Beyond automation: Empowering an autonomous future

“There’s a big, undeniable change happening right under our noses, and most people I know aren’t even talking about it. It’s strange because there’s nothing that gets our attention like a big change. Think about it — when the lights go dark, or the temperature plunges, or our peace is shattered by a loud noise — we take notice.”

There’s no need to credit the quote above because I said it in April 2019. It seems eerily prescient of early 2020, when a novel coronavirus emerged as a localised outbreak. It was scary. We took notice. But we were universally and inexcusably unprepared for the global pandemic it is today.

When I wrote about undeniable change last year, I wasn’t referring to a pandemic or an economic downturn. I was referring to a much different unstoppable force — a disruption so powerful it can, and will, make or break a company. I was talking about the digital transformation of our world, our businesses and even our daily lives. If it wasn’t already on your radar pre-COVID-19, it is now, out of absolute necessity.

We didn’t see COVID-19 coming in the way it did. But it’s taught us one thing for sure. While we may not be able to predict the future, we can certainly better prepare for it. The pandemic exposed issues we’ve long acknowledged but have been reluctant to address — from data access and automation to connected workers and complete business model pivots.

No matter the ingenuity or adaptation, the winning formulas all have something in common: understanding what to do and executing well. The question isn’t “if” or even “when” the next disruption will require swift and decisive action, but rather, how do we better prepare for it now?

The answer is right under our noses: Make the shift from automation to autonomy. Learn to leverage the sheer volume of data available today by putting it to work autonomously. Why? Because an autonomous future is the ultimate form of leveraging all that data. It’s the promise of the future. And it’s coming faster than we think.

I believe we’ll successfully navigate these challenging times, and on the other side, I hope we never see a pandemic like this again. But even after the immediate effects subside, companies will continue to face hard choices. We’re facing an economic recovery that threatens our bottom lines amidst an even more prolonged battle against climate change that threatens humanity’s very existence.

While the shift from automation to autonomy will not happen overnight, it’s up to all of us to prepare for it now. We owe it to ourselves, our children and their children to capture this moment and learn from it.

This is why I’m proud to be working alongside our customers to purposefully empower an autonomous future — where data is fully and autonomously leveraged so that business, industry and humanity sustainably thrive.

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Ola Rollén

Ola Rollén has served as the President and CEO of Hexagon, as well as a member of its Board of Directors, since 2000. As President and CEO, Rollén is responsible for driving the company’s growth, both organically and through strategic acquisitions that continue to transform Hexagon into a leading global provider of information technologies. Prior to joining Hexagon, Rollén held the positions of President of Sandvik Materials Technology, Executive Vice President of Avesta-Sheffield and President of Kanthal. He also previously served as a board member of Vestas Wind Systems A/S. Rollén holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics.