Keynote takeaways – Microsoft Future Decoded 2019


Reflecting on the output from Microsoft Future Decoded 2019 in London on 1st October has taken some time, as the talks were truly inspiring and thought provoking, on the future direction of technology and the societal impact that this will cause.   With much talk about the meaningful aggregation and dissemination of data using Azure Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning, the message focused on the need to put people at the heart of the change process for AI.

Cindy Rose, CEO Microsoft

CEO of Microsoft, Sataya Nadella’s views were shared by Cindy Rose, Microsoft UK’s CEO, talking about the need for global tech providers to handle users’ data more responsibly to maintain trust going forwards.  In Rose’s speech she reflected on the need for the giants to agree a’ global ethical and empathetic framework and principles around AI design’ following the ‘Techlash’ debacle of 2018 (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Google etc.).

Abhjit Akerkar, Head of AI Business Integration

In a later panel session, Abhjit Akerkar (Head of AI Business Integration) emphasised the importance of being hot on business trust and data privacy.  Knowing which stakeholders were accountable would mollify users and reassure regulators that (business) models were compliant.  Akekar also added his voice to the need to get employees involved and onboard with AI.  He said helping the workforce understand the possibilities and opportunities around AI and chatbots was key, as was aligning company culture, structure and ways of working to drive successful adoption of AI (and inform decision makers better about why algorithms made the decisions they did).

Microsoft shared some statistics from an AI study of 1,000 organisation leaders and 4,000 employees.  Companies were seen to be going from experimentation with AI (48%) to exploiting AI to solve big business challenges and create some vital commercial changes that would distinguish them resolutely from those who failed to adopt AI as part of their business model.  It was the 8% who were scaling successfully who were seeing the biggest impact change).  The UK survey, “Accelerating Competitive Advantage with AI” found that 56% of UK companies were using AI today and 11.5% of them would outperform their competitors because of this.  This was being achieved through better data science and insights, speed of platform, efficiency outputs, time savings and creating a richer customer experience.

 Darren Atkins, CTO, NHS East Suffolk and North Essex Foundation Trust

An example quoted was NHS East Suffolk and North Essex Foundation Trust (ESNEFT) who put nursing staff at the centre of an Azure AI development project with software developer Thoughtonomy, to create a robotic process automation workflow.   This proved hugely successful a) because the nurses were central to the process from the start so were culturally onboard through collaboration and keen adopters to use the automation workflows and b) the hospital saved 4,500 hours in admin tasks in 12 months that enabled nurses to be re-directed to patient care.

A PwC repot estimates that AI will contribute up to $15 trillion dollars to the global economy by 2030.  For the UK things look promising:

• 36% UK business leaders believe that AI is a skill that will help secure the future of the UK.
• The UK is in the top three countries worldwide for developing AI technology.
• The UK is also in third position for raising AI investment, and second for the number of AI companies based in the UK.

This creates a strong picture of optimism for business and the tech industry as whole.  However, the journey to AI remains challenging.  Only 26% of businesses surveyed said they were ready for transformation.  So many organisations are clearly still struggling to get to full cloud enablement before being in a position to accelerate their desired tech strategy on innovation and true transformation of business opportunities and competitive advantage. Interestingly, there seems to be a huge communication void around this technology between Board and workforce.  In those organisations surveyed who were intending to adopt AI, 96% of their employees had not had any discussion with their bosses about the introduction of AI, and conversely 83% of bosses had not been asked by their employees about introducing AI.  So clearly company vision is not being shared to enable a meaningful conversation to begin.

The power of communication in developing AI

Microsoft emphasised a gear shift in business development execution, asking for leaders to discuss AI more widely and ensure that AI plans were accessible to all, so that AI was democratised and offered inclusivity, as the best outcomes came from ethical integration.

Kate Rosenshine (Head of Azure Solutions Architecture)

Microsoft’s Kate Rosenshine (Head of Azure Solutions Architecture) talked of the need to foster true co-creation involving many voices, not just the technical, but those with social and business skills to create the business outcome and ‘common language’ required to enable the scaling out of AI.  AI, Rosenshine said required “the application of business, psychology and technology through a diverse set of skills and mindsets”.   Given the way most organisations function in their traditional management style, sharing such a project plan methodology would likely be a considerable challenge, but then the rewards would be greatest, and re-invent that business for the twenty-first century.

NHS East Suffolk and North Essex Foundation Trust’s CTO, Darren Atkins in the keynote panel discussion, noted that there appears to be a common fear around the introduction of AI technology.  His recommendation for other organisations looking at transformation projects was succinct:  firstly understand what you want to do with technology, then create a roadmap for the next 12-18 months, then before investing in a solution, ensure you are working with a partner who can support your strategy.

For many organisations, technology solutions often form complex journeys of several parts, involving multiple players.  But trust, openness and inclusivity, in parallel with a strong security and compliance ethic, will offer the best language for good AI design and adoption.  So find your right partner to walk alongside your organisation and take you into this new world offered by AI.

