Future of Work Trends – Automated, Flexible but Needing Fairness

The future of work is the future of so much more. As the lines between work and life are blurred, emerging technologies can shape the environment we live in and what it feels like to be ‘on the clock’. We look forward to a world where these technologies promote fairness, efficiency and responsibility in employment. Furthermore, we should look forward to automation allowing us to enjoy less work and more play. Key trends we can see in the future of work lie within efficient recruitment and the opportunity for flexible working.

Trends

Recruitment

Artificial intelligence will be used more often in recruitment, where an algorithm will refine and search for what the organisation deems to be nearest to the ideal candidate. In theory, this function could be a marvel in combatting traditional, human discriminations against women, people of colour, people with disabilities, etc. However, a Harvard Business Review article recently criticised such algorithms when it came to gender bias, indicating that AI may actually contribute to “even more bias and adverse impact against women–and that when algorithms are trained to emulate human recruiters, they may not just reproduce human biases, but also exacerbate them, engaging in a much more efficient form of discrimination”

Amazon exhibited a perfect example of this problem. In 2014, the company began using artificial intelligence to review job applications. The experimental recruitment tool was another element of the organisation’s bid for e-commerce success derived from keeping automation central to strategy. The ideal outcome of using the automated process was that the company’s successful resumes would represent what the algorithm was searching for, screening out candidates whose similar counterparts in the company had not seen so much success. The algorithm was revealed in time to be biased against women, as the benchmarks for success were based on successful hires, which in the past had been overwhelmingly male due to female applicants rarely getting the chance to perform in higher roles. The prominence of male applicants in the algorithm reflected not a superior applicant, but a history of high barriers to women in important roles. The algorithm was allowing a history of human discrimination to be more efficient.

Future algorithms used in recruitment must consider fair inputs, in order to produce an efficient and fair output.

Flexible working

Beekeeper is a platform designed to allow ease in collaboration between non-desktop employees. With specific settings for retail, the app can increase employee engagement with internal team communications about product updates, and sales competitions. This sense of connectivity, and being in the loop, can be hard to create when employees are on the ground, in the thick of the action. Online collaboration tools like this will transform the way we work, removing barriers to information dissemination, and easing the challenge of getting employees in a certain place and given time. This increased scope for flexibility in the workplace will give more and more space for productivity and efficiency in a way that suits the organization, and not the logistics of getting from here to there.

Effects for start ups

What does all this mean for start-ups? Of course, unbiased recruitment brings infinite benefits. The highest quality talent comes through the door, as when correctly used, AI can judge the best candidate for the job based on essential criteria, as opposed to traditional and imperfect human presumptions of suitability. Online collaboration tools that enable flexible working give huge opportunities to start-ups. The ability to connect and work in a flexible way further contributes to a high-quality workforce. As these tools allow life and work to be more compatible, roles are then opened up to remote workers, parents, etc., allowing a larger pool of candidates to result in a better-quality hire as a result.

The future of work is one of superior efficiency, democratising the opportunity for success.

Focus on innovation

INSIGHTFUL INTERVIEW with Paula Tibre, General Manager of Betfair Romania Development

 PART 1: PROBABLY THE KEY FOCUS SHOULD BE ON INNOVATING

 … as that’s how we stay in line with what’s going on in the world.

As General Manager of the Cluj Office and member of the Flutter technology leadership team, Paula Tibre is an accomplished professional, a person with strong values, strategic thinking and proven leadership skills. These have helped Betfair Romania Development grow to more than 900 employees, which makes it the biggest technology center in the Flutter Group, recognized for its excellence in various areas.

We wanted to know directly from her what were the drivers of this success and the role that innovation plays in the strong position of the company in the betting and gaming industry.

 

Let the journey begin…

Question: How did Betfair Romania Development evolve over the last 12 years?

When I joined there were 20 people in the company. Some of them are still here and that’s an awesome achievement, since they are also leaders of the organization, which couldn’t make me prouder for having them my colleagues.

