How and where will the future CIO work?

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What is the workforce of the future? Who will be doing the work? And where will you be doing work? During a discussion with Eskom CIO Faith Burn at the 2024 CIO Day, Investec CIO Shabhana Thaver discussed the role of IT in shaping future work.

Technology’s rapid development will result in a future dominated by human-machine collaboration, according to Investec Specialist Bank SA CIO Shabhana Thaver. Shabhana was in conversation with Eskom CIO Faith Burn at CIO Day.

She said three focus points, driven by technology, are shaping the future of work for CIOs.
“There’s this triangle, basically. “What will you be doing? Who will be doing it? And where will you be doing it?”

Shabhana added that CIOs need to consider the nature of their evolving role and the workforce that will be required in the future. “The nature of the work that you will be doing in the future is going to change. It’s very much focused on human-machine collaboration,” she said.

Though the current reality for CIOs already involves collaboration between technology and humans, Shabhana said a more integrated system can be expected in the near future.

“So everything you’re going to do will either be done by a computer or yourself. So the machine is actually going to do more decision-making, more actions. You’ll have more context awareness in your space,” she said.

With the help of technology, CIOs are expected to have a broader understanding of their environment.

She said the human-machine collaboration will apply beyond specific IT roles and their customers. “Having a human-first approach in leadership will become of higher value. Because everything is changing around you. What you need to work on needs to change, but you need a human-first leadership approach,” she said.

She said CIOs need to prepare their teams and engage with them as the change happens. “And the reason why I say that is because you have to enrol people in the change. They’re not just going to follow you. You have to understand the impact of their change. You have to take them on a journey to that change,” she said.

Shabhana said CIOs need to have a human-first approach by considering multiple issues that may affect their workforce. These, she noted, include South Africa’s high employment rate and the need to reskill the workforce continuously.

“We know that eight to nine percent of the jobs of the future are occupations that have not been created yet. We know that in the next five years, 23 percent of the current jobs are going to change. We know that 50 percent of our current jobs require some sort of technology background,” she said.

Shabhana said the future workforce will include a range of machines driven by technology and humans. “The workforce of the future, basically humans and virtual workers, bots, pilots, co-pilots, virtual systems – all of that is going to come into play as the workforce of the future. That’s complementary to who we are. It’s going to do a lot of the tasks that we are doing today,” she said.

She added that CIOs will need to reskill their workforce. “We’re going to go through a reskilling, learn, unlearn, and relearning will become continuous because of the crazy change that’s happening at the moment. But can we even keep up with that pace?” she asked.

Though AI has become a useful tool, Faith commented that its success depends on how it is used. “I think AI can enable or disable you, or it can actually propel you into an advantage,” she said. “It’s also about how we ethically employ it and how we ensure that we are in control of not being disabled,” she said.

The workplace of the future remains a contentious issue post-Covid as organisations continue to find a balance between remote and on-site work. “Hybrid working, remote working, depending on the context of where you are, becomes more of a sensory environment because of the workplace of the future,” said Shabhana.

Shabhana said in addition to considering their businesses’ needs, organisations also need to consider the wellbeing of their teams.

Faith concluded that organisations need to consider the context in which their business operates when deciding whether to enable remote work or not.

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