Time for Associations to Try Machine Co-Workers and Digital Reality

For the next ten years, association executives will experience digital transformation more so than disruption and augmentation more so than automation.

Forecasters analyzing technology trends and adoption rates evoke scenarios in which machines become co-workers and digital reality transforms how we work and learn. Drawing upon the Deloitte report, Tech Trends 2018: The Symphonic Enterprise and the ASAE ForesightWorks research, here are some potential use cases typical association executives might experience.

Deloitte calls this AI-assisted workforce the “no-collar” workforce.  “The no-collar trend offers companies the opportunity to re-imagine an entirely new organizational model in which humans and machines become co-workers complementing and enhancing the other’s efforts in a unified digital workforce.”  Might these co-workers mitigate the demand for 24-7 service in an always on world? For many association functions, the answer could be yes.

Global associations will find it easier to be authentically global regardless of their location as digital reality (incorporating virtual and augmented reality) will enhance their ability to cooperate and communicate. Deloitte forecasts that the videoconferencing and live chats of today will “become immersive interactions that serve up replicated facial expressions, gesticulations and holograms in real time.”

Using digital reality, information will be presented in a visual context and learners will be placed in lifelike situations to closely simulate applied learning. Some healthcare and engineering associations are already exploring these capabilities and others will follow. The gamechanger will be when a personal computer screen becomes a virtually immersive workspace. At that point virtual learning will take off as an attractive alternative to live learning experiences.

Digital reality is transforming sales demonstrations and virtual tours that bring consumers closer to products and places. Deloitte says these uses are leading the way into digital reality. This raises an important strategic question for the future of association exhibits, or at least what floor space might be required for a very different kind of interaction.

For some time to come, humans may still prefer the diversity of experiences and emotional connections they enjoy at live events. Yet associations need to be experimenting now with using digital reality in sales and learning to reach new and expanded audiences.

As Deloitte illustrates through a number of use cases in leading companies and organizations, the early proof of a future with machine co-workers and digital reality is here now. Many associations have these companies or their employees as members. As these capabilities become increasingly familiar to them, they will expect their associations to acquire these capabilities.

When association executives ask for more staff, these volunteer leaders will ask have they tried robotic process automation to streamline operations. When members have what they judge to be clueless encounters with the association, they will wonder why their association doesn’t have the AI to deliver “see you, know you” customer intimacy and service. 

The Deloitte analysts have an informed sensibility about what automation and digital reality could mean in the mid-term time horizon of the next five to ten years. ASAE ForesightWorks also underscores the potential impact of anticipatory intelligence, human-machine cooperation, and virtualized meetings. These forecasts are important for association strategists,  because if heeded, they extend associations ample time to make the technology investments and learn to use digital reality and AI co-workers to serve members and achieve mission.