On paper it sounded like a simple task. As part of their daily services, four Danish municipalities delivered food to select citizens. Then they decided to join forces on a project that would introduce Artificial Intelligence (AI). This new technology would help analyse and optimise work processes in each of the municipalities, which in turn would help them reduce carbon emissions and save money.
Was it possible to shorten the routes? Or was a longer, but less busy route the better choice? Would it be possible to reduce the wear and tear of the vehicles? And was it possible to reduce the number of hours employees spent driving?
And did the individual municipality have the right combination of electrical, hybrid and petrol cars, and should they also introduce electrical bicycles?
Expectations that the intelligent robot (i.e. the algorithm – AI’s computer code) would come up with excellent answers were great. And as the project is still ongoing, we cannot assess its performance. Nonetheless, the two researchers who have followed the process are able to conclude that the implementation of such sophisticated technology is much more challenging than most people realise.
More work for the leadership
“Our task was not to assess whether the project itself was successful. Instead, we looked at the work carried out by the municipal leadership as they implemented this new AI technology,” Frank Meier, Postdoc, explains.
Meier conducts research on various digital aspects of leadership and has published a scientific article about the project in collaboration with his colleague Lise Justesen, Assistant Professor. Both are employed at the Department of Organisation at Copenhagen Business School. One of their main conclusions is that the municipal leadership was faced with a task that for many reasons was greatly underestimated and significantly more complex than first anticipated.