We are very different in some ways from each other, but in essence we are exactly the same. I know that seems a paradox but where we are the same is in believing that our company is a place for people to thrive, to feel respected, where they can express their opinions, be themselves and evolve. This is at least what I found here. And I still do every single day, I still live that exact same experience from very early on. That’s why 12 years later I’m still here. So, for me things haven’t changed much, although I’ve changed 13 roles in these 12 years.

In some other ways, we are very different from how we were a while ago: compared to 20 people now we are over 900. That’s a significant growth, and with growth we started to consider structure, the way we work, the way we contribute to the business. This brought us 12 years later to have the most significant contribution to the group. We work for multiple divisions: we work for Paddypower Betfair, our European Division, and we’ve recently started to work for Sportsbet – our Australian division –  and in the future, we might work for other divisions as well.

If at the beginning we were a development centre now we are much more than that. We have operational teams which are significant in terms of the work they carry every single day, but also in terms of headcount. We have corporate functions and we support many other commercial departments.

All in all, everything has evolved and has done so in a way that drove Betfair Romania Development to have a much more coherent contribution to the business not only through the technology experience we initially had, but also through many other complementary skills that emerge when teams come together for a common goal. Then they achieve greater things – and that’s how Betfair Romania Development got where it is today.

 

Question: To support this growth do you think there has to be a balance between the freedom/innovation and fixed principles?

 It’s a balance which is very important, but hard to achieve.

I think our office exists for a reason and we shouldn’t forget that: we exist to contribute to the business. So, it’s very clear we need to have results and those results need to be the right ones. Also, our contribution must be the right one at every single point in time. But the way we achieve those outcomes has been very different over the years. The way we were working and the way we were thinking 12 years ago is very different to 10 or 7 years ago.

The industry where we operate is extremely fast-paced. I don’t think we could have kept up if we wouldn’t have reinvented ourselves. And interestingly, I think that’s what defines me as an individual as well – reinvention on an ongoing basis. This is exactly what I have seen in Betfair Romania Development. We have taken on new projects, we have a completely new mindset, we have worked through an evolving culture, we took on more work, more responsibility, and we’ve challenged ourselves to deliver everything faster. All this dynamic has forced us in some situations to reinvent ourselves and I think it has been probably the greatest achievement that we managed to do so.

I also believe Romanians have a culture of wanting to prove themselves and to get to results. And I can say that we achieved that reinvention through an existing base –  our Romanian culture – that has served us well.

 

Question: You mentioned the need to reinvent yourself at each new step, how did you approach that so that the changes were the right ones for the business?

I think there are two steps to it: one is to always be very much aware of where we are, to be realistic and totally honest with ourselves, but at the same time have a bold vision of where we want to be. Without these two things, we cannot achieve that transformation.

We take responsibility for where we are. While we always want to do our best, I believe that we must take responsibility for where things are going right and for where things can be improved. This attitude made and kept people honest, and at the same time – and I see that every single day when I talk to people –  always wanting to do more. I think the importance of a leadership team is to define that vision properly.

We have had strong leadership over the years, that has defined a vision with regards to where we wanted to be. People have trusted us and they’ve come along that journey. We reinvented many times the way we were doing things and the way we were delivering projects. Immediately after the merger we took on new products that we supported and we continued to develop through the roadmaps, products that we were not familiar with before. Although it was really hard, people have joined us along the way. This is in my opinion a great proof of the responsibility that people take here and at the same time a proof that they want to do more and that they can achieve more. That’s what we’ve seen over the years. It’s difficult also because you’re on a constant movement and it takes a certain type of mindset, that growth mindset, to truly grow every day.

In conclusion, to answer your question, we have grown through the way our people have grown, and it’s probably the biggest satisfaction one can have.

 

Question: And how do you think this growth mindset fuels innovation?

I think innovation is an outcome of culture and a mindset that people have. For example, when we look at our culture it says very clearly that we are openly curious. Curiosity in people drives innovation. You cannot say “Oh, from now on, we are innovative” … it does not really work like that.

