At dinner recently, a guest held us all entranced as he described his current work: a post-doc at a prestigious London university, he has been working for nearly two decades in artificial intelligence (AI), specializing in trying to teach computers how to teach other computers. While much of his work is simply too esoteric to explain here (that's my code for "it went right over my head"), what was very obvious to me was the extent to which things have advanced since we first met - as he was just setting out upon his journey in this field - and how rapidly theoretical advances are becoming practical innovations which then, in turn, move out into the mainstream. Problems he and his peers were wrangling with only a few years ago now seem like ancient history, he said, and while "the future is always infinitely far away, tomorrow seems closer than ever."
If any of us at the table had had any doubts before that we're on the verge of tremendous social change as a result of automation and smart technology - and I don't believe anyone did have such doubts (as one would have to have had one's head thoroughly buried in the sand not to be aware of the whirlwind approaching us), they would have been thoroughly dispelled by the end of our companion's passionate and impressive address. But, of course, how to react to the automation revolution is immeasurably more difficult than simply to assert that it's coming...
As a marketer, I know the value of branding. The largest and most successful companies in the world have teams of people dedicated solely to branding. Branding is no longer about using the same logo, trademark, tagline and/or color scheme on all your marketing material. Branding is composed of different components including: brand identity, brand image, brand character, brand culture, brand personality and brand essence. Marketing agencies and consultants charge anywhere between $75,000-$250,000 to develop and manage a company’s brand.
Now here’s the kicker with branding that every marketing professional will tell you – they have no idea how it impacts their bottom line. Branding is the most difficult type of marketing to measure because you can’t easily quantify it. So, why are organizations across the globe spending so much money and time on branding? Quite simply – effective branding creates consumer confidence. Establishing a brand with a clear voice and values will enable your consumers to be loyal and confident when they buy from you. People have a natural desire to evolve with a brand whose products and services help give their life or business meaning and significance.
It’s not just businesses that need to focus on effective branding. If you care about your future as a professional in the world of work, you need to focus on your own personal brand. Personal branding is critical to establishing who you are and what you represent to those around you, the equivalent of a company’s consumers. They are your employer, your manager, your co-workers, your peers and anyone else that comes in contact with you in a professional setting. I’m not just talking about ensuring that embarrassing picture from your cousin’s wedding isn’t visible on Facebook... I’m talking about preparing for the future by branding yourself as a leader in your industry now.
As February started, an important conversation got underway: SIG was back in the City of London with a highly engaged group of procurement professionals to explore the latest trends and topics that are shaping their world.
The role of the CPO has come a long way over the last 20 years and change is exponential; happening across the what, how and who of procurement
What: organizations are buying new products and services (everything "As A Service," digital and digital-enablers, RPA and other automation tools and services)
How: new tools and techniques are being deployed in procurement both because these new products and services need to be acquired in new ways and to drive productivity and effectiveness through analytics and better insight
Who: a growing millennial workforce and digital workforce presents new opportunities and challenges for operational management of services
A recent study from IBM shows that the highest priorities for the CPO are to contribute to revenue growth, to drive innovation across the supply chain and to protect the enterprise brand. Cost is mentioned nowhere, but more because it goes without saying and not because it is no longer a priority.
So, the CPO and their teams are making a strategic contribution to the organization but still find themselves a step removed from the centers of power as they report in through another function and are rarely represented on the board. In a period of exponential change is this procurement’s opportunity to rise to the challenge and enable safe, profitable, innovative growth to earn their place on the top floor?
I’ll admit it. I was pulling for the Falcons. Even though I lived in Atlanta for six years, I didn’t really have a stake in the game—I was never a big fan. It’s not that I’m not into sports—I was a huge Braves fan when I lived in Atlanta (when they went from worst to first) and I can tell you the names of every Golden State Warrior who was traded for Kevin Durant. Seriously. But this Super Bowl for me was a little like the election—I was rooting against one team more than pulling for another.
