Digital transformation is about incorporating technology into the everyday operation of a business.

As such, it is important to recognise that tech is there to serve business outcomes and not the other way around, says Alistair Sergeant.

The founder and CEO of London-based automation specialist Equantiis says the key to his success as a technology entrepreneur has been down to a mantra he has followed for many years, namely: “There’s no such thing as an IT project.”

He explains to BusinessCloud: “We have to understand a business first before the tech that best serves it can be created and implemented. 

“Understanding the commercial advantage a business wants to secure and then figuring out the technology needed to get them there is key. I just wish doing it was as simple as it sounds.”

‘They took our jobs’

The mainstream media narrative around artificial intelligence is that automation is changing the world in positive ways – but at the cost of many people’s jobs.

Equantiis’s AI platform, Niico, is a software ‘bot’ programmed to interact with an organisation’s core applications as if they were human and trained to perform routine, repetitive work. However Sergeant – who says Niico is “game-changing” for the business – is clear in his view that automation is not putting people out of work.

“I’ve yet to see any organisation lay off their workforce because of automation,” he says. “Automation enables organisations to redeploy their staff to more valuable areas of service and be able to scale up in peak periods, ensuring the delivery of a consistent customer experience. 

“Remember that regardless of technology advances, customers will always want and desire human interaction, and so automation must run alongside workforces to deliver that experience.”

Transition, not transformation

Niko, which counts Manchester Metropolitan University and the Royal Institute of British Architects among its clients, enables organisations to adopt a digital-first approach which Sergeant says is “more transitional than transformational”.

“Our clients can leverage skills, experience and innovative technologies without having to employ disruptive time-consuming change programmes,” he explains. A lot of digital projects fail: in fact, in August we were engaged in rescuing three of them! 

“Many organisations don’t realise they may not be resilient enough to withstand the pressures of a full-scale digital transformation, so Niico helps them to achieve their objectives with minimal costs and time commitments. 

“Ultimately this helps them drive a better customer experience in the most operationally efficient way.”

He says Niico will be focused on three core markets next year: financial services, not-for-profit and education: “We are investing our time and energy integrating industry standard boards that can be easily deployed to any organisation regardless of their technical legacy systems, processes and current ways of working. 

AI InsurTech Lemonade launches in UK

“In financial services we will have a pre-built anti-money laundering and ‘know your client’ bot that could be easily deployed.  

“For education, we have pre-built bots that can automate clearing services, data future reporting, and student services. In not-for-profit, we will shortly have predefined bots that can be deployed within weeks that automates membership renewals data reporting system integration.

“Across all sectors we will be able to take away the challenges of managing multiple mailboxes by using bots that can read emails, extract attachments and carry out tasks that would normally be very time consuming for internal staff.” 


Given the constant innovation in AI, automation and digital assistants, how competitive has the technology industry become?

“The technology industry has always been competitive, and it will only intensify with time, not just in the UK but across the world,” says Sergeant. “Currently there’s a huge opportunity for new and existing tech businesses to make a mark and claim a niche – especially as digital-first approaches are going to predominate business’ strategies across all industries over the next five years. 

“It’s a really exciting time, seeing AI and automation at the forefront of enabling organisations to improve the way they deliver their services and remain competitive within their respective markets.”

However he sounded a note of caution following the UK government’s recent ‘mini-Budget’.

“The tech industry needs specific support incentives that ensure businesses keep on investing during a downturn. We are already witnessing organisations cancelling innovation projects so they can hold onto cash in case the road ahead is bumpy,” he reflects.

“When this happens it only sets us back in terms of our technology advances and global competitiveness, putting further risk to employment within the sector. The UK simply cannot keep putting off much needed technology investments that have already had significant delays.”

Tech sector reacts to Chancellor’s ‘mini-Budget’