Saturday, 6 December 2014

Thank you...

Thursday I spent in London at a UCISA executive committee meeting, As well as the normal business, especially looking at what the many UCISA groups have been up to, we had a visit from the Chief Executive of HESA.  HESA is the body that collects and collates data from Universities in many areas - from the student record on how many and what sort of students we have from finance on what we spend our money on, and on HR.  This data is then sent to various agencies - including our funding bodies.  At the moment HESA is undergoing a transformation programme - looking at all of its processes and how it collects this data, and as we are are heavily involved in this, it will affect us. so we will be watching with interest, and taking part in the consultations.

Friday saw our annual thank you party for staff - some drinks and food and what has become a bit of a tradition, the annual charity raffle. Over 130 prizes donated by our staff and our suppliers,

and we raised about £1,000 for two charities - Diabetes UK and Roundabout, a local charity which helps homeless teens in Sheffield. Many thanks to everyone, for your hard work throughout the year, for donating prizes, buying raffle tickets or helping on the day. Much appreciated.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Diamond and MOOC hype

Our new building, The Diamond is really coming along now - it looks fantastic. The base layer of the cladding is on, you can see the pods inside, and the spiral staircase has been installed. hopefully the aluminium cladding will start to go on in the next few days. There's a great webcam of the construction site here. This screenshot taken a couple of minutes ago shows the huge study pod from the east of the building, and the cladding panels stacked up ready to go on the left.

We're on target to open for September 2015, and this week we've been having discussions about commissioning and fitting out the building. There's a lot of work for us to do!  The network to commission - this building will increase the size of our campus network by 10% - the teaching technologies in the pool teaching space to install and commission, over 700 PCs to install, and all of the creative media spaces to be kitted out. We'll be looking to dedicate people to work on this to make sure everything goes to plan.

Also this week we've had an call with a Gartner analyst about the future of technolgies in teaching. Some of the up and coming ones including Learning Analytics and Adaptive Learning, and existing ones such as MOOCs. Interestingly Gartners latest education hype cycle have MOOCs heading off into the trough of disillusionment, and disappearing before they ever reach a plateau. That's mainly due to a lack of a sustainable business model for them, and their view is that once the hype surrounding them has gone, they will transform into something different. This year's hype cycle has some interesting stuff on it - must find time to study it in a bit more detail.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Summer of Student Innovation Showcase

Today I'm at the Summer of Student Innovation Showcase at Reading University. This was funded as part of the JISC codesign programme, and it's great to see so many student projects which have been developed as part of it. It's the second year it's run - students suggest projects to improve student life  and JISC fund them to get them into an early stage of development. 18 student teams are presenting what they've developed over the summer. Amazing how much has been done in a short time.  Each project had a stand with a demo, and gave a 5 minute short presentation. Some of the projects are listed below, and I've done some brief notes, and included a link where there is one. They are definitely worth a look, and it is quite illuminating to see what students think is important to them. Most have a prototype, and have done a pilot, and are are looking to extend the pilot to other Universities.

20,000 students made a complaint about their university in 2012. Student expectations are very high, and student satisfaction is critical. Student feedback is key, so this is a way of collecting feedback from students. Unitu is an app which facilitates a collaborative feedback process by creating communities of course reps and staff where issues can be raised and resolved. Being piloted in two Universities already.

Learning and retaining foreign vocabulary can be difficult. This is an app for teachers and students providing tailored support for commonly taught languages, with a vocabulary library and  tests for students and analytics for staff.

Open Access Button
A suite of  apps to help researchers, students and the public get access to scientific and scholarly open access research. There's also functionality  for publishing your own research in an open access way.

This is a peer to peer teaching initiative enabling medical students to deliver regular structured teaching to younger students. Medical students already help each other and there is currently lots of information from students, on Facebook, Dropbox etc, but it is hard to find. This brings it together. Being piloted at Universty of Liverpool and Limerick.
I was really impressed with this - there's some good content there, and I can see its application to other subject areas.

An app for getting someone to proofread work before its handed in. Based on the premise that it is often difficult to spot your own mistakes and it's expensive to employ a proofreader. This development is an online platform so students can swop their work and proof read others for free.  It also aims to improve reading and writing skills as will be building in tips on grammar and spelling.
Impressed with this one as well - they've given a lot of thought to how they might handle plagiarism etc.

