely. This will also push the sustainability envelope a little further. Companies will introspect on their unproductive activities, unnecessary expenses, and carbon footprint. For example, what percentage of teams will go back to some form of flexible schedule? Will they be working remotely or onsite, as we have seen many instances where companies who have tried both?

The New Normal will be more about productivity, measured objectively. There will be more importance of metrics and KPI at the team and individual level. Before current times, "face time" with a manager and social lubrication was important and often influenced a manager's view of an employee. Without social lubrication, performance measurements will be more objective. At the same time, social bonding at a team level will remain important and creative digital equivalents have to be developed.

How Can Organizations Prepare Them-Selves?
In general companies are not adequately prepared for a virtual dominated work. Traditionally knowledge-based companies are better prepared but now several companies like manufacturing, healthcare, etc. will need to go as virtual as possible. Preparation has two major parts. Infrastructure readiness and Employee readiness. Infrastructure readiness includes hardware and software services needed for virtual work-such as protected and secure laptops and phones for employees, securely deployed cloud-based tools for employees to use, etc. Employee readiness includes significant training and learning. Several e-Learning companies offer courses and bootcamps to get cohorts of employees ready ­ they can be leveraged for this purpose.

Emergence Of The Biggest Learning Opportunity For Organizations
The biggest learning opportunity for companies is that being agile and adaptable is key to success. Today we have a pandemic, tomorrow we may face something completely different. Organizations that can quickly acknowledge the reality, assess the situation, decide on needed changes, and implement them quickly will survive and thrive. Building agility into the fabric of the organization is therefore, key.

AI Skills Gap In India
India over the last 25 years have led technology services. It has created a large pool of technology savvy workforce but at the same time, the dominant technologies have been a generation or two older compared to the cutting edge. Artificial Intelligence is one emerging area that is rap-idly catching on. This exists already in daily life-from how our phones support "face id" or how banks detect credit card fraud. AI is a discipline in itself. It has several types of approaches, several levels of sophistication. New graduated from universities are getting exposed to this in their academic programs but millions who graduated a few years ago and are a big part of the workforce do not have the basic knowledge and training in this area. Fortunately, e-Learning providers have introductory courses to complete curriculums available on this topic. Companies must leverage those to reskill and upskill their current employees on AI.

Today, the markets are flooded with new-age technologies such as AI, ML, Robotics, Big Data, IoT, Blockchain, AR. This is actually good news as it opens doors to new opportunities. A mining company can use a blockchain solution to track sourced gold from its origin to the vault or a furniture company may use Augmented Reality to ex-tend its customers a comprehensive view of a swanky sofa in their respective drawing rooms. The companies must know their best implementation to make the most out of the technology.

New-age technologies are catalyzing the creation of new products and services along with new business models that are rewriting the rules of competition in all industries. They have changed the traditional idea about the kind of assets a company must own to compete successfully. For instance, Airbnb, the world's biggest accommodation provider, owns no real estate and Facebook, the most popular media owner, creates no content.

To harness these new age technologies, pervasive digital skills are important. Ability to use all digital technologies including cloud tools, collaboration tools, mobile devices and apps are essential elements to leverage all the new age technologies. Today we live in the fourth industrial revolution, and the essential skills of the day are ­ reading, writing, arithmetic, & digital.