When we affirm that we are openly curious we look at everything we do through different viewpoints. We put a lot of focus on diversity and on people having different opinions and seeking out new perspectives before we get to a decision. This in itself drives a better outcome. You might say well, that’s not innovation, but it actually is, because it ensures you get the most of what people have to give – and this is evolution.

Similarly, we have the courage to think differently – and that’s not an easy task, especially at the same time as delivering the outcomes that we want for our business. It’s really challenging ourselves to be

ourselves, to express the opinions that we have, to accept ourselves for who we are and our colleagues for who they are. In my view that’s pretty big as well.

We must also take time to reflect, but in a very structured environment.

I don’t think innovation exists for the sake of innovation. Innovation should exist for the sake of an outcome, to get us where we want to be.

You need a very clear vision with regards to your products. In PaddyPower Betfair we are now working in an operating model which does that and is focused on outcomes and key-results. This empowers everyone in the team to come with innovation and innovative ways to reach those outcomes. It creates that structured thinking and experimentation. That’s how innovation thrives when you have a very clear goal with regards to where you want to be, but at the same time you are flexible on the way to get there. I think that creates a greater focus and it accelerates the experimentation around the hypotheses that we want to test.

I see innovation as everybody’s responsibility. It starts from a growth mindset and is supported by culture, diversity of opinions and structured experimentation.

 

Question: You mentioned that the world is changing, that you must adapt fast, how do you create a vision that captures that and promotes innovation?

A vision doesn’t mean that you’re looking to be right from the start. I think it is really important to build a vision based on a few supporting information – knowing where you are, what are your strengths and your weaknesses – and ensure that vision addresses those; that’s the first thing. Secondly, it’s to look externally into other industries, into what other operators are doing, into the big trends that shape the world and to take those into account and to start to think differently. It means ensuring that you ask the right questions: could this be us in a couple of years? where could we be in a couple of years if we started with a blank sheet of paper? what differentiates us from the rest?

We need to make sure we capture these answers into the vision – and they start with asking the right questions. Vision is something that is built in years, but on the way there the strategy needs to adapt constantly.

You should make sure you are being honest with yourself, with where you are at every single point in time, but at the same time be very bold in terms of where you would like to be.

That means a constant battle internally that is really important to maintain and you need to make sure you set time aside to think about it.

Question: Coming to that what are the concrete steps or initiatives for turning ideas into real projects?

It starts with what we do every single day. The way we operate in terms of product development is through an operating model which is outcome focused. So even teams can come with proposals regarding the best ways to achieve results either through product and through different customer propositions or with other ways of delivering things and various technologies that can achieve that outcome easier. That’s how we operate every single day and the model adopted across all the European offices. That’s the first thing.

Then, we have events dedicated to innovation: our yearly Fedex Days where people can form teams even if they are not working together daily. They can shape ideas that might contribute to the business or to the world. They receive full empowerment to build the prototype that proves they have a winning idea and the evaluation is done by an expert jury.

This event has created a lot of momentum but at the same time a lot of engagement in people. You see them learning from one another and seeking out people with different experiences than themselves, as when you build a product you need input from people that know what the customers want, people that can build the technical solution, people that can shape the correct design for the customers, people that can get the data to prove that the proposed solution is the right one based on facts.

At the end of the day what brings people together is that they can shape the right product, that could turn into a winning customer proposition.

But innovation doesn’t take place only in technology. For example, Walking Month is an innovative idea. It started as an internal project from someone who thought that people could become healthier and at the same time contribute to a greater cause. From an event that started internally with someone that made a difference, Walking Month has become a community event for many years now. So that’s how you drive innovation really.

There are many aspects in which you can build innovation but these are just a few ideas where we did manage to succeed.

Question: Are there any other events or important plans that you have in terms of how you engage the community?

