What Makes A Successful Smart City?

Phil King

It was back in 2011 that Mark Deakin and Husam Al Wear defined the concept of a smart city as a place where a range of electronic and digital technologies are deployed to transform living and working environments. In practice, this could mean using physical devices and sensors to optimize the performance of city operations and services, monitoring what’s happening across the city, interacting with communities, managing the city’s evolution, and generally improving the lives and safety of citizens.

As things stand today, I can’t think of many places in the UK that fit this kind of advanced definition. Simple things like reliable Internet access in urban areas still remain a struggle for many, let alone genuine smart city examples of the Internet of Things (IoT) deployed to create joined-up, connected spaces.

But that doesn’t mean our cities are not smart at all or on a pathway to becoming smarter for their citizens. Indeed, for many towns and cities in the UK, the term “smart city” is more of an aspiration than a reality at present. Improvements and innovations have been incremental rather than wholesale. The key is to continue investing in technology, pushing development, and looking towards the urban outlier smart cities to see what we in Britain can learn.

Defining what we mean by “smart”

London Mayor Sadiq Khan recently announced that he wants London to be the world’s smartest city by 2020. But with only two years left to fulfill that vision, it seems quite the ask – especially as London was recently overtaken by Bristol as the smartest city in the UK.

In a way, this suggests that we need to reassess what we mean by “smart” if we’re to deliver changes that will truly improve the lives of UK citizens and to perhaps reconsider the milestones at which we’re aiming.

We’ve had glimpses of what can be achieved. From the Bristol Is Open project that saw the city jump to the top of the UK’s innovation table, to Milton Keynes’ commitment to using technology to become more sustainable with its MK:Smart initiative. And Manchester’s CityVerve project. All of these examples highlight the fact that there’s no reason why London, Birmingham, Newcastle, Glasgow, Cardiff, and cities all over the UK can’t act, think, and be smarter now.

Time to act ahead of Brexit impact

There is, of course, an element of urgency about this. It will be increasingly important for cities to embrace innovative technology ahead of any Brexit legislation coming into force. With the UK on the path to exit the European Union, the pressure will mount on cities to not only remain attractive to foreign visitors but also to ensure they provide a seamless, enjoyable experience to those living there.

As things stand, the UK is slightly behind the curve when it comes to smart technology deployment. But there are examples we as a nation can look to when seeking improvements. And I’m not just talking about capitals and major conurbations.

The French town of Antibes, for instance, uses IoT software to control its water management system. Officials use intelligent solutions to monitor and analyze the town’s water distribution system over 315 kilometers, aggregating 15,000 data points per hour collected from more than 2,000 sensors to look at temperature, salinity, chlorine levels, pH, and the pumps and valves that steer the flow of water.

Importantly, the innovation is aligned to economic and social priorities. Antibes is a lively resort in Southeastern France with a summer population of 250,000, triple the number of year-round citizens. People are attracted by the flair of the coast, water sports, and the French joie de vivre. Keeping their water infrastructure efficient and citizens safe is of the utmost importance.

The solution now helps the city anticipate breakdowns, optimize maintenance schedules, and plan future investments. And, as any smart city solution should, it provides the best service for citizens at the best cost. With citizens paying less than half the national average per cubic meter, Antibes offers a great example of how public sector organizations can take mountains of data and transform it into valuable information, then use that to inform local knowledge and increase public safety.

UK organizations should absolutely look at and learn from innovative deployments of smart technology around the world if they are to improve the lives of their citizens and the experiences they offer to visitors. Happily, there’s plenty of support out there, including the government-led Future Cities Catapult, Innovate UK, and the Scottish Smart Cities initiatives. So it’s time for local governments to act and get the UK on the map in terms of smart technology deployments.

Learn how SAP smart cities technologies help local governments like Antibes improve citizen services and livability, grow economic prosperity, and keep pace with change – without dipping into extra budget or resources.


Phil King

About Phil King

Drawing from his 30 years of experience in IT and public sector organizations, Phil King is the Sales Director for the Public Sector in the UK and Ireland at SAP. He is passionate about working with the public sector to drive innovation that improves people’s lives and makes the world a better place.

Smart Cities Are About Helping People, Civic Leaders Agree

Andy Canham

The hype around Jetsons-esque visions of “smart cities” seems to be settling down, and now public leaders and urban planners are turning their minds to how practical use of technology can benefit the only thing that really matters to cities: people.

That was the theme of SAP’s Third Annual Smart Cities Forum in Toronto on April 23, when the likes of Toronto, San Diego, Mississauga, Cambridge (Ontario), and Bolzano (Italy) came together to discuss how they are applying digital solutions to civic problems.

Stefan Gasslitter, CIO of the City of Bolzano, a medieval gateway to the Dolomites mountain range in the Italian Alps, told the story of how the city is using blockchain and cloud technology to automate government processes.

Blockchain’s guaranteed trust has enabled the city to store digitally approved copies of documents and do away with much of the paperwork associated with public administration. The project is now seen as a pioneering success that could pave the way for blockchain-based systems for paying taxes and student loans and voting.

Staying on the subject of pioneers, City of San Diego deputy chief operating officer David Graham shed some light on why the California beach town has been called “America’s smartest city.”

San Diego’s government has partnered with the region’s electricity companies and non-profit Cleantech San Diego to digitize utilities for citizens and make them more environmentally friendly, and the city was an early adopter of infrastructure for electric vehicles (there are more than 1000 charging stations in San Diego).

But Graham didn’t use his talk to show off. “There are a lot of trendy gadgets,” he said, “but the focus should be on addressing the challenges facing communities. If your 5G Wi-Fi-enabled network is not [doing this], it’s useless.”

He said cities should pay more attention to digital literacy and include underserved communities in their plans, along with partnering with academia and industry. “Universities are not just about academia; they can also contribute to improving people’s lives,” he added. “All cities should use that resource.”

Leaders from the City of Toronto would likely agree. Chief digital transformation officer Michael Kolm said the work he and the city’s ecosystem of tech innovators, academics, and urban planners are doing is about helping people by using data in more meaningful ways.

“If Smart City 1.0 was about the technology, Smart City 2.0 is about the social and economic perspectives,” he said. “We are not going to solve these problems alone, and if we don’t have an educated workforce and make use of the talent available to us, we will not be a smart city.”

CIO Rob Meikle added that the pressure on him and his team to innovate is incredible, and the demands to deliver faster are increasing every day. Partnering with “companies that have deep pockets” and moving to a cloud-based model is helping the city catch up to that demand.

Tech enthusiasts have been paying attention to Toronto’s Quayside project, a waterfront development that will bring about “a revolution in urban life” using “ubiquitous connectivity, social networks, sensing, machine learning and artificial intelligence,” according to Sidewalk Labs CEO Daniel Doctoroff.

And while Meikle sees the project as an exciting opportunity for the city, he’s just as focused on how technology and data can be used to tackle the biggest problems Toronto faces, such as affordable housing, transportation, and infrastructure.

Meikle wants Toronto to be a responsive city as well as a smart city, which means using data for insightful analysis that helps public servants respond to city-wide challenges more intelligently and inclusively.

Shawn Slack, CIO of the City of Mississauga, a city of 800,000 just down the road from Toronto, spoke along similar lines. He wants to bridge the digital divide in the city, which means supporting at-risk citizens, youth, new immigrants, and others in the local community by building a digital ecosystem that provides access to digital services and support.

The city’s plan is made up of several integrated elements: The Kit (laptops made available in the city’s libraries and other agencies), The Connection (Wi-Fi-enabled, voice-activated digital kiosks located throughout the city), The Hub (remote working and learning spaces), and The Ride (public transportation including e-bikes connecting to hubs and connections across the city).