Now picture this…we’re watching the game at a friend’s house. We wisely recorded it so we could enjoy the good commercials and skip through the bad. It’s the 3rd quarter and the Patriots finally score a touchdown. Knowing that the Pats would still need two touchdowns, two 2-point conversions and a field goal in order to TIE the game, the odds were against them. Seemingly impossible. Now fast forward to the final two minutes. Under Tom Brady’s leadership, they’ve tightened the score to 28:20 and are driving the ball. And then it stops. What?! The DVR had STOPPED RECORDING THE GAME. That’s right. One of the best 4th quarters in Super Bowl history and the only one to ever go into overtime and we missed it.
To say I was shocked by the outcome would be an understatement. Atlanta had controlled most of the game. But as I reflect on the day, I can’t help but think of the valuable lessons it reinforced:
Last week I had the honor of giving the closing session at SIG’s latest event on my side of the Atlantic: the SIGnature event in London, hosted by Mayer Brown. At that event, Peter Dickinson, global co-lead of Mayer Brown’s Business & Technology Transactions practice (and a great friend of SIG) gave a fantastic presentation in the morning on “Reimagining Sourcing for the Digital Age” where he looking at emerging technologies and services, the benefits and challenges that they provide, and why a new approach to sourcing is required when it comes to operating in this brave new world.
Sourcing and outsourcing lawyers benefit from a very useful – if hard-earned - combination of perspectives, in that they are as deeply immersed as anyone in the minutiae of specific deals while at the same time needing to maintain as broad an understanding as possible of the macro-level trends and developments driving the evolution of the space: it’s impossible to serve a client adequately, let alone superlatively, without knowing what’s happening far beyond the confines of one deal and/or partnership. Peter demonstrated to our London attendees just how potent that mix of perspectives can prove with a fascinating “state of the nation” address examining how the key emergent technologies are driving change in the outsourcing landscape, in how providers are serving their clients (and who’s doing both buying and selling), and in how corporate strategies and behavior are being transformed by an extraordinary complexity of overlapping factors – all illustrated on a micro level by well-chosen examples pulled from the extensive experience of Peter and his team at Mayer Brown.
With so much attention currently focused on the political arena (most obviously, of course, in the USA with the inauguration of President Trump) it’s easy to become carried away in one’s assessments of the extent to which “politics” drives actual change. Of course, there’s no doubting the scale of the significance of the Trump election, or the Brexit vote, or similar “watershed moments” – but the nature of that significance is somewhat less clear, especially when it comes to the impacts on specific aspects of our lives. It’s somewhat comforting (or perhaps not, depending on one’s affiliation) to think that the person nominally in charge of a country is indeed that – it plays to our natural human desire for order, comprehensibility, justice – but in a world as interconnected and complex as this one, is it not a serious error to overstate the ability of a President Trump, a Prime Minister May and others in similar positions around the world truly to steer a course, rather than simply to keep their ships of state upright in the storm?
Look at the sourcing and outsourcing space specifically. In a number of particular areas President Trump could well have a huge impact: a crackdown on immigration and the offshoring of work, changes to NAFTA, the reversal of the ACA and other policies would affect very substantially certain tranches of the space and those working within them. Likewise, in the UK the way Theresa May is approaching the exit from the EU and the Single Market has deep significance for businesses working in and with the United Kingdom for data protection, for accounting and a host of other areas.
Another year is upon us and we have 49-some weeks to implement and perfect our resolutions. You have probably already promised yourself to spend more time with family, hit the gym more often, cut your carb intake and adopt a more positive attitude. These are fantastic goals, but achieving them will be difficult if you have not also determined how to better manage your time in order to accommodate these goals. Here are a few best practices and recommendations for managing your time better.
Delete Unnecessary Email Real-time
If a message is not important or does not require follow-up or saving, delete it immediately after reading it. You do not even have to move your mouse, just a simple CTRL + D will get rid of that message (you can do this directly from your Inbox). You should also sweep your Inbox daily. Deleting unnecessary messages real-time will help that sweep go much quicker.
