How cultural evolution unleashes automation’s potential
Digital transformation continues to dominate IT priorities with a renewed sense of urgency given the unique challenges brought about by the pandemic. Forward-looking IT organisations are increasingly looking to adopt innovative new technologies that harness automation and artificial intelligence to drive operational efficiencies, streamline processes, and improve digital experiences.
Not only does adding intelligent automation into the IT stack help businesses manage the growing complexity of their digital infrastructure, but it enables IT teams to work more effectively than ever before. By maximising productivity for remote employees and optimising digital experiences for internal and external users alike, automation is a Swiss Army knife in the IT toolbox.
Despite the myriad benefits of adopting automation, some companies struggle to get their initiatives off the ground. One of the critical success factors that is often overlooked is the cultural shift required to reap automation’s vast potential.
Road blocks in the journey to automation
In a recent Gartner survey, 42% of respondents said they planned to start investing in I&O automation within the next two years. When Gartner asked clients to identify their top organisational challenges related to automation, 44% cited cultural resistance. The struggle is real.
While business leaders see the benefits of embracing automation, employees can be suspicious of the technology. Some perceive it as a threat to their jobs, worrying that automation will take on many of the manual and repetitive tasks that they must complete on a daily basis. And, of course, many people simply dislike change. However, what workers oftentimes don’t consider is the capacity for automation to empower them and advance their careers. Implementing automation frees employees to take on more creative projects and more challenging responsibilities that machines are not capable of performing.
This is especially true within the IT industry, where there is a significant talent shortage. From a business perspective, automation can help manage growing infrastructure complexity and user demand. From an employee perspective, it can allow for new skills and strategic roles to be developed. Human expertise will always be at a premium, and those employees with ‘on-the-ground’ knowledge will be required to identify, optimise and then automate key processes.
People fuel automation
People remain a business’ greatest asset – and they are also the key to successfully leveraging automation. In order to unlock the full potential of automation, business leaders must foster excitement for it, reassuring employees that technology is at its best when it augments human effort, rather than replacing it.
Leaders should start by identifying processes to automate that will garner quick wins, and vocally celebrate those successes. Not only will this show hesitant employees the immediate value of automation, it will also open their minds to what they can achieve with it. By continuing to promote key milestones and highlight employees who have leveraged it to both their own and the company’s advantage, businesses can sustain enthusiasm in these initiatives. As an example, some organisations award cash prizes to employees who identify processes to automate and improve workflows.
It’s also important to identify internal champions who can speak from personal experience about how they’ve benefited from automation. Hearing this from colleagues, as well as from the top-down, is crucial for employees to understand and appreciate automation’s role within the company. This has the added benefit of attracting a younger generation of employees, who are inherently opposed to performing a high volume of manual, repetitive tasks. Highlighting digital transformation initiatives is key to attracting and retaining new talent.
Organisations are increasingly looking to create Automation Centres of Excellence (CoE) to help establish overarching automation strategy, a technology framework, governance and operating models, and a process for developing internal skillsets. A CoE helps identify strategic areas for automation across the business, unify and streamline decisions, establish consistency across regions, and ensure cross-functional alignment – all of which significantly improve business efficiency. Ultimately, the Centre of Excellence’s existence helps a culture of automation take root and then flourish by continually underscoring the key benefits of automation for employees and the business alike, as well as maximising its impact.
Adjusting to change has never been easy, but it is more important than ever in light of the tectonic shifts that businesses have experienced over the last 12 months. By promoting influential voices and highlighting the tangible benefits of automation, businesses can reassure employees and achieve the cultural shift necessary to maximise the value of this transformative technology.
ICO warns of privacy concerns on the use of LFR technology
“I am deeply concerned about the potential for live facial recognition (LFR) technology to be used inappropriately, excessively, or even recklessly. When sensitive personal data is collected on a mass scale without people’s knowledge, choice or control, the impacts could be significant,” said Elizabeth Denham, the UK’s Information Commissioner.
Denham explained that with any new technology, building public trust and confidence in the way people’s information is used is crucial so the benefits derived from the technology can be fully realised.
“It is not my role to endorse or ban a technology but, while this technology is developing and not widely deployed, we have an opportunity to ensure it does not expand without due regard for data protection,” Denham added.
The Information Commissioner’s Office has said it will work with organisations to ensure that the use of LFR is lawful, and that a fair balance is struck between their own purposes and the interests and rights of the public. They will also engage with Government, regulators and industry, as well as international colleagues to make sure data protection and innovation can continue to work hand in hand.
What is live facial recognition?
Facial recognition is the process by which a person can be identified or recognised from a digital facial image. Cameras are used to capture these images and FRT software measures and analyses facial features to produce a biometric template. This typically enables the user to identify, authenticate or verify, or categorise individuals.
Live facial recognition (LFR) is a type of FRT that allows this process to take place automatically and in real-time. LFR is typically deployed in a similar way to traditional CCTV in that it is directed towards everyone in a particular area rather than specific individuals. It can capture the biometric data of all individuals passing within range of the camera indiscriminately, as opposed to more targeted “one-to-one” data processing. This can involve the collection of biometric data on a mass scale and there is often a lack of awareness, choice or control for the individual in this process.
Why is biometric data particularly sensitive?
Biometrics are physical or behavioural human characteristics that can be used to digitally identify a person to grant access to systems, devices, or data. Biometric data extracted from a facial image can be used to uniquely identify an individual in a range of different contexts. It can also be used to estimate or infer other characteristics, such as their age, sex, gender, or ethnicity.
The security of the biometric authentication data is vitally important, even more than the security of passwords, since passwords can be easily changed if they are exposed. A fingerprint or retinal scan, however, is immutable.
The UK courts have concluded that “like fingerprints and DNA [a facial biometric template] is information of an “intrinsically private” character.” LFR can collect this data without any direct engagement with the individual. Given that LFR relies on the use of sensitive personal data, the public must have confidence that its use is lawful, fair, transparent, and meets the other standards set out in data protection legislation.