07 Nov, 2017

“Artificial Intelligence or the Cognitive Enterprise are no Longer a Tech Dreamer’s Imagination” – Interview with Shamayun Miah, Partner & VP, IBM Global Business Services

 -Shamayun Miah, IBM Interview

With just a few weeks to go until the Digital Enterprise Transformation Assembly, we sat down with Shamayun Miah, Partner & VP, IBM Global Business Services, who is joining us at the event to lead the keynote panel Creating the intelligence-driven Digital Enterprise.”

Companies across all industries are modernizing and transforming their operational business processes to drive profitable growth. As a result, the challenges facing IT are as intense as ever as organizations look to drive innovation, balance cost, and risk, and differentiate themselves from their competitors. What are some of the challenges facing your clients today?

SM: Competitive challenges have always existed in the business world. What makes today’s challenges different is the speed at which innovation is occurring, and the democratization of technology and monetizing of data. Thanks to the availability and accessibility of data and emerging technologies that can tap and process data (e.g. cognitive, AI, machine learning, automation, and robotics) at unprecedented speeds from cloud-based, hybrid systems. When connected with automation, these Omni-present thinking systems can automate entire processes and change the way businesses operate and deliver value to customers. They can influence everything, from the customer experience, throughout the supply chain, and across finance, HR, procurement, and every other core business process, radically changing business models. What this does is level the competitor field, opening it up to anyone who applies technology and data in innovative ways to their business vision and goals. Market leadership no longer depends on size or longevity or past performance.Today’s competition can come from anywhere and anyone. We see this happening across every industry, every business, and every geography. Take, for example, banking.

Traditional banks are now having to compete and evolve their ecosystems to include new agile players, as core elements of banking have shifted from financial centers like London, Hong Kong, New York, to Silicon Valley FinTechs.  With digitally based processes and payments, regulatory compliance and security have become even more important, making technologies like blockchain a near necessity when it comes to how entire ecosystems work together and transact. Financial institutions are needing to open their aperture and embrace these technologies and bring them into their mode of operation. This includes the invention of new financial institutions that are completely digital, where they no longer have a back office or front office or ATM, but instead become new digital banks.  

Retailers are faced with similar threats – and opportunities. As the barriers to entry have fallen and new technologies have emerged, competition has proliferated across the globe. Global digital giants such as Alibaba from China and Amazon from the United States quickly create and adopt new business models and market opportunities into platforms with unprecedented breadth, depth, and speed. Cashier-less stores, enhanced personalization, mobile payments, NFC (near field communications) and AI-enhanced experiences are completely changing the shopping and buying experience of modern retail. The only way for traditional retailers to stay in lockstep is by adopting similar approaches, looking at new partners and using technology to release resource-intensive processes. It’s not digital competing with physical but combining both for an optimal experience. It’s about creating an experience for one. And, a shared experience for many.

Another good example is manufacturing, or more specifically the automotive industry. Data and technology are transforming the product – smart cars that drive and maintain themselves – but also the entire industry’s raison d’etre. Are they car manufacturers? Or mobility providers? And, how do traditional car manufacturers compete with the new Zip cars of the world? Consider too, the impact this will have on society and how we design cities in a smarter way for future generations (e.g.  does the next generation require a driver’s license if autonomous driving becomes the new norm?).

The bottom line is this: Artificial Intelligence or the cognitive enterprise are no longer a tech dreamer’s imagination. It is a business reality that enables enterprise-wide transformation – continuously. The days of “business as usual” or “steady state” are gone.

You mention data. It is true that Incredible amounts of data are produced each day. How can organizations leverage their data for impact across the entire enterprise?  What can they do to scale the capability across the enterprise? 

SM: Data can feed every business process, helping employees perform their roles more effectively with real-time insights. Then, when you feed these insights into systems that can compute and understand more data than the human mind could ever synthesize, you radically increase the effectiveness of your operations and people. It’s about making an important shift from insight to action and scaling across the enterprise.

For example, Daimler AG gathers data on more than 500 attributes of cylinder-head production to enhance manufacturing processes and reduce defects. A human would lose their mind trying to do that on a daily or hourly basis. Never mind executing that data in real time. Impossible. It is no longer only about Big Data, but also small data, and how you use that to perform your daily activities at exponential speed.

