Rise of the machines? IT automation and flexible workspace

Alex Podeanu
27th December 2018

We were asked by the Business Centre Association to give our views on IT automation and flexible workspace. To some extent it’s already happening with areas like CRM, online reservations and inventory management but how far would it go? We decided to put our thoughts into a couple of articles that take in Uber, the Beatles and Volvos. The first article is from our MD Kevin Winstanley and the second from our Marketing Manager Dan Jones. Take a look and see what you think.

It’s In Our DNA – by Kevin Winstanley:

Watson and CrickLennon and McCartneyJobs with Johnny Ives, sometimes one is quite literally lifted by creative collaboration. You may be a one of the giants in your field but somehow that spark of inspiration from a co-collaborator is the thing that turns greatness into veritable genius. Often the cross pollination of ideas are from two very different and distinct fields, I would argue that John Lennon was actually an artist whilst Macca was clearly a well-accomplished musician. You only have to listen to ‘A Day In The Life’ to hear the contrast in styles superbly executed as something quite, quite unique.

So here’s something that you won’t instantly relate as the meeting of two genii: Uber & Volvo

Whilst you try to decipher the rational of such a seemingly soulless marriage, let me tell you that until very recently I was a Range Rover man. It was sold to a nice lady from Essex who needed something big enough to transport a Cello around in. You see it had become an anathema, yesterday’s car in tomorrow’s world. Big enough when I occasionally needed it to be, but mostly either sat on the drive literally depreciating its enormous V8 heart out, or being piloted down the M40 by a solitary man cossetted by 3.5 tonnes of British made ivory leather and jet black steel.

My gaze had latterly drifted towards Tesla, and its electric Va Va Vroom, until I was minding my own business in the car park of my local Tesco the other day and behold! What wafted in on a wave of clean fresh air was the new Volvo XC90 hybrid. OMG that car is drop dead gorgeous, it’s simply beautiful and can seat 7 adults comfortably, you will not find a better looking interior this side of Jony Ive’s house. It has a mere 2 litre turbo charged engine and an all-important electric motor that can propel it for up to 134 miles on a single tank of petrol, and it also has a staggering 395bhp and a 0-60 time of a tad over 5 seconds. It is my friends, all of the things I want it to be, well, almost…

It’s still £65,000 quid, and imagine trying to park the bloody thing? I know I will only want to have 6 other people in the car with me if I’m going to a wedding and I also know that for 80% of the time I will be looking at it longingly through the window, whilst flicking through this month’s Architects digest, relaxing in my Charles Eames lounger.

No, what I actually want, is for that car to come and get me, when either I, or my party of 7 actually need it, probably to drop us off at the church door and then not have to worry about parking, or it getting scratched, or the massive amount of depreciation I would have from actually owning it. Then if the car would bugger off on its own, perhaps to someone else that needed it for a few hours and come back and pick us up later and ferry us all off to the reception, well, that would be frankly, marvellous!

In the immortal words of John and Paul ‘Let It Be’, thank you Watson and Crick and thank you Uber-Volvo. You may just be the first to discover the genetic blueprint for the future of transportation.

The rise of the machines – by Dan Jones

Ok I’ll admit it, I LOVE using the internet as a method of avoiding real human interaction. Yes I know that sounds bad (I do like people, honest!) but if it’s a choice between phoning for a pizza or making a few clicks and ordering it online then I’m all about that clicking. It’s the same for taxis, no longer do I have to phone up a very bored and grumpy sounding cab office to book a car to come and collect me to take me to the station. Instead, I whip out my smartphone, tap the Uber app and within seconds I can watch the map to see my car on its way to me (is it just me that still finds this part really exciting?…yup..looks like it).

Now what if you can take the human interaction avoidance to the next level? How about the car you’ve ordered not actually having a human driver in it? For those lazy types like me this sounds ideal. Well, the future is here and it’s now happening with Uber having been given the go-ahead to start offering driver-less cars in Pittsburgh, US. Pittsburgh-ians (not sure if that’s the correct term) will be able to tap to order their car and will have a specially customised Volvo XC90 arrive at their door without a human behind the wheel. Now whether or not you’re brave enough to jump in that car and take a ride is another question but it’s undoubtedly a vision of the future that we all may get very used to.

So do we still need humans for the management of our flexible workspace? Will the machines now do it all for us and make it all automated? Certainly with providers like WeWork and others I could now go and book my workspace online, via an app, all without speaking to someone. But what if I’m a larger business? What if I’ve got 30 staff who all need workspace? What if I need to specify to the centre that Beryl needs a desk near the window to ensure her Japanese Peace Lily gets sufficient sunlight?

Will this be where the automation may falter a little? Sure it’s great if you’re a freelancer or lone worker who needs their workspace to be on demand when they need it but for larger organisations who have a variety of needs, can the automation meet them? Perhaps in the future, but for now maybe you’ll still need to speak to someone, to ask questions, to view the space to find out all the details you need.

So it seems that for the time being we’ll still need to have an actual proper conversation to get what we want and maybe that’s not such a bad thing. While I’m all for the internet letting me manage my life while lying on the sofa in my pants, it seems that when the machines do rise, it won’t be judgement day for human interaction.

See the articles in the original BCA blog update.

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