Tag: Future of Work

The role of AI in Digital Marketing

gray scale photo of gears
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

There is no doubt that AI (Artificial Intelligence) is going to play an increasing role in our lives going forward. And I can already see that happening in my line of work – Digital Marketing.

Type in ‘Role of AI in Digital Marketing‘ and you will see pages upon pages of relevant results. I spent some time reviewing these, and most of them wax eloquently on how Digital Marketing is going to be (or is already being) transformed for the better due to AI. Some of the areas where AI is presently being used in Digital Marketing include:

  • Content Generation – AI is already being used to write news articles. And with the increasing consumption of visual content in the form of images and videos, AI can definitely help with the creation of content at scale.
  • Audience Targeting – Leading digital advertising platforms that have huge amounts of data on internet users are now providing advertisers with options to target these users based on factors such as their interests and relevant digital activities.
  • Personalisation – Combining both of the above to provide relevant information to individual users at scale.
  • Optimisation – Machine Learning algorithms can help rapidly speed up the process of marketing campaign optimisation.

However, I get worried when I read stuff like how Digital Marketing can help with Consumer Behaviour Analysis, Predictive Analysis, etc. Implied in these statements is the belief that Machines can help provide a better understanding of consumers (and therefore, marketers do not need to spend as much time as present on these tasks).

I completely agree that AI can help with the process of analysis at a speed and scale that humans, even with current processing capabilities of computers, just will not be able to match. But it is important to realise that analysis is just a process and not the end goal.

The end goal, and the key role of any marketer, digital or otherwise, is Consumer Insights. And Insights is very different from Analytics. What does the analysis tell us about the actual thought process of consumers? This requires, in addition to data and analysis, a solid understanding of the business context, industry trends and consumer behaviour. Maybe AI could do all of the above as well at some date, but that’s a topic for another article. My view is that businesses have to be very clear of this distinction between analysis and insights.

The second point that I disagree with is Predictive Analytics. This fundamentally assumes that future behaviour can be accurately predicted by detailed analysis of historical actions. This might well be the case in certain standard activities that change very slowly (financial modeling, risk analysis, etc.) But I am skeptical about the application of Predictive Analytics in Marketing. The landscape, especially media and technology, is evolving so rapidly that I simply do not believe we have enough data to accurately predict future digital consumer behaviour. This article perfectly encapsulates some of these issues.

So, while I am not disagreeing that AI is already playing a useful role in some areas of Digital Marketing, it is not a magic bullet that will automatically help improve your Marketing. I would urge all businesses and marketers to invest time in learning more about the role of AI in Digital Marketing and build their own views on what might be relevant for their specific use cases.

In future articles, I will explore what the impact of this increasing role of AI might be on marketers (and marketing itself).


On Remote Working

woman sitting on sofa while looking at phone with laptop on lap
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

While I have mostly worked with digital native organisations, it is interesting, looking back, that remote working was not really a big thing in most of these organisations. Sure, you could work remotely if required, but very few people actually took it up, preferring to work from the office most of the time.

My first real exposure to formal remote working policies was, interestingly enough, when I started working for a very ‘traditional’ business. They had quite progressive rules for employees who, for whatever reason, had to work from home.

I have been ‘remotely working’, in a fashion, over the the past 18 months or so since I decided to embark on my independent gig. I have learnt a few things along the way:

I find it very challenging to work from home full time. I am just not able to shake off the fact that I am actually sitting at home, and hence get easily and regularly distracted. Not to mention that, in India, there’s a steady stream of people ringing your doorbell through the day, which can be a nuisance when you are in the midst of some work that requires concentration.

I like the discipline of having a routine of ‘going to work’. Related to the previous point, I realise that I prefer to have some sort of demarcation between ‘work space’ and ‘relaxation space’. Which is why I decided to invest in a desk at a co-working space.

I like to be surrounded by other ‘workers’. It gives me the sense of belonging to a community, After all, we are social animals.

The reason for this post is a State of Remote Work 2020 report that I came across recently. It contains some interesting insights into remote work. I personally found it surprising that only 7% of the remote workers surveyed (3,500) are working out of a co-working space. It was also disappointing to read that 80% of the organisations that the respondents work for don’t pay for monthly expenses associated with remote work.