Fully functional app which actively solicits feedback from students after every lecture or seminar and feeds it back to teachers. Being piloted at LSE.

An app designed to help students plan and deliver assigments etc on time - a sort of academic to do list. It helps student meet deadlines. Has a lot of tips built in on referencing etc. Gamification is built in so you can see how far along the timeline you've progressing.
I can see the potential for this to all students. but particularly those who have difficulty organising themselves. 

Students are better connected then ever before, not only to each other but to information and resources.
This is an app which allows students to create and share multiple choice tests. To create a test means you have to understand it. A dashboard is being created to allow insitutions to look at what the students are doing.

A platform for students to submit ideas, discuss them, and have them turned into action by their student union. Ideas can be voted on and have comments on them.
Launched in University of Edinburgh Student Union, and they have built it into their portal so their is single sign on to it.
Free and open source.
I was very interested in this. It looks very much like Ideascale but simpler, and it is free :-)

A murder mystery game as part of student induction. Takes students to places they need to know about, meet people they need to know. Uses a lot of technology including geoloaction maps, virtual reality (aurasma).
This was great, if slightly wacky. Not sure how they would roll it out further as it requires a lot of input form them, but very cool!

A flashcard app for vet students. Lot of content to learn in vet studies they study more species than medical students! Does 3 things. Spaced repetition, a algorithm which schedules a card just before you forget it. Database of 80,000 cards - huge database of vet content. Also uses collaboration - can work with other students.
Saw a demo of this and very impressed, especially with the algorithm which works out when to repeat a card based on when you are going to forget the info.

Project to help students sell themselves. Students undersell themselves through using traditional paper based CVs. Also good way of making better contact with employer at application stage. Biggest problem not technology, but most people don't know what their most sellable skills and assets are. So, as well as making the videos, they run workshops to help students to work out what they should be emphasising.  They've run a pilot scheme at Loughborough University and want to expand. Really good project.

Host and Dine

An app to put students in contact with each other, to cook for and with each other. Encourages
students living in halls to learn, share and cook meals together. For example, you want to cook a Sunday roast. Not practical on your own. So you post it as an event. Others can join, and come over and cook together. Also good for sharing cooking for different cultures. Have run a pilot, and now want to extend it. Also getting in touch with private companies such as Unite.
I though this was great - the pilot has apparently been ery successful.

 Online money saving community which calculates the cheapest prices possible for products and tells you where to get them. Also a crowd sourcing site for people to share information about offers etc.
Developed by a student who was having trouble making ends meet. 

Some of last year's funded projects were also there:

An online noticeboard for students to search, buy and sell at their local university. 
Phase 1 developed and rolled out at Brunel University.
Now looking to roll out phase 2.

Call for Particpants 
This offers tools to researchers to connect them with volunteers to take part in research projects and then for a university to measure public engagement with research

So, a great day, some great projects. Really enjoyed talking to the students.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Research, analytics and ideas

Yesterday I was at a meeting of RUGIT - the Russell Group IT Directors. We meet several times a
year to discuss matters of common interest.  Some interesting topics. Support for research is something a number of us are trying to improve. Teaching and Learning has always been more straightforward to support because it is more generic, but research is more specialised.  We looked at what others are doing, and one University had recently surveyed researchers  to find out what they were using to support their own research, and what they needed. Top of the list was information and support - information on what was available, and support in how to use it.

Another area we looked at was Learner Analytics. Analysing data sets to get more information out of them is a big  thing at the moment, and learner analytics involves pulling together many different data sets to find out more about students. This has a number of applications - spotting students who might be dropping behind for example, and intervening quickly to get them back on track. For students, it can help them track their own progress. There's a JISC project under the Codesign Programme looking at this, and JISC have  just produced a report on the state of Learner Analytic int he sector - makes for very interesting reading.

We also shared experiences yesterday on progress in delivering IT support to faculties and depatmetns by staff based locally, but managed by the central IT department. This is the model in many Universites and has been for some years, and most of the rest are moving towards it. Interesting sharing experiences, and looking at how this model has been implemented in different Universities. General concensus is that the benefits by far outweigh any challenges.

