Across all of the
sectors Hoggett Bowers operates in, we hear a consistent theme of how
technology is impacting on organisations; from greater levels of automation and
digitisation that will cut costs, drive efficiencies and, simultaneously,
improve the customer experience, to the increasing use of robotics and AI.
Given the eclectic nature of the industry sectors who were represented at our
latest regional event we asked our guests to share some thoughts and insights
on how current and future technology is likely to affect their
People want to deal with financial services
anytime, anyplace, anywhere."
Our discussion was opened by the Chair of
a well-established local manufacturing firm, still based on the site it was
established upon and with a 110 year history. He said they are updating their
IT and old legacy systems, which date back to the 1980's, in order to engage
with modern society and so are introducing things like electronic ordering. He
wanted to make two points, firstly, the quality of IT software is extremely
poor and secondly, security - and questioned whether to trust data that is held
in the cloud or would it be safer on their own server locked up in a bombproof
A banking CEO reminded us all of the recent big issues surrounding
Equifax relating to cyber security [only in September 2017 did their US parent
announce it had been the victim of a criminal cyberattack back in May impacting
on 143 million U.S. customers. Although the UK business was not breached, the
attack compromised the personal information of some UK consumers]. He said
cyber security is the biggest new threat whatever sector you're in and they are
not alone in investing heavily in defences around that. One thing for sure is
that you have to be better than those who set out to attack you. He sees
fintech as both a threat and an opportunity, people want to deal with financial
services anytime, anyplace, anywhere and if you're not investing in the
technology to allow them to do that, the business will get left behind and it
will cost a lot of money to catch up again.
Another financial services
guest agreed, saying that cybercrime is one of the biggest threats to all
industries, organised crime is not bound by the usual codes of governance like
a bank and hence they can react faster and get people quicker than they can.
Scarcity of resource, skills and ability as well as the pace of change is a
real threat and banks need to invest money in finding and training people.
AI is most powerful when it is used with intelligent people
The CFO of a technology led conglomerate which provides cloud services
agreed that companies must ensure all software is current and up to date in
order to protect against crime. If you try and do it yourself it is extremely
risky as you will need to put enough resource behind it to constantly be
updating your software to keep ahead of the hackers, but if you put it in the
cloud your provider will be changing and updating their security software on an
hourly basis. It can also be more cost effective as the cloud provider or IT
consultancy will have made the big balance sheet investment and will only pass
on a subscription. Cyber threats are not just for businesses but also in the
home environment, you can hack into a washing machine or fridge freezer and
will be able to hack into a driverless car, so the risk is everywhere.
The banking CEO responded to a further question from our Chair, around using
technology to enhance the customer experience. He said that banks have been
computerising their business over 30 years starting with credit scoring. They
are now looking to migrate customers who only do low value transactions on to a
computerised self-service platform so that they can release staff to
concentrate on those customers with more complex needs and give them a
different level of service. He believes technology won't take jobs away, as
theirs is a growing business, so they will always have more work than people
but they'll just need to retrain them in different areas.
Our guest from
an organisation set up to give a platform for disruptive technology in the UK
automotive sector said that there are big changes taking place in his sector
right now. People are talking about two themes;
1) Decarbonisation of
road transport (i.e. Electric Vehicles (EVs)) and
2) Connected &
Autonomous Vehicles (CAVs). We may not own many cars in the future and we'll
see more shared ownership models. He believes there will be a massive battle
between the technology companies and car manufacturers as to who will own the
relationship with the customer.
The CEO of an infrastructure delivery
organisation commented that it is very difficult to know how autonomous
vehicles will develop as there will certainly be some disrupters which we can't
yet foresee - will CAV drive up or down the volume of vehicles on our roads? We
do know that 'Big Data' will have a major impact and presently look at how busy
the roads are and predict what routes will be quickest and when and how long a
journey will take if you leave at different times. However, the problem comes
when 10,000 people decide to jump in their cars at the same time on the same
route - that could add 10 minutes or more on to the journey time. So this data
is being combined with other data, such as the weather forecast or when schools
are back from holidays etc., and without technology this wouldn't be
People will still be needed but with different
A MD from another infrastructure organisation that designs,
builds and operates in this space, noted how interesting advancement in global
connectivity is, as to them it means that the way in which they deliver
projects has changed. Global to local connection can be made where different
design offices, anywhere in the world, are responsible for delivery, for
example different aspects of a detailed design which are seamlessly integrated
into the overall design package. Use of virtual reality and 3D simulations
allows clients to visualise more clearly the end solution. They can also manage
the costs better by choosing a lower cost centre, e.g. Madrid over New York,
thereby passing on cost savings to the customers by using different office
The infrastructure CEO continued by saying, automation and
on-site GPS will change the way in which we deliver civil engineering contracts
in the future, with the introduction of driverless cab technology their
earthmovers can shift huge volumes of soil, and with centimetre precision,
which will result, quite literally overnight, in the changing of the landscape
to accommodate for the introduction of complex road and rail networks.
Technology will also allow for modularisation in civil engineering projects to
build a bridge, for example, by selecting from a catalogue and in a series of
clicks a bridge will be designed in half an hour. This will also mean you no
longer require the expensive skills set of so many engineering PhD's!
The Chief Customer Officer from an insurance company asked what the impact
of AI and machine-to-machine learning will be, will it reduce human skill
levels or does it meant that other skills will evolve and adapt in the future?
Is the limiting factor on technology the human brain?
Cybercrime is one of the biggest threats to all industries
The infrastructure MD interjected that 3D printing will be developed further
and could even be used to build houses with robots spraying concrete. Trials
are already underway in Japan. This will lead to very significant cost savings.
People will still be needed but with different skills. He likened it to when
CAD was introduced into the design world, it was thought that it would be the
end of an office with 30 designers but in fact they still had 30 people, just
doing different things. They are also using drone technology, for instance
assist in building roads in the middle of deserts.
The CEO from
the automotive industry stated that AI is most powerful when it is used with
intelligent people. Computers can crunch large and complex data sets in a way
the human brain could never do but scientists will be needed to build the
hypotheses to look at the data.
Our technology guest mentioned that the
police force already have cameras that record what they see and this will soon
have facial recognition software added to identify people with an existing
criminal record and download their history for the police to see.
final comment was made from the automotive CEO who reminded us that this is the
4th industrial revolution, the 1st used water and steam power to mechanize
production, the 2nd used electric power to create mass production, the 3rd used
electronics and information technology to automate production and now the 4th
is characterised by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between
the physical, digital and biological spheres. Compared to the previous three 3
the 4th is evolving at an exponential rather than a linear pace. The 1st three
took longer and we had time to retrain people and they had time to develop more
skills and capabilities but this is a much faster pace of change than has ever
happened before. Moreover, it is disrupting almost every industry in every
country and the breadth and depth of these changes herald the transformation of
entire systems of production, management and governance.
There is unprecedented change taking place across
all business sectors fuelled by technology that is disrupting the norm and
making us all question the way in which we approach everyday life, both from a
personal and business perspective. So as leaders we need to question what can
technology do for us and for our business, are we moving at such a pace to
embrace change and capitalise on its benefits and do we have the right people
with the necessary skills to move the technology agenda forward to ensure that
we remain competitive in ever evolving Global markets?