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Expleo: People, process, data and technological prowess – the four-pronged approach to future tech viability

  • Future Tech is here, it already exists and is readily available, writes Rob McConnell, Director and Global Head of Digital Labs, Expleo

    Over the last few decades, the race towards technological innovation has been relentless – spurred by a ‘Harder Better Faster Stronger’ mindset.  

    There has been an unwavering focus on working harder, on finding better, faster solutions, with stronger capabilities. This has been an exhilarating journey defined by a range of technological breakthroughs and efficiency gains. The hallmark of this journey? The confluence of people, process, data and technology – the golden square of success.

    The onset of a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic brought this race to a shuddering halt, instigating a non-negotiable deceleration of activity, and in some cases, a complete shutdown of operations across a wide variety of industries. While the pandemic has caused significant cross-sectoral disruption, and an untold level of human loss, it has also inspired a phase of deep recalibration, as we assess how we live, how we work, and how we harness technology. For individuals and companies alike, there is now a sharper focus on the here and now, on the situations we can control. Collectively, we are increasingly leaning on the technology that can help us navigate these uncertain times and chart a new path forward.

    However, before serious inroads are made on this new path, companies should ensure they are optimising the myriad of technology and data points currently available to them. The groundswell of momentum behind what is commonly referred to as ‘Big Data’ continues to build, and thankfully, the technology needed to capture, process, and analyse that data has reached a state of maturity, and is readily accessible and cost effective for companies to deploy today. The amount of untapped data at companies’ disposal is substantial – they just need the know-how to extract maximum value from internal data pools.

    I’m proud that Expleo has helped clients leverage raw data that has been at their disposal for years, accessible from multiple existing internal and external data sources. We are enabling companies to better assess user experience, and derive invaluable, actionable insights that lead to enhanced data-driven decision making, and ultimately, a better customer experience. The scope for this kind of data enrichment extends to a high volume of enterprises across our economy.

    It goes without saying, companies that have yet to deploy the tech of today, shouldn’t be racing ahead to build the tech of tomorrow. In other words, don’t put the cart before the horse. Truth be told, there is an embarrassment of riches in terms of technological applications and solutions tailored to a spectrum of business needs on the market today. Unfortunately, many of these solutions have yet to gain mainstream traction. Much like how the bulk of apps in your iPhone sit dormant, eager to impress and provide value – some of the greatest technological breakthroughs of our time have yet to make an indelible impression on the business landscape. Thankfully, the tide is beginning to turn. 

    In terms of ‘future tech’, popular buzzwords such as IOT, Robotics and AI are now permeating mainstream vernacular, giving expression to a tech revolution on an upward trajectory. The influence of Artificial Intelligence on people, organisations and industries has also been widely reported on, albeit with a tendency towards forward-looking speculation around where this tech is going and how it will impact mankind. Less so, the narrative focuses on the tangible impact of AI on the technology development process in today’s environment. 

    However, these items are beginning to feature more prominently on the agendas of a range of enterprises – with global spending on AI solutions expected to double over the next four years. Robotics and Artificial Intelligence – once the stuff of science fiction, are now very much in the category of science fact. The challenge for companies and institutions is deriving value from these advancements.

    At Expleo, we have developed a solution that is helping HR professionals here in Northern Ireland dramatically reduce the time associated with onerous administrative tasks. Certain processes that typically took a human worker 4 hours, can now be completed in 30 seconds using Robotics. Overseeing these kinds of deployments and seeing the tangible impact they can have on workers, makes for great job satisfaction.

    However, throughout my experience, a constant source of frustration has been the technical skills shortage, not exclusive to Northern Ireland, but one that has hindered the technological capabilities of our enterprises from flourishing. Deriving maximum value from today’s technology requires a diverse set of roles and skillsets, across areas such as R&D, design, development and product management. 

    In something resembling a paradigm shift, AI and Robotics can now be matched with people to solve problems rather than depending heavily on highly technical roles. For example, you no longer need to be a coder to produce code or build Digital applications. Your skills might be in planning or design, but advanced solutions are now helping professionals ‘level up’ and deploy skills that might not have featured in their repertoire previously. 

    An example of this type of skillset ‘layering’ can be seen close to home. Belfast-based Budibase has been building a bespoke solution for web-development that enables designers without a background in coding to develop functional web applications using an intuitive click-based UI. For prospective students and graduates in Northern Ireland, these kinds of developments represent an incredible opportunity to broaden their horizons, leveraging a new array of toolsets while developing evergreen, transferable skills across business, humanities and STEM disciplines.

    Now more than ever, a spirit of collaboration must endure over siloed thinking. Technology does not work in isolation, it is the people that bring it to life, that make it work. The aforementioned ‘golden square’ is made complete when we complement technological prowess with people, process and data – only then will the full potential of future tech be realised.

    This article first appeared in the 'Future Tech' edition of the Sync NI magazine and it can be found here.

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