Tag Archives: automation

How using empathy can help build better systems and products

Rachel Drinkwater
Senior Business Analyst
University of Coventry

The Business Analysis Conference Europe 2018

Following on from my earlier posts about convergence, creativity and customer focus, today’s article looks at another of the themes which were prevalent throughout the Business Analysis Europe Conference 2018.
There was still a hint of summer in the air even as the first of the leaves were changing when I found myself in Westminster attending the conference courtesy of UCISA’s annual personal development bursary for those working in the education sector. Sitting writing this in my festive jumper just days before Christmas, September feels like a long time ago.
Given the time of year, in the words of Charles Dickens “a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; … when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely”, it is perhaps apt that today’s subject is empathy. It seemed that the concept of empathy was touched upon explicitly or implicitly in every session I attended at the conference.

Empathy in design thinking

Given that the first stage of design thinking is ‘Empathise’ (see below) and one of the other key areas of focus at the conference was customer experience, it is perhaps not a surprise that empathy was discussed frequently and in some depth in this context.

Design thinking is defined by Gartner as a “multidisciplinary process that builds solutions … in a technically feasible, commercially sustainable and emotionally meaningful way”. Activities undertaken, particularly in this first stage, seek to understand the thoughts, emotions and feelings of a customer or user on their journey with an organisation and its digital touchpoints.
In their Digital Customer Journeys workshop, Andrej Gustin (CREA Plus) & Igor Smirnov (NETICA) presented a useful approach and template for capturing these emotions at various touchpoints of the user’s journey to identify focus areas for improvement. At a very high level, the approach can be summarised as follows:
  1. Identify key touchpoints, then for each touchpoint:
  • Understand current process and user experience
  • Identify current customer emotion/feelings
  • Identify desired customer emotion/feelings and experience
  • Prioritise processes for improvement based on a gap analysis of current to desired customer state.
  1. For prioritised processes, brainstorm improvements.
I was particularly interested in this prioritisation of focus area by customer experience, rather than a traditional quantifiable benefit, which I felt demonstrated a real paradigm shift towards customer and user-centric systems design.

Empathy as a skill of the future

Empathy was also discussed from a social perspective, as we explored the human factor in a digital society, where robots, AI and interactions driven by algorithms are fast becoming a part of our everyday lives.
It is undeniable that many jobs formerly carried out by humans are now carried out partially, if not entirely, by machines. This has been increasingly evident in the manufacturing sector with progressively more elements of manufacturing production lines being automated since the 1970s. Footage of a car manufacturing plant in the early 20th century, compared to a modern-day plant illustrate the transition from a busy factory thriving with human workers, to a rather clinical environment where robotic arms move in an eerily human manner to select and assemble components.
However, this automation is not restricted to the manufacturing sector, which has traditionally been an early adopter of automation technologies. The service industry, a sector perhaps traditionally associated with human-delivered customer service, is also automating roles. When I visit a supermarket, I often choose to use the self-scan tills, interacting with (often quite frustrating) AI rather than a human cashier. Where eight members of staff would have processed transactions and exchanged pleasantries with customers ten years ago, one member of staff can supervise the same number of self-service tills, only intervening when the somewhat rudimentary AI (inevitably) reaches its limitations. When shopping online, I am as likely to consult a chatbot or self-service customer support tool as a member of the customer service team.
Thirty years ago such sophisticated technology belonged to the fantasy world of sci-fi movies. It was unthinkable that real-life technology would progress at such a rate to replace jobs with such a key human element to them. Yet with technological advances and the rate of change at an all-time-high the media, researchers and technological commenters are now speculating about the next tranche of job roles to be replaced by robots in the coming years and decades.
So, should we be concerned that we will one day be replaced by robots, rendered redundant by such seductive promises as “a jetliner pilot who never makes a mistake, never gets tired, never shows up to work with a hangover”*?
Meryl Streep once said “the greatest gift of human beings is that we have the power of empathy”. Though significant research is being undertaken to develop synthetic empathy in AI, developing facial expression recognition technology and crunching millions of data points to build increasingly intelligent algorithms and so-called learning capabilities, for now it seems that true empathy remains a uniquely human ability. Shortly before the Business Analysis Europe Conference 2018, The World Economics Forum released their ‘Future of Jobs Report 2018’. In his Day 2 opening keynote speech, the IIBA’s Nick De Voil highlighted the top ten key skills trends for today and projections for 2022. It was notable how many ‘soft’ and ‘human’ workplace skills were listed as those which would endure despite predicted technological advancements. These key skills include emotional intelligence, initiative and social influencing, all of which require empathy. This perhaps implies an expectation that our technological advancements will continue to fail to satisfactorily emulate and replace such human abilities; those intrinsic traits of human nature of relating to others, reading non-verbal cues and making ‘human’ decisions.