While smart cities might have once been about simply making things more efficient or introducing cool gadgets, there’s now a new purpose: Using technology to tackle the biggest social and economic challenges faced by cities around the world. To echo the sentiment at the Smart Cities Forum, a city is nothing without its people, and it’s nothing if it’s not giving them all opportunities to succeed in the digital economy.

For more on this topic, see What Makes A Successful Smart City?


Andy Canham

About Andy Canham

Andy Canham is the managing director of SAP Canada.

What Will We Do When Robots Take Our Jobs?

Danielle Beurteaux

indexArtificial Intelligence is going to take over. Robots are now “staffing” a hotel in Japan. Even Stephen Hawking thinks A.I. could mean we are over. Done. Finished.

Now that we all know our jobs will be taken over by robots wielding A.I. capabilities, what are we going to do with our lives? Are we even going to have careers?

The fear of robots taking jobs actually appears in the very first instance of robots. That’s because the word was invented by Czech writer Karel Capek in his 1920 play R.U.R., full title Rossum’s Universal Robots. The story is about robots taking over the world. Not much has changed, huh?

This could be Industrial Revolution redux, argues Wired, but then again, robots will do the jobs we don’t want to do or can’t do well or at all, and a few decades from now they’ll do jobs we didn’t know we needed, or don’t need now. At least, at first.

Or maybe robots can do all the work…

It’s called the “post-work world,” and in some respects it doesn’t look pretty. This Atlantic article details what happened in Youngstown, Ohio, when the town’s major industry shut down: an increase in suicide, mental health issues, and abuse. The blow was psychological, not just economic.

So who’s got some good ideas about what to do once we’ve been automated right out of our cubicles?

One idea is to re-define the concept of unemployment. Earlier retirement? So much better. All that time to finally do all the things you actually want to do…if you can avoid the boredom factor.

There’s also been an uptick in employee-owned businesses, which, according to some researchers, are more productive and innovative and are places people want to work. Can you be replaced by a ‘bot if you own the company?

And some people don’t care. They’re going to quit unfulfilling and frustrating jobs anyway.

But maybe we simply don’t need jobs. A left-of-center experiment is going on right now in the college town of Utrecht in The Netherlands. It’s called basic income, and beginning next year, some of Utrecht’s population who are already on welfare will be divided into groups. One group will receive a set amount each month, enough to cover basic living expenses, without any restrictions—no minimum hours banked to look for a job, or minimum number of weekly job applications. Even if they do get a job, they’ll still get the money. The goal is to discover how people behave when they have a reliable source of support. Will they still look for a job?

In fact, several similar experiments took in North America a few decades ago. Dauphin, a small town in Manitoba, Canada, was the site of one basic income trial called Mincome. For five years back in the 1970s, everyone in town received a fixed amount. It wasn’t until recently that data on the project was analyzed—the program was changed and then discontinued altogether without resolution—and health data shows that there was a decrease in health care use, mental health improved, and more students finished high school.

To extend the argument, if we’re all guaranteed a basic income–because our robots are doing the work and making all our money–we will be at liberty to do what we want.

Bring your robot to work day

Maybe the future is about partnerships with your new best workplace friend—your own robot. There are already several versions of assistive robots on the market—perhaps a precursor of what’s to come—but what if we all had robots that acted as assistants to take to work with us? Or that could show up at the office when we can’t or don’t want to?

Despite the dramatic headlines, there are still things that robots simply can’t do, or can’t do as well as humans.

Want more insight on what the workplace of tomorrow will look like? See The Future of Work.


Jane Lu

About Jane Lu

Jane is a writer and marketing intern at SAP. She is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree majoring in English at the University of Waterloo. While Jane is currently studying in Waterloo, she is originally from Toronto.

What Will We Do When Robots Take Our Jobs?

Danielle Beurteaux

indexArtificial Intelligence is going to take over. Robots are now “staffing” a hotel in Japan. Even Stephen Hawking thinks A.I. could mean we are over. Done. Finished.

Now that we all know our jobs will be taken over by robots wielding A.I. capabilities, what are we going to do with our lives? Are we even going to have careers?

The fear of robots taking jobs actually appears in the very first instance of robots. That’s because the word was invented by Czech writer Karel Capek in his 1920 play R.U.R., full title Rossum’s Universal Robots. The story is about robots taking over the world. Not much has changed, huh?

This could be Industrial Revolution redux, argues Wired, but then again, robots will do the jobs we don’t want to do or can’t do well or at all, and a few decades from now they’ll do jobs we didn’t know we needed, or don’t need now. At least, at first.

Or maybe robots can do all the work…

It’s called the “post-work world,” and in some respects it doesn’t look pretty. This Atlantic article details what happened in Youngstown, Ohio, when the town’s major industry shut down: an increase in suicide, mental health issues, and abuse. The blow was psychological, not just economic.

So who’s got some good ideas about what to do once we’ve been automated right out of our cubicles?

One idea is to re-define the concept of unemployment. Earlier retirement? So much better. All that time to finally do all the things you actually want to do…if you can avoid the boredom factor.

There’s also been an uptick in employee-owned businesses, which, according to some researchers, are more productive and innovative and are places people want to work. Can you be replaced by a ‘bot if you own the company?

And some people don’t care. They’re going to quit unfulfilling and frustrating jobs anyway.

But maybe we simply don’t need jobs. A left-of-center experiment is going on right now in the college town of Utrecht in The Netherlands. It’s called basic income, and beginning next year, some of Utrecht’s population who are already on welfare will be divided into groups. One group will receive a set amount each month, enough to cover basic living expenses, without any restrictions—no minimum hours banked to look for a job, or minimum number of weekly job applications. Even if they do get a job, they’ll still get the money. The goal is to discover how people behave when they have a reliable source of support. Will they still look for a job?

In fact, several similar experiments took in North America a few decades ago. Dauphin, a small town in Manitoba, Canada, was the site of one basic income trial called Mincome. For five years back in the 1970s, everyone in town received a fixed amount. It wasn’t until recently that data on the project was analyzed—the program was changed and then discontinued altogether without resolution—and health data shows that there was a decrease in health care use, mental health improved, and more students finished high school.

To extend the argument, if we’re all guaranteed a basic income–because our robots are doing the work and making all our money–we will be at liberty to do what we want.

Bring your robot to work day

Maybe the future is about partnerships with your new best workplace friend—your own robot. There are already several versions of assistive robots on the market—perhaps a precursor of what’s to come—but what if we all had robots that acted as assistants to take to work with us? Or that could show up at the office when we can’t or don’t want to?

Despite the dramatic headlines, there are still things that robots simply can’t do, or can’t do as well as humans.

Want more insight on what the workplace of tomorrow will look like? See The Future of Work.


Greg Peterson

About Greg Peterson

Greg Peterson is Vice President at IBM Global Business Services. He leads the SAP Practice For Energy and Utilities in the US. He has a 20 year plus track record of Client, People and Business success in large enterprise application consulting, sales, industry based Go-to-Market (GTM) and project delivery. Greg is a proven Business Architect that drives Digital Reinvention using a value based agile strategy, operating model and process design methodology.

What Will We Do When Robots Take Our Jobs?

Danielle Beurteaux

indexArtificial Intelligence is going to take over. Robots are now “staffing” a hotel in Japan. Even Stephen Hawking thinks A.I. could mean we are over. Done. Finished.

Now that we all know our jobs will be taken over by robots wielding A.I. capabilities, what are we going to do with our lives? Are we even going to have careers?

The fear of robots taking jobs actually appears in the very first instance of robots. That’s because the word was invented by Czech writer Karel Capek in his 1920 play R.U.R., full title Rossum’s Universal Robots. The story is about robots taking over the world. Not much has changed, huh?

This could be Industrial Revolution redux, argues Wired, but then again, robots will do the jobs we don’t want to do or can’t do well or at all, and a few decades from now they’ll do jobs we didn’t know we needed, or don’t need now. At least, at first.

