Q&A: David Preston on Canon's Miraisha programme
Canon Europe is celebrating a significant two-year milestone for one of its core sustainability programmes, Miraisha. The programme aims to promote job opportunities in Africa by offering workshops to photographers, videographers, film-makers and business owners. Since its 2014 beginning, Miraisha has trained over 2,500 participants. We spoke to David Preston, Strategic Operations Director for Emerging Markets at Canon Europe about the project.
Can you tell me about your role in Miraisha?
I’m the Strategic Operations Director for Emerging Markets at Canon Europe. This means I’m responsible for putting initiatives in place to transform Canon’s presence in emerging markets, such as Africa, and organising innovative projects to raise our profile in these areas.
Three years ago, I proposed the Miraisha programme to provide people and organisations in Africa with the opportunity to develop skills in imaging technology and services. I wanted to use the programme to empower individuals, whilst also making the most of our expert staff, services and technology. It started as my baby and since then I’ve seen it grow quite substantially! We now have staff in Dubai, where Canon’s African operations are based due to its strong links with region, and together with Canon Europe oversee this programme.
What has Miraisha achieved in the past two years?
In the past two years, the achievements of the programme have been considerable. At the beginning of Miraisha, Canon had already been involved in several high-profile corporate sustainability projects; but we wanted this programme to take a much more localised approach, focused on contributing directly to the community with on the ground activity that involved our people.
Since then, Canon has been able to train over 2,500 people through ongoing workshops for photographers, videographers, filmmakers and print business owners. This has allowed them to develop new skills, leading to improved employment prospects. For example, since the project started, more than 140 photographers have received work with a paid commission since attending a workshop and more than 20 have received awards and recognition for their work. In the printing space, print shop owners have also benefitted, with one, for example, winning a large African Bank as a customer, citing the training from Canon as a winning factor for them. Overall, we are proud to have made a significant contribution to people’s lives through the programme and it’s been great to see how organisations have grown and developed as a result.
Why is photography, videography, filmmaking and printing worth investing in?
In Africa, the photography and videography market is developing rapidly. For example ‘Nollywood’, Nigeria’s take on the Hollywood/Bollywood phenomenon, is evolving at an immense rate following the introduction of the concept in the 00’s. As Africa develops into a pro-video, pro-film market, it presents a good opportunity for Canon to provide local people with training to support career development in these industries.
Whilst Canon is still fundamentally known as a consumer brand in these markets, we’re starting to invest in printing development practices as the awareness of our B2B proposition increases. In Ghana last year, we held a number of professional printing training courses with local printing businesses to teach them how to utilise their equipment and make the most of new technology. As awareness increases, we will be looking to expand the training we offer in printing to allow local people to grow their businesses further.
Why has Canon chosen to implement this programme in Africa?
Africa is still a relative newcomer in terms of its adoption of photography equipment, however, many markets within the continent have grown rapidly and interest in the photography and videography sector has boomed. This in turn has created a huge opportunity for Canon.
With newfound interest comes a natural desire to learn more and enter these sectors as a professional. That is where our idea of providing training initiatives came from; we wanted to give people the opportunity to discover their skills and the inspiration to start or grow their business. We created our Canon Central North Africa team at the beginning of 2016 and since then, together with resources from our corporate Head quarters we have been able to focus specifically on the benefits the programme brings to local people.
Where do you see this project going within the next five years?
Whilst the project is in full force again this year, Africa is a vast continent with lots of room for opportunity. So far, our projects have been focused in Kenya, Ghana and this year, Nigeria. By 2022 we want the programme to be rolled out and available to the majority of other African countries so there’s the chance for everyone to get on board and realise their talents. In the long-term, we’ll aim to develop the skills of local people and take them on board as Canon trainers for their community, supporting them with materials and plenty of opportunity for further development.
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.”