We welcomed Mike Ryan, Manchester’s first Digital Futurist, to speak at our annual user group and give us an insight into the eye-opening possibilities of future tech.
At Wax Digital, we like to stay ahead of the game with future technology, often testing out interesting ways web3 could improve. So, when the opportunity to have Mike Ryan give us an insight into the future of business technology, we couldn’t say no!
Mike has a rich history of future tech with a number of start-ups and consultancy roles under his belt. A born disruptor, he eats, lives and breathes future tech and has a keen eye on the latest trends and what to expect in the coming years. Mike began his talk by taking us through the big shift about to hit the business world, starting with where we’re coming from.
The current state
Businesses are in essence simple. They deliver a service or product in exchange for payment. A very simple concept that at times has spiralled into deep complexity. One great example of this is banks. Their primary function is to handle the transactions between two parties, be that person to person, business to person or business to business. However, banks have now become incredibly complex, you can get passed from person to person on the phone, having to jump through hoops to finally get told that the person on the other end of the phone doesn’t have the power to give you your own information. This is the result of layers of processes being added to make things more streamlined, but to the point where things have gone beyond simplifying to increased complexity and causing great friction.
So, where does it go from here?
Arguably the biggest cause of friction in business is people. People are complex in that they have emotions, they get tired, they have varying levels of motivation and can be unreliable. In many cases, companies have realised this and utilise technology to either replace or aid their staff. The question is, is it ethical?
Take the largest mobile phone manufacturer in the world, Foxcon. They realised they had major issues with their workforce with some of the worst human rights issues and suicide rates of any large employer in the world, but instead of tackling this issue and improving the working conditions, they eradicated the problem by replacing people with robots. Whilst it does remove the issue of overworked staff suffering immensely, is it right to remove them from their jobs for this?
It’s not all bad however. One excellent example of the removal of friction through advancing technology is contactless payments. Long gone are the days of awkward waits for the payment to process with the waiter at the side of your table. Now with a simple tap of your card you can transfer the money to the restaurant.
Equally as impressive are mobile phones, or as Mike referred to them, the modern-day pen knifes. Mobile Phones have advanced from just something to make calls whilst on the go, to replacing your notebook, camera, wallet and many other things. Technology is enabling a faster and more efficient life for those who have access to it.
How do you keep up as a business?
A very interesting point that Mike brought up is O ring economics. For those that don’t know, O ring economics is the concept of something only being capable of succeeding if all parts come together. It was born out of the Challenger Space Shuttle disaster whereby a $2 component caused a Space Shuttle to explode shortly after take-off as the low temperature meant the component didn’t properly seal the fuel.
The same thinking can be applied to a business. For a business to succeed going forward, its weakest link, be that process or people, must be able to meet the demands of the changing environment. Just like the Foxcon example previously mentioned, they removed their weak link, the overworked staff, and brought in robots to ensure they could meet the growing demands of mobile production.
Artificial intelligence, or AI, is another very popular phrase often thrown about when discussing future tech. It’s something that’s already making a big impact and can enable businesses to successfully cope in this ever-speeding world.
One application of AI is the process of applying an algorithm to a mass set of data via a machine and that machine then learning from this to carry out a task, also known as machine learning. Initially used for fun, such as teaching computers to beat humans at games such as poker, machine learning can be applied to repetitive and process driven tasks carried out by many people in their jobs today. So, why stick with a human when a machine can do it quicker and better?
IBM have used this technology to create a super intelligent lawyer called Ross. Ross has access to a database full of existing laws and previous cases and can scan 1 billion text documents a second. Lawyers can then ask Ross a question, have it scan through all these documents and receive an answer to their question. Not only does Ross do that, but it continues to learn and thus provide more informed answers. Hard to find a human lawyer with that level of efficiency!
What does this mean for procurement?
Procurement is often a process driven business function and AI is something that could be applied to this. Imagine you’re running a tender to find a supplier for a popular commodity like rice. There’ll be a vast number of suppliers with varying prices and quality, but what if a computer could scan this information in seconds and provide you with a breakdown of the best supplier for price, quality and reliability? It would revolutionise the tendering process, driving faster savings and more efficient processes.
Procurement is an industry that benefits from emerging technologies already and will continue to do so in years to come. Those working in procurement won’t be replaced by robots, but will be aided by intelligent machines who can speed up usually time intensive processes.
So, why not take the first step in adopting technology in your organisation today. Contact us via email or call us on +44 (0)161 367 8375 and find out how our end to end procurement software can enable your business to slide into the 21st century.
If you’d like to know more about Mike Ryan, then feel free to check out his Twitter account or get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.