Or maybe robots can do all the work…

It’s called the “post-work world,” and in some respects it doesn’t look pretty. This Atlantic article details what happened in Youngstown, Ohio, when the town’s major industry shut down: an increase in suicide, mental health issues, and abuse. The blow was psychological, not just economic.

So who’s got some good ideas about what to do once we’ve been automated right out of our cubicles?

One idea is to re-define the concept of unemployment. Earlier retirement? So much better. All that time to finally do all the things you actually want to do…if you can avoid the boredom factor.

There’s also been an uptick in employee-owned businesses, which, according to some researchers, are more productive and innovative and are places people want to work. Can you be replaced by a ‘bot if you own the company?

And some people don’t care. They’re going to quit unfulfilling and frustrating jobs anyway.

But maybe we simply don’t need jobs. A left-of-center experiment is going on right now in the college town of Utrecht in The Netherlands. It’s called basic income, and beginning next year, some of Utrecht’s population who are already on welfare will be divided into groups. One group will receive a set amount each month, enough to cover basic living expenses, without any restrictions—no minimum hours banked to look for a job, or minimum number of weekly job applications. Even if they do get a job, they’ll still get the money. The goal is to discover how people behave when they have a reliable source of support. Will they still look for a job?

In fact, several similar experiments took in North America a few decades ago. Dauphin, a small town in Manitoba, Canada, was the site of one basic income trial called Mincome. For five years back in the 1970s, everyone in town received a fixed amount. It wasn’t until recently that data on the project was analyzed—the program was changed and then discontinued altogether without resolution—and health data shows that there was a decrease in health care use, mental health improved, and more students finished high school.

To extend the argument, if we’re all guaranteed a basic income–because our robots are doing the work and making all our money–we will be at liberty to do what we want.

Bring your robot to work day

Maybe the future is about partnerships with your new best workplace friend—your own robot. There are already several versions of assistive robots on the market—perhaps a precursor of what’s to come—but what if we all had robots that acted as assistants to take to work with us? Or that could show up at the office when we can’t or don’t want to?

Despite the dramatic headlines, there are still things that robots simply can’t do, or can’t do as well as humans.

Want more insight on what the workplace of tomorrow will look like? See The Future of Work.


Maricel Cabahug

About Maricel Cabahug

As Chief Design Officer, Maricel is responsible for SAP’s overall design strategy and product design. At the heart of everything she is does is her goal to improve people's lives by making work delightful. She and her organization are passionate about co-innovation with customers to realize greater business value through technology that works for people. Maricel graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics and Computer Science from the Ateneo De Manila University in Manila (Philippines). She has an MBA from Lake Forest Graduate School of Management (Illinois, USA), where she graduated with honors. She also completed the program for high performers at the Harvard Business School.

What Will We Do When Robots Take Our Jobs?

Danielle Beurteaux

indexArtificial Intelligence is going to take over. Robots are now “staffing” a hotel in Japan. Even Stephen Hawking thinks A.I. could mean we are over. Done. Finished.

Now that we all know our jobs will be taken over by robots wielding A.I. capabilities, what are we going to do with our lives? Are we even going to have careers?

The fear of robots taking jobs actually appears in the very first instance of robots. That’s because the word was invented by Czech writer Karel Capek in his 1920 play R.U.R., full title Rossum’s Universal Robots. The story is about robots taking over the world. Not much has changed, huh?

This could be Industrial Revolution redux, argues Wired, but then again, robots will do the jobs we don’t want to do or can’t do well or at all, and a few decades from now they’ll do jobs we didn’t know we needed, or don’t need now. At least, at first.

Or maybe robots can do all the work…

It’s called the “post-work world,” and in some respects it doesn’t look pretty. This Atlantic article details what happened in Youngstown, Ohio, when the town’s major industry shut down: an increase in suicide, mental health issues, and abuse. The blow was psychological, not just economic.

So who’s got some good ideas about what to do once we’ve been automated right out of our cubicles?

One idea is to re-define the concept of unemployment. Earlier retirement? So much better. All that time to finally do all the things you actually want to do…if you can avoid the boredom factor.

There’s also been an uptick in employee-owned businesses, which, according to some researchers, are more productive and innovative and are places people want to work. Can you be replaced by a ‘bot if you own the company?

And some people don’t care. They’re going to quit unfulfilling and frustrating jobs anyway.

But maybe we simply don’t need jobs. A left-of-center experiment is going on right now in the college town of Utrecht in The Netherlands. It’s called basic income, and beginning next year, some of Utrecht’s population who are already on welfare will be divided into groups. One group will receive a set amount each month, enough to cover basic living expenses, without any restrictions—no minimum hours banked to look for a job, or minimum number of weekly job applications. Even if they do get a job, they’ll still get the money. The goal is to discover how people behave when they have a reliable source of support. Will they still look for a job?

In fact, several similar experiments took in North America a few decades ago. Dauphin, a small town in Manitoba, Canada, was the site of one basic income trial called Mincome. For five years back in the 1970s, everyone in town received a fixed amount. It wasn’t until recently that data on the project was analyzed—the program was changed and then discontinued altogether without resolution—and health data shows that there was a decrease in health care use, mental health improved, and more students finished high school.

To extend the argument, if we’re all guaranteed a basic income–because our robots are doing the work and making all our money–we will be at liberty to do what we want.

Bring your robot to work day

Maybe the future is about partnerships with your new best workplace friend—your own robot. There are already several versions of assistive robots on the market—perhaps a precursor of what’s to come—but what if we all had robots that acted as assistants to take to work with us? Or that could show up at the office when we can’t or don’t want to?

Despite the dramatic headlines, there are still things that robots simply can’t do, or can’t do as well as humans.

Want more insight on what the workplace of tomorrow will look like? See The Future of Work.


Jennifer Horowitz

About Jennifer Horowitz

Jennifer Horowitz is a journalist with over 15 years of experience working in the technology, financial, hospitality, real estate, healthcare, manufacturing, not for profit, and retail sectors. She specializes in the field of analytics, offering management consulting serving global clients from midsize to large-scale organizations. Within the field of analytics, she helps higher-level organizations define their metrics strategies, create concepts, define problems, conduct analysis, problem solve, and execute.

What Will We Do When Robots Take Our Jobs?

Danielle Beurteaux

indexArtificial Intelligence is going to take over. Robots are now “staffing” a hotel in Japan. Even Stephen Hawking thinks A.I. could mean we are over. Done. Finished.

Now that we all know our jobs will be taken over by robots wielding A.I. capabilities, what are we going to do with our lives? Are we even going to have careers?

The fear of robots taking jobs actually appears in the very first instance of robots. That’s because the word was invented by Czech writer Karel Capek in his 1920 play R.U.R., full title Rossum’s Universal Robots. The story is about robots taking over the world. Not much has changed, huh?

This could be Industrial Revolution redux, argues Wired, but then again, robots will do the jobs we don’t want to do or can’t do well or at all, and a few decades from now they’ll do jobs we didn’t know we needed, or don’t need now. At least, at first.

Or maybe robots can do all the work…

It’s called the “post-work world,” and in some respects it doesn’t look pretty. This Atlantic article details what happened in Youngstown, Ohio, when the town’s major industry shut down: an increase in suicide, mental health issues, and abuse. The blow was psychological, not just economic.

So who’s got some good ideas about what to do once we’ve been automated right out of our cubicles?

One idea is to re-define the concept of unemployment. Earlier retirement? So much better. All that time to finally do all the things you actually want to do…if you can avoid the boredom factor.

There’s also been an uptick in employee-owned businesses, which, according to some researchers, are more productive and innovative and are places people want to work. Can you be replaced by a ‘bot if you own the company?

And some people don’t care. They’re going to quit unfulfilling and frustrating jobs anyway.

