Future Spending Points to Machines Becoming Work Colleagues

Image credit: iStockphoto/sompong_tom

While companies are mulling return-to-workplace strategies and balancing their hybrid working priorities, another aspect of the pandemic workplace is about to make its mark: human-machine collaboration.

In its Worldwide Future of Work Spending Guide, IDC forecasted that human-machine collaboration would set the tone of the Future of Work (FoW). It also predicted that companies would spend nearly USD 656 billion this year on FoW, a 17.4% increase from last year.

Why the spend? Holly Muscolino, research vice president for content strategies and the future of work at IDC, noted that it reflected the shortcomings of traditional work models.

“To drive growth and competitive differentiation, organizations will invest in technologies and services that power automation, human-machine collaboration, new organizational structures, and leadership styles, dynamic learning opportunities, a reimagined workplace, and a digital work environment that is not bounded by time or physical place," said Muscolino. 

This year's most significant investment area would be FoW hardware — essentially, companies are laying down the building blocks. Companies are forecasted to spend USD 228 billion in endpoint devices, enterprise hardware, infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS), and robotics and drones. Services, which also include connectivity, will come in second at USD 123 billion.

It gets interesting when it comes to the software category. It had the fastest growth in terms of spending, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 21.3% over the 2020-2024 forecast period. It covers investments in enterprise applications, content and collaboration, analytics and AI, human resources applications, security, and software development and deployment.

The investment in software has the potential to change the work fundamentally. The most significant impact will be in discrete and process manufacturing, said IDC.

"Emerging technologies like artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, and augmented/virtual reality are changing how work is getting done across all industries and across the world. Seeking automated decision support and virtual collaborative approaches, discrete and process manufacturing, the two largest spenders on Future of Work technology over the forecast period, are investing in key use cases like collaborative robotics, operational performance management, and 3-D and digital product design and review for improved cost control and higher process efficiency," said Eileen Smith, program vice president at customer insights and analysis at IDC.

Discrete and process manufacturing will account for just over one-third of all FoW spending this year. Professional services, retail, and banking will be the following three industries in FoW spend in 2021.

Meanwhile, the construction industry will see the fastest growth in FoW spending over the forecast period, with a five-year CAGR of 23.7%. Media and retail will follow closely with CAGRs of 19.5% and 19.3%, respectively.

The FoW use cases that will benefit from the most spending in 2021 include collaborative robotics, operational performance management, and automated customer management. The use cases that are expected to see the fastest spending growth over the 2020-2024 forecast period are adaptive skill development, interconnected collaborative workspaces, and advanced project management.

"IDC forecasts investment in technologies supporting Future of Work initiatives to exceed $USD 1 trillion worldwide by 2024 with a robust 17% CAGR over the five-year forecast period. All aspects of how people and organizations work are evolving, enabled by 3rd Platform technologies, and accelerated by the pandemic. Indeed 3rd Platform hardware, such as IoT devices, robots and drones, and IaaS, are more than one-third of the total spend, demonstrating the growing importance of the technologies enabling the reimagined workplace," said Karen Massey, research manager for customer insights & analysis at IDC.

Image credit: iStockphoto/sompong_tom