This morning I traveled to Oxford for a meeting about the UCISA conference in March which is shaping up nicely - we now have a full programme and some great speakers confirmed.  This afternoon was the Oxford University IT committee on which I sit as an external representative. Very interested in their pilot of an innovation and ideas platform which is soon to be rolled out across the University. Their pilot has generated 26 ideas with 143 people discussing them. they've set aside a proportion of their budget to fund innovative ideas which come through this process - something I want to introduce this next year.

Friday, 21 November 2014

Purple window

Quick round up of the week that's just gone so fast! Spent half a day working with senior colleagues on 'what makes a good manager, and particularly the issues faced with managing diversity. All part of my work with the Equality and Diversity Board. Some very interesting discussions, and we didn't just talk about the commonly discussed diversity characteristics - gender, race, disability, but many others including faith, sexual orientation, social class. There's a whole body of research showing that diverse temas are more productive and solve problems quicker, so we need to ask ourselves what we can do to increase diversity both in our staff and students.

Also had chance to look at our new mobile apps for our HR and Finance system - looking very good. Much better than the desktop versions. Soon you'll be able to carry out many tasks on the go, without having to log in to the complete systems. Some great work from the team - an agile project that's worked really well.

On Wednesday evening I went to a reception organised by our Alumni Office for students who are
recipients of scholarships from the Alumni fund and those who donate to it. It was really great to talk to the students and see how much they benefit from the scholarships. It was also good to see the newly refurbished Firth Hall, with the exposed North Window which has been covered up by sound insulation for years - it looks great.

Another chunk of the week was spent talking to staff about the recent results of our University wide staff survey. I had two drop in sessions, and was pleased so many people took the time to come and talk to me. very tiring, but well worth it.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Final thoughts...

Home from an excellent Gartner Symposium, hope readers of this blog got a feel for the sessions. Of course, it wasn't all work - we did get an evening out at the National Theatre of Catalonia with some very good food, and an entertainment based on Magical Movie Moments - the Fred Astaire and Ginger Rodgers routine was particularly good ;-)

The networking was excellent, and it was good to mix with CIOs and senior IT managers from all sectors. This year I though the ITExpo was very good, with many vendors to talk to. In the evening receptions, there was some very interesting ways of attracting you to their stands....

The difficulty now is capturing the excitement I feel when I'm there, and translating it into real things we can do back at base. There's a number of things I have taken away and am definitely going to act on:

Digitalisation, Digitisation, Digital Moments. whatever words you use, we need a Digital Strategy and should be working on a Digital First, or Digital by Design strategy. We need to idenitfy those "digital moments' that will improve the student experience, support our researchers better or improve processes and use technology to implement them. Use technology to digitalise our processes, not just digitise them

Look at the top ten business and technology trends -  make a top ten list relevant to the University of Sheffield. To socialise this with stakeholders and CiCS to get some joint ownership. To build the lists into strategic and tactical planning and refer to them frequently. And refresh the list every 6 months

The Internet of Things - what could we use it for? Are there "things" that we could make smart to improve our services to students for example? Could we increase the number of self diagnosing things to reduce our Helpdesk calls? Our printers already do this. What else could we do?

Think about implementing Bimodel IT

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Shadow IT

Final session of the conference was a workshop looking at Shadow IT. Lovely defined as investment in acquiring, developing or operating IT solutions outside the control of a formal IT organisation. If nothing else we were clearly told to take away the message that Resistance is futile! IT is now son engrained in everything we do, and the consumer IT space so pervasive, then "IT" is going to happen everywhere. And given that many sessions I've been have been about digitalising the business, we are actively encouraging it. That's not to say that there should be controls in place, and many business critical systems, support and infrastructure should still rest with the central IT department.
So how do we adapt our role to cope with it?
First thing we need to do is take it out of the shadows. Enter a discovery phase, find out what is going on. Then have a plan.

We had a group discussion on our tables, and I was sitting between the CIO of
the European Parliament and the CIO of Europol. We had some interesting debates about what was appropriate. They couldn't really get their heads around our very open attitude!