Engaging with the community has been one of our supporting strategy pillars ever since Betfair Romania Development existed and we did manage to keep it part of our DNA. To me that’s really important. We do have an internal program where people can participate and propose ways to support the community or people in need. The company funds those ideas and the person that came up with the idea becomes the lead of the initiative. It’s an example that shows empowerment exists and it should sit with each one of us. It’s not about who leads the company, it’s about every single one of us that wants to make a difference. We only provide the structures and the framework to actually be able to achieve that, so anyone from the company that wants to engage with the community in a certain way that they are passionate about can do so through our Pay it Forward program.

On a broader view, we obviously work a lot with the Cluj community in multiple different aspects. But at the end of the day we implement those through our people, that volunteer in such initiatives.

So while we have a very clear plan with regards to what we do, at the same time we are very open with where we could do more and what our people are passionate about.

 

Question: We’ve spoken a lot about the way we do things internally and internal innovation. There’s also the aspect of external innovation. What do you think about the Alpha Hub accelerator and its transition to an innovation platform?

I think that in itself has proven what type of company we are, one that is always looking for new technologies, new perspectives and new ways of doing things. Alpha Hub came as a result of our thinking. We wanted to explore and to meet people that do things in a different way and may be experts in areas where we are not. While we started Alpha Hub as an exploratory program with the aim to meet new companies and to seek out potentially new solutions for challenges that we have, I think we are now in a position where we seem very close to develop projects which could end-up to be customer facing. To me this shows that we have maintained our commitment to explore those ideas up until the end. And we’ve done so. I believe a lot more is going to come through that program. Last year has obviously been year one, but after a year we already have results. I expect it’s going to be one of our supporting pillars for delivering innovation to customers, basically through new experiences and perspectives which we could get also externally.

I think it’s extremely important to be aware that the world moves on every single day, regardless of whether we are an individual or a professional or a company. We can make a choice whether we innovate or not. But even the fact that we don’t innovate is a choice.

It’s really important that we constantly look at ourselves and that we continue to evolve because we need to maintain our position in this always changing world.

So probably the key focus should be on innovating, as that’s how we stay in line with what’s going on in the world. We should not forget we always have that capability to transform ourselves as individuals and we should leverage it, because there is a reason why we have that.

TO BE CONTINUED…

Pamble RG application

Pamble: An Early-Stage HealthTech Start-ups’s Journey with Alpha Hub

Alpha Hub as an Important Milestone for Pamble

One of the most wonderful things for our start-up was being selected as one of the two winners of the very first edition of the Alpha Hub accelerator in 2018, out of more than 200 teams from 50 countries. The experience of the accelerator has helped us a lot with shaping our digital product and with gaining a better undePamble wearablerstanding of the needs of important stakeholders. It also added a lot to our motivation and drive, and increased our visibility and support network.

So What Is Pamble and How Did Our Journey with Alpha Hub Start? 

Pamble is an early-stage HealthTech start-up focused on providing the best integrated digital treatment for gambling addiction, starting from top-level expertise in problem gambling therapy intervention. The user goes through several learning modules, which are accompanied by interactive exercises helping the user achieve important goals, such as cognitive restructuring or turning to alternative behaviors. The mobile app offering this experience brings together proven offline therapy techniques (including CBT, mindfulness, etc.) from world-renowned experts in a unique and interactive recovery program.

The whole idea started from our team’s experience in the problem gambling field, combined with digital transformation, with our main expert, Dr. Viorel Lupu, having more than 15 years of experience in researching and treating individuals with gambling addiction. He is also the President of the Romanian Association for the Study of Gambling. The other team members in the project are seasoned tech entrepreneurs, having worked with more than 40 start-ups so far and having helped them build start-to-end web and mobile applications through Wolfpack Digital, which is the parent company of Pamble.

With only an idea in mind and the clear mission of making intervention and awareness as accessible as possible, we found out about the Alpha Hub accelerator and decided to apply for the chance to join the program.

The application process was very straightforward, and we had several interview calls where we answered relevant questions, after which we were finally announced that we were one of the 7 finalists (at different stages of their journey) to attend the accelerator.

