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The Machines Are Not Taking Over: How to Conquer Automation Anxiety

Sascha Giese, Head Geek™, SolarWinds

By Sascha Giese, Head Geek at SolarWinds

For even the most sensible among us, the word “automation” still strikes an uncertain, often fearful chord. Conditioned by the kind of rhetoric conveyed in movies like “The Matrix,” “The Terminator,” and “I, Robot,” the fear—even among the most seasoned IT professionals—of our jobs being affected by automation isn’t entirely unjustified. Particularly in the public sector, where budgets are increasingly restricted, this anxiety is understandable. However, there are two guaranteed ways to overcome this anxiety: a change in perspective and a willingness to push yourself out of your comfort zone.

Align Automation to Your Purpose 

In most cases, anxiety around the implementation of automation in organisations originates from fear over being incapable of fulfilling your purpose. For IT operations, automation heralds a day when we won’t need people to run maintenance, manage resources, or troubleshoot issues—when the fundamentals of ops no longer require a human to operate them. Developers may have an advantage over IT ops because they’ve been automating things from day one. But when a machine or an application starts to take over the job they do well, it can be damaging to professional pride and self-worth, no matter how confident you are.

It changes, however, when you look closer at the purpose of both disciplines. A public sector technology professional’s real job isn’t to patch servers or manage clouds. At its core, it involves finding efficient and elegant technical solutions to help the organisation do things better. In this way, one could argue tech pros do their jobs better when they embrace automation: using ticket histories to identify recurring technical issues, devising scripts or workflows to automatically take care of them, and using the extra breathing space to get down to the root of the problem so it never happens again.

For developers, this purpose should be even more obvious. No developer or coder ever went into programming wishing they could spend 80% of their time working through meaningless code changes with no guidance. A developer’s true purpose is to create—to come up with new ideas and turn them into viable products or services beneficial to both end users and the bottom line. Automating the tasks in the way of that, no matter how much time or effort developers have spent learning to do them, can only help accomplish this core drive.

In other words, the best fix for automation anxiety is to get back to basics: for developers and tech pros alike to remember why they do what they do, instead of worrying about not being able to do it anymore. With a refreshed perspective, however, comes some challenges—namely, where to invest their energies in an automated world, and put this technology to the best use for the general public.

Combat Automation Fear by Spending Time With People 

Though it might seem counterintuitive, as automation increasingly makes its way into IT environments, developers and other IT professionals will have to spend more time working directly with other people. For some, that’s potentially a greater source of anxiety than having robots render you redundant. But by doing so, they can better fulfil their professional purpose, and perhaps even find some unexpected sources of personal fulfilment.

For developers, it’s simple: find out what people—including colleagues and the general public—want. As automation takes over the drudgery of maintaining and fixing code, coders have a responsibility to use their newfound time to better understand the needs, objectives, and habits of those who use their creations. Most people would agree talking to other individuals isn’t always easy, but it remains the only clear way to know what’s working and what’s not, and to use this knowledge to develop apps to better serve those people.

The new challenge for tech pros is to communicate better—to tell a more convincing and compelling narrative about the value they can bring to their organisation. To a certain extent, this means translating technical metrics into a language non-technical people can understand, and showcasing the solutions, especially those involving automation management, in the same language. For tech pros, whose language of fluency is technical jargon, speaking to less technical people may prove a challenge. The more they can do this, the more IT leads will find themselves gaining the support of business leaders and being given a seat at the table on matters of future technology direction in the public sector.

It’s understandable to be nervous about increasing automation in organisations. People often assume more automation means fewer jobs for humans, but this is rarely the case. To combat the fear of automated IT, tech pros should remember why they do their job—the public sector relies on dedicated workers making sure public services run effectively 24/7, and IT teams should keep this purpose in mind when approaching new automation strategies. Working in harmony with technology is the surest way to drive the public sector forward and continue to provide the care and support the country needs.

Achieving for Children to provide children’s services in Kingston until 2026

Kingston Council has agreed to recommission its children’s services to Achieving for Children until 2026, following a decision at Children’s and Adults’ Care and Education Committee yesterday.

After considering various options, members of the committee agreed the preferred option was to extend the current contract for another five years, through a joint arrangement with Richmond Council. The extension will include the reconsideration of governance arrangements.

This decision is also dependent on the outcome of Richmond Council’s Education and Children’s Committee scheduled for 17 December 2019. Members will be considering the same options, with the recommendation to extend the current contract.