Then we looked at some examples of good practice, summarised below:

Need to engage. Will change the role of the IT department.
Get some visibility, find out how much is going on. Share it .

Redefine accountability.
If people are developing or implementing shadow IT they have to be accountable for it. For support, security etc. Put in place processes to do this.

Provide guidance to the organisation

Establish boundaries
What areas is it legitable and sensible to allow end user development. What areas are no go areas.
Use this 2 by 2 grid

Things can start in one quadrant and move. Need to keep under review.

Create red lines.
Privacy, security and compliance. Lines which must not be crossed, and there must be consequences.
Requires clarity, training and education.

Exploit Bimodal IT
Become more agile and flexible.

Offer services
Eg vendor and contract management. Hosting. Project management.

Offer tiered support.
Different levels of support for different systems.

Consider accreditation
Train staff, bring them into central organisation and teach them. Then might trust them more.

Have an end user board.
Not just IT department policing things. Let a board come up with polices etc. are risks though!

Use Audit!
Get them on board. Put the policing action on audit, not us.

All very interesting and useful. And reflects closely what we're trying to do in our IT as a shared service project.

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Wednesday, 12 November 2014

The Art of Innovation

Today's keynote was from Guy Kawasaki, the chief evangelist of Canva, an online graphic design tool. Formerly, he was an advisor to the Motorola business unit of Google and chief evangelist of Apple.

He talked about the art of innovation, from his perspective of working with innovative companies such as Apple and Google, and as a venture capitalist. It was an excellent talk, the best so far at the conference, and I wouldn't do justice to it by blogging about it in detail. It was recorded, and hopefully will be on line soon so I'll post a link to it. He gave us top ten lessons to be successful in innovation, and illustrated each one with beautiful stories. Sometimes moving, sometimes funny. I'll just list the lessons so you get a feel for what he spoke about.

1 Make meaning, not just money.
Desire to make the world a better place. You'll probably also then make money.

2 Make mantra
Not a mission statement!
Two or three words.
What is it you deliver. Describe your innovation in 3 words that everyone understands.

3 Jump to the next curve,
Innovation is always at the next curve, not the one you're on.
Step back and define yourself not by what you do, but by the benefit you provide. Example of ice factory. Non of them became refrigerator factories.
Good example of curve jumping companies, Uber, airbnb, task rabbit

4 Make great products.
great products are smart, intelligent,complete, empowering and elegant.

5 Don't worry, be crappy
It's ok to ship a product if there's element of crappiness in it, if it's still better than what was before

6 Let 100 flowers blossom
See what happens.
Example of Apple with the Macintosh. It was including desktop publishing which made it a success, not the standard software on offer on PCs.
Or Avon and their Skin so soft product, designed to moisturise skin, but now sold mainly as an insect repellent
Let the market decide.

7 Polarise people
Some people will hate things, whilst others love them.
Great products polarise people. Apple good example. Great products produce emotions

8 Churn baby churn
To be an innovator you have to be in denial. Ignore people who tell you it won't work. Then flip to listen to people when you have a product. And then improve it

9 Niche thyself
Need to be unique and high value.

10 Perfect your pitch
Innovators have to pitch, for funding, partnerships,
Customise your introduction. Show you know your audience.

Follow the Kawasaki rule of PowerPoint
Limit slides to 10.
Talk for no more than 20 mins
Optimal point size is 30

11 Don't let the Bozos grind you down
If someone tells you you'll fail, you might. But if you don't try, you'll never know.

As I said, great talk, and I was lucky enough to meet him afterwards and get a signed copy of his book.

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Embracing eccentric executives...

.... and that really is the title of this session.

Senior executives may not be normal! Research shows that there's a larger proportion of eccentric behaviour in senior executive teams. May be related to common undiagnosed, mild or hidden mental disorders.
Statistics show that we are probably working with or for someone who exhibits eccentric behaviours.

Three categories of eccentricity: impulsive, egotistical, compulsive.

