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AI, Robots, and Ethics in the Age of COVID-19

Before COVID-19, most people had some degree of apprehension about robots and artificial intelligence. Though their beliefs may have been initially shaped by dystopian depictions of the technology in science fiction, their discomfort was reinforced by legitimate concerns. Some of AI’s business applications were indeed leading to the loss of jobs, the reinforcement of biases, and infringements on data privacy.

Those worries appear to have been set aside since the onset of the pandemic as AI-infused technologies have been employed to mitigate the spread of the virus. We’ve seen an acceleration of the use of robotics to do the jobs of humans who have been ordered to stay at home or who have been redeployed within the workplace. Labor-replacing robots, for example, are taking over floor cleaning in grocery stores and sorting at recycling centers. AI is also fostering an increased reliance on chatbots for customer service at companies such as PayPal and on machine-driven content monitoring on platforms such as YouTube. Robotic telepresence platforms are providing students in Japan with an “in-person” college graduation experience. Robots are even serving as noisy fans in otherwise empty stadiums during baseball games in Taiwan. In terms of data, AI is already showing potential in early attempts to monitor infection rates and contact tracing.

No doubt, more of us are overlooking our former uneasiness about robots and AI when the technology’s perceived value outweighs its anticipated downsides. But there are dangers to this newfound embrace of AI and robots. With robots replacing more and more job functions in order to allow humans to coexist as we grasp for some semblance of normalcy, it’s important to consider what’s next. What will happen when humans want their former jobs back? And what will we do if tracking for safety’s sake becomes too invasive or seems too creepy yet is already an entrenched practice?

A New Normal Comes Racing In

After a vaccine for COVID-19 is developed (we hope) and the pandemic retreats, it’s hard to imagine life returning to how it was at the start of 2020. Our experiences in the coming months will make it quite easy to normalize automation as a part of our daily lives. Companies that have adopted robots during the crisis might think that a significant percentage of their human employees are not needed anymore. Consumers who will have spent more time than ever interacting with robots might become accustomed to that type of interaction. When you get used to having food delivered by a robot, you eventually might not even notice the disappearance of a job that was once held by a human. In fact, some people might want to maintain social distancing even when it is not strictly needed anymore.

We, as a society, have so far not questioned what types of functions these robots will replace — because during this pandemic, the technology is serving an important role. If these machines help preserve our health and well-being, then our trust in them will increase.

As the time we spend with people outside of our closest personal and work-related social networks diminishes, our bonds to our local communities might start to weaken. With that, our concerns about the consequences of robots and AI may decrease. In addition to losing sight of the scale of job loss empowered by the use of robots and AI, we may hastily overlook the forms of bias embedded within AI and the invasiveness of the technology that will be used to track the coronavirus’s spread.

More: https://sloanreview.mit.edu

About the Authors

Ayanna Howard (@robotsmarts) is the Linda J. and Mark C. Smith Professor and Chair of the School of Interactive Computing in the College of Computing at Georgia Tech. She also serves as director of the Human-Automation Systems (HumAnS) Lab in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Jason Borenstein is the director of graduate research ethics programs and associate director of the Center for Ethics and Technology within the School of Public Policy and Office of Graduate Studies at Georgia Tech.

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ANTI-COVID-19 – Cluster anti-crisis shield

The Baltic Sea and Space Cluster has launched the BSSC ANTI-COVID-19 anti-crisis shield. This is a special website on the Cluster’s website www.bssc.pl, where members of the Cluster inform about their activity during the pandemic and offer for other maritime business participants. The portal is also available to other companies and institutions related to maritime economy, education and research of the sea.

Many institutions and enterprises operating in the maritime economy have not slowed their activity despite the pandemic. It changed the forms of operation, implemented security procedures, switched to remote work or activities in smaller teams. Ports and shipyards are still active on the international market. Additional requirements arise, as the clients of these enterprises are often people from outside Poland. The initiative works under the slogan: BSSC Anti-crisis Shield.

The main mission of the BSSC Cluster is to integrate maritime business, science, administration and the community. Cluster BSSC promotes cooperation, commercialization and positioning of our members on international markets. Therefore, the information is in both Polish and English. Members operate under the slogan: We help people and Maritime Business. Photo: Marek Grzybowski

More info: https://glosgdyni.eu/klaster-na-pandemie-anty-covid-19-klastrowa-tarcza-antykryzysowa/

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How companies operate on the office market during COVID19

Walter Herz consulting company conducted a survey to check how companies are coping with the current situation on the office market and what effects does home office bring

It turns out that only 10 per cent of companies before the outbreak of the epidemic did not provide the possibility of remote work of employees. The vast majority, as much as 90 per cent of enterprises had previously enabled this form of work for its staff.