Achieving for Children (AfC), a community interest company, was established jointly in 2014 by Kingston and Richmond Councils to provide their children’s services. In August 2017, the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead became a co-owner of the company, which now provides children’s services across all three boroughs.

The company has been nationally recognised and continues to deliver excellent services for the councils it works with since its launch.

Sarah Ireland, Kingston Council’s Director of Corporate & Commercial, said:

“AfC has achieved a huge amount since it formed in 2014. We look forward to continuing to work with them for the next five years to provide children, young people and families in Kingston with the very best possible opportunities and support so that they can live safe and happy lives.

“Over the last few years AfC has worked with the council to deliver excellent services in a very challenging financial environment. We are seeing a huge growth in the need for children’s services, particularly for support and education for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). They have worked extremely hard to provide education and support across Kingston despite there not being enough money available to meet the SEND needs in the dedicated schools grant.

“Working with AfC we will continue to transform the way we deliver our children’s services and achieve excellent outcomes for Kingston’s children and young people.”

Introducing living walls to the next generation

MOBILANE – LivePanel at the Nursery in London

N Family Club is a group of early years nurseries with a brand new nursery concept in four spaces across London. Offering day care to children aged three months to five years, the facilities create a family feel and offer support to parents, grandparents and carers in an ever-more fragmented community in a city environment.

Nurture and Nature in unison

The London Fields nursery opened in June 2019.  As the doors opened and the first children took their first N Family steps, they were greeted by a beautiful living wall, courtesy of Oasis Plants and the Mobilane LivePanel. Installed on the roof level of the nursery, the 13 square metre LivePanel extends the roof garden’s nautical natural theme and is planted with Pachysandra, Carex Morrowii, Carex Ice Dance, Hedera Helix White Wonder and Euonymus Fortunei. This infusion of grasses, climbers, colour, foliage and form draws varied interest from its young patrons. The children are encouraged at play to take notice of the plants, to spot when they need a little care and to learn about plant science, growth and nature.

A healthy, clean air environment

Maximising green elements in an otherwise grey urban environment, the LivePanel plants are also working hard on improving the air quality. Renowned for their pollution-busting qualities, the leaf cover not only forms a naturally beautiful wall of colour but is busy removing harmful particulates from the air in this intensely busy city environment. The nursery maximises the children’s outdoor time, weather permitting, with sessions taking place alongside the living wall up to three times a day. At the start of a child’s educational journey, this area is the backbone of a healthy living environment at the Club where reading, socialising, exploring, playing and learning in the fresh air is a vital element of a child’s development and preparation for school.

Flourish and grow

“We are thrilled with the LivePanel living wall, as are the children.” explains Paige Francis, Operations Manager at N Family Club. “The children particularly enjoy playtime alongside the living wall. They take time out to see how it is growing and show great interest in its development.  The plant choice of grasses, climbers and different colour leaves creates a beautiful backdrop to their daily activities. We’ve been pleasantly surprised as to how quickly it has established and we’ve been impressed with how much it has already started to flourish and grow – we’ve had plenty of positive comments from parents and visitors too!”.

To find out more about N Family Clubs in the London area and to see the LivePanel wall in action, please visit the N Family Club website.

Installed and planted by Oasis Plants.

Secure I.T. Environments Completes Data Centre Build for Thurrock County Council

A range of works and 234m2 modular data centre design and build completed for Thurrock County Council, which will serve its 170,000 thousand residents.

Secure I.T. Environments Ltd, one of the UK’s leading design and build companies of modular and containerised data centres including refurbishment of existing data centres, has announced today the handover its latest data centre project to Thurrock County Council.  The new 234m2 data centre, will provide a new energy and space efficient home for an IT infrastructure serving 170,000 residents across over 160km2.

Chris Wellfair, Projects Director at Secure I.T. Environments

The data centre was required as the operational location and IT systems had reached end of life.  This led to a critical timeline to ensure handover for the new facility was achieved on time and within budget.  The project was split into two phases, the first comprising the design, build and testing (including acceptance testing) of the new data centre, the evaluation of existing critical and essential power, and decommissioning of the existing ICT infrastructure.  Phase two is an on-going five-year programme of planned preventative and reactive maintenance, including emergency call-out services.

The new data centre room includes Resilient Data Centre energy efficient air-conditioning in N+1 configuration, Riello MPW UPS, a built-in 65KVA generator, 840U of server space, raised access flooring, environmental monitoring, biometric access control, CCTV and Novec fire suppression.  The project also included all ground works and connection to existing electricity supplies and back-up generators located on other parts of the site. 