But maybe we simply don’t need jobs. A left-of-center experiment is going on right now in the college town of Utrecht in The Netherlands. It’s called basic income, and beginning next year, some of Utrecht’s population who are already on welfare will be divided into groups. One group will receive a set amount each month, enough to cover basic living expenses, without any restrictions—no minimum hours banked to look for a job, or minimum number of weekly job applications. Even if they do get a job, they’ll still get the money. The goal is to discover how people behave when they have a reliable source of support. Will they still look for a job?

In fact, several similar experiments took in North America a few decades ago. Dauphin, a small town in Manitoba, Canada, was the site of one basic income trial called Mincome. For five years back in the 1970s, everyone in town received a fixed amount. It wasn’t until recently that data on the project was analyzed—the program was changed and then discontinued altogether without resolution—and health data shows that there was a decrease in health care use, mental health improved, and more students finished high school.

To extend the argument, if we’re all guaranteed a basic income–because our robots are doing the work and making all our money–we will be at liberty to do what we want.

Bring your robot to work day

Maybe the future is about partnerships with your new best workplace friend—your own robot. There are already several versions of assistive robots on the market—perhaps a precursor of what’s to come—but what if we all had robots that acted as assistants to take to work with us? Or that could show up at the office when we can’t or don’t want to?

Despite the dramatic headlines, there are still things that robots simply can’t do, or can’t do as well as humans.

Want more insight on what the workplace of tomorrow will look like? See The Future of Work.


David Cruickshank

About David Cruickshank

David Cruickshank is senior director for strategy and operations for the SAP Co-Innovation Lab. He leads the lab's efforts in Silicon Valley to enable ecosystem-driven co-innovation between SAP, its partners, and customers. Additionally, he manages all operational aspects necessary to run a multimillion-dollar data center to provision private cloud infrastructures to deliver productive SAP landscapes consumed by co-innovation projects seeking a faster track to market for commercially successful innovations.

What Will We Do When Robots Take Our Jobs?

Danielle Beurteaux

indexArtificial Intelligence is going to take over. Robots are now “staffing” a hotel in Japan. Even Stephen Hawking thinks A.I. could mean we are over. Done. Finished.

Now that we all know our jobs will be taken over by robots wielding A.I. capabilities, what are we going to do with our lives? Are we even going to have careers?

The fear of robots taking jobs actually appears in the very first instance of robots. That’s because the word was invented by Czech writer Karel Capek in his 1920 play R.U.R., full title Rossum’s Universal Robots. The story is about robots taking over the world. Not much has changed, huh?

This could be Industrial Revolution redux, argues Wired, but then again, robots will do the jobs we don’t want to do or can’t do well or at all, and a few decades from now they’ll do jobs we didn’t know we needed, or don’t need now. At least, at first.

Or maybe robots can do all the work…

It’s called the “post-work world,” and in some respects it doesn’t look pretty. This Atlantic article details what happened in Youngstown, Ohio, when the town’s major industry shut down: an increase in suicide, mental health issues, and abuse. The blow was psychological, not just economic.

So who’s got some good ideas about what to do once we’ve been automated right out of our cubicles?

One idea is to re-define the concept of unemployment. Earlier retirement? So much better. All that time to finally do all the things you actually want to do…if you can avoid the boredom factor.

There’s also been an uptick in employee-owned businesses, which, according to some researchers, are more productive and innovative and are places people want to work. Can you be replaced by a ‘bot if you own the company?

And some people don’t care. They’re going to quit unfulfilling and frustrating jobs anyway.

But maybe we simply don’t need jobs. A left-of-center experiment is going on right now in the college town of Utrecht in The Netherlands. It’s called basic income, and beginning next year, some of Utrecht’s population who are already on welfare will be divided into groups. One group will receive a set amount each month, enough to cover basic living expenses, without any restrictions—no minimum hours banked to look for a job, or minimum number of weekly job applications. Even if they do get a job, they’ll still get the money. The goal is to discover how people behave when they have a reliable source of support. Will they still look for a job?

In fact, several similar experiments took in North America a few decades ago. Dauphin, a small town in Manitoba, Canada, was the site of one basic income trial called Mincome. For five years back in the 1970s, everyone in town received a fixed amount. It wasn’t until recently that data on the project was analyzed—the program was changed and then discontinued altogether without resolution—and health data shows that there was a decrease in health care use, mental health improved, and more students finished high school.

To extend the argument, if we’re all guaranteed a basic income–because our robots are doing the work and making all our money–we will be at liberty to do what we want.

Bring your robot to work day

Maybe the future is about partnerships with your new best workplace friend—your own robot. There are already several versions of assistive robots on the market—perhaps a precursor of what’s to come—but what if we all had robots that acted as assistants to take to work with us? Or that could show up at the office when we can’t or don’t want to?

Despite the dramatic headlines, there are still things that robots simply can’t do, or can’t do as well as humans.

Want more insight on what the workplace of tomorrow will look like? See The Future of Work.


Mashhour Bedaiwi

About Mashhour Bedaiwi

Mashhour Bedaiwi is a Senior HR Technologist at SAP, focused on connecting people to their organization’s purpose through industry-leading solutions.

What Will We Do When Robots Take Our Jobs?

Danielle Beurteaux

indexArtificial Intelligence is going to take over. Robots are now “staffing” a hotel in Japan. Even Stephen Hawking thinks A.I. could mean we are over. Done. Finished.

Now that we all know our jobs will be taken over by robots wielding A.I. capabilities, what are we going to do with our lives? Are we even going to have careers?

The fear of robots taking jobs actually appears in the very first instance of robots. That’s because the word was invented by Czech writer Karel Capek in his 1920 play R.U.R., full title Rossum’s Universal Robots. The story is about robots taking over the world. Not much has changed, huh?

This could be Industrial Revolution redux, argues Wired, but then again, robots will do the jobs we don’t want to do or can’t do well or at all, and a few decades from now they’ll do jobs we didn’t know we needed, or don’t need now. At least, at first.

Or maybe robots can do all the work…

It’s called the “post-work world,” and in some respects it doesn’t look pretty. This Atlantic article details what happened in Youngstown, Ohio, when the town’s major industry shut down: an increase in suicide, mental health issues, and abuse. The blow was psychological, not just economic.

So who’s got some good ideas about what to do once we’ve been automated right out of our cubicles?

One idea is to re-define the concept of unemployment. Earlier retirement? So much better. All that time to finally do all the things you actually want to do…if you can avoid the boredom factor.

There’s also been an uptick in employee-owned businesses, which, according to some researchers, are more productive and innovative and are places people want to work. Can you be replaced by a ‘bot if you own the company?

And some people don’t care. They’re going to quit unfulfilling and frustrating jobs anyway.

But maybe we simply don’t need jobs. A left-of-center experiment is going on right now in the college town of Utrecht in The Netherlands. It’s called basic income, and beginning next year, some of Utrecht’s population who are already on welfare will be divided into groups. One group will receive a set amount each month, enough to cover basic living expenses, without any restrictions—no minimum hours banked to look for a job, or minimum number of weekly job applications. Even if they do get a job, they’ll still get the money. The goal is to discover how people behave when they have a reliable source of support. Will they still look for a job?

In fact, several similar experiments took in North America a few decades ago. Dauphin, a small town in Manitoba, Canada, was the site of one basic income trial called Mincome. For five years back in the 1970s, everyone in town received a fixed amount. It wasn’t until recently that data on the project was analyzed—the program was changed and then discontinued altogether without resolution—and health data shows that there was a decrease in health care use, mental health improved, and more students finished high school.

To extend the argument, if we’re all guaranteed a basic income–because our robots are doing the work and making all our money–we will be at liberty to do what we want.

