Breaking Barriers - Embracing AI and Automation for Business Transformation 2

On July 11th, hgkc teamed up with Emerge Digital again for a roundtable on Breaking Barriers: Embracing AI and Automation for Business Transformation. Peter Quintana, hgkc Director, hosted with Tom Henson, MD of Emerge Digital.

Joining them were business leaders who were either using AI already in their business or who were curious to learn more about new AI tools that are on the rise. In attendance was:

  • Kim Jones – Director of hgkc.
  • Emily Henderson and Amy Mitchell from WellChild, a national charity for sick children across the UK.
  • Felicity Kenny and Lisa Davies from HR Department who have multiple franchises helping local SMEs.
  • Chris Yates and Lisa Shepherd from Geotechnical, experts in ground investigation.
  • Chris Harris from Proctors and Stevenson, a creative agency specializing in marketing, brand, and technology.
  • Edward Brown from WH Bence who offer bespoke solutions for mobile medical, motor racing and emergency services markets.
  • Matt Hamilton from Advantronix who provide AI solutions and specialise in automation, robotics, and control systems.
  • Jon Morley from CRSB Law.
  • Josh Simpkins from Future Talent Group, a recruitment agency that partner with Microsoft, focusing on building efficient teams.
  • Jon Graves of GreenTeck Global, an environmental organisation who connect companies to a greener way of working.
  • Alice Violet from Alice Violet Creative who provides podcast content marketing services including video and photography.


Tom opened the roundtable stating how technology will continue to improve. He began his presentation with a brief history of AI and technology, starting in 1945 with the first electronic computer ENIAC, to today, where ChatGPT has been the second fastest tech uptake in history. After five days there were one million users and after two months this skyrocketed to two hundred million users.

Generative AI is typically used to generate content, often creative content, and to make sure you get what you are looking for you have to learn what Tom coined ‘The Art of the Prompt.’

He emphasised the importance of making it CLEAR.

C – Contextual – provide background information.

L – Literal – use clear and concise language.

E – Expansive – ask open ended questions.

A – Actionable – give instructions.

R – Relevant – keep it to one topic, one focus point.


He highlighted the importance of continuing to ask questions, going back and repeating the process. The more work you put into the prompt, the more you will get out of it. Peter further recommended using ChatGPT like you are talking to a colleague, provide the same context and information you would give to a person. Then, review the response and work as you would do with your colleague or employee. Remember, it isn’t human, it will make mistakes and you need to take responsibility for checking the work. It is a powerful tool, but it does not replace us. Tom said that AI will be able to free people up to do what they are best at, relieving them from doing the mundane everyday tasks to allow room for further development and use of their skills within the business.

Tom continued by saying it is important to consider the ethical considerations and understand that these tools are not sentient. They still use programmes and are bound by restrictions. There is a danger if these tools are not properly programmed, and developers need to ensure that the right restrictions and boundaries are in place. Peter added they need to be clear about the rules and how it can operate. He also pointed out that the EU are implementing transparency legislation requiring businesses to be open about how they are using AI and when. These boundaries on AI are already being put into place as between ChatGPT 3.5 and ChatGPT 4, they have built in liability restrictions. Peter experimented with asking for legal advice, and in the later version, ChatGPT stated that it is not a lawyer, and he should seek legal help from a professional.

Tom finished his presentation discussing Microsoft’s CoPilot which will be able to access all Office 365 products. It can summarise meetings, make plans in diaries, generate emails, and create product launch presentations and proposals. It creates significant opportunities to save time and after some tweaking you will be able to train it in your business’ tone of voice. Tom reminded everyone that it is just a tool to assist you, not replace you. He stated that it can give you various responses to solve problems as well as generate unique responses to particular customer requirements. Its chatbot analyses the content of a human’s message and takes only a few seconds to come up with responses and advice. Peter did point out the difference between ChatGPT and CoPilot, in that whatever you put into GPT will be adding to its knowledge and is available to everyone, whereas if you use CoPilot, you will be able to protect the content you are putting in, which provides more data security and doesn’t feed CoPilot’s engine.


Tom directed a question towards Matt asking what strategies and practices do you employ to ensure the quality and integrity of the data collected, and how do you gauge the usefulness of the collected data in driving meaningful insights? Matt replied stating that he deployed several strategies and practices to be sure that the data collected is accurate and of a good quality. Clear data collection objectives are designed to align with the client’s intended outcomes. He uses well defined methods and standardised processes to ensure consistency and accuracy. Data validation techniques, including cross referencing and outlier identification, further enhance reliability. To understand the usefulness of collected data, many evaluation criteria, such as relevance, completeness, and timeliness, are used. Periodically reviewing, testing and updating all data collection approaches based on feedback and research into new techniques, maximises data utility for meaningful and useful outcomes.