Chris Wellfair, Projects Director at Secure I.T. Environments, added “We have worked hard for over a decade to ensure that customers can trust our name when it comes to the delivery and maintenance of their data centres.  For the public sector in particular, where people rely hourly on access to council services, we take great pride in being a part of councils achieving their digital vision.” 

 

About Secure I.T. Environments Ltd

Secure I.T. Environments Ltd is a UK company specialising in the design and build of energy efficient internal/external secure modular data centres, containerised data centres and its infrastructure.  The company has established an enviable relationship with its clients based on trust and mutual respect by working as a team with the client and its project team.

The company offers a “Total Solutions Package” to the private, healthcare, education and government sectors, as well as co-hosting companies in the UK and offshore, by way of design, implementation and installation management services for projects from small stand-alone computer rooms to large public sector contracts and co-hosting locations. All rooms are designed to meet the latest test standards, now regarded as the benchmark standard for modular rooms being installed throughout the UK and Europe.

Secure I.T. Environments’ primary aim is to ensure that clients’ critical infrastructure components are protected against all external threats in a suitably protected modular room or Modcel containerised environment.  To this end the company has established long-standing partnerships with its manufacturers, who are at the forefront of R&D, to ensure the highest level of physical protection and energy efficiency is maintained.

Chipside announces contract win with Bristol City Council

• Contract will include up to 2 million MiPermit digital permits per year

• Introduces MiPermit innovation to leading UK Smart City

Chipside, a provider of parking and traffic management IT to more than 160 UK local authorities, is delighted to announce it has been awarded a contract with Bristol City Council for MiPermit digital permits. The contract will enable Bristol City Council to deploy up to two million digital permits per year through Chipside’s MiPermit system – enabling city residents and visitors to buy, manage and renew permits electronically.

Paul Moorby, Founder and CEO of Chipside

Paul Moorby, Founder and CEO of Chipside, comments; “We are delighted to win a contract with Bristol City Council. It will not only strengthen MiPermit’s position in the South West as the premier digital permits brand, but also give us the ground space to contribute innovative technology to an already-celebrated connected city”.

Bristol topped Navigant Consulting’s UK Smart Cities list in 2017 and beat Barcelona, Dubai and New York to win the Smart City Award (Judges’ Choice) at the GSMA’s 2018 Global Mobile Awards (The GLOMOs). The award provided global recognition on how Bristol has raised the bar on defining the Smart City of the future. With central government funding from the Smart Cities Agenda, the city’s ‘Bristol is Open’ initiative now offers innovators a testbed to develop disruptive solutions to city challenges.

“The diversity of the issues tackled through smart city technology is an indication of the potential of connected public services to improve residents’ lives,” continues Paul Moorby. “I look forward to introducing our MiPermit technology to the city and seeing the system’s capabilities and efficiencies positively impact Bristol’s residents and visitors to the city.”

Strategies to support UK growth post-Brexit to be debated at national economic development conference

IED Annual Conference 2019

The Challenge of Change – economic strategies for a new era – Wednesday 4th December 2019 – BMA House, London

Exploring ways to deliver inclusive and sustainable growth and more effective place management will be the focus of discussion at the Institute of Economic Development (IED) Annual Conference 2019, which is being held at BMA House in London next week.

The 4th December conference, titled The Challenge of Change – economic strategies for a new era, will bring together around 200 sector leaders and economic development and regeneration practitioners representing local and regional communities. Key topics on the agenda are growth versus sustainability; inclusive growth; international trade and investment; local industrial strategies; and wellness and place.

Amongst the highlights is an opening keynote from Rt Hon The Lord Kerslake, President of the Local Government Association and Chair of The UK2070 Commission, The Centre for Public Scrutiny and Peabody; which follows opening remarks from IED Chair Bev Hurley.

Other keynote speakers are The Baroness Valentine, Chair of Heathrow Southern Rail and Director of Place at Business in the Community, who will be speaking on ‘Regenerating seaside towns and communities’; and Professor Danny Dorling, Halford Mackinder Professor of Geography at the University of Oxford, who will be reflecting on ‘How the UK can match European success’. There is also a keynote panel discussion on ‘The future of underperforming towns’, featuring Professor Cathy Parker, Chair of the Institute of Place Management; Sir Howard Bernstein, Strategic Advisor at Deloitte and Chair and Patron of the IED; and Professor Henry Overman from LSE.

This year’s IED Annual Conference, which will again incorporate the IED Annual Awards ceremony, is sponsored by Lichfields, Pegasus Group and Warwick Economics & Development; AECOM, Emsi UK and Local Government Chronicle; Grant Thornton, SignedUp Skills and the Social Value Engine.

IED Executive Director Nigel Wilcock said: “Predictably the ‘rhetoric’ building up to the General Election has touched on left-behind UK regions and how best to address those areas of the country which, for structural economic reasons, have fallen behind in terms of income and employment and struggled to find a new raison d’etre.

“The focus of this year’s IED Annual Conference could therefore not be better, as we explore issues around growth and place and the role of economic development. Purely from a structural perspective, the situation is a mess and it is small wonder economic development has failed to deliver in so many places. Our message to the incoming government is simple: the landscape needs to be simplified, there needs to be certainty of funding over the medium term and whatever is selected as an approach it needs to be in place for the long term.

“We would like to thank our speakers, sponsors and partners for their support in making the IED Annual Conference the ‘must-attend’ event that it is for anyone with an interest in economic development and regeneration issues.”

Full details of the conference, organised by Regen Events, can be found here: www.regenevents.com/ied/conferenceAgenda.php

Sustainability: is it time to view economic development through a different lens? 

The General Election campaign has been positioned, by many commentators and politicians from across the spectrum, as an opportunity for renewal and refresh. A chance to seize the economic opportunities that lie beyond the seemingly immoveable barrier that is Brexit.

However, for those who have worked with and within government for a long time, or those who are a close study of economic development know, the reality is often more vanilla. The destination rarely changes, even if the method of getting there might be subtly different.

Will it be different this time and do economic development professionals within local and regional government have an opportunity to be at the forefront of that change? The answer is yes, providing we are willing and capable of seeing beyond the narrow view that growth needs to remain the panacea of sub-regional economic policy.

I can’t count how many times I have come across – or even been involved in drafting – an economic strategy and felt that both the ambition it sets out, or the tools which will be used to deliver it, could apply to most places in the UK.

Granted the challenges faced across many sub-regional economies are broadly similar, especially across the North which continues to be dominated by low skill levels and structural underfunding in infrastructure. But that does not mean that the way we choose to approach them must be the same. It can be different, it can be more locally-driven, and it can also help us address our most fundamental challenge of this generation. That is the need to move towards a more sustainable economic future. It is not growth at all costs, nor is growth the best measure of the success of a place.

The professional and political debate is catching up with this new reality, but perhaps not quick enough. It is time the economic development profession took a lead and began to shape the agenda. We need a new paradigm for sub-national economic development. One which addresses three key issues around growth, inclusion and sustainability, but redefines the primary lens through which everything else is viewed.

We have a choice. We can seek to continue to try (and largely fail) to balance the three, or as has been the case for many years, view inclusion and sustainability through the lens of growth. The way we approach these three factors will be defined by which one you start with. If we continue to view growth as the principle lens, inclusion and sustainability will be retrofitted around the need to achieve growth.

Barring a few isolated examples, I suggest that has largely failed as an approach to sub-national economic policy. Jobs get created, but people fail to fully benefit. Roads get built to unlock ‘growth’, and the quid pro quo is to try to minimise the impact on our natural capital.

It is time to view economic development differently. If we begin to shape future industrial strategy at a sub-national level by first looking at it through the sustainability lens, then we begin to see an opportunity for renewal and refresh. It opens the potential to address those universal social and economic challenges in a different way and could also provide a new framework for local communities to begin to take a greater sense of control and ownership through a redefined approach to devolution.

There is a growing movement which proposes redefining industrial policy through a ‘green revolution’ which also seeks to address rising inequality. This has particularly been championed in the UK by the New Economics Foundation (NEF) and the Centre for Local Economic Strategies (CLES). As the NEF defines it, it is about creating a new generation of jobs in the industries and infrastructure we need to tackle the climate crisis and taking a new approach to running our economy that guarantees decent work, greater ownership and economic democracy, with a central purpose of putting people and planet first.

Its distractors will say that some places, which lag in job creation, investment or employment, simply do not have the luxury of taking this view. They argue that the focus should be on more growth and more jobs first and foremost. After all, you can’t have inclusive growth without growth. However, in many cases the meaning of what inclusive growth is has been lost, or at best has been played lip-service to.

