Cisco’s AI Chief Says Technology Will Enhance Workplace Productivity

workplace collaboration, AI, artificial intelligence, Cisco

From enhancing productivity and efficiency to revolutionizing customer experiences, artificial intelligence (AI) could reshape the future of work and commerce.

PYMNTS interviewed Javed Khan, senior vice president and general manager of Cisco Collaboration, to gain a deeper insight into this technology. Khan oversees the Webex product portfolio, including collaboration devices, the Webex Suite, and more. He shared his thoughts on how AI is already changing the work landscape and what we can expect in the years to come. 

“A commonality with most technological advancements throughout history is that they ultimately delivered a significantly better experience than before. AI will be no different,” Khan said. “In fact, we’re already seeing the benefits that AI can bring to the workplace and beyond, empowering us all to reimagine how we connect and collaborate.”

Khan said one example of how Cisco uses AI to transform collaboration is through the recently unveiled Cisco AI Assistant. The tool is meant to help employees save time by providing automatic meeting summaries and action items using generative AI (GenAI).

“This solution results in an overall better employee experience, increasing productivity and efficiency,” Khan said. 

AI for Customer Experience

Khan pointed out that AI’s impact extends beyond internal collaboration in the workplace. AI will also be pivotal in shaping customer experiences, making them more personalized, efficient, and responsive.

“Cisco’s Webex Contact Center, equipped with AI, can help businesses transform their customer service operations, resulting in higher levels of both customer satisfaction and employee productivity,” he said.

This transformation is particularly crucial in an era where remote work is becoming increasingly prevalent. With distributed teams becoming the norm, companies face new challenges in ensuring seamless collaboration and maintaining a sense of connection among employees. Cisco’s “Distance Zero” concept, which aims to eliminate the perceived distance and barriers between in-person and remote employees, is an example of how AI can help bridge this gap.

“Imagine a meeting in which you, as a virtual meeting attendee, can see everyone’s facial expressions, discern multiple conversations happening at once, and be heard by other attendees just as clearly as if you were in the room,” Khan said. “This is a game-changer for hybrid work experiences.”

The Changing Nature of Work

However, as with any transformative technology, the rise of AI in the workplace raises concerns about potential risks and challenges. One of the most pressing issues is the possibility of job displacement, as AI automates certain tasks and processes. While some fear that this could lead to widespread unemployment, others argue that AI will ultimately create new opportunities and drive economic growth.

To address these concerns, Khan said Cisco is taking a proactive approach to ensuring its workforce is prepared for the changing job market. The company is encouraging its employees to use the latest AI technologies, allowing them to gain practical experience and develop their skills in a real-world context. Additionally, Cisco is collaborating with other companies, research institutions and governments to drive innovation in AI and shape the future of work.

One such initiative is the AI-Enabled ICT Workforce Consortium, which Cisco is leading alongside other tech industry partners, per prior PYMNTS reporting. The consortium aims to find new ways to train and improve workers’ skills in AI technology.

“The goal is to enable workers to find and access relevant training programs and connect businesses to skilled and job-ready workers,” Khan said.

According to a report last year by PYMNTS, GenAI technologies such as OpenAI’s ChatGPT could significantly enhance productivity but might also disrupt the job market.

Research by Goldman Sachs indicates that automation may affect 25% of jobs in the U.S. and Europe, especially in legal and administrative fields. In these regions, around two-thirds of jobs are somewhat susceptible to AI automation.

Nonetheless, the majority of employees would likely maintain their roles, with less than half of their tasks being automated. Only 7% of U.S. workers are in positions where AI could automate over half of their duties, which could lead to job displacement. 

Another critical challenge in the AI era is maintaining privacy and security. As AI systems become more sophisticated and integrated into our daily lives, the risk of data breaches and misuse becomes increasingly pressing. Cisco has developed a Responsible AI framework focusing on security, privacy and human rights as core aspects of its AI governance and product development.

“At Cisco, we appreciate that AI can be leveraged to power an inclusive future for all. We also recognize that by applying this technology, we have a responsibility to mitigate potential harm and maintain trust,” Khan said.

The Future of AI and Work

Looking ahead to the next decade, Khan predicted that AI will become ubiquitous, working invisibly in the background to enhance the employee and customer experience.

“In ten years, AI will be deployed across almost every piece of technology you can think of, but no one will be talking about it. That’s because it’ll be working in the background — invisible — while helping to improve the employee and customer experience beyond what’s possible today,” he said.

Khan noted that Cisco has embraced a shift in work patterns. In the last three years, Cisco has revamped its New York, Chicago, Atlanta and Paris offices by designing ‘Distance Zero’ spaces, a concept where devices can eliminate the perceived distance and associated barriers between in-person and remote employees. 

“Where we once had only 30% of our conference rooms video-enabled, now 100% of all workspaces, including conference rooms, huddle spaces, open ideation spaces and more, all have the latest Cisco video technology to ensure that everyone has an exceptional experience,” he said.

Many observers say that AI’s potential benefits in the workplace are enormous. By automating routine tasks and processes, AI can free employees to focus on more creative and strategic work. It can also enable faster and more accurate decision-making, improve communication and collaboration, and enhance employee and customer experience.

Khan pointed out that the rise of AI in the workplace is not about replacing human workers but rather about augmenting their capabilities and empowering them to do their best work. 

“In an AI-first world, human interactions matter more than ever,” he said. “That’s why we’re empowering businesses to deliver exceptional experiences for their most important interactions, creating places where technology meets humanity and where work is an experience, not just a location.”