In 2020, Digitalize and Automate came to life with a clear message and mission: a wake-up call that Europe needed more digital platforms to ensure sustainable growth and prosperity. In 2021, the event gathered amazing success stories of European digital platforms, but also raised the question of the consequences of failure, showed the huge gap that existed with the rest of the world, and eventually ended with the question of what should be done to make Europe become a digital paradise? Today, over 3000 registrants, among which 800 students, came together to listen and think about how to make that happen.
Reidar Wasenius, Chief Creative Officer at Breaks Finland, served as event moderator for the third year. Not only did he skillfully handle the various speaker introductions, but he also went on to deliver a guided ‘brain-stretching’ session during the lunch hour to provide a welcome break for the mind.
Kicking off the day
In his opening keynote of Digitalize and Automate, Niilo Fredrikson, CEO of Efecte, starts with a positive note on how things have developed since 2020. Even though Europe’s share of worldwide digital platforms is still less than 3% and despite the difficulties caused by the pandemic, the funding trends of the past years have been positive, helping digital platform businesses like Personio, Travel Perk, RELEX or Wolt become leaders in their industry. That kind of funding fuels the growth of digital Europe. According to him, building on that progress, Europe needs to take more responsibility and action. He sees three major building blocks that can support that action and ultimately help to create the European digital paradise.
The first building block is to offer cloud platforms that work on our own terms. That includes how it is built, and operated, the laws that govern the cloud or who controls the data that is processed. But according to Niilo, it increasingly also means the values we stand for in Europe. “Values from the physical world, such as equality, democracy or the respect of human rights and privacy should be reflected in the digital infrastructure of tomorrow,” he says. That kind of approach would benefit not only Europe but the whole planet.
According to Niilo, we should not be afraid of using the technology and innovation coming from America or Asia, but we should ask for a cloud on our own terms and make sure the technology matches what we need and what we stand for.
The second building block concerns employee experience. “We desperately need more consumer-like experiences at the workplace”, he says. “One key component of employee satisfaction is the digital tools we use for our everyday work. We should create a stellar experience here.” Employees should become the new customers and be served a five-star experience to feel comfortable and provide the best results.
Finally, the third building block is automation. In a world where it’s getting increasingly harder to make ends meet, where we need to constantly do more with the same or even less, automation can be the answer. According to Gartner, in 3 years, a company can save 30% of costs through automation. It allows one to be more productive but also, and almost more importantly, improve the way things are done. “Automation can make the promise of digitalization real,” Niilo says.
If we succeed in leveraging that automation opportunity, provide the best employee experience, and ask for a cloud on our own terms, the European digital paradise is within our reach, Niilo concludes.
Digitalize and Automate: the human perspective
In his presentation, Jussi Tolvanen, CEO of DNA, discusses how on the one hand technology should empower people but also how people will have to adapt to a new working reality with new skills and a changed mindset. He’s also tackling how to ensure ethical use of technology and what digital equality means.
At the beginning of his keynote, Jussi again emphasized the role and importance of technology and digitalization by raising the question of what would have happened if the pandemic had started ten years ago. Society would most probably have collapsed. “Technology as such is not good or bad, it depends on how we use it,” he says. Technology such as AI can predict diseases and empower people to achieve so much more. However, according to him, technology should always be controlled by the people, empowering them, not the other way around. By combining human capabilities with AI capabilities, we will get the best possible outcome.
How will that influence how we work and, most importantly, how will we as humans have to adapt to succeed? According to Jussi, career paths will be shorter, people will change directions and obtain multiple micro-diplomas instead of one degree at the beginning of their career. We will need to develop a growth mindset which means continuously adapting, learning, and teaching. Being a leader does not only mean governing but also sharing experience and constantly growing. “AI will eventually change every role that can be modeled”, claims Jussi. Even though we do not know when that will happen, we know that this will fundamentally change the way we work and the skillset that is needed. We need to acquire many more emotional, social, and problem-solving skills. Companies will need to transform to attract the best talent. People need purpose, diversity, and equality; they need to be seen as individuals and have the opportunity for continuous learning and development.
How to ensure the ethical use of technology and data? Jussi answers that for more security, we must have ethical standards and that Europe should become a role model in that matter. GDPR was the first step towards that goal. Still, especially in the field of AI, Europe needs a regulation that should make the usage of the technology secure, but not prevent competitiveness on a global level. At the same time, he stresses that we need digital equality. The pandemic has made it clearer than ever; we need similar access for everyone to devices, networks, applications, and skills, but this is not a reality today. One approach here could be to think about the usage and distribution of the millions of used devices available worldwide.
Jussi ends his keynote by repeating that a growth mindset, a new set of social and emotional skills, and continuous and humble learning will be needed to cope with the rapid pace of technological change. The power of Europe lies in its democracy and people-centricity. We need to take care of both.
"Horizons of Artificial Intelligence and the emerging technologies ecosystem"
Aleksandra Przegalinska, Associate Professor and Vice-President of Kozminski University, is an expert in the field of artificial intelligence. Having worked in programs at MIT, Harvard universities, and other prestigious research institutes, she has currently specialized in collaborative AI and the future of work based on the case of virtual assistants. She starts her keynote by saying “AI has gone a long way already and today we experience a revolution of simplification and collaboration with AI.” She explained that a couple of years ago we had a so-called AI boom which was very much characterized by the AI hype and a lot of speculation on how AI would be. Today, we have a much more realistic view of AI; many companies have even become quite practical in using the latest AI developments for their digital transformation. AI technology is already used as a tool for prediction and optimization. Still, the research in AI has evolved into many subfields, including “machine learning” which is the most funded one because many companies see the potential of what it could offer. It also includes “deep learning” which is according to Aleksandra the closest to the functioning of the human brain, “it actually mirrors its functions,” she says. Other fields include natural language processing, image recognition, and robotics. The latter is not in the mainstream yet, but once more quality data will be available, we might see great progress in that field too.
