“The biggest mistake we can make is implementing technology for the sake of technology because it’s the next shiny thing”.
Technology has made working more efficient for a great deal of organisations across the globe. When it comes to business productivity, letting technology take the lead on manual, everyday tasks allows technology leaders and their teams to focus on other priorities, be they strategic decision-making or creative collaboration. How are businesses reacting to this “technology transformation” and what more can be done to improve business productivity overall?
With Lea Sellers moderating this roundtable debate, the speakers include:
- Leon Gauhman, Founder & Chief Product Officer, Elsewhen
- Brian Brackenborough, Global CIO, Channel 4
- Nick Reeks, Director IT, Tata Steel UK
- Fergus Boyd, CTO, IP Dividual
- Juan Villamil, CIO, Imperial College London
- Conor Whelan, CIOO, Experian
The new technology organisation
“Transforming an organisation to become a technology organisation allows employees to optimise performance and better deliver the business’ core value”. Moderator Lea Sellers asked the speakers what their view was on this statement to kick off the roundtable discussion.
Technology is a central part of Tata Steel UK, according to their Director of IT, Nick Reeks.
“We often think from an IT sense about technology… service, applications et cetera”, he said. In the manufacturing context, Nick believes that technology is quite “wide”. His organisation is funding R&D in order to understand how technology is going to affect the nature of their products in the future, and how they can proactively evolve alongside that change.
In addition to this, they are trying to explore ways to improve the carbon footprint for steel manufacturing using technology.
“There is absolutely another revolution on the technology side”. Delving into this, he explained that alongside carbon, the next big topic is energy. “We’ve been deploying technology using lasers to measure the heat and the heat control within the furnace areas”, he stated, explaining how the remit for technology has evolved past competitiveness, but also to purpose.
On the other hand, Experian’s CIOO Conor Whelan doesn’t believe there is a revolution; instead a continuation. He talked about how automation has been around for several years and how this has been integrated into their core plans.
“One of the things that we are looking at is bringing more artificial intelligence and machine learning into the automation to ensure we can keep learning”, he said.
Conor feels that technology is changing at an incredible pace, and that it is getting faster each year. Over the recent years, he has seen the advances of AI and automation. This, he believes, will continue as they are not able to match this quickening pace. “We apply about 30,000 changes a week to our environment… to do that in a manual way would be very expensive and unproductive of our time”.
What’s blocking business productivity?
Lea asked the speakers if the human mind could act as a blocking factor. Imperial College's CIO, Juan Villamil, replied: “We don’t ask basic questions”; that for him is the missing aspect. He wants technology leaders to ask themselves what they are trying to achieve and be realistic. Setting those foundations, he argued, is important.
“The biggest mistake we can make is implementing technology for the sake of technology because it’s the next shiny thing”. The change process for adopting and implementing technology is considered “difficult and challenging”. Juan’s advice for technologists is to win the hearts and minds of the organisation and show the value of technology. “We’re all creatures of habit and we’re all going to feel threatened somehow by change”, he said.
Channel 4’s Global CIO, Brian Brackenborough, had a different view of this.
“I think particularly within broadcasting, it used to be a case of build not buy”, he said. He argued this was because technologists couldn’t find the right products to suit their needs.
Brian highlighted further that people are starting to realise that this is about companies who work in silos. “You can find yourself with three products that do exactly the same thing but slightly different”, he explained. Brian outlined that if technology leader’s compromise, they can have one platform which works across the whole company. He added that it’s about convincing people what is right for the entire company, not solely the individual department.
Technology tools and processes
“What I would love to see invented is organisations taking more advantage of the data that they have”, said Elsewhen’s Founder and Chief Product Officer, Leon Gauhman.
He was asked whether there were any tools or processes that he would like to see invented or redesigned that could help his organisation. Leon considered this question with the context of having legacy and off-the-shelf tools while thinking about where the organisation would go next.
In banking, steel, gas and oil sectors you could see the implementation of technology, argued Leon, and that people in these sectors are in a state of “having something is better than having nothing”. He believes the organisation has an opportunity to move forward and work with different types of tools. “Increase productivity by providing people [with] tools that are utilising the organisation’s data in the context that they’re in”, he said.
This roundtable was recorded at The Studio and made in partnership with Elsewhen.
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