Artificial intelligence (AI) is coming to a workplace near you — in fact, maybe it’s already arrived. From AI-powered virtual assistants to predictive features in everyday software, it’s projected that one in five workers will experience the benefits of working with AI by 2022.

Information technology is one segment of the workforce that understands AI’s big-picture potential. IT leaders, product engineers and other forward-thinkers can easily envision how AI improves and augments the entire employee experience. Though there are still misconceptions and misleading hype surrounding AI, organizational leaders are already realizing the many benefits of the technology in business operations. (To learn more about AI misconceptions, see Debunking the Top 10 AI Myths.)

Everyday employees shouldn’t fear smart technologies like AI and automation — fewer than 5% of today’s jobs can be entirely replaced by AI. Smart technology is set to positively impact a wide variety of roles, signaling that AI will be an incredible partner to humans in the workplace.

The Most Important Question About AI

AI becomes an ally — and justifies its investment — when implemented strategically. To ensure this, organizational decision-makers should ask one question when considering adopting smart technology: Will this help my employees get what they need?

In successful examples of smart technology, the average employee might not even be able to identify the technology — just that applications work faster and their jobs are easier. Smart technology doesn’t need to be a futuristic virtual assistant. Rather, it can be something as simple as a software feature that connects data points (like navigation apps that suggest destinations).

These simple functions, like AI that suggests a folder for a sales document or finds a longtime customer’s current email address, save employees a few seconds. While that doesn’t sound like much, when employees start applying AI to all their daily tools, those seconds add up to valuable time to think and perform.

Employee Enablement

One of the most valuable scenarios for artificial intelligence is assisting employees with unfamiliar tasks. Consider the amount of technology that employees use and that organizations update and maintain: laptops, cell phones, CRM tools, HR and virtual meeting software, and other integrated technologies. It quickly becomes too much for people to master and remaster.

Support for these technologies is in high demand because so many business processes depend on them. But employees don’t always know how to get what they want from technology, and they certainly haven’t memorized troubleshooting steps. This makes for a great opportunity to deploy AI in IT.

With an integrated configuration management database (CMDB) and service desk, AI can diagnose devices that need updates and identify larger problems from related support tickets. And enterprises can deploy AI through the front end as well. When an employee is having trouble logging in, or can’t open a particular application without an update, an AI-powered service desk can suggest self-help to get them back on their way.

Both uses of smart technology help IT departments take a proactive approach in maintaining services and technology for all employees. The roles of IT personnel aren’t changing, but their ability to plan, prepare and react dramatically improves.

Predicting Employee Needs

Before ride-sharing apps, the concept of suggested pickup locations did not exist. Either you called a taxi service and hoped they found you, or you picked out a spot on the crowded street and fought for your ride — both accepted inconveniences. One of the primary responsibilities for organizational leadership is to identify the pain points, or accepted inconveniences, that employees might not even know they face. (Just how much will AI affect workers, and how will society adjust? Learn more in Is the AI Revolution Going to Make Universal Income a Necessity?)

For example, when searching for a missing copy of their W-2, employees might take several routes to find an answer. They might ask their neighbor, search the company message board or walk over to HR as an accepted inconvenience. But with a service portal, typing “W-2” into the smart technology would supply a link. Previously, the issue could take minutes or days to solve. But with a service desk supported by smart technology, employees can answer critical questions in seconds.

Now imagine all the minor inconveniences that employees encounter during the day — problems rarely considered until they need an answer. Artificial intelligence can help teams prepare for these issues and provide zero-touch answers. With smart technology, enterprises can remove the minor roadblocks that keep employees from hitting goals.

Digital and Human Behavior Together

The goal of the modern workplace should be to augment the employee experience with a blend of both human and digital components. By integrating AI into everyday tasks, leaders can dramatically increase efficiency across the enterprise. Joining human creativity, emotion and knowledge with the capabilities of AI can create a superior workplace of the future and a more meaningful employee experience.