After the presentation was finished, Peter posed a question to kick off the group discussion: What are the main challenges or barriers you’ve encountered in adopting AI in your businesses and how are you going about solving them?

Alice first answered stating that she didn’t know where to start. She was hesitant to lock herself into a particular tool as she doesn’t know which new ones are coming as different technologies are being developed so quickly. Tom responded by saying it is better to start and pivot to a new one (if you so choose) than not be using anything at all. Whoever you back, whether it be Microsoft, Amazon, or Google then you will be in the right space and will advance as they do. Peter added that it is better to embrace AI now than not at all.

Jon Graves reminded everyone that we need to see AI as a tool that works faster and cannot be relied on, and Peter stated that it will make people more productive but possibly not by as much as the 50% that has been predicted as there is still the need to double check output. However, even if you are 25% more productive, that still gives you 25% more time. He also pointed out that sectors will change as well, particularly accounting as now that they have automated the tax system, it will need to be completely overhauled as they won’t be able to survive by just doing the books. Tom added that more accountants are now becoming consultants to work with an organisation as the longevity of their core business is gone.


The discussion then turned to recruitment and how CVs are becoming AI generated. Kim Jones asked how we know who will be the right people to hire if all their CVs have been automated. Josh responded that if AI can get you in front of the employer, then the employee will have to do the rest to ensure they are right for the job. The question how recruiters work out which CVs to put forward if all are AI created and anonymised due to EDI was asked and Josh responded by saying that different skillsets play a part. They need to be tailored to the specific business and what they’re trying to achieve. People will be able to use AI to guide their content with what they want to say in the first place. Peter added that everything comes back to the human aspect of the tools. You need to provide the correct prompt by using context and caution. Alice questioned whether CVs were becoming redundant.


Jon Graves pointed out that we need to see AI and Microsoft CoPilot as a way of leveraging what we already have. We need to try to reduce the amount of change and the impact it has on people so that automation and new tech can be implemented smoothly into a business. Matt added that we have to make sure it works within the company’s system. People are resistant to change, and you have to work with them when using AI. Bringing in new technologies can be difficult, and it can be hard for leaders when they always have to adapt and do what their clients want. Companies should try to use new software and train their staff in a way that works for them. If people can find a way to use technology to take care of administration duties it would free up a lot more thinking time for innovation, creating a huge advantage for their businesses.


Tom said that the main blocker for adopting new technology is that people are so busy doing work, they need to give time and structure to focus on developing the business and adopting new processes. Instead of being stuck trying to fix today’s problems, they need to be thinking about the future. Emily pointed out that as a charity they also face ethical issues, however, she agreed that AI will help improve some processes, such as data accuracy and data collection, but there would need to be an understanding of the security risk. Amy pointed out that people like to have their own knowledge base and feel that they add value. There is an element of job protection and fear that creates resistance to these changes. These new technologies help leaders see people who may not fit or no longer fit into the business as the organisation changes and grows. Peter said that businesses need to celebrate someone moving on and help promote what’s next for them. It is important for employees to nurture their progress.


Tom finished the discussion by stating that the future will focus on collaborating with new technology. Kim Jones added that it is important to explore what you’ve got and maximise the potential of it. People are the key in the changes we make happen.

Attendees networking at the Breaking Barriers Roundtable

Following the discussion, we asked attendees to complete feedback online – check out what they say below:

Felicity Kenny, HR Dept - Really insightful event and great to hear from other business leaders on their experiences and perspectives. Very timely for us as we embark on our own digital transformation project. The content felt very aligned to SMEs. Thank you for the hospitality it was a great venue to hold the event.

Jonathan Morley, CSRB Law - Liked the format. Well-paced and good balance between the amount of time spent on the presentation versus the round table discussion.

Amy Mitchell - Good to step back and spend time with other business and organisations thinking about this topic. Helpful content without information overload and some clear suggestions for where to go next with it.

Chris Yates - Great introduction for myself regarding AI and how it might be applied to our business. First step taken on what will be an interesting and ever-changing journey.

Chris Harris - Good information with working examples. Good discussion around the table.

Emily Henderson - Excellent presentation. So timely to attend as starting to review AI automation. Lots of really useful information and food for thought.

Josh Simpkins - Good mix of perspectives and a very enjoyable conversation. Great to see some real-world application of AI showing that it can benefit pretty much any business not just those in tech.

To see what other events hgkc run follow our Eventbrite page here – Sign up for our next AI roundtable on September 19th 2023 -

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