I would argue that addressing regional inequalities is entirely complementary and consistent with adopting a new set of social and economic reforms. If you bring people with you.

There is every reason that the sub-national government structures we currently have in place can lead the charge, thereby avoiding years of unnecessary naval-gazing and questions over economic spatial geography which blighted the end of the Regional Development Agencies and the introduction of Local Enterprise Partnerships and Combined Authorities.

If a proper and long-term devolution settlement is agreed by government, there is no reason why these sub-regional bodies cannot shape themselves as genuine agents of change. They should, by their very raision d’etre, be mission-orientated organisations focused on the ‘grand challenges’ we face. They have it in their gift to move beyond narrow and outdated thematic norms and redefine cost-benefit models which enable a broader view on the merits of public investment. By taking this strategic leadership role, it will complement the work of local authority partners who are best placed to drive, from the bottom up, a focus on community wealth-building.

This is what the approach to growth and inclusion could be if we looked at them through the lens of sustainability. This is genuinely the opportunity for renewal and refresh in our approach to economic development. This is genuine change. The upcoming election will show whether we have the leadership in place to achieve it.

Mark Lynam is a Board Member of the Institute of Economic Development, and Director of Transport, Housing and Infrastructure in Sheffield City Region’s Executive Team. On 4th December 2019 the IED is hosting its Annual Conference 2019, ‘The Challenge of Change – economic strategies for a new era’

New platform for infrastructure modelling now open

Professor Jim Hall

By Professor Jim Hall, Chair of DAFNI Governance Board

A new tool, set to transform research, planning and policymaking around infrastructure in the UK and beyond, is now in alpha testing.

DAFNI 1.0 from the Data and Analytics Facility for National Infrastructure (DAFNI) takes a significant step forward this autumn as

Continue reading New platform for infrastructure modelling now open

Stockport Council reduces cost of customer response in the contact centre by 95% with Britannic Technologies

AMI Conversational Artificial Intelligence Solution Transforms Services for Citizens

Britannic Technologies, specialists in voice communications, systems integration and managed services, has deployed AMI, a conversational AI solution into Stockport Council’s contact centre to improve customer experience. AMI has enabled the council to reduce the cost of customer response in the contact centre by 95%, compared

Continue reading Stockport Council reduces cost of customer response in the contact centre by 95% with Britannic Technologies

Latest edition of GPSJ is now online to read

 

The latest edition of the Government & Public Sector Journal is available to read online: LATEST EDITION

Drive strategic change with integrated transport solutions to create more liveable cities

Peter O’Driscoll

Peter O’Driscoll, Managing Director, RingGo

Local governments are now fully embracing digital services that benefit both their staff and constituents, slowly, but surely getting rid of paper and physical offerings. However, to see the scale of benefits that can be realised from digitising, local governments should be looking to develop new

Continue reading Drive strategic change with integrated transport solutions to create more liveable cities

‘How much bandwidth do I need?’

David Trossell, CEO and CTO of Bridgeworks

By David Trossell, CEO and CTO of Bridgeworks

Whenever a network seems to operate too slowly the conversation soon turns to how much bandwidth the network connectivity and infrastructure offers, and then it moves on to how much faster the network could be if more money

Continue reading ‘How much bandwidth do I need?’

A ‘No Deal’ Brexit will create an economic emergency

For GPSJ by Nigel Wilcock, Executive Director of the Institute of Economic Development

Photo: GPSJ

I have arrived at a clear view that a ‘No Deal’ Brexit will create an economic emergency – one that will impact economic development and regeneration professionals working for local and regional communities. It is considered likely that the

Continue reading A ‘No Deal’ Brexit will create an economic emergency

RingGo partners with Go Ultra Low to encourage electric vehicle adoption

Joining Government and industry representatives, RingGo brings its wealth of experience in how parking can encourage electric vehicle adoption to the campaign

RingGo, the UK’s leading cashless parking provider, today announced a partnership with Go Ultra Low, the national campaign for electric vehicles. Supported by a consortium of vehicle manufacturers and the

Continue reading RingGo partners with Go Ultra Low to encourage electric vehicle adoption

apT ecology team grows after new business wins

Reporter: Stuart Littleford

An ecology team at a pioneering public sector planning and development consultancy is expanding to cope with growing demand.

Telford-based apT’s team of ecological experts has trebled in two years, partly as a result of winning new consultancy work outside their home borough.

The team – made up of ecology and green

Continue reading apT ecology team grows after new business wins