Don't trust technology: Trust the people providing technology
The incredible rise of artificial intelligence into the mainstream is both an ample opportunity and a substantial concern for business leaders. But they won't feel overwhelmed if they stick to this philosophy: trust comes from the people behind technologies.
The famous cartoon cat Garfield once quipped that we should be thankful for lazy people because a lazy person must have invented power steering. It's a joke, but there is a kernel of truth: we innovate because we want to do things better, faster and with less effort. This focus on making things easier is what drives competitiveness.
Competitiveness goes hand-in-hand with innovation and solving problems for customers and employees. The new era of artificial intelligence underscores this synergy, says Clyde van Wyk, co-founder and director of payroll and HR platform PaySpace. "If you're not playing with new technologies, you're going to be left in the dark and someone's going to be inventing something that you should have been looking at."
The AI Challenge
He makes this comment in reference to generative artificial intelligence, the new form of AI that has been taking the world by storm. GenAIs such as ChatGPT and Bard are wowing us with their ability to rapidly produce human-like content and their knack for understanding and conversing in natural human language.
"AI has been around for a while now, but large language models stand out because they are changing how we engage with technology. They put the power of technology into many more hands—that's a big deal," Van Wyk notes.
Business leaders cannot afford to ignore such advantages. Whether it's GenAI or another new development, they must decide if they'll gain a competitive advantage. Other examples include automation, systems integration, and remote access to resources—business enhancements that improve work conditions, efficiency, and productivity.
However, adding innovative technologies has risks and is rarely a smooth process. There are many considerations, not the least how much an organisation can trust a technology.
"Business leaders don't like uncertainty. They want to know that the things they add into their operations will deliver the investment and expected value. That can be simple in some cases. For example, you can compare two different cleaning services and see which performs better. It becomes more complicated when you look at technology—is this accounting software better than that accounting software? Will my people use it? Is the pain of change going to deliver the reward? Can I trust this investment to deliver?"
Companies often play it too safe and stick to what they know. This route is not always the best since innovation usually improves competitiveness. Yet what happens when there is a true gamechanger such as GenAI, with no clear comparisons or proxies? On the one hand, adoption has risks, but on the other, missing out can have consequences. Leaders need trust if they are to make the best choice.
Trust People, Not Technology
Technology such as GenAI is fantastic but remains a tool. To find out if you can trust a technology, no matter how old or new, look at the people providing it.
"Trust is about people," says Van Wyk. "Can they deliver what they promise? Are they showing the interest and attention that will meet your requirements? Success with our customers ultimately relies on us to do our homework and develop solutions that respond to what they need."
It's a dynamic he understands well. As one of the co-founders of the PaySpace payroll and human resources platform, Van Wyk knows a lot about the risks organisations face when they have to weigh disruptive investments.
"Businesses treat payroll like a delicate flower arrangement—once they have it as they need it, they don't want to disturb it! I understand that concern: if your payroll breaks, you'll have legal, financial, and employee problems. But payroll services keep evolving and there are better ways to run payroll systems, such as continuous payroll management, automated data collection, versatile reporting, and self-service for employees. It's worth changing. But can you trust the change? That's really what most people want to know."
What changes their minds is not the technology's features but how much they can trust a provider such as PaySpace to deliver.
"A platform delivers better ways to do business, whether that's to automatically update payroll legislation, create a single data standard, or roll out cutting-edge innovation such as AI features. It's our obligation to invest in innovation, and de-risk those choices for our customers. But we win trust not just by showing we innovate but also that we lead with understanding and solving our customers' challenges."
In other words, to trust technology, decide if you can trust the people delivering that technology. Do they listen? Do they understand? Do they use their experience and resources to deliver what you need, not just what they want to sell?
"Don't trust technology—trust the people behind the technology," says Van Wyk. "If you follow that philosophy, and you are confident that those people keep their eye on innovation and delivery, you can bring the competitive advantages of technology into your business with much less of the risks and unknowns."