Generative AI is shaping how professionals work – and doing so more quickly than anyone could have expected. While generative AI is new to the workplace, AI already powers many of the apps businesses use every day in a broader sense – from transcribing video calls and processing expenses, to checking documents for spelling and grammar.
These new generative AI apps are having a huge impact on productivity, but they come with risks. First, there are security risks that stem from employees inputting sensitive data into these apps which could lead to data security breaches. There’s also a risk that all these new apps added to workflows will cause confusion which is the opposite of the desired effect. Indeed, it would be easy for people to feel overwhelmed in this constant state of digital change. How can businesses help staff keep on top of the evolving digital landscape – and make the most of the tools they have been given in a secure way?
Something has to change
As with all new technology in the workplace – be it a version update or completely new app – there is a learning curve. With new apps added on a seemingly daily basis, plus changes within those apps and across workflows, employees could be left with their heads spinning. This poses a growing problem in many businesses: staff are struggling to keep pace with the latest generative AI-powered developments across all the apps they use.
In some cases, businesses are wasting budgets paying for expensive licenses that go underuse. This is a big issue: research shows that large businesses are wasting around $100m a year on software that is not bringing the ROI they had expected. In theory, generative AI tools could form part of this wastage, if firms spend big on them, but do staff know how to use them – or that even that such tools exist? There is undeniably a large range of familiarity and comfort using new technology among employees and organizations should always seek to level the playing field and empower all employees to take full advantage of the technology at their fingertips.
Without fully visibility into how employees are using software and applications, not only are organizations wasting money, but their staff cannot be as productive as they should be. This can also result in frustration at the time it takes to complete a task, and equally, feeling they must constantly learn how to use new software every five minutes.
Could digital adoption help us use AI?
Ultimately, generative AI tools are – for all the hype surrounding them – another example of business software. By treating them as such, businesses can help employees use and understand AI tools and prevent frustration through a process of digital adoption.
For this to work, businesses need to understand how staff are using AI tools, where they are encountering issues, and giving employees direct, instant on-screen guidance to overcome roadblocks and prevent any harmful use. This can be accomplished using a digital adoption platform (DAP) that walks employees through entire workflows in real time, and across apps and workflows, without adding complexity to the process. DAPs also provide businesses with actionable data analytics, giving them greater understanding of how their staff use all software, including AI, and providing the ability to take action to engineer the ideal on-screen experience for employees to work as productively as possible with the technology they already have. The most basic and yet vitally important element of the digital adoption approach, especially when addressing generative AI, is discovery – making sure the business has visibility not only of its own tech stack, but of all and any applications employees are using. This is crucial to avoid so-called ‘shadow AI’: staff using AI tools that are outside of the business’s control or oversight, and potentially opening employees and the organization up to unnecessary security risks.
With generative AI only recently entering the mainstream, there aren’t (yet) many concrete policies or guidelines for businesses or individuals to follow – but there should be. This lack of understanding means employees looking for quick answers to business questions, or to speed up their work, could be unwittingly sharing sensitive information outside the organization – or, at the other end of the scale, plagiarizing others’ work and intellectual property.
Discovering employees’ AI use is the first step to solving this issue – after all, nothing is more dangerous than an ‘unknown unknown’. Yet understanding AI use alone isn’t enough, but really just the first step. Full visibility into AI usage among employees allows organizations to address the reasons staff use ‘shadow AI’ in the first place, and start putting their own policies and guidance in place to ensure safe, ethical use and prevent major data fiascos. DAPs can be used to provide guardrails to employees’ usage of generative AI tools in several ways such as rerouting employees to safer alternative apps, hiding certain functionality on apps, or providing on screen guidance with explicit rules of engagement based on company policy.
AI can help humans adapt and evolve
Generative AI is clearly exciting, and has generated a lot of hype, but there’s still the risk that staff won’t know how it works, or even worse, use it in unsafe ways without their employer’s knowledge. Businesses must ensure that they have full oversight over employees’ use of generative AI so that they can empower them to safely harness the full benefits of this incredible new technology. The productivity and creativity gains these new applications have massive potential to benefit employees and businesses alike.
By focusing on digital adoption, they can kill multiple birds with one stone: removing the risks posed by ‘shadow AI’, while preventing employee frustration and improving the employee experience and productivity. After all, it is easy for employees to be overwhelmed or struggle to keep up as the tech stack evolves. And if the workforce can’t understand new tools and safely put them to use, the true potential of generative AI will never be fully unlocked.
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