The Alpha Hub Experience

As soon as we found out we were accepted in the program, we started working intensely on better defining the structure of our app, based on the known needs of our end-users. Our perspective had been mainly centred around what we knew about people asking for help and trying to stay in the Responsible Gambling area.

The day of the first Alpha Hub gathering came and we were welcomed in a very nice atmosphere to the Paddy Power Betfair headquarters in Cluj, where we first saw several enriching presentations from the organisers.

The presentations gave us the opportunity to learn a lot about the perspective and challenges companies in the industry face when dealing with the issue of keeping as many users as possible in the safe zone.

This was knowledge we were completely lacking before joining the program and, looking back, we believe there is a lot of opportunity to explore because of learning these new things. The new perspective helped us later shape our product better, to address challenges gamblers face that we were unaware of before, and generally to become more interesting and relevant as a proposition for the big players in the industry. 

Pitching time came afterwards, and the board of advisers asked some useful questions that also helped us shape our product better. A few hours of timeboxed mentorship for each start-up from more than 15 mentors with different roles in the gambling industry followed. We consider this as the most valuable part of the first day on program, as we received important feedback and information on pain points our app could address. At the end of the day, we got the chance to socialise with fellow start-ups and the mentors over dinner.

We ended up leaving with fresh ideas about new functionalities, a list of challenges to solve before the next meeting, and some powerful relationships formed with complementary start-ups, that could potentially turn into exciting business opportunities.

We had a couple of weeks until the next stage to prepare our key business indicators and product structure, along with a series of mock-ups. This motivated us to be extremely productive in creating the content of our app, and to design a solid product and business strategy, taking all factors into consideration.

The final meeting was all about pitching, answering questions and receiving more valuable input, and a wonderful networking dinner where we got the chance to pitch our product again in front of a fresh audience of investors and seasoned advisers. Their feedback also proved to be very helpful.

 

Life after Alpha Hub: App Concept, MVP and What’s Next

We were delighted to learn, a few weeks after the final meeting, that together with Mindway AI, we are the winners of the 2018 edition of Alpha Hub. This allowed for media exposure and for many opportunities to come our way!

It also meant our mentoring and mutual support with the Alpha Hub organisers would continue, with regular meetings and intros being organised for us. In the following weeks, we put together a detailed business plan and explored various investment opportunities.

Here are the main features in version 1 of the Pamble app:Pamble healthtech solution

  • self-assessment
  • carefully crafted lessons plan with interactive exercises and tools
  • intro to CBT
  • interactive cognitive restructuring for daily experiences & gambling sessions
  • alternative behaviours
  • real-time gambling monitoring
  • smart calendar
  • smart notifications
  • relaxation techniques

We started working on the actual MVP this spring, which we are happy to announce is now ready for clinical validation. The support of Alpha Hub really helped us move forward with the process.

Next, we move forward with clinical validation, after which we intend to make the MVP available to clinics and therapists to help with therapy homework. In parallel, we are looking into attracting more investment to build the complete version of the app, while continuing our relationship forming with various stakeholders interested to support us: clinics, universities, therapists, national regulators, NGOs and companies in the industry.

 

Would We Recommend Alpha Hub?

Yes, definitely! The gains versus the effort involved in taking part of such a program are totally worth it, as you really get to learn a lot and benefit from a strong support network. In our case Alpha Hub opened many doors and opportunities.

Thank you, Alpha Hub, for the enriching experience, and a thank you goes to the program director, Rob Smith!

We wish all teams in the next edition Alpha Hub the best of luck!

 

Technology Sustainability – Mitigating The Unintended Consequences

What is technology sustainability?

When people think about the word ‘sustainability’ in 2019, there is a tendency to isolate the concept to the environment. Sustainability, by definition, is the ability to maintain a given rate or level without the depletion of resources over a long period of time. So, why limit our thinking to one area? Being sustainable can extend to every aspect of our lives, from our relationships to our eating habits, our consumptions levels, and even our technology usage.