In the opinion of the majority of respondents, productivity at work provided remotely did not drop at all or decreased only slightly. Moreover, according to one-third of respondents, their work efficiency even increased during the epidemic.

Over half of the people who took part in the survey hold management positions, and 16 per cent work as executives. 50 per cent of the surveyed enterprises employ between 50 and 250 people, one-third has up to 50 employees, and 16 per cent are companies employing over 250 people. The majority are companies related to the IT industry, banking and insurance.

The biggest challenge for people working at home turned out to be the ergonomics of the workplace and the physical environment in which they currently work, including work – life balance related to performing tasks at home. The respondents have definitely less difficulties with establishing business contacts and equipment for work, as well as communication technologies.

– One of the most tangible changes that COVID19 has brought is the form of communication with clients. As much as 75 per cent of companies today use video channels for it. Only a quarter have not introduced such service – informs Bartłomiej Zagrodnik, Managing Partner / CEO at Walter Herz.

– It is also worth noting that among the surveyed representatives of companies there are not many who see the vastly negative impact of the current situation on the functioning of the company. Most of them confirm non-favorable impact of the quarantine on the company’s operations. A small percentage of respondents indicate a neutral impact of the epidemic on the company – says Krzysztof Foks, Analyst at Walter Herz.

Among the most pronounced difficulties and challenges that arose with the virus, most people listed a change in the organization of office work, longer hours and processes, and the need to introduce such a form of work, so that the continuity of activities and ongoing tasks of the company are maintained. In addition, difficulties related to limiting the number and size of the meetings were pointed out, which extensively affects efficiency. The respondents also noticed a decrease in the number of orders and productivity, associated with fear of becoming ill.

In order to prevent infection, companies primarily switched to remote work. Also, attention to disinfecting the rooms has increased. Company meetings were limited to the necessary minimum. Decisions to freeze certain activities and processes were also made.

Building managers and owners focused on maintaining exceptional cleanliness of common areas in the office buildings. In addition, offices introduced changes in handling correspondence and deliveries on the premises, as well as functioning of the reception. What is more, tenants and employees were provided with disinfectant liquids, and access to buildings was limited.

Almost 95 per cent of office building owners recognize the impact that the state of epidemic emergency introduced in our country has on their business. About 87 per cent of respondents admitted that tenants contact them in order to obtain information on actions they can take in the current situation.

Most office buildings owners also mention a negative impact that changes introduced in social life have on the process of construction and arrangement of the leased space. One-third of respondents had difficulty interpreting the impact of quarantine on construction sites, and 13 per cent of respondents saw its positive impact.

However, almost 70 per cent of office building managers, confirm the adverse effects of current restrictions on contract negotiations. Over 30 per cent of respondents do not see any obstacles to negotiations.

Opinions differ on the impact of COVID19 on the current functioning of office buildings. Half of the respondents do not see much impact, while the other half indicate that it is negative or definitely negative.

According to almost 90 per cent of the surveyed building owners and managers, the current situation also negatively affects the number of inquiries about the available office space. Only 11 per cent of investors see no problem in this aspect. However, almost 80 per cent respondents predict the decline in the number of inquiries in the upcoming months. What is more, almost 70 per cent also foresees a decrease in the number of begun processes in the near future.

About Walter Herz

Walter Herz company is a leading Polish entity which has been operating in the commercial real estate sector across the country. For seven years, the company has been providing comprehensive and strategic investment consulting services for tenants, investors and real estate owners. It provides extensive support for both public and private sector. Walter Herz experts assist clients in finding and leasing space, and give advice when it comes to investment and hotel projects.

In addition to its headquarters in Warsaw, the company has branches in Cracow and Gdansk. Walter Herz has created Tenant Academy, first project in the country, supporting and educating commercial real estate tenants across Poland, with on-site courses held in the largest cities in the country. In order to ensure the highest ethical level of services provided, the agency introduced the Code of Good Practice. 

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3 things chief legal officers can do now to become more cyber-savvy

Action #1 Understand the cyber threat environment
The National Council of Information Sharing and Analysis Centers
(ISACs) helps organizations in various industries share information
that can protect their facilities, personnel, and customers from
cyber and physical security threats and other hazards. Members
have access to information and tools to help them mitigate risks
and enhance their cyber resilience.