Amicus ITS as a trusted IT Managed Service Provider welcomes all discussions on technology topics.  Call our Sales team today on 02380 429429 for a confidential chat.

 

Forrester Predictions 2019 – Amicus ITS Digests: Session#4 AI and Automation

(L-R) Forrester CMO Victor Milligan with Principal Analysts Michele Goetz and
JP Gownder

In the fourth of our sequence of digests on Forrester’s 2019 findings and forecasts looking ahead in 2019, Principal Analysts Michele Goetz and JP Gownder were in the hot seat for the AI and automation session with #Forrester CMO Chair, Victor Milligan.

Asked about the current status of AI and Automation, Michele Goetz observed that AI was becoming more interesting to companies.  Activity remains principally on pilots and Proof of Concepts, with the main focus on what analytics can offer.   But it was the automation aspects that were identified as having the most traction because of the opportunity for business benefit outcomes.

JP Gownder added that business values were starting to be seen in ‘Robotic Process Automation’ (RPA), whereby repetitive tasks get automated, freeing up people to spend time on more strategic tasks.  Through automation he said, businesses can identify the seeds of opportunity in AI with connections starting to be made and APIs connected and the starting steps of value to the change in process.

Victor Milligan asked how businesses were addressing the issue of (high) risk and (high) reward with AI (where machines replace people) but what were the ‘consequences’.

To evaluate this, Michele Goetz recommended that if an organisation broke down its ‘business processes’ and ‘automated processes’, you could get a ‘horizon view’ of business activities, business behaviours and customer behaviours.   Then, through Machine Learning providing pattern analysis, organisations would be able to spot the ‘digital twin’ in order to make simulations that could support strategic decisions about a company’s AI road map.  This would enable organisations to:

• Determine where they wanted to go
• Redesign their processes
• Create new products as required
• Create new experiences and engagement with customers

By committing to AI, organisations would be positioned to change the way they operate, to better manage the day-to-day and oversee outputs.  Then if things went awry, managers could act quickly and de-risk any aspects, whilst still looking ahead at new opportunities by virtue of having deep operational knowledge and how customers engage, plus a holistic view of the business.

Victor Milligan wanted to know what AI could improve in business today, against what it will create for a business net new?  Michelle Goetz felt there was great opportunity for the new opportunities arising from AI.  However, most organisations are still getting to grips with the basics.  To get to this next stage, organisations would need to review some key aspects and remove old and inefficient processes. This approach includes:

• How we look at data
• Changes in how we approach and utilise analytics and algorithms
• How we see and understand our businesses

In looking at the changes on how employees work (or not) JP Gownder advised that with RPA, for legacy systems that are disconnected – automation can be a game changer. In retail shops (eg. Wallmart), robotic scanners were now deployed to look for product/shelving or price errors, so clear example in retail where robotics were driving value and adding efficiencies. Elsewhere physical robots are starting to be seen in factories working alongside humans.

Victor Milligan questioned what pragmatic aspects people should think about doing or avoiding.  Goetz reflected that people should think big and re-imagine their approach to business, production and what the experience looks like through a customer’s eyes – and stop testing algorithms.

JP Gownder believed that there were opportunities at both ends of the business spectrum, not just driving costs down.  He advocated that part of the solution lies in cleaning up shared IT operations to use automation – and secondly to make new money solving customer problems.

The traditional role of operations and the new role of digital were not consistently hand-in-hand today, but Gownder said would need to blend together to create commercial success.  Using automation technology could bring about greater clarity through rationalisation, but also be a means to drive profit ultimately for businesses.

Amicus ITS Sales Director, Les Keen

Amicus ITS Sales Director Les Keen commented:  “The evolution of cloud technology with AI and automation is putting B2B and B2C organisations at a crossroads, both developmentally in tech terms as well as the commercial opportunities on the horizon in the longer term”.

“Whatever the industry, the key to realising the benefits of AI and automation will be for organisations to review their business processes against existing infrastructure to understand their direct needs and priorities. Modernisation is key throughout, however looking at the processes that should be targeted to create the greatest improvements and efficiencies is a starting point”.  

“I would agree with Michele Goetz that introduction of AI has to start with a clear business plan to direct the vision, strategy and drivers required (technical or human resource).   Re-imagining an organisation would be a highly invigorating exercise for all companies as it would free you up from thinking about how you have done things before.   AI and automation are still largely in their infancy, but will mark a leap in the way a lot of organisations can and will operate and interact with people in the future”.

“Having a sensitivity and regard for humans in the workplace must be a focus to ensure the humans do the intelligent and creative work to distinguish from the repetitive and mundane. Mapping this journey successfully is also greatly about the messaging within an organisation to ensure everyone understands what the advantages will bring for them, as much as any business benefit”.

“For the public sector in the UK, despite a Cloud First Government directive, budgets are increasingly under pressure to maintain legacy IT estates, so ‘re-imagining’ could remain just a dream for many. However, in the short term it may well be that the greatest initial changes we see are in the clinical environment, rather than with core business IT”.

What are your thoughts on AI in the workplace? Do you consider it a threat or an advance that’s overdue? Leave your comment here