Ahead of her book launch, ‘Duty of Care: An Executive Guide for Corporate Boards in the Digital Era’, certified corporate director Alizabeth Calder is publishing a five-part blog series on IT World Canada examining 10 trends that will be shaping discussions in corporate boardrooms in 2020. Today is Part 4 of 5.

A trend is a movement; a shift in thinking or direction; a change in perspective. The key trends that will be impactful going into the next decade are not about technology – they are about what will be different for business.

Robotics – Optimizing (at scale) rather than replacing human capital

According to PWC, 58 per cent of CEOs believe that robotics will deliver a headcount reduction over the next five years.  In reality, the trends with Robotics (RPA) support more of an intelligent blend of machine and human interaction.

The tasks that are actually being automated through robotics are the repetitive ones, where humans work with the robots and delegate tasks for improved efficiency, and the dangerous ones where robotics reduces business risk.  While the ROI on robotics use can range from 30 – 200 per cent, according to McKinsey, use cases are showing that the real productivity gains go to improved customer service, enabling faster processing and an evolution in the alignment of people, processes and technology.

In manufacturing, the most significant savings from robotics use are actually found in more efficient consumption – for example, robots use 30 per cent less paint as a result of more consistent surface preparation and optimized spray patterns and timing.  In a bank, robots can take delegated tasks like scanning and storing documents or matching signatures, but the customer facing work does not go away.

The CIO’s challenge going into 2020 will be to support and enable RPA while balancing outcome-based reality with the expectations of the corner office.

Privacy – Taking control of the dialogue

As the exponential growth in data combines with the use of robotics and AI, we see another significant trend on the data privacy front.  Consider the case of Facebook discussed earlier. The #DeleteFacebook movement drove nearly 10 per cent of Facebook’s customers to disengage from the social media platform.  No company can afford to have a single incident drive that kind of impact.

As customers begin to ask how their data will be used, stored and shared, this privacy-driven trend will escalate.  The EU’s GDPR legislation sets a new bar on the need to be transparent, which means that companies need to start really understanding the privacy considerations in a practical and actionable way.

There are even new debates about whether the individual owns the data that has been aggregated about them.  In most jurisdictions, the answer would be no, although the GDPR regulations does make it possible to at least see such information.   For example, a French journalist named Judith Duportail used GDPR as leverage to request a copy of the consumer data that dating app Tinder had collected on her. She received a substantial report, some 800 pages, which contained a massive amount of information about her including her hobbies, occupation, her “likes” on Facebook, romantic and sexual preferences, musical tastes, geolocation, and more. No consent that Duportail provided prepared her to find such a dossier.

As digital strategists, we need to be prepared for a future where data management intersects with ethical privacy considerations.  Right now, the consumer bears most of the risk for their digital data, and for what the world can find out about them. Consumers are beginning to realize how much they may have lost control.  The trend is toward less talk about ownership and more a focus on rights and duties.

Consider what impact that trend will have on you, both as a key custodian of privacy and through your enterprise-level business model.

Duty of Care cover - by Alizabeth Calder
Duty of Care: An Executive Guide for Corporate Boards in the Digital Era is available on May 7.


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