Bring your robot to work day

Maybe the future is about partnerships with your new best workplace friend—your own robot. There are already several versions of assistive robots on the market—perhaps a precursor of what’s to come—but what if we all had robots that acted as assistants to take to work with us? Or that could show up at the office when we can’t or don’t want to?

Despite the dramatic headlines, there are still things that robots simply can’t do, or can’t do as well as humans.

Want more insight on what the workplace of tomorrow will look like? See The Future of Work.


Peter Klee

About Peter Klee

Peter Klee has 23 years of professional IT experience and 10 years in enterprise architecture. He joined SAP in 2011 and works in SAP Digital Business Services as Chief Service Architect. Peter’s current focus is developing and delivering strategic roadmap services, helping customers to transition towards modern digital enterprise architectures.

What Will We Do When Robots Take Our Jobs?

Danielle Beurteaux

indexArtificial Intelligence is going to take over. Robots are now “staffing” a hotel in Japan. Even Stephen Hawking thinks A.I. could mean we are over. Done. Finished.

Now that we all know our jobs will be taken over by robots wielding A.I. capabilities, what are we going to do with our lives? Are we even going to have careers?

The fear of robots taking jobs actually appears in the very first instance of robots. That’s because the word was invented by Czech writer Karel Capek in his 1920 play R.U.R., full title Rossum’s Universal Robots. The story is about robots taking over the world. Not much has changed, huh?

This could be Industrial Revolution redux, argues Wired, but then again, robots will do the jobs we don’t want to do or can’t do well or at all, and a few decades from now they’ll do jobs we didn’t know we needed, or don’t need now. At least, at first.

Or maybe robots can do all the work…

It’s called the “post-work world,” and in some respects it doesn’t look pretty. This Atlantic article details what happened in Youngstown, Ohio, when the town’s major industry shut down: an increase in suicide, mental health issues, and abuse. The blow was psychological, not just economic.

So who’s got some good ideas about what to do once we’ve been automated right out of our cubicles?

One idea is to re-define the concept of unemployment. Earlier retirement? So much better. All that time to finally do all the things you actually want to do…if you can avoid the boredom factor.

There’s also been an uptick in employee-owned businesses, which, according to some researchers, are more productive and innovative and are places people want to work. Can you be replaced by a ‘bot if you own the company?

And some people don’t care. They’re going to quit unfulfilling and frustrating jobs anyway.

But maybe we simply don’t need jobs. A left-of-center experiment is going on right now in the college town of Utrecht in The Netherlands. It’s called basic income, and beginning next year, some of Utrecht’s population who are already on welfare will be divided into groups. One group will receive a set amount each month, enough to cover basic living expenses, without any restrictions—no minimum hours banked to look for a job, or minimum number of weekly job applications. Even if they do get a job, they’ll still get the money. The goal is to discover how people behave when they have a reliable source of support. Will they still look for a job?

In fact, several similar experiments took in North America a few decades ago. Dauphin, a small town in Manitoba, Canada, was the site of one basic income trial called Mincome. For five years back in the 1970s, everyone in town received a fixed amount. It wasn’t until recently that data on the project was analyzed—the program was changed and then discontinued altogether without resolution—and health data shows that there was a decrease in health care use, mental health improved, and more students finished high school.

To extend the argument, if we’re all guaranteed a basic income–because our robots are doing the work and making all our money–we will be at liberty to do what we want.

Bring your robot to work day

Maybe the future is about partnerships with your new best workplace friend—your own robot. There are already several versions of assistive robots on the market—perhaps a precursor of what’s to come—but what if we all had robots that acted as assistants to take to work with us? Or that could show up at the office when we can’t or don’t want to?

Despite the dramatic headlines, there are still things that robots simply can’t do, or can’t do as well as humans.

Want more insight on what the workplace of tomorrow will look like? See The Future of Work.


Mario Farag

About Mario Farag

Mario Farag is senior director of product marketing with SAP. With 15+ years of experience in the software industry, Mario has served in various functions from business operations to product management and go to market. Currently Mario is responsible for SAP’s analytics mobile strategy and HR line of business.

What Will We Do When Robots Take Our Jobs?

Danielle Beurteaux

indexArtificial Intelligence is going to take over. Robots are now “staffing” a hotel in Japan. Even Stephen Hawking thinks A.I. could mean we are over. Done. Finished.

Now that we all know our jobs will be taken over by robots wielding A.I. capabilities, what are we going to do with our lives? Are we even going to have careers?

The fear of robots taking jobs actually appears in the very first instance of robots. That’s because the word was invented by Czech writer Karel Capek in his 1920 play R.U.R., full title Rossum’s Universal Robots. The story is about robots taking over the world. Not much has changed, huh?

This could be Industrial Revolution redux, argues Wired, but then again, robots will do the jobs we don’t want to do or can’t do well or at all, and a few decades from now they’ll do jobs we didn’t know we needed, or don’t need now. At least, at first.

Or maybe robots can do all the work…

It’s called the “post-work world,” and in some respects it doesn’t look pretty. This Atlantic article details what happened in Youngstown, Ohio, when the town’s major industry shut down: an increase in suicide, mental health issues, and abuse. The blow was psychological, not just economic.

So who’s got some good ideas about what to do once we’ve been automated right out of our cubicles?

One idea is to re-define the concept of unemployment. Earlier retirement? So much better. All that time to finally do all the things you actually want to do…if you can avoid the boredom factor.

There’s also been an uptick in employee-owned businesses, which, according to some researchers, are more productive and innovative and are places people want to work. Can you be replaced by a ‘bot if you own the company?

And some people don’t care. They’re going to quit unfulfilling and frustrating jobs anyway.

But maybe we simply don’t need jobs. A left-of-center experiment is going on right now in the college town of Utrecht in The Netherlands. It’s called basic income, and beginning next year, some of Utrecht’s population who are already on welfare will be divided into groups. One group will receive a set amount each month, enough to cover basic living expenses, without any restrictions—no minimum hours banked to look for a job, or minimum number of weekly job applications. Even if they do get a job, they’ll still get the money. The goal is to discover how people behave when they have a reliable source of support. Will they still look for a job?

In fact, several similar experiments took in North America a few decades ago. Dauphin, a small town in Manitoba, Canada, was the site of one basic income trial called Mincome. For five years back in the 1970s, everyone in town received a fixed amount. It wasn’t until recently that data on the project was analyzed—the program was changed and then discontinued altogether without resolution—and health data shows that there was a decrease in health care use, mental health improved, and more students finished high school.

To extend the argument, if we’re all guaranteed a basic income–because our robots are doing the work and making all our money–we will be at liberty to do what we want.

Bring your robot to work day

Maybe the future is about partnerships with your new best workplace friend—your own robot. There are already several versions of assistive robots on the market—perhaps a precursor of what’s to come—but what if we all had robots that acted as assistants to take to work with us? Or that could show up at the office when we can’t or don’t want to?

Despite the dramatic headlines, there are still things that robots simply can’t do, or can’t do as well as humans.

Want more insight on what the workplace of tomorrow will look like? See The Future of Work.


James Krouse

About James Krouse

James Krouse is the director of Global Solutions Marketing at SAP. He is the global strategic marketing lead for the healthcare and higher education industry groups and is responsible for tailoring GTM strategies, analyst relations, government relations, positioning, and messaging.

What Will We Do When Robots Take Our Jobs?

Danielle Beurteaux

indexArtificial Intelligence is going to take over. Robots are now “staffing” a hotel in Japan. Even Stephen Hawking thinks A.I. could mean we are over. Done. Finished.

Now that we all know our jobs will be taken over by robots wielding A.I. capabilities, what are we going to do with our lives? Are we even going to have careers?

The fear of robots taking jobs actually appears in the very first instance of robots. That’s because the word was invented by Czech writer Karel Capek in his 1920 play R.U.R., full title Rossum’s Universal Robots. The story is about robots taking over the world. Not much has changed, huh?