Taking a sustainable approach to technology means considering the broader impact of technology on people, as well as the planet. It’s not just about ‘green tech’. But, what does that really mean? In simple terms, sustainable technology use means considering the long-term ramifications of the decisions we make relating to the technology we use.

Technology can create unintended consequences, referred to as second order effects, which can have a harmful impact long term if we leave them unmanaged. For our relationship with technology to progress, there must be a net positive effect with the benefits outweighing those unintended negative consequences.

Not just black and white; there’s usually a hue of grey.

Most people would praise the mass electrification of society. And, they would be correct to do so. Many of our societies can now function without being dictated by the movements of Earth relative our nearest star. One benefit that immediately springs to mind is people are generally safer walking at night because of streetlights (which don’t need to be relit every few hours). Lightbulbs in the home allow children to complete their homework without racing against a setting sun before it becomes too dark to see their pages.

A later benefit of mass electrification is the eventual creation (and evolution) of computers. Our smart-phones allow us to be constantly connected and contactable. I can log into my litany of social media accounts to check in on how my closest (and most distant) friends are getting on every day.

The thing is, though, we are only now beginning to understand just how detrimental the electrification of society has been on our sleeping patterns. A lack in the quality, as well as the quantity, of sleep we get (which is the result of excessive light consumption) is now known to negatively impact our physical and mental health. A poor sleeping habit causes irritability, reduces cognition, and long term, can spawn serious physical conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and immunity problems.

When we specifically consider our computers and smart-phones, it is the detrimental effects of excessive exposure to blue-light which is most problematic. Without diving too deeply into the physics behind it, blue-light very easily penetrates our eyes. It’s what helps regulate our bodies natural sleep cycle (in simple terms – when the sky is blue, your body knows to be awake). This excessive exposure to blue-light causes strain on our eyes, and overtime, can result in retinal damage.

Considering our digital wellbeing.

In our professional lives, we are creating what’s known as the “Human+ workforce”. People are being empowered by their skill set and knowledge, along with a constantly growing set of capabilities made possible by advances in technology. I can be sitting in a café in San Francisco on my mobile talking to my colleague in Hong Kong, or remotely connect to the office from the comfort of my living-room.

However, what happens when this constant connectivity begins to blur the lines between our work-life and our home-life? While remote working has improved the welfare of many employees by making it easier to balance their home-life commitments, by being ‘always connected’ to work (thanks to your smart-phone), we are eroding the boundaries between our work and home lives.

This excessive connectivity can have a massively detrimental effect on our welfare and well-being. We have become hyper-conscious about creating good, healthy habits relating to exercise, mobility, and nutrition; all the aspects that make up our physical well-being. So, why are we so slow to consider our digital well-being?

Automation is the new synonym for self-actualisation.

That said, this new Human+ workforce isn’t exlusively negative. There are many benefits to these technological advances; increased automation, the creation of previously unimaginable jobs, and improved job-satisfaction, to name only a few.

While often the word ‘automation’ can conjure up questions and fears relating to jobs, these questions don’t necessarily have to be negative. Mass automation has helped eliminate time-consuming, mundane, repetitive tasks. It has freed up a countless number of hours for employees all over the globe to spend their time delivering more meaningful, value-add, and self-actualising work. Of course – automation changes the nature of roles all the time. That isn’t going to change. However, it also does not mean suddenly the rate of employment is going to plummet.

In a microcosm, digitising a company’s operational figures in a database did not eradicate the need for accountants. It has, however, reduced the amount of time spent collating data from a multitude of shops, compiling accounting logs, and summing year-end results. Now when we want to determine sales figures, it’s a simple query to a database. People who would have manually compiled receipts and sifted through ledgers, no longer have to as compiling those figures is automated. Typing pools, tellers in banks, and call routing roles have all been displaced with those people adding value in different positions. History continues to show us that automation leads to job change, not job loss.

