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How to harness tech’s upside


  • Economy
  • Technology
  • Trade




Work and technology are interconnected at every level. How does a business ensure a positive, productive outcome when people share their workplace with machines?



Your team is attempting to complete an important project but machines are interrupting their workflows. Email alerts flash onto screens. Meeting invites sit like speed bumps across their calendar, slowing the speed and flow of their productivity. And smartphones, even when set to silent, vibrate and buzz with a peculiarly human insistence.

A 2018 report by Deloitte Insights, Positive technology: Designing work environments for digital wellbeing, outlined the downsides of technology in the workplace. They included rising burnout as a result of the blurring of work and personal lives, lower attention spans due to the distractive nature of technology, and increasingly heavy cognitive load.

However, technology has also created outstanding efficiencies. Consider the fact just a few short decades ago, accounting firms would type tax returns on mechanical typewriters and, should a mistake be discovered by the partner who checked those returns (by using a desk calculator), the entire return would have to be retyped.

We find ourselves at a crossroads between massive efficiency but great potential for distraction. How does a business ensure the best of the former and the least of the latter?



“For a competitive and sustainable future, organisations large and small have to adopt the best of technology whilst carefully navigating its perils.” 



ANZ Finance & Treasury Forum 2019

At the upcoming ANZ Finance and Treasury Forum on October 4, Brunswick Group Director Dex Torricke-Barton will be sharing his extensive knowledge on technology’s ability to be a powerful force for sustainability within organisations, communities and environments.

ANZ’s forum brings together business, political and thought leaders to share their perspectives on trends shaping the region and the practical implications they will have on finance professionals.

The forum showcases practical experiences, transformation journeys and successes shared through real-life case studies which bring new technologies, business models and solutions to life.


Cutting back to give back

A useful, recent example has come from Coca-Cola European Partners  when, in 2017, the business vowed to give a collective one million hours annually back to its staff. To do this, the business closely analysed the relationship between humans and machines to remove annoyances and increase efficiencies.

This meant, among other things, mapping the daily journeys of staff to figure out how and where their time was being wasted – reading emails that were unnecessarily CCed to them, for instance, or attending meetings they needn’t have been invited to, or conducting repetitive tasks that could be automated.

Once these time thieves were identified, the business acted to remove them and give that time back. So far, CCEP says, the business is halfway to its goal of one million hours saved among its 23,500 staff.

Machine learning frees up human talent

Another case study is that of the Australian Government agency known as the National Health & Medical Research Council (NHMRC).

A major funding body for health and medical research, the NHMRC’s work was becoming more complex as researchers who were seeking funding worked on increasingly specific studies. The job of matching thousands of applications annually to knowledgeable members of peer-review panels was extremely time consuming and laborious.

A machine-learning application was developed. It reduced a job that previously took 20 people 500 collective hours to one that takes just a few seconds plus five or six hours of quality assurance by a human.

Best of all, these solutions from Coca-Cola and NHMRC resulted in no job losses. Instead, staff were freed up to do work involving empathy, ingenuity, deep or creative thinking and the development of innovative ideas – all uniquely human traits that machines will never accomplish.

For a competitive and sustainable future, organisations large and small have to adopt the best of technology whilst carefully navigating its perils. It’s a delicate balancing act, but businesses are proving it is one that can, and must, be achieved.

James Chalmers is a contributor



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