Intelligent Automation: Creating the Workforce of The Future
October 19 | Toronto
The Bloomberg Intelligent Automation roadshow moved across the U.S. border to Canada, where business and technology executives convened for a roundtable lunch to discuss how new technologies are shaping the labor force. The roundtable discussion focused on changing demographics, the importance of community, humanized leadership, intelligent data management, and the ethics of AI.
Hani Abbasi, Vice President Global Technology Transformation and Integration, Transunion
Kahtan Aizouki, Associate Vice President, Digital Business Automation Services, Sun Life
Yicent Chen, Director of Trading Analytics, BMO Capital Markets
Martin Cheung, Vice President, Digital Transformation and Automation, CI Global Asset Management
Cristene Gonzalez-Wertz, Senior Researcher and Advisor, DXC Leading Edge
Johan Henning, Senior Vice President, Finance & Infrastructure, Brookfield Asset Management
Vipin Jain, Director, Process Excellence, OMERS
Ed Lynch, Vice President, Strategy, IBM Automation
Sumit Parab, Head of Product, Industry Platforms, Amdocs
Greg Pollack, Business Unit Executive, IBM Automation
Lauren Kiel, General Manager, Bloomberg Green
Deidre Depke, Senior Programming Director, Bloomberg Live
Following introductions, Deidre Depke, Senior Programming Director, Bloomberg Live, opened the table for discussion by asking participants what innovations or needs were currently at the top of their automation initiatives wishlist.
Martin Cheung, VP Digital Transformation & Automation, CI Global Asset Management, cited a pressing need for technology workers. “I want a cloning machine to clone my team. That’s the digital labor paradigm in a nutshell. There’s so much work to do,” Cheung said. He described CI’s digital transformation: “We’ve already automated 75 systems. We’ve got 75 more in our funnel.”
Johan Henning, Senior Vice President, Finance & Infrastructure, Brookfield Asset Management, asked the table, “Do you ever look back and think about how technology has changed over the years?”
Ed Lynch, VP Strategy, IBM Automation, described the scope of technology advancement with an anecdote. “My two boys are both engineers. One is a data scientist and the other is into photography and encoding. Recently I told them that when I graduated from the University of Toronto, my fourth-year project was to build an operating system for punch cards. My kids had never even heard of punch cards. So yes, the transformation in technology has been incredible. Look at the phones we’re all carrying around in our pockets right now. Those things have the power of 100 mainframes.”
Cheung added that there’s still a long way to go: “Technology isn’t perfect yet, though. Look at when you’re in your car, for example. You’re asking your car to do something that seems simple. Your expectation is that you’re going to say something, and your car is going to do it. But then it doesn’t.”
Technology and Culture
The talk shifted to technology and diversity. Lauren Kiel, General Manager, Bloomberg Green, broached the topic: “What are all your thoughts on how we automate cultural differences? Should it be something that stays more human and personal?”
Cristene Gonzalez-Wertz, Senior Researcher and Advisor, DXC Leading Edge, addressed aging and the workforce. “The fastest growing group entering the workforce is 75-plus. Decreases in purchasing power have forced many people into coming back into the workforce. So it’s not as simple as equipping people with laptops. We need to equip people with laptops that have certain functions. We need to equip teams that have varying generational differences and expectations. There are also mindset differences we need to gap. And that’s where automation can help.”
Ed Lynch posed a question: Where does the human end and the machine start? And what are humans really good at? He said he believes that people are driven by emotion, inspiration, and pattern matching. Those are not skills that can be easily automated with machines or artificial intelligence, he said.
The table agreed with Lynch’s analysis. Kahtan Aizouki, Associate Vice President, Digital Business Automation Services, Sun Life, mentioned how critical the human touch is, and always will be, in customer support.
Adding to the idea of addressing cultural differences in automation was Sumit Parab, Head of Product, Industry Platforms, Amdocs. He raised the issue of stereotyping. How do you make sure a machine picks up on or avoids certain cultural biases? Furthermore, can a machine avoid stereotyping in the first few minutes of a digital conversation?
Hani Abbasi, Vice President Global Technology Transformation and Integration, Transunion, mentioned that there were two elements to consider with technology and culture: “First, there are those advancements that we don’t know of,” he said “We can guess and speculate about those. And then there’s the stuff we know about. In the first case, you can formulate different scenarios. With the second, effective change management is very important.”
Addressing Hiring Challenges
Lauren Kiel raised recruiting as an issue. How are these executives meeting that challenge?
Martin Cheung focused on two critical assets: an employee’s skills and the way he or she will mesh with the rest of the team. “Typically when I hire, I’m hiring for a skill set. But even more important than that is the actual person I’m hiring. How will they fit? What if a new hire is 10/10 in terms of their skill set but only 2/10 in terms of their personality?”
Cristene Gonzalez-Wertz shifted the focus to how innovations IBM has brought to its hiring practices—specifically its early adoption of removing college-degree requirements and transitioning to alternative education and digital credentialing. She suggested that those changes need to be adopted more widely. The general consensus was that the issue isn’t only with finding this talent—it’s with retaining talent. And a critical aspect of retaining remote talent is making employees feel like they are part of a team.
The group stressed the importance of communicating with workers.
“I think to everyone’s point here, we have to grow these workers as part of the team,” said Vipin Jain, Director, Process Excellence, OMERS. That way, they know they’re part of our businesses rather than being an off-shore unit.”Overall, the idea is to help these ‘remote, off-shore teams’ be just as effective as office-based teams.
Design Thinking Management
Aizouki posed the question, “Who here is experimenting with design thinking?”
Greg Pollack, Business Unit Executive, IBM Automation, mentioned that the practice requires gathering all the pieces of a project to see how they fit together. He and Ed Lynch agreed that the practice isn’t necessarily about design, it’s about communication. The key is in starting small, they agreed, and giving design engineers creative freedom.
Sumit Parab agreed with Pollack’s sentiment: “You really want to make sure your team has the passion to do something. You don’t want to give a designer a task without realizing the importance that they’re going to have.”
As the roundtable discussion neared its end, Greg Pollock brought up the rise of intended automation. To him, intended automation has the potential to be the next advancement in technology. “The goal isn’t to make more work go away. The goal is to say, ‘Let’s automate more work so we can be in sync with the machines.’ In the future, as we move on to greener pastures or retire, the next wave of people will be trained to do that work with machines.”
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