This could be Industrial Revolution redux, argues Wired, but then again, robots will do the jobs we don’t want to do or can’t do well or at all, and a few decades from now they’ll do jobs we didn’t know we needed, or don’t need now. At least, at first.

Or maybe robots can do all the work…

It’s called the “post-work world,” and in some respects it doesn’t look pretty. This Atlantic article details what happened in Youngstown, Ohio, when the town’s major industry shut down: an increase in suicide, mental health issues, and abuse. The blow was psychological, not just economic.

So who’s got some good ideas about what to do once we’ve been automated right out of our cubicles?

One idea is to re-define the concept of unemployment. Earlier retirement? So much better. All that time to finally do all the things you actually want to do…if you can avoid the boredom factor.

There’s also been an uptick in employee-owned businesses, which, according to some researchers, are more productive and innovative and are places people want to work. Can you be replaced by a ‘bot if you own the company?

And some people don’t care. They’re going to quit unfulfilling and frustrating jobs anyway.

But maybe we simply don’t need jobs. A left-of-center experiment is going on right now in the college town of Utrecht in The Netherlands. It’s called basic income, and beginning next year, some of Utrecht’s population who are already on welfare will be divided into groups. One group will receive a set amount each month, enough to cover basic living expenses, without any restrictions—no minimum hours banked to look for a job, or minimum number of weekly job applications. Even if they do get a job, they’ll still get the money. The goal is to discover how people behave when they have a reliable source of support. Will they still look for a job?

In fact, several similar experiments took in North America a few decades ago. Dauphin, a small town in Manitoba, Canada, was the site of one basic income trial called Mincome. For five years back in the 1970s, everyone in town received a fixed amount. It wasn’t until recently that data on the project was analyzed—the program was changed and then discontinued altogether without resolution—and health data shows that there was a decrease in health care use, mental health improved, and more students finished high school.

To extend the argument, if we’re all guaranteed a basic income–because our robots are doing the work and making all our money–we will be at liberty to do what we want.

Bring your robot to work day

Maybe the future is about partnerships with your new best workplace friend—your own robot. There are already several versions of assistive robots on the market—perhaps a precursor of what’s to come—but what if we all had robots that acted as assistants to take to work with us? Or that could show up at the office when we can’t or don’t want to?

Despite the dramatic headlines, there are still things that robots simply can’t do, or can’t do as well as humans.

Want more insight on what the workplace of tomorrow will look like? See The Future of Work.


Birgit Starmanns

About Birgit Starmanns

Birgit Starmanns is a senior director in the Global Center of Excellence for Finance and Risk at SAP. She is focused on the go-to-market for new solutions, and the business benefits they can bring to organizations, such as cloud solutions for finance and applications based on SAP Leonardo technologies such as machine learning. Birgit has over 27 years of experience across solution marketing, solution management, and strategic customer communities. Prior to SAP, she was a principal in management consulting organizations, including Price Waterhouse and several boutique firms. Birgit holds a BA and MBA from the College of William and Mary. She is the author of many articles for the Financials Expert, the coauthor of the SAP Press book Accelerated Financial Closing with SAP, and the SAP Labs guidebook Product Costing Scenarios Made Easy. In addition, she is a regular presenter at various SAP events.

The Human Angle

By Jenny Dearborn, David Judge, Tom Raftery, and Neal Ungerleider

In a future teeming with robots and artificial intelligence, humans seem to be on the verge of being crowded out. But in reality the opposite is true.

To be successful, organizations need to become more human than ever.

Organizations that focus only on automation will automate away their competitive edge. The most successful will focus instead on skills that set them apart and that can’t be duplicated by AI or machine learning. Those skills can be summed up in one word: humanness.

You can see it in the numbers. According to David J. Deming of the Harvard Kennedy School, demand for jobs that require social skills has risen nearly 12 percentage points since 1980, while less-social jobs, such as computer coding, have declined by a little over 3 percentage points.

AI is in its infancy, which means that it cannot yet come close to duplicating our most human skills. Stefan van Duin and Naser Bakhshi, consultants at professional services company Deloitte, break down artificial intelligence into two types: narrow and general. Narrow AI is good at specific tasks, such as playing chess or identifying facial expressions. General AI, which can learn and solve complex, multifaceted problems the way a human being does, exists today only in the minds of futurists.

The only thing narrow artificial intelligence can do is automate. It can’t empathize. It can’t collaborate. It can’t innovate. Those abilities, if they ever come, are still a long way off. In the meantime, AI’s biggest value is in augmentation. When human beings work with AI tools, the process results in a sort of augmented intelligence. This augmented intelligence outperforms the work of either human beings or AI software tools on their own.

AI-powered tools will be the partners that free employees and management to tackle higher-level challenges.

Those challenges will, by default, be more human and social in nature because many rote, repetitive tasks will be automated away. Companies will find that developing fundamental human skills, such as critical thinking and problem solving, within the organization will take on a new importance. These skills can’t be automated and they won’t become process steps for algorithms anytime soon.

In a world where technology change is constant and unpredictable, those organizations that make the fullest use of uniquely human skills will win. These skills will be used in collaboration with both other humans and AI-fueled software and hardware tools. The degree of humanness an organization possesses will become a competitive advantage.

This means that today’s companies must think about hiring, training, and leading differently. Most of today’s corporate training programs focus on imparting specific knowledge that will likely become obsolete over time.

Instead of hiring for portfolios of specific subject knowledge, organizations should instead hire—and train—for more foundational skills, whose value can’t erode away as easily.

Recently, educational consulting firm Hanover Research looked at high-growth occupations identified by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and determined the core skills required in each of them based on a database that it had developed. The most valuable skills were active listening, speaking, and critical thinking—giving lie to the dismissive term soft skills. They’re not soft; they’re human.


This doesn’t mean that STEM skills won’t be important in the future. But organizations will find that their most valuable employees are those with both math and social skills.

That’s because technical skills will become more perishable as AI shifts the pace of technology change from linear to exponential. Employees will require constant retraining over time. For example, roughly half of the subject knowledge acquired during the first year of a four-year technical degree, such as computer science, is already outdated by the time students graduate, according to The Future of Jobs, a report from the World Economic Forum (WEF).

The WEF’s report further notes that “65% of children entering primary school today will ultimately end up working in jobs that don’t yet exist.” By contrast, human skills such as interpersonal communication and project management will remain consistent over the years.

For example, organizations already report that they are having difficulty finding people equipped for the Big Data era’s hot job: data scientist. That’s because data scientists need a combination of hard and soft skills. Data scientists can’t just be good programmers and statisticians; they also need to be intuitive and inquisitive and have good communication skills. We don’t expect all these qualities from our engineering graduates, nor from most of our employees.

But we need to start.

From Self-Help to Self-Skills

Even if most schools and employers have yet to see it, employees are starting to understand that their future viability depends on improving their innately human qualities. One of the most popular courses on Coursera, an online learning platform, is called Learning How to Learn. Created by the University of California, San Diego, the course is essentially a master class in human skills: students learn everything from memory techniques to dealing with procrastination and communicating complicated ideas, according to an article in The New York Times.

Attempting to teach employees how to make behavioral changes has always seemed off-limits to organizations—the province of private therapists, not corporate trainers. But that outlook is changing.

Although there is a longstanding assumption that social skills are innate, nothing is further from the truth. As the popularity of Learning How to Learn attests, human skills—everything from learning skills to communication skills to empathy—can, and indeed must, be taught.