Very high energy
Difficulty saying on task, exited by certain stimuli
Or extreme risk takers. Extremely innovative. Have lots of ideas
Tendency to not believe that anything takes any time. Find us obstructive.
Also forget about ideas they've had.
Not operationally focussed and maybe reckless

Tend to fixate on details. Extreme micro managers
Require huge volumes of data.
Often give impression that they don't trust you.
Low risk takers
Treat minor issues the same as major ones
Extremely consistent and reliable

Highly motivated to achieve goals
Very competitive
Low degree of empathy.
Can be aggressive or bullying. No sense of the effect they're having on others.
Psychopathic tendencies
Very focused. Not distracted by normal distractions.

Also can have combinations of above.
As you become more senior in n organisation, behaviour often becomes exacerbated.
Are we eccentric? If we believe that everyone around us is behaving strangely, it's probably us!

So how do we embrace the wonderful aspects of eccentricity, and deal with the more difficult ones?

Some organisations surround eccentrics with "handlers" ie people who've learned to deal with them.
Or contain them.
Also compensate with different characteristics. Surround impulsives with doers
Need to set boundaries, can be much more effective than trying to reason with them. If they are unreasonable by normal definitions, no point in trying to reason with them.
Don't pander to the eccentricity.

Really interesting talk, and of course we all played the game of spotting people in each category. None in our senior management team obviously!

I've got a copy of the full research paper, and there are some detail on coping strategies, embracing the positive aspects of eccentricity and dealing with some of the challenges it can create.

I'm off to study it.....

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Making good decisions

Today's talk at the CIO lunch was from Noreena Hertz who was described as a decision making guru. Her book, Eyes Wide Open, is the conclusions from her research into how we can make better decisions in these complex, challenging times.

These were her tips:

Don't blindly follow experts. They get things wrong.
The IBM president who in 1948 said there's room in the world for 5 computers
Or Bill Gates, who said in 2004 spam will be solved in 2 years.
Experts no better than a monkey throwing a dart at a board.

Become a smarter information hunter gatherer
Today, knowledge has been democratised. We can all gather it.
Local knowledge is very valuable.
Listen to the wisdom within an organisation
Also, information widely available of people's own experiences in many areas.
Old fashioned cooperation and collaboration very important.
Gratuitous clip of baby pandas collaborating to avoid taking medicine.
Use Google trends, look at what search terms are being used. All as valuable as published data.
Apparently the PMs office tracks certain search terms and there was chaos in number 10 on 6 October 2011 when there was a huge peak in the search for "Jobs." Work it out :-)

Seek out divergent points of view.
We tend to like getting information that confirms what we believe. Yet innovation is not just about creation of ideas but about their destruction.
Need to seek out people who disagree with us.
Who's our challenger in chief, and are listening to them?

Create teams based on difference
Vast body of evidence that diverse teams solve problems better and are more innovative.
Bletchley park employed diverse teams. Not just mathematicians, but philosophers, Egyptian scholars, classicists. Critical to them cracking enigma code.

Get into decision making shape
Emotions affect decision making.
Stock markets react to how national football teams perform.
Moods affect decisions. Notice what mood you're in.
Physical shape also important. Worst decisions often made when you're tired.
Also, hunger, thirst.

Be careful of the stories you tell yourself
We're not unique.
Even selfies were around in the twenties

And finally, carve out time to think. Every day.

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Why is the CFO on the executive board and the CIO not?

Interesting session about why the CFO is usually on the executive board, and the CIO isn't. Why we should be, and what we should do about it.

Lot of comparison with the CFO :-). So, if someone in your organisation decided they didn't want to use the central finance system and went and opened a Swiss bank account, the CFO would soon stop them. So why do we let people do the same with IT? And why is there reluctance when we say we should have oversight of it all?

What should we do to improve our visibility and get our organisations to understand the strategic importance of IT?

Clarify and communicate business value of IT operations. Expand the CIOs operational responsibilities
Ensure that the CIO addresses full end to end business risks of IT and that the Board recognises their impact.
Expose total technology spend across whole enterprise including shadow IT. Show value of CIOs oversight of it all.
Communicate CIOs strategic value. Join major non IT projects. Talk about strategic impact of IT and digital revolution.
Build board members understanding and confidence about ambiguities and risks the CIO controls. Link digital business issues to enterprise success and survival
Assess and understand the issues. Build valued partner relationships with board members.
Use coaching, mentoring to identify personal development goals. Concentrate on business credibility. Demonstrate personal maturity in your enterprise. Build CEOs trust.

