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Opinion

"Doing digital transformation isn’t enough"

  • David Biden
  • Sep 15, 2019

Last Tuesday, 10 September, the human+ team made the trip to central London for this year’s Disruption Summit Europe. It was a fantastic day, with top notch speakers, presentations and networking on offer, including several fellow Panoply member companies. In fact, it was tricky to get away from the stand to catch all the talks I wanted to!

The themes of the summit were TechnologyInnovation, and Purpose, and a key learning which emerged was that simply ‘doing digital transformation’ isn’t enough for businesses. For those looking to adopt new technologies and innovations in their workplace, there’s a need to change more than a business model. Ultimately, it’s the way in which they integrate innovation with culture which will define success for the future.

Music to my ears, of course, as the CEO of a company helping people and businesses humanise their automation projects.

With nearly 700 attendees, I fielded lots of questions about Robotic Process Automation throughout the day, ranging from those who want to fine-tune their bots, to those who are still wondering what the best way to get started with automation is. The two most frequent questions were:

“What process can we ‘test out’ automation on?” My answer to this is simple: something where you can clearly demonstrate savings in time/resource, but which isn’t mission critical to the business initially. A few HR or other back-office processes spring to mind.    

“What will happen to human teams displaced by bots?” A good question, but for me, one with a positive answer. Unemployment over the last few decades has steadily trended downwards, yet this has accompanied new advances in technology. It’s clear that RPA will create jobs as much as it disrupts them, so they key is how we manage the transition of roles most likely to be affected by RPA.

David Biden DISRUPTION SUMMIT europe
David Biden DISRUPTION SUMMIT europe

The day was split out into ‘tracks’, entitled Change, Growth and Exchange. I spoke in the afternoon on the Change track, giving a lightning session presentation on the future of automation. Points that seemed to resonate with the audience on the day, and drove the most conversations afterwards, were: that we can and should treat automation as continuous delivery, not a one-off project; that building a business case for automation needs to involve as much of the workforce as possible (and especially those you might see as sceptics); and that sometimes the most efficient process you can solve for a company isn’t one that saves the most money, but one that saves the most grief for employees.

Natalie Taylor, from PA Consulting, made several points which I thought were particularly valuable in her presentation. Research her firm has recently carried out shows that one in six organisations risk becoming obsolete within just five years if they aren’t able to keep up with the rate of change being driven by new technologies in the industry. Yet 75% organisations experience tension between operational models that have worked for centuries and those which are seen as more modern, like RPA. It was heartening to be amongst so many companies and individuals who are looking to close that gap through more inclusive adoption of new technology.

I’m already looking forward to next year's event; make sure you put 10 November 2020 in your diary.

 

David Biden

David has trained and mentored many individuals and believes the best leaders are great teachers.