These human skills are integral for training workers for a workplace where artificial intelligence and automation are part of the daily routine. According to the WEF’s New Vision for Education report, the skills that employees will need in the future fall into three primary categories:

  • Foundational literacies: These core skills needed for the coming age of robotics and AI include understanding the basics of math, science, computing, finance, civics, and culture. While mastery of every topic isn’t required, workers who have a basic comprehension of many different areas will be richly rewarded in the coming economy.
  • Competencies: Developing competencies requires mastering very human skills, such as active listening, critical thinking, problem solving, creativity, communication, and collaboration.
  • Character qualities: Over the next decade, employees will need to master the skills that will help them grasp changing job duties and responsibilities. This means learning the skills that help employees acquire curiosity, initiative, persistence, grit, adaptability, leadership, and social and cultural awareness.


The good news is that learning human skills is not completely divorced from how work is structured today. Yonatan Zunger, a Google engineer with a background working with AI, argues that there is a considerable need for human skills in the workplace already—especially in the tech world. Many employees are simply unaware that when they are working on complicated software or hardware projects, they are using empathy, strategic problem solving, intuition, and interpersonal communication.

The unconscious deployment of human skills takes place even more frequently when employees climb the corporate ladder into management. “This is closely tied to the deeper difference between junior and senior roles: a junior person’s job is to find answers to questions; a senior person’s job is to find the right questions to ask,” says Zunger.

Human skills will be crucial to navigating the AI-infused workplace. There will be no shortage of need for the right questions to ask.

One of the biggest changes narrow AI tools will bring to the workplace is an evolution in how work is performed. AI-based tools will automate repetitive tasks across a wide swath of industries, which means that the day-to-day work for many white-collar workers will become far more focused on tasks requiring problem solving and critical thinking. These tasks will present challenges centered on interpersonal collaboration, clear communication, and autonomous decision-making—all human skills.

Being More Human Is Hard

However, the human skills that are essential for tomorrow’s AI-ified workplace, such as interpersonal communication, project planning, and conflict management, require a different approach from traditional learning. Often, these skills don’t just require people to learn new facts and techniques; they also call for basic changes in the ways individuals behave on—and off—the job.

Attempting to teach employees how to make behavioral changes has always seemed off-limits to organizations—the province of private therapists, not corporate trainers. But that outlook is changing. As science gains a better understanding of how the human brain works, many behaviors that affect employees on the job are understood to be universal and natural rather than individual (see “Human Skills 101”).

Human Skills 101

As neuroscience has improved our understanding of the brain, human skills have become increasingly quantifiable—and teachable.

Though the term soft skills has managed to hang on in the popular lexicon, our understanding of these human skills has increased to the point where they aren’t soft at all: they are a clearly definable set of skills that are crucial for organizations in the AI era.

Active listening: Paying close attention when receiving information and drawing out more information than received in normal discourse

Critical thinking: Gathering, analyzing, and evaluating issues and information to come to an unbiased conclusion

Problem solving: Finding solutions to problems and understanding the steps used to solve the problem

Decision-making: Weighing the evidence and options at hand to determine a specific course of action

Monitoring: Paying close attention to an issue, topic, or interaction in order to retain information for the future

Coordination: Working with individuals and other groups to achieve common goals

Social perceptiveness: Inferring what others are thinking by observing them

Time management: Budgeting and allocating time for projects and goals and structuring schedules to minimize conflicts and maximize productivity

Creativity: Generating ideas, concepts, or inferences that can be used to create new things

Curiosity: Desiring to learn and understand new or unfamiliar concepts

Imagination: Conceiving and thinking about new ideas, concepts, or images

Storytelling: Building narratives and concepts out of both new and existing ideas

Experimentation: Trying out new ideas, theories, and activities

Ethics: Practicing rules and standards that guide conduct and guarantee rights and fairness

Empathy: Identifying and understanding the emotional states of others

Collaboration: Working with others, coordinating efforts, and sharing resources to accomplish a common project

Resiliency: Withstanding setbacks, avoiding discouragement, and persisting toward a larger goal

Resistance to change, for example, is now known to result from an involuntary chemical reaction in the brain known as the fight-or-flight response, not from a weakness of character. Scientists and psychologists have developed objective ways of identifying these kinds of behaviors and have come up with universally applicable ways for employees to learn how to deal with them.

Organizations that emphasize such individual behavioral traits as active listening, social perceptiveness, and experimentation will have both an easier transition to a workplace that uses AI tools and more success operating in it.

Framing behavioral training in ways that emphasize its practical application at work and in advancing career goals helps employees feel more comfortable confronting behavioral roadblocks without feeling bad about themselves or stigmatized by others. It also helps organizations see the potential ROI of investing in what has traditionally been dismissed as touchy-feely stuff.

In fact, offering objective means for examining inner behaviors and tools for modifying them is more beneficial than just leaving the job to employees. For example, according to research by psychologist Tasha Eurich, introspection, which is how most of us try to understand our behaviors, can actually be counterproductive.

Human beings are complex creatures. There is generally way too much going on inside our minds to be able to pinpoint the conscious and unconscious behaviors that drive us to act the way we do. We wind up inventing explanations—usually negative—for our behaviors, which can lead to anxiety and depression, according to Eurich’s research.

Structured, objective training can help employees improve their human skills without the negative side effects. At SAP, for example, we offer employees a course on conflict resolution that uses objective research techniques for determining what happens when people get into conflicts. Employees learn about the different conflict styles that researchers have identified and take an assessment to determine their own style of dealing with conflict. Then employees work in teams to discuss their different styles and work together to resolve a specific conflict that one of the group members is currently experiencing.

How Knowing One’s Self Helps the Organization

Courses like this are helpful not just for reducing conflicts between individuals and among teams (and improving organizational productivity); they also contribute to greater self-awareness, which is the basis for enabling people to take fullest advantage of their human skills.

Self-awareness is a powerful tool for improving performance at both the individual and organizational levels. Self-aware people are more confident and creative, make better decisions, build stronger relationships, and communicate more effectively. They are also less likely to lie, cheat, and steal, according to Eurich.

It naturally follows that such people make better employees and are more likely to be promoted. They also make more effective leaders with happier employees, which makes the organization more profitable, according to research by Atuma Okpara and Agwu M. Edwin.

There are two types of self-awareness, writes Eurich. One is having a clear view inside of one’s self: one’s own thoughts, feelings, behaviors, strengths, and weaknesses. The second type is understanding how others view us in terms of these same categories.

Interestingly, while we often assume that those who possess one type of awareness also possess the other, there is no direct correlation between the two. In fact, just 10% to 15% of people have both, according to a survey by Eurich. That means that the vast majority of us must learn one or the other—or both.

Gaining self-awareness is a process that can take many years. But training that gives employees the opportunity to examine their own behaviors against objective standards and gain feedback from expert instructors and peers can help speed up the journey. Just like the conflict management course, there are many ways to do this in a practical context that benefits employees and the organization alike.

For example, SAP also offers courses on building self-confidence, increasing trust with peers, creating connections with others, solving complex problems, and increasing resiliency in the face of difficult situations—all of which increase self-awareness in constructive ways. These human-skills courses are as popular with our employees as the hard-skill courses in new technologies or new programming techniques.

Depending on an organization’s size, budget, and goals, learning programs like these can include small group training, large lectures, online courses, licensing of third-party online content, reimbursement for students to attain certification, and many other models.

Human Skills Are the Constant

Automation and artificial intelligence will change the workplace in unpredictable ways. One thing we can predict, however, is that human skills will be needed more than ever.

The connection between conflict resolution skills, critical thinking courses, and the rise of AI-aided technology might not be immediately obvious. But these new AI tools are leading us down the path to a much more human workplace.

Employees will interact with their computers through voice conversations and image recognition. Machine learning will find unexpected correlations in massive amounts of data but empathy and creativity will be required for data scientists to figure out the right questions to ask. Interpersonal communication will become even more important as teams coordinate between offices, remote workplaces, and AI aides.

While the future might be filled with artificial intelligence, deep learning, and untold amounts of data, uniquely human capabilities will be the ones that matter. Machines can’t write a symphony, design a building, teach a college course, or manage a department. The future belongs to humans working with machines, and for that, you need human skills. D!


