Do you need a partner for the Fourth Industrial Revolution?
13 Mar 2018
Finding your way in a brave new world of robots and artificial intelligence isn’t rocket science, but it might make you feel like you’re learning how to foxtrot on a slippery floor.
Roger Perry is the Managing Director of the Bevington Group, one of the region’s foremost productivity improvement and organisational design experts. He’s been at the helm of more than 40 important transformation programs in Australia, and is now one of CCI’s thought leadership partners. For those feeling reluctant to just waltz into the Fourth Industrial Revolution, he outlines some basic steps and says it’s about having the right partner to help you.
RPA – Robotic Process Automation is a clerical process automation technology using software robots or artificial intelligence (AI) workers instead of humans.
AI – Artificial Intelligence is a process technology carried out by a machine that mimics the thinking functions of humans such as learning and problem solving.
Q. RPA and AI is suddenly a hot topic. Are there enough experts in this field top help organisations get on board?
A. This time last year it wasn’t nearly as big a subject, but this is all happening so so fast. The best RPA and AI providers are utterly flooded with calls, and it’s impossible to get them to help you. What we are doing is hiring people straight out of university and training them ourselves in creating solutions, and getting them really young because the seasoned ones have been taken really quickly.
Q. What do you say to the CEO who lies awake at night?
A. I think it’s less about the RPA solution and all about securing the right RPA partner. Finding the right partner is important. It’s actually about who will help guide you to sort out what you’re going to automate, how you’re going to automate it, and help you learn as an organisation how to do this. So choosing a partner or partners (sometimes it’s two or three) is very important. You need a partner that’s going to help you learn through the process of applying these technologies. There are a lot of the larger organisations to consider such as IBM and one of the most famous AI devices in the world is Watson, which is IBM’s intelligent learning engine, but all the big providers have a learning engine, including Oracle, SAP, but they are all very, very expensive.
"For hospitals and educational institutions, unless they have some pro bono deal with them, they are almost off the market. All is not lost though, there are hundreds of emerging technology start-ups in which people have spun out of the big organisations and started their own enterprise. The trick is finding the right one of those to work with so it’s cost effective for your organisation.”
Q. What are the risks for all organisations?
A. There are some really serious legal issues, mostly about who is accountable. The practical issue is–who owns the algorithm?
Algorithm - An algorithm is specification, or a computation of how to make a calculation. A set of steps to follow in data processing and automated reasoning tasks.
The reality is, it depends on the contract you sign. So when we advise clients we say you can’t own the IP for the software that generates the algorithm–that absolutely belongs to the software provider–but you can sign a contract where you own the IP for the algorithm itself. So there are some really interesting legal issues for your lawyers and we’ve had to work with several legal teams to help them understand enough of the technology to craft a contract. This is so that their client’s particular investment isn’t developed only to then be stolen by the provider and then sold to a competitor. That’s actually really the biggest issue we’ve had to deal with.
Q. What about issues of cyber security?
A. In Australia, in relation to how privacy is managed there is a very broad range of privacy standards. Not only that, there is also a broad range of security standards. For example, if you wanted to do business with the Australian Defence Force or the Office of Transport Security they actually have a series of standards that maintain their security. One of the things that Bevington thinks about in terms of its own internal security is to imagine if we had to work for the federal government. We ask: What’s the standard of security that we need to have? And that’s got to be the minimum standard security that we set.
Q. Can you describe the future with RPA and AI?
A. We’re going to be so much better at statistically understanding risk and directing resources to any particular type of risk. That’s because machines can do a lot of that work for us. That’s the first thing. So in a sense we’ll live in a safer world. I actually think that is certainly true. For those who have either fixed skills or who are not able to learn new skills, and a lot of these skills I’m talking about are deeply human– creativity, innovation, person-to-person contact, the real human skills (the things that machines can’t do) – these are the skills that will be valued. For those workers who can’t adapt and actually be more human, be even better at their human skills and support the technology journey, they are in for a rough ride. That’s my biggest concern. Any major transition in history, you look at each of the industrial revolutions and we’re now at the fourth one, for any of these revolutions there has been a period of transition and people have suffered. My belief is that will happen here unless organisations behave very responsibly. Right now some are and some aren’t. There’s a role for government and government policy, and I don’t think there is any government, globally, that is on top of this as a clear policy issue.
Q. Is Australia at risk of being behind the technology development wave?
A. Relative to our digital Asian neighbours, Singapore for example, there is no way we’re as fast in our network capability, no way we’re as nimble. We have got away with it until now. So we absolutely are at risk in Australia, some industries more than others, in terms of competing in a global knowledge economy. It’s something that will change, and a lot of money will have to be thrown at the NBN which was flawed from the start in my opinion, but there are people betting hard on this changing and I think it will.