Empathy in wellbeing

There was also emphasis on remembering that we and our co-workers are not suit-wearing robots. We are humans, with great potential for creativity, innovation, love and resourcefulness, but we are also subject to emotions, feelings, health problems and complicated personal lives.
Oxford Dictionaries succinctly define empathy as “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another”. In his exciting Stakeholder Skills for Drug Busts session, National Grid’s Charlie Payne introduced the behaviour/attitude cycle (see below) when explaining the importance of being aware of the impact a person can have on others.

He explained that an individual’s attitude is reflected in their behaviour. This behaviour then influences the attitude of others, which in turn influences their behaviour and so on. Whilst this can be used positively, it all too often can have negative consequences on relationships and communication when the individuals involved are not practising Emotional Intelligence (EI).
With the recent societal drive to remove the stigma often traditionally associated with mental health, it was encouraging to find the subject addressed and discussed openly by a number of speakers at the conference.
Craig Rollason, also of National Grid, in his inspiring The BA Bucket List keynote advocated the benefits of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) in understanding colleagues and stakeholders and the reasons for their behaviour.
Rollason also presented a challenge/support matrix model which he explained can be used to analyse and grow awareness of an individual’s current work and career state. The model indicates that the best environment for career and personal development would be one where an individual is feeling challenged but supported. Rollason was however careful to note that some individuals may be experiencing high challenge and low support in their personal lives and subsequently may be in need of what Rollason coined ‘the duvet zone’ at work (low challenge and high support).
For me this was a rather unexpected example of empathy in such a professional setting, where sometimes there is an expectation of ‘leave your personal life at the door’ and ‘always be professional’. It was a welcome recognition that in reality, as humans, it is not always possible to switch emotions and personal distractions on and off at will, particularly in the modern world where technology has blurred the lines between work and personal time and space.

Empathy as an holistic practice

In summary, my top empathy takeaways were that whilst we can use empathy as a tool to better understand our customers and users to build better systems and products, we can also use it to understand our colleagues and understand their motivations, beliefs, attitudes and the root causes behind these. This enables us to build stronger working relationships, understand how to better interact and deal with our stakeholders and how to care for our colleagues when they need extra support.
We can also exercise empathy towards ourselves, valuing and appreciating our skills, finding our place in the world, respecting and drawing on our experiences and being proud of these. When practising emotional intelligence, self-awareness is also important as we consider how our behaviour and attitude influences that of others.
So, in the words of William S. Preston and Theodore Logan, this festive season and into the new year, “be excellent to each other” (and “party on dudes”)*. A very happy Christmas to you all and your families.

*Ten points if you get the movie references – and some classic 90s movie recommendations for the holidays!
Coming Soon…
In addition to convergence, creativity, customer focus and empathy, the following concepts arose time and again at Business Analysis Europe 2018, being discussed and explored in the majority of the sessions I attended:
  • Continuous Learning
  • Catastrophising
Watch this space in the New Year for the next installment!
This blog was originally published at: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/business-analysis-conference-europe-2018-empathy-rachel-drinkwater.
Interested in finding out more about a UCISA bursary, then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.

Digital Skills for a New Generation


 

 

 

 

Ed Stout
Support Services Manager
Leeds Beckett University

Day Two EUNIS17

Ed Stout was funded to attend this event as a 2017 UCISA bursary winner

Day two was another great day at EUNIS17.   Following an early morning fear of conference burn out, having been up late writing up my notes from the Wednesday sessions, I took the option not to make the day quite as manic/tiring as my first day. Day two of the conference was opened with three highly interesting keynotes.