About the Authors

Jenny Dearborn is Chief Learning Officer at SAP.

David Judge is Vice President, SAP Leonardo, at SAP.

Tom Raftery is Global Vice President and Internet of Things Evangelist at SAP.

Neal Ungerleider is a Los Angeles-based technology journalist and consultant.

Read more thought provoking articles in the latest issue of the Digitalist Magazine, Executive Quarterly.

Tags:

Machine Learning In The Real World

Paul Taylor

Over the past few decades, machine learning has emerged as the real-world face of what is often mistakenly called “artificial intelligence.” It is establishing itself as a mainstream technology tool for companies, enabling them to improve productivity, planning, and ultimately, profits.

Michael Jordan, professor of Computer Science and Statistics at the University of California, Berkeley, noted in a recent Medium post: “Most of what is being called ‘AI’ today, particularly in the public sphere, is what has been called ‘machine learning’ for the past several decades.”

Jordan argues that unlike much that is mislabeled “artificial intelligence,” ML is the real thing. He maintains that it was already clear in the early 1990s that ML would grow to have massive industrial relevance. He notes that by the turn of the century, forward-looking companies such as Amazon were already using ML throughout their business, solving mission-critical back-end problems in fraud detection and logistics-chain prediction and building innovative consumer-facing services such as recommendation systems.

“Although not visible to the general public, research and systems-building in areas such as document retrieval, text classification, fraud detection, recommendation systems, personalized search, social network analysis, planning, diagnostics, and A/B testing have been a major success — these are the advances that have powered companies such as Google, Netflix, Facebook, and Amazon,” Jordan says.

Amazon, which has been investing deeply in artificial intelligence for over 20 years, acknowledges, “ML algorithms drive many of our internal systems. It’s also core to the capabilities our customers’ experience – from the path optimization in our fulfillment centers and Amazon’s recommendations engine o Echo powered by Alexa, our drone initiative Prime Air, and our new retail experience, Amazon Go. “

The fact that tech industry leaders like Google, Netflix, Facebook, and Amazon have used ML to help fuel their growth is not news. For example, it has been widely reported that sites with recommendation engines, including Netflix, use ML algorithms to generate user-specific suggestions. Most dynamic map/routing apps, including Google Maps, also use ML to suggest route changes in real time based upon traffic speed and other data gleaned from multiple users’ smartphones.

In a recent article detailing real-world examples of ML in action, Kelly McNulty, a senior content writer at Salt Lake City-based Prowess Consulting, notes: “ML isn’t just something that will happen in the future. It’s happening now, and it will only get more advanced and pervasive in the future.”

However, the broader uptake of ML by enterprises – big and small – is less much less known. A recently published study prepared for SAP by the Economist Intelligence Unit and based on a survey of 360 organizations revealed that 68 percent of respondents are already using ML, at least to some extent, to enhance their business processes.

The report adds: “Some are aiming even higher: to use ML to change their business models and offer entirely new value propositions to customers…… ML is not just a technology.” The report’s authors continue, “It is core to the business strategies that have led to the surging value of organizations that incorporate it into their operating models – think Amazon, Uber, and Airbnb.”

McNulty notes that there are both internal and external uses for ML. Among the internal uses, she cites Thomson Reuters, the news and data services group, which, after its merger in 2008, used ML to prepare large quantities of data with Tamr, an enterprise data-unification company. She says the two partners used ML to unify more than three million data points with an accuracy of 95 percent, reducing the time needed to manually unify the data by several months and cutting the manual labor required by an estimated 40 percent.

In another example of enterprise use of ML, she notes that GlaxoSmithKline, the pharmaceuticals group, used the technology to develop information aimed at allaying concerns about vaccines. The ML algorithms were used to sift through parents’ comments about vaccines in forums and messaging boards, enabling GSK to develop content specifically designed to address these concerns.

In the financial sector, ML has been widely used for some time to help detect fraudulent transactions and assess risk. PayPal uses the technology to “distinguish the good customers from the bad customers,” according to Vadim Kutsyy, a data scientist at the online payments company.

PayPal’s deep learning system is also able to filter out deceptive merchants and crack down on sales of illegal products. Additionally, the models are optimizing operations. Kutsyy explained the machines can identify “why transactions fail, monitoring businesses more efficiently,” avoiding the need to buy more hardware for problem-solving.

ML algorithms also underpin many of the corporate chatbots and virtual assistants being deployed by enterprise customers and others. For Example, Allstate partnered with technology consultancy Earley Information Science to develop a virtual assistant called ABIe (the Allstate Business Insurance Expert). ABIe was designed to assist Allstate’s 12,000 agents to understand and sell the company’s commercial insurance products, reportedly handling 25,000 inquires a month.

Other big U.S. insurance companies, including Progressive, are applying ML algorithms to interpret driver data and identify new business opportunities.

Meanwhile, four years ago, Royal Dutch Shell became the first company in the lubricants sector to use ML to help develop the Shell Virtual Assistant. The virtual assistant enables customers and distributors to ask common lubricant-related questions.

As the company noted at the time, “customers and distributors type in their question via an online message window, and avatars Emma and Ethan reply back with an appropriate answer within seconds.” The tool was initially launched in the U.S. and UK but has since expanded to other countries and reportedly can now understand and respond to queries in multiple languages, including Chinese and Russian.

In the retail sector, Walmart, which already uses ML to optimize home delivery routes, also uses it to help reduce theft and improve customer service. The retail giant has reportedly developed facial recognition software that automatically detects frustration in the faces of shoppers at checkout, prompting customer service representatives to intervene.

Among SAP’s own customers, a growing number are implementing ML tools, including those built into SAP’s own platforms and applications. As SAP notes, “Many different industries and lines of business are ripe for machine learning—particularly the ones that amass large volumes of data.”

The manufacturing, finance, and healthcare sectors are leading the way. For example, a large European chemicals company has improved the efficiency and effectiveness of its customer service process by using ML algorithms to automatically categorize and send responses to customer inquiries.

In the mining sector, Vale, the Brazilian mining group, is using ML to optimize maintenance processes and reduce the number of purchase requisitions that were being rejected causing maintenance and operational delays in its mines. Before implementation, between 25 percent and 40 percent of purchase requisitions were being rejected by procurement because of errors. Since implementation, 86 percent of these rejections have been eliminated.

Elsewhere a large consumer goods company, the Austrian-based consumer good company, is using ML and computer vision to identify images of broken products submitted by customers from the over 40,000 products in the company’s catalog. The application enables the company to speed up repairs and replacements, thereby improving customer service and the customer experience.

Similarly, a global automotive manufacturer is using image recognition to help consumers learn more about vehicles and direct them to local dealer showrooms, and a major French telecommunications firm reduced the length of customer service conversations by 50 percent using chatbots that now manage 20 percent of all calls.

But not every enterprise ML deployment has worked out so well. In a highly publicized case, Target hired a ML expert to analyze shopper data and create a model that could predict which female customers were most likely to be pregnant and when they were expected to give birth. (If a woman started buying a lot of supplements, for example, she was probably in her first 20 weeks of pregnancy, whereas buying a lot of unscented lotion indicated the start of the second trimester.)

Target used this information to provide pregnancy- and parenting-related coupons to women who matched the profile. But Target was forced to modify its strategy after some customers said they felt uncomfortable with this level of personalization. A New York Times story reported that a Minneapolis parent learned of their 16-year-old daughter’s unplanned pregnancy when the Target coupons arrived in the mail.

Target’s experience notwithstanding, most enterprise ML projects generate significant benefits for customers, employees, and investors while putting the huge volumes of data generated in our digital era to real use.

For more insight on the implications of machine learning technology, download the study Making the Most of Machine Learning: 5 Lessons from Fast Learners.