Really interesting session, and lead to lots of discussion afterwards with colleagues, about whether we really wanted to be on the Executive Board.

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Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Banks, vendors and networking

This afternoon's keynote is an interview with Oliver Bussmann, the Group CIO of UBS, a global financial services company. Cue another huge attendance in the auditorium, loud music, flashing lights and a fancy stage setting.

Interesting hearing someone for the banking sector talking about some of the pressures they face, especially around risk management and security. They have to spend a lot on regulatory compliance.
They are also facing a number of disruptive influences, eg ApplePay which are taking advantage of new technologies. Even the underlying technology supporting Bitcoin is making the banks change the way they work.
He confirmed that the role of the CIO is changing, away from the back office function, to a digital leader. Working with the business to drive innovation forward. Something I often bang on about, when people think of us as just the IT department....
The other interesting part of the discussion was the fact that he tweets, apparently this is unheard of from a CIO. He was quite laid back about it, but most of audience horrified.

I also took some time this afternoon to walk round the exhibition. Last night there was a fairly mad reception in there, where I spent most of my time collecting cocktails and freebies! Today I had a much more leisurely stroll round and had some interesting conversations with vendors. There's a lot here, some familiar to us, and some new. This picture shows only about half of the exhibition floor.

Also spent some time in the EXP Lounge ( Gartner equivalent of VIP) networking with colleagues from other institutions, and from other sectors. It's a very pleasant place to spend the breaks, good wifi, lots of power points, a juice bar, and a balcony overlooking the sea. You can even get a massage if sitting in too many sessions gets to you! As there are many sessions running at the same time, you can also catch up with those you've missed as they are all recorded and available in the lounge on demand.

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Digitalising processes

Now a session on digitalising processes. I'm not sure that digitalising is a word, but we'll see....

Moving from paper based process to mobile device is a great advance, but it's not enough value. Can get more value by adding other technologies.

First step on journey is atoms to bits, paper to device
Then human to machine. What work can a machine do that a human does now.
Rethink the work itself. What's the right resource to do it. Human, machine or joint?
Then enable more variable handling of work. So, not about standardisation. If you are a global company, need to take account of differences in culture, in law, in products. Need to scale and keep consistency and manageability

Atoms to bits. Digitising processes. Some examples:
Pay cheque in by taking a picture of it on a mobile phone.
ApplePay. Credit card stored in mobile phone.
Huge improvement in convenience for customer.

Good example of difference between digitising a process and digitalising one of a nurse in a hospital. Give them a tablet to do data entry....
Illustrated in five slides below.

Utilising the Internet of things, adapters, sensors etc. Everything relating to the patients care is instrumented. So everything nurse used to collect, and a lot more, is now collected by machines. Because so much data being collected, can analyse and look for patterns. Eg by instrumenting the bed can monitor how much sunlight the patient is getting and adjust so that patient gets more.

Use technology to transform work, not just digitise it.
Does take some investment, but paybacks will be significant.

Automation for years has meant replacing physical labour with machines. In IT context it's been about standardising work and reducing paper handling. But, is that enough of an improvement?
We should be digitalising processes to transform people's working lives.

Some more examples...

The quantified self. Wearables, constantly monitoring ourselves. Lots of opportunities to use that data. Who would you share it with and why? Personal trainer? Your doctor? Your insurance company....

Jetdry, make mobile heaters for working in arctic conditions. If they break, they use a mobile machine to heat up the local area and the equipment so it can be repaired. Used to fly a technician out to do repair. Now use a pair of glasses on local field worker to give remote technician a video view so local worker can do the fix. Man/machine cooperation.

Get customers to do the work for you. Report things like broken traffic lights, potholes through a mobile app.

John Dere Combine Harvester, cost about $0.5m. If it breaks down, can miss the harvest. They have instrumented the equipment with sensors, and set up remote service to monitor the data coming in, analyse it, and predict problems and provide guidance about preventative maintenance.

Not just about reducing paper and standardising. Go beyond this. It's about augmenting work or replacing it.
Race with the machines, not against them.

Think about automation and digitalisation

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