Martin Hamilton of Jisc opened his keynote ‘Life on Mars: Digital Skills for a New Generation’  with a look into the future. What careers do we think are going to play a new role in the future and what should we as HE institutions be doing to ensure that we successfully leverage/support these? When we think of our current course offerings, are we considering DNA editors, drone engineers or even asteroid miners? Should we be? Well, quite possibly. We need to ensure that we are “equipping today’s learners for tomorrow’s world,” Martin tells us, and ensure that we support the “digitally disadvantaged to achieve their potential.” These three mentioned careers are already available in our transforming marketplace; are we helping them to achieve their career aspirations?


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, what more does our future world hold for us? Martin felt it important that we not only focus on the future, as there are elements of the present, which we may not be best supporting to enable our students to meet that future. With “every self-respecting billionaire” investing in a space programme, maybe we should take note.  Space X have developed a rocket that would have previously been sent into space at a cost of $100 million, never to return. They’re now making space exploration “affordable” by the launch and safe return of rockets to Earth!! Is this the sort of development of the future that we in higher education should ensure we do not simply overlook?

SpaceX – First-stage landing from THAICOMB mission May 2016.

Could robots actually play a big part in future? In Japan, SoftBank have invested in the development of a humanoid robot they call Pepper. “He” is intended to be able to interpret emotions and effectively respond to questions. As you can see in the below video, emotional robotics may be in their infancy but they will need highly trained professionals to take them on to reach their potential. A gap in the mass HE market maybe?

Pepper the ‘emotional’ robot visits the FT | FT Life.

Martin explained how the technical world is changing the everyday jobs we have been accustomed to. With over 3,000,000 truck drivers in the USA and over 300,000 taxi drivers in the UK, advancements in vehicular automation is very likely to have an impact. It isn’t just Google with their WAYMO project that are investing. Tesla car owners have already driven over 140,000,000 miles on autopilot. Self-driving cars are here! With this technology now available in the present, we in HE must be aware that the post-graduation jobs market is shifting and so with it our students’ needs/demands. Martin also made reference to how Amazon have realigned their warehouses and distribution centres with over 45,000 robots (BettyBots)completing orders in a “human exclusion zone”. These are jobs that once would have been completed by humans and now make up 12% of Amazon’s workforce.

High-Speed Robots Part 1: Meet BettyBot in “Human Exclusion Zone” Warehouses-The Window-WIRED

Given the pace of change, we need to make sure that our institutions are assisting our students’ needs to re-train. Maybe we need to be re-focusing on training for careers in robot script writing, self-drive car engineering or robotic engineering. Our vision for the future will be the defining factor that shapes our successes.

For anyone wishing to view Martin’s full presentation, he has recorded and made it available on YouTube here:

This blog post first appeared on http://www.edstout.co.uk/blog

Interested in finding out more about a UCISA bursary, then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.

Digital transformation – dare to dream!

Sara Somerville

 

 

Sara Somerville
Information Solutions Manager
University of Glasgow

 

Day 1 of the AIIM 2016 conference

The introductory workshop with Thornton May provided discussion points for a smaller group of attendees, to get us thinking about what transformation really meant.

Thornton believes transformation has three elements:

  • Trends
  • Wild cards
  • Dreams

Many executives are ‘gee whiz nexties’ and spend a lot of time thinking about the next new shiny bright piece of technology; but where are the dreams and innovations? We are living in an information environment, so basically, information professionals should rule!

The opening keynote from the president of AIIM, John Mancini,  reflected on the twenty years John has been with AIIM. Technology and the information landscape have changed immeasurably since 1996. Back then, the iPhone was still eleven years away; there was no Google, no Twitter, no Wikipedia. And these changes are just a shadow of the change that is to come, and John advised that  we need to exercise humility when we consider the future and what it might hold for technology.

There are three main disrupters accelerating at a pace that could not have been predicted:

However, what distinguishes organisations in an information age is the difference in mindset between those which function in the mainstream and those which function on the edge.