Now, what are the trends in AI ahead of us? According to the expert, different areas will develop in the coming years, including over realism with image processing or conversations with virtual assistants, open data with a bigger focus on gathering quality data and sharing that via open data formats, or simplification. According to Aleksandra, “AI has the potential of becoming a general-purpose technology.” The technology needs to be accessible, and approaches like low-code or no-code allow even non-IT teams from Marketing, Sales, or HR to benefit from AI easily. The last big trend that Aleksandra mentioned was AI Ethics. This topic is already more than a trend since the first draft of a new EU regulation will be presented at the European Commission next week. It aims at categorizing AI technology based on the potential risk it represents. These levels range from minimal, limited, and high to unacceptable and analyze AI systems with specific transparency obligations, Deep Learning technologies used in the financial or medical sector, and many others. This AI regulation already offers room for discussion since some see regulated and safer AI as beneficial to create a good foundation for new products. Others argue that too much regulation hinders AI development.
In the last part of the keynote Aleksandra focused on the part she is currently specializing in - collaborative AI. “AI has become much simpler to use. It has become a form of collaboration between humans and technology. AI is enriching us, becomes a sort of extension of our brain”, she says. The one field that is currently booming is conversational AI. Everything that has to do with bots has a very rapid development. Transformational technologies already widely used include GPT-3, open AI, GPT-J, BERT, T5, or DALL-E. According to Aleksandra, we will see a rapid increase in collaboration through mainstreaming AI. “If it’s as easy to use as social media, I will surely use it”. According to Aleksandra, this is how people will see AI in the future.
She explains how important it is to create synergies, to bridge our collective intelligence with the power of AI. AI should not be seen as a threat that will take away our jobs. On the contrary, we should bridge our experience with AI for greater synergetic effects. As a result, we have the power to create more productivity and more happiness in what we do. That’s why we should continue mainstreaming AI and making it accessible to much more people.
How to unlock new growth with platforms and entrepreneurs
Matthias Walter, Co-Founder, and CEO of fastbreak.one, opened his keynote with the statement that there has been a platform revolution in the market. Whereas all other keynote speakers focused on technological platforms, Matthias explained how business platforms have developed and dramatically changed the traditional business landscape. Whereas in 1955 the normal life span of a company was 75 years, in 2015 it was only 15 years. The two major factors of that change were the rise of the start-up business and the growth of business platforms which disrupted the standard value chain by introducing a platform between the consumer and the producing companies. Since then, we have seen the rise of digital platforms such as Amazon, or mega platforms incorporating even more services, such as in the Asian market. Companies need to innovate quickly nowadays if they want to stay competitive. If you had ten years before, it is now only one year.
According to Matthias, platforms often display a “winner-takes-it-all” dynamic, attracting new users through networking effects, and creating thus strength against the competition. The “Digital Masters,” such as Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft, have transformed their portfolio in a way that covers different capital types and thus different sources of revenue, making it much more interesting and safe for investors. "We enter the ecosystem with platforms presenting a new inflection point of business model evolution," Matthias says.
He explained that digital transformation means digitizing all areas of the corporation, but that many companies were unsuccessful in one major area: the creation of new businesses. Most of the time this is because they search for innovation outside the company. However, incubators or purchasing a start-up with a promising technology have proven very difficult too since the former does not produce enough viable ideas and the latter often fails due to a clash of culture and integration.
So how can traditional businesses win? “They have the assets to beat the startups at their own game. They only lack the start-up mentality and speed”, Matthias explains.
According to him, Corporate Venture Building combines the best of both worlds. It combines teams of venture studio entrepreneurs and corporate intrapreneurs. On the one hand, you have the management stakeholders and on the other side the methodology ownership. This start-up format outside of corporate governance allows for more attractive employee incentives and leveraging all corporate assets to create an unfair advantage in the market. The number of Venture Studios has exponentially increased over the last few years to more than 560. They manage to accelerate the speed of growth for start-ups with a 30% higher success rate.
Matthias says that this is a very positive trend and that according to a study from Mc Kinsey, business building is now a priority for 52% of companies. Apart from a gain in revenue, this new priority is a major factor in strengthening innovation.
After the interview with Fernando Alonso, Niilo Fredrikson closes Day 1 of Digitalize and Automate by summing up the most important learnings of the day and bringing back the focus to Efecte. With over 3000 registrants to the event, he briefly reminds the audience how Efecte can help businesses to digitalize and automate their work with an exceptional experience. In his second part “what’s new today” he follows the tradition of announcing the hottest News regarding the company and the portfolio at Digitalize and Automate. This year, he concentrated on four big announcements:
This summarizing session served as the perfect segway into Day Two of the Digitalize and Automate event, which will offer a much deeper insight into the technology aspect of “Work redesigned- Digitalize & automate with exceptional user experience”.
We look forward to seeing you for another exciting day of content!
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