DUBAI — The Arab Gulf is where new technology stretches, flexes, and undergoes rigorous testing. A combination of forward-looking governments, daring businesses, and tech-savvy populations makes this region a prime testing ground for cutting-edge innovations. The latest buzz is around artificial intelligence (AI). Across the GCC, individuals and organizations are tapping into the power and convenience of AI.
A recent McKinsey study revealed that 62% of GCC decision-makers reported using AI to augment at least one business function. For instance, in the United Arab Emirates, the transport and food-delivery app service Careem used AI to block 35,000 fraudulent accounts. Additionally, the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority’s Rammas bot handled 6.8 million inquiries in its first five years of operation. Over in Saudi Arabia, oil giant Aramco utilized AI to cut its flare emissions in half between 2010 and 2020.
The integration of AI into our everyday technology is remarkable, making many of these tools virtually invisible. With each year, traditional manual inputs like typing are increasingly being replaced by AI capable of understanding verbal instructions or even anticipating our needs. These seamless applications have infiltrated enterprises in a manner akin to a friend sneakily brought into the workplace. Many of these AI tools are officially sanctioned by businesses, like virtual assistants who work tirelessly without needing breaks. Regardless of whether AI is implemented by employees or employers, one thing is evident: the shift in expectations among younger workers about achieving results has led to the current landscape. AI is blurring the lines between traditional and innovative work methods. Employees are increasingly likely to craft their own digital toolkits for delivering positive outcomes, instead of relying on predetermined applications to follow set processes.
The concept of the consumerization of IT has evolved significantly. Initially, it described a revolution in devices, but now it refers to an omnichannel experience, not just for consumers but also for employees. Technologies like AI and natural-language processing (NLP) empower employees to access the right information at the right time, enhancing convenience for both customers and themselves. Invisible virtual colleagues streamline workflows by removing superfluous steps. For instance, employees could simply email the service desk to create a ticket, bypassing the need to log into a separate system. Similarly, they could expedite purchase requisitions and expense processes with the aid of an unobtrusive finance application.
The term often used to describe such technology environments is “frictionless.” Employees aspire for this quality in their daily routines, where everything is expedited, and machine intelligence handles tasks that previously drained human resources. AI excels as a meticulous note-taker and record-keeper. Every interaction, even complex email chains, is captured by an inconspicuous app and stored in an easily searchable format. This is invaluable for those optimizing business processes, as it provides insights into what is effective and what isn’t, which is crucial for the success of digital transformation programs.
When managers observe their teams, either in the office or on a Zoom call, they’ll notice a decrease in visible stress. Employees, relieved from the manual steps and workarounds once necessary for daily tasks, exhibit less strain. The elimination of shortcuts and deviations that previously hindered policy adherence now fosters greater efficiency and consistency. In some cases, this also enhances compliance. Enterprises achieve improved business outcomes without demanding extra effort from their employees.
Employees are stepping into a new world where a single internal messaging app can handle multiple tasks – from inquiring about leave balances to requesting virtual credit cards or logging IT support requests. Implementers of invisible apps might consider merging multiple help desk applications into a single-pane interface. Employees simply visit one help window (akin to a virtual kiosk) for assistance, and the invisible app takes care of everything else – raising tickets and routing them as needed to HR, facilities, finance, marketing, IT, or other departments.
Chat-based solutions now offer more integration options than ever. As invisible apps, they play a critical role in an enterprise. Many of today’s applications seamlessly integrate with platforms like Slack or Teams, enabling true background operations. Others have robust REST APIs (representational state transfer application programming interfaces), facilitating easier integrations and long-term scalability.
With AI operating in the background, it helps break down information silos. Robotic Process Automation (RPA) agents can transfer data from one business process to another without any user input. Messenger bots can proactively present key metrics to relevant stakeholders without requiring them to log into a business intelligence system. AI brings information to the user, eliminating the need for them to search for actionable intelligence.
Of course, all this is only effective if the organization tailors its approach to its own goals and realities. This often boils down to assessing the user base – understanding people’s skills and preferences – and providing the invisible apps that best suit these individuals. For instance, if an organization has offices across the GCC, it could employ an invisible app to authenticate employees to local Wi-Fi networks as soon as they arrive at any office, not just their usual workplace. Many corporate environments would also benefit from single sign-on experiences, where invisible apps grant employees access to a range of business services.
Invisible apps, largely driven by AI, are already pervasive. They silently lubricate the gears of business, working behind the scenes to enhance the employee experience. While their operations might go unnoticed, these apps have become an indispensable part of the modern workplace.
Prasad Ramakrishnan is the CIO at Freshworks.
The opinions expressed are those of the authors and may not reflect the editorial policy or an official position held by TRENDS.