London Technology Week: UK-China Technology Forum to boost IT investment
UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) and the Chinese Embassy in the UK have launched the UK – China Technology Forum in Canary Wharf, London. The event brought together key players, market experts and investors from both countries to discuss the latest industry developments and explore partnership opportunities.
Over 150 attendees from Britain’s most innovative companies were given direct insight into the technology landscape in China and introduced to potential business partners from within the top tier of China’s technology market.
The event programme featured presentations on three key focus topics, including: “Internet Plus” – China’s latest official plan to boost a decelerating economy through advanced digitalization; “Smart Cities” – of which China has approximately 400; and a panel discussion which looked at how UK companies can work with China’s tech giants.
“China is the world’s largest mobile and digital market and home to some of the world’s leading technology companies, including Alibaba, Tencent, Huawei and Inspur. This event was designed to foster collaboration and help British companies understand how to tap into that potential and reap the benefits for their own businesses, whilst also bolstering the UK economy as a whole,” said Sherry Madera, Minister-Counsellor & Director for Financial & Professional Services, UK Trade & Investment.
“We are tremendously excited to be part of this event, which has the potential to unlock so much investment for British businesses in China,” said Mr Jiang Sunan of China’s Embassy in the UK. “The event lifted the veil on the plans of some of the biggest Chinese brands in the sector and provided terrific networking opportunities as well,” he added.
The IDC estimates that the ICT sector in China will grow 7% annually to 2020 and that total output value will reach £2 trillion. Additionally, China now spends around £128 billion per year on research and development, which sees it ranked number two in the world, behind the United States.
Graham Curren, CEO of Sondrel, an IC design services consultancy that has already expanded into China, said: “British companies are some of the most innovative in the world and our ICT sector accounts for 8% of the UK’s total GVA. Many UK companies are ready to invest in China. Sondrel has opened a new design centre in Xi’an in 2015 and created a 30 per cent increase in headcount. This event gave us the opportunity to share our experience with our industry colleagues in the UK and to meet the companies who are open to working with us,” he added.
“Huawei has operated in the UK for fifteen years and in that time we have grown to employ 1,100 people across 15 UK locations. We are proud of our ongoing commitment to building a better-connected UK. We will continue working closely with our partners, developing new ideas and pioneering innovations, which will help foster a healthy and robust ICT ecosystem,” said Tim Watkins, Vice President of Huawei Europe. “Our recent agreement with UKTI to identify the best UK technology partners for Huawei’s global supply chain and support Huawei’s investment and business development in the UK will help continue this development alongside key partners in the UK, an important market for us.”
“Since the start of China’s ‘Internet Plus’ initiative, the cloud computing market has boomed. Inspur is building a partner ecosystem to collaborate more closely with companies in China and to share our experience, whilst also hearing first-hand about the thriving and innovative UK technology industry,” said Mr Songtao Lang, Group Vice President of Inspur Group.
The UK – China Technology Forum follows the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the two governments in October 2015, during President Xi’s UK visit. The objectives of the MoU are to enhance communication and stimulate cooperation in emerging industries, with a specific focus on next-generation information technology.
Automation of repetitive tasks leads to higher value work
Two-thirds of global office workers feel they are constantly doing the same tasks over and over again. That’s according to a new study (2021 Office Worker Survey) from automation software company UiPath.
Whether emailing, inputting data, or scheduling calls and meetings, the majority of those surveyed said they waste on average four and a half hours a week on time-consuming tasks that they think could be automated.
Not only is the undertaking of such repetitious and mundane tasks a waste of time for employees, and therefore for businesses, but it can also have a negative impact on employees’ motivation and productivity. And the research backs this up with more than half (58%) of those surveyed saying that undertaking such repetitive tasks doesn’t allow them to be as creative as they’d like to be.
“When repetitive, unrewarding tasks are handled by people, it takes time and this can cause delays and reduce both employee and customer satisfaction,” Gavin Mee, Managing Director of UiPath Northern Europe tells Business Chief. “Repetitive tasks can also be tedious, which often leads to stress and an increased likelihood to leave a job.”
And these tasks exist at all levels within an organisation, right up to executive level, where there are “small daily tasks that can be automated, such as scheduling, logging onto systems and creating reports”, adds Mee.
Automation can free employees to focus on higher value work
By automating some or all of these repetitive tasks, employees at whatever level of the organisation are freed up to focus on meaningful work that is creative, collaborative and strategic, something that will not only help them feel more engaged, but also benefit the organisation.
“Automation can free people to do more engaging, rewarding and higher value work,” says Mee, highlighting that 68% of global workers believe automation will make them more productive and 60% of executives agree that automation will enable people to focus on more strategic work. “Importantly, 57% of executives also say that automation increases employee engagement, all important factors to achieving business objectives.”
These aren’t the only benefits, however. One of the problems with employees doing some of these repetitive tasks manually is that “people are fallible and make mistakes”, says Mee, whereas automation boosts accuracy and reduces manual errors by 57%, according to Forrester Research. Compliance is also improved, according to 92% of global organisations.
Repetitive tasks that can be automated
Any repetitive process can be automated, Mee explains, from paying invoices to dealing with enquiries, or authorising documents and managing insurance claims. “The process will vary from business to business, but office workers have identified and created software robots to assist with thousands of common tasks they want automated.”
These include inputting data or creating data sets, a time-consuming task that 59% of those surveyed globally said was the task they would most like to automate, with scheduling of calls and meetings (57%) and sending template or reminder emails (60%) also top of the automation list. Far fewer believed, however, that tasks such as liaising with their team or customers could be automated, illustrating the higher value of such tasks.
“By employing software robots to undertake such tasks, they can be handled much more quickly,” adds Mee pointing to OTP Bank Romania, which during the pandemic used an automation to process requests to postpone bank loan instalments. “This reduced the processing time of a single request from 10 minutes to 20 seconds, allowing the bank to cope with a 125% increase in the number of calls received by call centre agents.”
Mee says: “Automation accelerates digital transformation, according to 63% of global executives. It also drives major cost savings and improves business metrics, and because software robots can ramp-up quickly to meet spikes in demand, it improves resilience.
Five business areas that can be automated
Mee outlines five business areas where automation can really make a difference.
- Contact centres Whether a customer seeks help online, in-store or with an agent, the entire customer service journey can be automated – from initial interaction to reaching a satisfying outcome
- Finance and accounting Automation enables firms to manage tasks such as invoice processing, ensuring accuracy and preventing mistakes
- Human resources Automations can be used across the HR team to manage things like payroll, assessing job candidates, and on-boarding
- IT IT teams are often swamped in daily activity like on-boarding or off-boarding employees. Deploying virtual machines, provisioning, configuring, and maintaining infrastructure. These tasks are ideal for automation
- Legal There are many important administrative tasks undertaken by legal teams that can be automated. Often, legal professionals are creating their own robots to help them manage this work. In legal and compliance processes, that means attorneys and paralegals can respond more quickly to increasing demands from clients and internal stakeholders. Robots don’t store data, and the data they use is encrypted in transit and at rest, which improves risk profiling and compliance.
“To embark on an automation journey, organisations need to create a Centre of Excellence in which technical expertise is fostered,” explains Mee. “This group of experts can begin automating processes quickly to show return on investment and gain buy-in. This effort leads to greater interest from within the organisation, which often kick-starts a strategic focus on embedding automation.”