Do Automation and AI Help the Knowledge Worker?

By Gregory Pings

Randy Dazo
“We have to figure out what technology should do for us, and what we must do for ourselves.” – Randy Dazo, Group Director, Office Document Technology, Keypoint Intelligence

“Oh, gosh!” he said when pondering whether or not technology improved his productivity. “As a society, we overshare in our business and personal spheres. We’re covering ourselves with things like email, social media and instant messaging, and it makes us busier.”

Randy Dazo is the group director for Office Document Technology at Keypoint Intelligence. If you’ve heard of Buyers Lab and InfoTrends, then you know Keypoint. Buyers Lab tests and evaluates office products, publishes their findings, and issues awards for products and services.  InfoTrends examines market forecasts for copy/print/scan products and associated services. Dazo is responsible for product groups, editorial and analysts.

“My personal challenge is responding to everything,” Dazo continued. “On email alone, I receive about 250 messages a day. Maybe 30 percent require a response.”

He wasn’t kidding. Dazo’s email regularly chimed to announce new messages throughout our interview. “I’m looking for tools that can help me sort through the messages and prioritize them,” he said.

For people who blog or consult on the side, in addition to their regular jobs, handling messages from multiple work lives is all the more challenging.

“I have used tools that automatically prioritize messages, but they’re not proactive, nor do they offer a high enough level of personalization to be truly effective,” Dazo said.

AI and automation

And yet, isn’t it a bit scary to allow a machine do things without being told? Are we comfortable to let go of these tasks and trust the technology?

Dazo points to the debate over driverless cars. He admits the threshold will be different for each person. Some will embrace automation whole heartedly, others – not so much. Insofar as you may not be ready to trust a driverless car, you’re probably comfortable with cruise control and anti-lock brakes. So the trip to automation may be gradual for some of us.

“New technology changes how we think and what we think about,” Dazo said. “We have to figure out what technology should do for us, and what we must do for ourselves.”

(The Modern Workplace series will be published each Friday on Xerox Connect. Subscribe to this blog so you won’t miss a thing, or retrieve your favorite Modern Workplace articles here.)

As we reshape our thinking about technology, our work environments shift as well. Artificial intelligence will eventually catch up to our needs. This is the reality that informs the Xerox view of the nature of page: Hard copy and digital information from multiple sources, in multiple forms, accessible on multiple platforms. How efficiently can it be collected, understood, modified and shared? We have many choices – maybe too many. But that’s the reality. How do we keep technology moving forward so that it solves more problems than it creates? Solve for that, and you the page is set free.

Eventually, a software program will be able to determine that rare message from Aunt Sue is urgent and give it precedence over your manager’s inquiries – maybe even quicker than your grandfather’s secretary did back in the day.

“Technology will always give us value, and allow us to make better decisions,” Dazo said.

Just don’t expect a simple yes-no answer when you ask him if technology has made him more productive.

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