Action #2 Look into the existing cybersecurity program

Most organizations today have some form of cybersecurity strategy.
While knowing the technical details may be of some value, it can be
more useful for legal executives to understand its scope and, at a high
level, how effectively it addresses cyber risks the organization faces.
In particular, you should be familiar with four areas of the cybersecurity
strategy and the program in which that strategy is executed.
Cyber risk profile
Understand the processes by which cyber risks have been identified
and prioritized for your organization. How often is the profile updated?
How does it account for a quickly evolving threat environment?

Program governance
Assess who across the enterprise is involved in cybersecurity program
oversight. Who sets policies and procedures? What internal controls
are there for compliance? What resources and programs are in place to
predict, detect, and respond to cyber incidents, and how much does
the organization spend on cybersecurity annually? Are the programs
insourced or outsourced? How are employees and business partners
educated and trained about cybersecurity, and how is the effectiveness
of that monitored over time?
Cybersecurity safeguards
Determine what resources, both human and digital, are in place to
defend the organization. How is the cyber perimeter defined? What
security measures protect each type of device and the networks to
which they have access?
Cyber incident response and remediation
Identify existing disaster recovery plans for responding to data
breaches and other cyber incidents and determine if they meet any
applicable industry standards and regulations. If a breach occurs, what
public disclosures and other actions are required? How quickly can the
organization react to shut it down? Do existing plans go far enough not
only in meeting requirements, but also to remediate the issue in such
a way to build additional resilience so it’s not likely to happen again?

Action #3 Apply a legal point of view

With a clearer view of the cyber threat environment and the organization’s program for addressing it, legal executives can look upstream to determine where legal should be involved, both strategically and in discrete activities.
Strategically
Bring a legal perspective to the cyber risk assessment, prioritization, and mitigation process. Have an active voice in how the organization views cyber risk and how key elements of a cybersecurity program address
those risks. As the organization expands its cyber footprint into new geographic areas, stay on top of legal and regulatory implications.
Tactically
As new business initiatives are undertaken (for example, new product development, digital expansion into new markets, thirdparty relationships, and many others), take a seat at the planning table to represent the legal point of view. For example, if an organization allows employees to use company-owned or their own mobile devices for business purposes, review the approach and help establish related parameters for access and usage.
Operationally
Insert legal into the process of monitoring cybersecurity programs. Make sure legal has adequate representation early on in the event of a cyber breach or other incident. Play a more active role in remediation
efforts to help mitigate risk to the organization and prevent similar future
events. To enable more effective strategic, tactical, and operational engagement, consider deeper training in cyber issues for your legal
department or a subset of the department.

MORE: Deloitte Report: Tech Bytes Part 3: Cyber Three things chief legal officers can do now to become more cyber-savvy

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A blueprint for remote working: Lessons from China

As home to some of the world’s largest firms, China offers lessons for those that are just now starting to embrace the shift to remote working.

From Alibaba to Ping An and Google to Ford, companies around the globe are telling staff to work from home in a bid to stem the spread of COVID-19. Such remote working at scale is unprecedented and will leave a lasting impression on the way people live and work for many years to come. China, which felt the first impact of the pandemic, 2 was an early mover in this space. As home to some of the world’s largest firms, it offers lessons for those that are just now starting to embrace the shift. Working from home skyrocketed in China in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis as companies told their employees to stay home. Around 200 million people 4 were working remotely by the end of the Chinese New Year holiday. While this arrangement has some benefits, such as avoiding long commutes, many employees and companies found it challenging. One employee at an internet company quipped his work day changed from ‘996’ to ‘007,’ meaning from nine to nine, 6 days a week, to all the time. On the personal front, employees found it difficult to manage kids’ home-schooling via video conference while coordinating with remote colleagues. At a company level, many felt that productivity rapidly tailed off if not managed properly. This article brings together our experience helping clients navigate remote working, in-house analysis, and insights from conversations with executives in China as they responded to the situation and addressed the challenges. Done right, remote working can boost productivity and morale; done badly, it can breed inefficiency, damage work relationships, and demotivate employees. Here are eight learnings from China that may be applicable around the world, depending on the circumstances:

1. Designing an effective structure

2. Leading from afar

3.Instilling a caring culture

4. Finding a new routine

5. Supercharging ways of communicating

About the authors: Raphael Bick is a partner in McKinsey & Company’s Shanghai office, where Tianwen Yu is an associate partner. Michael Chang is an associate partner in McKinsey’s Beijing office. Kevin Wei Wang is a senior partner in McKinsey’s Hong Kong office.

More: https://www.mckinsey.com