The End of Work as We Know It: 6 Big Predictions for 2017


The rapid changes wrought by technology touch every aspect of the workforce. What happens in IT will not definitely not stay in IT. In fact, IT departments seem to be the bellwether for changes about to impact nearly every employee, small business to enterprise. As we plot the trajectory of current trends, all indicators point to a massive shift in how we work. Here are six fundamental changes that we expect to see—or begin to see—in 2017.

1. Ding-Dong, Busy Work Is Dead

Email. Spreadsheets. An onslaught of unnecessary meetings. All the dozens of busy-work tasks that clog our day add up. In fact, we spend 2 out of 5 business days each week on routine work that’s not core to our jobs. That’s 40 percent of our week. What would happen if we could reduce—or eliminate—that busy work and reallocate the time to work vital to our jobs?

Machine automation, AI, and messaging will make it easier to build solutions that do the busy work so workers can focus on business issues. A McKinsey multi-year study found about 60 percent of occupations could have 30 percent or more of their constituent activities automated. Further, International Data Corporation (IDC) predicts that digitally transforming tasks from human-based to software-based will catalyze astonishing leaps in productivity. By their estimate, 60 percent of the G2000 will double their productivity by 2020.

So long, busy work. We’re glad you’re extinct.

2. Give Me the Apps I Want…Or Else!

Digital natives, DIYers, and citizen developers have cultivated a maker movement that is now crossing over into enterprises around the world. In 2017, employees will continue to DIY when it comes to enterprise tools—to the benefit of productivity. If solutions do not meet employee needs, then they will create apps to their specifications.

IDC says that the digital transformation economy—operating at scale—will be “driven primarily by code.” In 2017 and beyond, all software will evolve to include low-code capabilities. This will enable employees in every department to customize interfaces with simple drag-and-drop tools. They will even be able to build full-fledged applications. Meanwhile, the IT team will remain responsible for brokering and managing these apps.

3. Welcome to the Task-Marketplace Inside Your Company

In 2017, workers will come together to complete a specific task (micro work), and then disperse. What does this mean? Just think of how Uber has automated the interactions between drivers and riders. Enterprises will need to build the kinds of systems that enable rapid exchange of talent and services instead of relying on ad hoc methods like email.  

This is already having a big impact on IT, as enterprises transition to cloud-first. IT professionals will need to become experts in brokering services—essentially adopting frameworks such as SIAM (Service Integration and Management).

4. Reach Your Potential One Chatbot at a Time

We tend to think about chatbots as customer-support tools, but that is about to change. Using algorithms, bots will guide positive changes to our behavior because they’ll be able to leverage individual contextualization.

Imagine a chatbot that points out to an employee that their company’s incident response time is 30 percent slower than a financial competitor’s—and then tells the worker exactly what they need to do to improve their response time. According to Gartner, by the end of 2017 at least one commercial organization will report significant increases in profit margin because of algorithms used to positively alter employee behaviors.

5. Tech Productivity, Not Politics, Drives Growth

Political leaders beat a steady drum about the need to get the economy growing again and get more out of what we put in. Simply put, political decree does not drive growth; productivity does. However, the economy has forced companies to push employees to do more in less time while delivering higher quality. We’re reaching the point where employees can’t do more without technology stepping up. What tech in 2017 will drive new growth?

According to ServiceNow’s State of Work research, organizations with 5,000 employees collectively across the United States could save $575 billion a year by automating (enabled by machine intelligence) unnecessary tasks and inefficiencies, which would equal a 3.3 percent gain in the U.S. GDP, or approximately the combined annual profits of America’s 50 largest public companies.

6. When Machines Talk to Machines, Good Things Happen

We are quantifying information like never before—we create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data every day. It’s impossible for humans to manage all this data and analyze the relationships between people, information, and things.

Future connected machines won’t be like today’s, which require the human interface. As we roll into 2017, the Internet of Things will drive machines to talk to machines, with M2M connections reaching 27 billion by 2024. The highest levels of collaboration and productivity will come when machines understand activities, context, and motivation and can make the appropriate decision. Companies that find the right balance of digital humanism will win.


The future of work in 2017 and beyond will center on using increasingly capable technologies to improve our productivity to the point where we can focus on the creative and core business issues that only humans can solve. What will you do when technology enables you to have 40 percent more time to innovate? It seems we will begin answering that question in 2017

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

GM and VP, Product Operations at ServiceNow

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