Artificial Intelligence

AI and automation are a must to build businesses of tomorrow

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Deploying cognitive technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Intelligent Automation has become strategic priorities for businesses today. Established automakers, retail chain owners, telecommunications businesses, banks, etc. are making most of the opportunities unleashed by the combined power of these technologies.

Through automation, companies are increasing productivity, taking out human involvement from repeatable tasks, reducing human error and improving return on investment. By adopting AI, businesses are dramatically improving customer services, identifying future markets, shifting to deep learning and enabling self-correction.

Sharing experiences from their respective fields, top leaders from four household majors took the stage at the ‘Building Cognitive Enterprises’ event by IBM and CNBC-TV18 and decoded the impact of AI and automation. Coincidentally, they also debated on who among business & technology leadership was responsible for adoption of such technology!

Kamal Bali, President and MD, Volvo Group-India; Sadashiv Nayak, CEO – Food Business, Future Group; Meenakshi Vajpai, CIO, Vodafone Idea; and Deepak Sharma – CDO, Kotak Mahindra Bank, debated on AI and automation at length.

“At Volvo, we look at AI and automation as three parts- one is at the products and process level, when we manufacture something; the second is at the vehicle level, what are we doing in terms of AI and automation and connectivity to make vehicles intelligent and smart; and the third is at the fleet level where the vehicles start talking to the ecosystem,” said Bali.

Bringing in the retail perspective, Nayak from Future Group said AI and Intelligent Automation help in enhancing customer experience and convenience.

“We work on two pillars- how can we get accessibility to a much larger set of people and they would extend from young, elder and senior citizens, how do we get them into the mainstream of communication, right till people with disability. The other one is balance between aspiration and affordability. So, I think tech can help bring down costs by forecasting better, by avoiding damage,” said Nayak.

Thus, business owners and decision makers are re-imagining their workflows to use AI and automation at each platform, and also empowering their tech divisions to provide insightful details.

Simultaneously, tech experts are also solving two major issues—bias and skill gap.

Since the algorithms are built by humans, AI can be subjected to bias and have legacy issues as well.

“Broadly, there are two sets of biases that exist as we look at an AI model. One is the historical data. If the historical biases creep into an AI model, your output is also going to bring in the same historical bias in projecting the next set of behaviours. The second is the whole representational bias because depending on the kind of data and the representation of different data sets that you bring into the model that again has the bearing on what kind of output do you get. I think AI will continue to learn as we start bringing in this data without our human biases within,” said Sharma.

Speaking about the second biggest challenge-the skill gap—Vajpai said the organisations need to focus on shifting the mindset of the workforce and skill set will follow.

“If we have to transform the entire organisation…where we are talking about changing the mindset of everybody and going back to the roots, what is it we are trying to solve? The fact is how I shift my understanding… which is not a named skill. Once I understand the requirement, the technical skills are easier part for which we have IBMs of this world. The difficult skill is understanding the requirement and then shift the thinking process in the organisation,” said Vajpai.

So, whose responsibility is it to drive the change, and where does the buck stop?

“Anything that we do in an organisation is driven by a business ambition. If the business ambition or the outcome is not understood by the entire team, whether is technology, sales, marketing or any other organisation part, it is bound to fail. The buck has to stop at the business. Otherwise, it is going to falter and fall,” she added.

“If you are implementing automation or AI whether through machine learning or deep learning, it’s the job of everyone. Everyone has to play a role, I don’t think the buck stops at any one individual. The executive board, starting with the CEO, HR head, the CIO, will drive it… that’s the only way,” said Bali.

It’s no surprise that demand for Cognitive Enterprise technologies will skyrocket and both the sides will have to work in tandem to drive the agenda.

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