Categorize, Color and Document Your Tasks
Another great practice is to categorize every task you need to undertake. In Outlook, you can use the Tag feature to assign a Category (with a color code) to every email received. I have never found a to-do app that was more effective and useful than my old-fashioned handwritten list. So, as I write tasks on my to-do list, I also assign a color category to them. Regardless of how you track your tasks, as you perform each task write down how much time was spent addressing the task. At the end of the day or week (depending on the urgency of the assignment), create a color-coded matrix of how much time was spent on each task. This has really helped me understand where I waste my time and how long it really takes to complete an assignment - which is especially helpful as more urgent items arrive on my desk. This way I can project how much time I can spend on an unexpected task and still accomplish my scheduled tasks.
Take that Break
Mary Zampino, Senior Director of Global Sourcing Intelligence, SIG
They’re in the supermarket, the library and active war zones. They’re on the farm, in schools and even in our own homes. Robots are everywhere. This may sound like the pretense to some futuristic, action-packed Hollywood film but it’s our reality in 2016 and at times it's a somewhat frightening one.
Robots are taking over jobs in nearly every industry imaginable and continue to replace human workers every day. This is one of the biggest fears for those of us who are Millennials. In a world where a bachelor's degree may not get you an entry level job right out of college...or where companies are looking for recent graduates that miraculously have a minimum of 3-5 years experience, the loss of any type of job is terrifying. Really. I understand that jobs that are repetitive and task-oriented in nature, like those in the automotive and textile industries, are most at risk. But there are other "college-level" jobs that are also ripe for the picking, including bank tellers and low-level accountants. Does this mean it's time for us to panic? On the contrary. Other jobs will thrive and will allow our generation a chance to be engaged in our work in a way that hasn't been seen before. If we aren't burdened down by having to do jobs that are more repetitive and even potentially menial, it allows us more time to be innovative and creative.
So welcome to the end of 2016 and the beginning of 2017. As the year comes to an end, it strikes me that the world is changing...and changing faster and faster than anyone knew was coming. We now recognize that the future of work looks very different than it did a few years ago. We aren’t living in the "Jetson’s age" just yet, but we are definitely living in a world that I only dreamed about as a child. Fast forward to today...I have a robot in my kitchen that keeps my grocery list, gives me National Public Radio News daily, is my food timer, sets appointments up in my calendar, reminds me when I need to do things, as well as tells me daily jokes, plays music, turns on and off my lights and makes sure I know when it is time to reorder my dog food.
My Amazon Echo, or Alexa, is my BFF at my house. She knows more about my likes and dislikes than my fiancé. She knows my grocery list, she knows what I like for music, she keeps track of my to-do’s and she is in charge of making sure my Christmas baking doesn’t burn. But more importantly, she helps the kids with homework, reminds them of their chores (yes, yawn, yawn) and so much more.
So how are you using robots in your business? How is RPA going to change the future of work and how we perform in the future? Yet alone, when we add cognitive to the solution what does the workforce look like for the future? Are we going to only need people who automate the work they do today or do we need to create a generation of future employees who "get" how the world might function? Will we one day have people come to a job interview and ask for a robot to be included in the offer to help streamline the repetitive tasks in a person's work? I reckon that day is near. I for one would love to have that kind of power on my desk on a daily basis. Wouldn't you?
Much has been written recently about robotics. If you Google it, the most common word you will see in articles about robotics is “hype.” In fairness, it’s generally in the form of a question…it it hype? Is it more than just hype? Is the promise of artificial intelligence finally here? For the past two years Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) have become more prominent conversations at SIG Summits…and the word on the street is that these are no longer just futuristic concepts. They are real. Much of what is out there centers on the idea that automation is just a passing IT fad. But I’m not buying it. I’ve looked behind the curtain and I’m drinking the Kool-Aid. (Nothing like mixing a few metaphors.)
Concerns abound that automation will take away jobs, and in an era where we are still feeling the effects of the 2008 recession the threat of job loss is daunting…haunting even. But is that is the most important aspect of robotics? Yes, it could take jobs away but robotics are most easily applied to positions that are repetitive and process-oriented, so the premise is that the people in those jobs can then be redeployed to more strategic roles. Gartner uses the term “automation arbitrage” to describe RPA and in effect, that is just what it is. But there are so many more possibilities with it.