The reality is the only constant in our lives is that everything eventually changes. From a corporate perspective, employee fears relating to job security dissipate when the benefits of automating a process (and how the nature of related roles will evolve as a result) are communicated properly. Automation is about supplementation – not simply substitution. By subsequently reinvesting that time, cost, and effort into your reskilling strategy, you can create a sustained growth mindset.

Robots aren’t biased. People are.

Even the best intended algorithms can be fallible to the unconscious biases of the programmer. By their design, machine learning algorithms are only as good as their programmer, the training dataset, how they’re deployed, and how they’re evaluated. At any of these stages, an algorithm is potentially exposed to inadvertent biases that may result in a poor output, and consequentially, an equally poor decision.

‘Explainability’ refers to the ability of programmers to understand and explain how and why an algorithm has produced its output. It’s important to note the difference to ‘Interpretability’ which relates to our ability to hypothesise, test, and prove the outputs by altering the inputs. Understanding the working components of our machine learning will maintain a high level of algorithmic credibility and reliability.

While we are still a bit away from algorithms making life-altering decisions without any human oversight or intervention, it’s imperative we program bias discovery measures into our algorithms. Ensuring our algorithms are auditable will mean we can identify areas for improvement, highlight potential problem areas, and most importantly, ensure we don’t erode the trust between humans and machines. Allowing machine learning algorithms to exist as complete enigmas will simply eradicate decision-making accountability, and create an unsustainable relationship between people and the technology we use.

Not understanding the consequences won’t stop them from being detrimental.

All our actions result in a series of both known and unknown consequences, and there will always be unknown consequences. For example, in the 1940’s, New York introduced a rent cap post-war to avoid seeing veterans returning home and being priced out of the rental market. What resulted was landlords began charging rent at the maximum threshold of the cap, while not maintaining the quality of accommodation, because there was no incentive to them. Good intentions were met with a not-so-good outcome.

It’s the same principle when it comes to technology sustainability. Short term, having your employees being constantly connected to work, irrespective of where they are or what they’re doing, may squeeze out a few more labour hours per week. But, long term, it results in high rates of staff burnout, and difficulty retaining some of your best people.

Technology sustainability makes sense. It’s rational. When we consider long-term ramifications of our actions, we can mitigate for known potential negative consequences. This can also help to lessen any negative impact from unknown results that may follow.

When thinking about the sustainable use of technology, it’s about doing our best to ensure that the spectrum of needs is met for everyone. Creating awareness around effective digital wellbeing management tools, promoting trust in algorithms, and communicating how automation will be a benefit can help create a long-term sustainable relationship with technology.

emerging tech trends automation

Emerging Tech Trends Driving Automation

“The companies that will grow and dominate their industries will be those that systematically embrace automation across their organizations, using it to drive the changes to their products, services, and even business models as they continue to transform themselves and their industry.” Accenture

A new era for automation driven by advancements in AI

We now realize that we are living in a world where automation is omnipresent. It’s the underlying technical foundation of the goods and services we use. Also, an everyday companion that we are to befriend or that we must integrate into our work environments or at home. It is changing the world before our eyes and transforming it rapidly.

The increase in productivity surpasses that of the steam engine in the First Industrial Revolution. The efficiency and scale at which automation has nowadays made many observers claim that we are the start of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, also called Industry 4.0. It is transforming industrial production by using the Internet and digital technologies, relying on interconnected digital systems, real-time data analysis, smart sensors, extended wireless communications, robots and intelligent machines.

The manufacturing and industrial production processes will be disrupted, as well as how people work.

This is not happening just in factories or at the assembly line, it is in the companies we work for and everywhere we look. We are seeing scenarios that appeared as science-fiction in movies only decades ago become reality, like self-driving cars that can drive without human intervention for hundreds of kilometers, while pilotless electric flights are expected to come out this year.

 

Main drivers of automation

There are clear benefits to automation: auditability, scalability, predictability, security, data quality, reduction of errors and response times and, generally, taking on additional load without increasing headcount. But the trends driving advancements in automation may not be that obvious.