As the ‘gig economy‘ continues to grow, organisations will have to increasingly design frameworks that balance the desire for some employees to work remotely with other considerations that might necessitate employees to work out of common offices. Clearly, the technologies of today are much better at enabling connectivity between employees who are spatially distributed. But I also believe that there are issues with team and culture building, informal networks, etc that still need to be debated and resolved.

What are your views on remote working? Please let me know by commenting on this article.


Performance Reviews in the Knowledge Economy

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Photo by Christina Morillo on Pexels.com

T’is is the season of Performance Appraisals. It feels like not a day goes by when I am not coming across an article, usually criticising the practice. So here’s my two rupees worth on this contentious topic.

My point of view has been consistent for the past few years now – the system of performance reviews as is currently being practised in many organisations is completely out of place.

It is a system that could possibly have worked at the time of the Second Industrial Revolution that saw the advent of mass production. When there are many people doing very similar work of a repeatable basis, then it is conceivable that they can be ranked on objective measures (the dreaded Bell Curve).

However, the advent of the Digital Revolution (and now Industry 4.0) has led to a significant change in the nature of work itself. Yes, mass production still exists, but robots are being increasingly used to do the routine, repeatable tasks. Meanwhile, in the offices, people are increasingly being confronted with a high degree of variability and uncertainty in the type of work that they are doing or might be required to do. In this environment, it is easy to see that the Bell Curve model of grading employees just does not work. How can you compare across a team where everyone might be working on a different type of problem?

I am not against performance reviews. I believe it is extremely important for everyone (employees, managers, the organisations) to have a fair and transparent view on how they are performing, what their strengths and areas of development are, and what are the specific areas of focus for their improvement.

I also believe strongly that this feedback should not be just between the employee and her manager, but has to incorporate feedback from across the organisation. I am surprised at how few organisations seem to have a formal 360 degree process of providing employee feedback. I have found this extremely useful both to receive as well as deliver feedback.

Finally, of the many articles that I came across recently on this topic, there is one that stood out for providing a viable alternative to Performance Reviews. Please do read it!

What is the Value of a Co-working space?

Just as I was about to leave for my WeWork space this morning, I received a notification in the App that there is an Internet issue at the work space with the chance that there might not be any Internet connectivity for the entire day. I had a choice of staying back at home and working, or proceeding to WeWork.

I ended up taking the latter option. While walking to the space, I started thinking – what is the intrinsic value of a co-working space, especially for freelancers?

Clearly it’s not just the Internet connection. Almost everyone these days has a reliable internet connection at home or through their mobile devices. It could be the work desk, but then again, most people these days have a space at home to keep their laptops and work. It could be the coffee, though nothing beats the cheap and tasty filter coffee served at Udupi restaurants, at least in Bangalore and Chennai.

My opinion is that, at least in the case of WeWork, it is something else that is more than the sum of its parts. Yes, we know that WeWork has had its issues, but my experience from the past three weeks is that they definitely offer something of value that is not easy to break down. And that is what Brand is all about. It’s the whole experience that’s of value, not specific components such as Internet or coffee (though those definitely help!).

And I think there’s a lesson there for all businesses looking to build their Brand. Brand building is not about splashing a lot of money in advertising. It’s about finding your unique value proposition and delivering that consistently. That will drive the virtuous cycle of satisfied customers, positive work of mouth and more new customers.

And, by the way, the Internet connection was back up within thirty minutes!

Coworking space


My new co-working space

Common Area - WeWork
The spacious and bright common area at WeWork

This is the end of Week 2 at my newest co-working space. Following on from stints at CoWrks and 91Springboard, I moved into a WeWork space located close to my residence. The prime motivator for the move was definitely the location; this is the first time in my nearly 20 years of professional life that I can walk to office!

Not only am I new to this space, but this is a new space for WeWork itself. It is claimed as the largest WeWork space in India and definitely feels like it. Some of my thoughts from my first few days here:

  • The spacious, bright and cheery common area on the ground floor sends out good vibes!
  • The decor is typical new age start-up – exposed concrete and brickwork with a Scandinavian theme to the furniture
  • Excellent collection of books at the common area. Wonder how often these are refreshed…
  • And, I must mention, one of the best coffees I have had in India so far. Shout out to the special blend from Blue Tokai coffees!
  • One of the things I was concerned about before moving to WeWork was whether the constantly playing background music might be a disturbance. I must say that it has not been so thus far.