If you compare the two with regard to the following themes, you can see how this manifests:

  • Mindsets – those on the edge will do things themselves, where those in the mainstream will contact IT
  • Messages – on the edge organisations are using Slack whilst mainstream organisations use SharePoint; and those on the edge emphasize innovation whilst the mainstream aims for efficiency
  • Money (where it’s being spent) – on the edge, in the last five to ten years, the big IT players have created wealth equivalent to the GDP of Korea!
  • Machines (what technology is being used) – on the edge they use the Cloud whilst mainstream use servers on premise; on the edge it’s mobile, versus PC for the mainstream; those on the edge configure and connect, while the mainstream build and develop.

The problems created by all this radical disruption can be broadly split in to three areas: automation, security and governance, and insight. Information professionals can make a real difference in all three of these areas:

  • Automation – information professionals can help to identify and automate business processes
  • Security and governance – they can help organisations secure and manage information
  • Insight – they can obtain value from big data and analytics.

AIIM has always believed that information management is about people, process and technology – the technology might change in the future, but the people and process will remain constant.

People_process_tech_blog_2_image1People_process_tech_blog_2_image2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, who now owns the big picture? Who provides the ‘adult supervision’ for all of this? Who acts as the bridge between people, process and technology?  According to John, the information professional should be the glue – now is not the time to stick your head in the sand; now is the time to ‘own this’!

Key takeaway:  We are entering an information renaissance and each and every one of us is a Michelangelo!

Looking beyond the present

The opening keynote was followed by a panel discussion entitled Industry Insights 2020 Expert Panel: Consumerization + Simplification = Digital Transformation, chaired by futurist Thornton May with Andrea Chiappe, David Calderia, Hugo Palacios, and Stephen Ludlow.

The panelists discussed questions around what organisations are concerned with when they talk about digital transformation. It was agreed that it’s not just about taking the paper out of a process, but about using a whole new approach, and thinking about changing your business model. Information professionals should think about what they are not seeing at the moment (e.g. people using Slack). We should also be aware of self-selecting by taking the traditional technological approach.

For a lot of companies the worry is that their competitors will be the ones to smash through and use the latest technologies, leaving them behind. Where is the big spending? In Business Intelligence (BI), and in determining the best use of analytics. However, it’s no good having secure information if it isn’t available at the right time.

Key takeaway: There is a new world that requires a completely new approach and new ways of thinking.

Pan-European implementation

We then broke for the last sessions, and I attended the session entitled Implementing Automated Retention at the European Central Bank with Beatriz Garcia Garrido and Maria Luisa Di Biagio.

The bank uses the Open Text system, which they began implementing in 2007. There are now eighteen thousand users (not only ECB but counterparts across Europe) and eight million documents.

Why implement retention?

  • to keep only what is needed
  • for historical reasons
  • to comply with legislation

The bank ran a pilot to validate the approach, and to test the processes of managing the information. The pilot highlighted that it was complex to build a retention schedule and apply it to the right information at the right level ; so, they took a step back and focused on the final goal of applying retention in the simplest way. They created a task force made up of records managers, archivists, and some Open Text consultants. The task force re-examined the retention schedules and looked at how difficult it was to apply them in an electronic world (the schedules were originally designed for paper records, which made them very difficult to apply).

The schedules were analysed and simplified, rolling up some of the timescales (e.g. one year/five years/ten years/permanent), and adding information about each record series in order to define event-based or time-based triggers only. The system was also tweaked to make it simpler.

During the implementation phase the retention policies were applied at the folder levels, and deletion reports were sent to the business users for approval. Documents were automatically declared as records two years after their creation (if they hadn’t been manually declared as records).

There is a mixture of user-driven and automated retention application. Time-based retention is applied at document level and event based retention is applied at folder level.

Roles and responsibilities : project board; project manager – for each business area there is an implementation team that includes a business user as well as a records manager and an archivist. (Implemented over Jan 2015-Dec 2016.)

As you can see from the slide below, implementation has planned phases.

Implementation_blog_2_image3

The communication channels for the project include the executive board, senior management, the users, and the information management forum for each area.

For the full implementation phase, the team plans to replace sent deletion reports to the business areas with a yearly review of the retention periods within those areas. Future challenges include the preservation of records with long term retention (this is being scoped as a separate project), and other content not in the Electronic Document and Records Management System (EDRMS), e.g. emails.

Key takeaway: The integration of policy, systems, and processes is essential.