The way we perceive and interact with technology is undergoing a radical transformation. A new digital reality is created through immersive and conversational interfaces, as well as the Internet of Things (IoT) developing.

The affordability of computing power and data storage has increased. This, together with network enhancements and online connectivity, fuels data availability and algorithm development. Since Machine Learning models rely on large amounts of data being available for processing, the more data those algorithms have the more accurate their predictions.

 

The technologies impacting automation

Intelligent automation, the combination of automation with artificial intelligence as well as platforms that support such software systems, is becoming the norm nowadays.

Artificial Intelligence

As suggested, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the main driver of advances in automation, with one of its most prominent branches: Machine Learning (ML). It has developed significantly in recent years due to the availability of big data, an increase in computing power, improved algorithms (e.g. deep learning, adversarial networks), research and investment. Its presence is growing significantly across platforms and devices, adding significant value through:

  • Predictions
  • Anomaly/fraud detection
  • Sentiment analysis
  • Recommendations/Decision support systems

They are increasingly available as open-source or cloud-based services.

Experts believe AI will add nearly $16 trillion to the global economy by 2030, and 20% of companies surveyed are already planning to incorporate AI throughout their companies next year. Forbes

 

Virtual Assistants

Virtual Assistants are another technology reliant on ML that have not reached their full potential yet. They have become smarter in recent years due to AI technologies such as machine learning, natural language processing, speech recognition and computer vision. They are now capable of more complex, “human” like interactions. This includes:

  • Understanding intent
  • Answering questions
  • Completing tasks
  • Making recommendations

Therefore, we are seeing significant advances in intelligent technologies and we have networks, tools and platforms supporting automation that supports this advancement.

Some of the most impactful ones are:

Robotic Process Automation is a technology relying on software robots (applications) that emulate human actions at user interface level and integrate those actions to execute a business process. While cutting costs and saving time, one reason for its fast growth is that it sits on top of existing systems and companies can automate processes without replacing legacy code. This, on the other hand, can be a drawback for innovation. That said, Gartner, Inc estimates that it will grow from $850 million to $2.4 billion in 5 years, with one of leading companies, the UiPath unicorn, being evaluated at more than $7 billion.

Cloud technologies and infrastructure clearly are an enabler of the new generation of automation solutions, supporting AI features, IoT, digital businesses. Cloud infrastructure also comes in a variety of flavours: private, public and hybrid. Meanwhile we are seeing new computing models that appear: edge, fog and mesh, that will complement and enhance the current cloud infrastructure. Edge and Fog computing bring on close to source data processing and analysis as well as lower latency. In a mixed cloud this could enable us to do more intensive automation, have better communication, faster response times, better monitoring, security, systems integration, analytics, benefiting customers in the end.

Not to forget IoT and its ability to integrate multiple computing devices over a network without requiring human interaction and to perform data processing and computing close to or at the data source. It’s a place where technologies converge to produce an unprecedented amount of data and service.

 

Convergence of technologies supports automation

With all the various technologies covering automation horizontally and vertically at different levels and sometimes overlapping, it becomes increasingly important to understand the specifics of each technology and where it is the most appropriate.

Successful automation means today integrating various technologies (AI, IoT, analytics, blockchain), processes and people. Doing so requires vision, strategy and action.

Embracing automation – there is no other way

Although there is a clear impact of automation on jobs, it’s a process of evolution that can’t be stopped and should be embraced. The next wave of machines are here to complement humans, to take over activities that we don’t want to do because they are repetitive and don’t use our cognitive capacities, and to perform those tasks that we can’t do.

It is to be expected that the future brings a closer alliance between people and machines, with goods becoming cheaper, productivity increasing and machines getting better than us in various areas. Some jobs will be replaced, others will be created, and many will grow. Amazon, a company that has invested heavily in automation, is hiring at a steady pace and is re-training its employees to prepare for the future.

Our work at this point is to find the correct balance between man and machine, making sure that intelligent automation is a valuable instrument that helps us progress and frees up more time for creativity and innovation.