But even more exciting, is the idea of taking these insights and connecting it to automation that performs the diagnostics, fixes, or activities that may have been overly laborious or mundanely repetitive. Opening whole new areas for return on investment, savings, quality assurance and operational optimization. We at IBM are doing just that with Cognitive Enterprise Automation with over some hundred-large major global clients.

Now, to your question about scale. The first thing to do is to wipe any preconceived ideas of what can be done from your mind. Think beyond “digital” as we know it today. Everyone is digital in some sense. So, start thinking about what happens when you integrate end to end. The goal is to reinvent what you are already doing, and not simply automate existing processes. Don’t get me wrong, automation is a good place to start if you have a vision of where “intelligent automation” can take you. Having a vision of what you can, or could do, with the right data, can change your roadmap. Traditional, incumbent players with a vast amount of data and unique workloads can monetize and scale that data to leapfrog their digital journey and create new digital businesses. This can only be done now due to the advancements in machine learning, AI, and quantum computing.

Through dialog with your customers, partners, and employees, you can develop a better understanding of your market needs, aspirations, and desires, and create a culture of continuous innovation and reinvention. For retailers, this could include embracing technologies such as cloud to underpin broad ecosystems, AI, IoT and analytics to understand consumers more deeply, and blockchain to secure transactions with your ecosystem and supply chains.

Then, expand your successes to high-value areas. In the process, you may need to add new and even unconventional partners to your ecosystem to build capability at the speed required. That’s ok, it’s not about doing it all by yourself. Rather, it’s about connecting the enterprise and replacing resource-intensive, manual and traditional means of working to transform…and lead.

How can artificial intelligence, cognitive and automation address these challenges and the increasing need to use data? 

SM: Artificial Intelligence, machine learning, automation, and robotics are some of the best ways to address today’s business challenges. They address the challenges of operational effectiveness, cost savings and ability to continuously evolve and innovate.

The business world is no longer about working harder. Rather it’s about working smarter, having more insights and time to focus on those things strategic to the business. These technologies enable that.

Just look at Proctor and Gamble (P&G); they are using AI to analyze a user’s digital selfie and conduct an individualized skin analysis to provide personalized product recommendations. Or, look at Campbell Soup. They have developed a speech-enabled interactive platform that offers new and personalized recipes based on a consumer’s location, the weather in that location, the time of day and the ingredients available in that region.

Elie Tahari – another retailer – has successfully employed analytics to forecast customer orders four months in advance with 97% accuracy, while at the same time unifying primary data sources into a single, coherent system. Real-time insights on sell-through rates and predictive management of production planning and inventory have enabled Elie Tahari to optimize store-level merchandising decisions, helping to ensure that the most popular stock-keeping units (SKUs) are available in the right place, at the right time.

Similarly, in another industry, Rolls-Royce’s Aircraft Division has developed deeply robust data and analytics capabilities that support an unprecedented level of predictive maintenance. Stopping defects before they happen.

Another great example of how technology augments intelligence and has a direct impact on operational performance comes from Lockheed Martin. Lockheed Martin is using augmented reality glasses to help engineers assemble components. The use of cameras, depth sensors, and motion sensors allows engineers to “see” renderings of parts and assembly instructions. This new wearable technology has increased engineers’ accuracy levels to 96 percent while reducing task time by 30 percent.

All are great examples of how leading businesses are transforming their operations by integrating data, machine learning, AI, and automation. The challenge is not just about IT and data, but how you create a frictionless integration of business processes supported by data and emerging technologies to solve some of the big industry challenges that we have not been able to in the past.  Ultimately this results in creating new industries, new professions, new markets and new customer experiences.

My recent blog: From Science Fiction to Science-Driven talks more about these technologies, their use, and benefits. 

How will this impact the workforce and how will the role of IT change?

SM: It will most definitely impact the workforce, but in positive ways – creating new roles and changing the activities that certain roles perform. Manual, repetitive tasks and even some higher value tasks that require human judgment will be handled more efficiently freeing resources to develop new skills.

Your IT will become a key partner of the business units and an important player in the overall success of the business. The skills of the IT department will change from doer of activities, to monitor and enhancer of processes as intelligent automation and AI step in. Just as mobile created developer ecosystems, network operators, SMS messaging companies, and new hardware/accessory manufacturers, automation and AI will shape new professions and workforces while creating new ways of working and earning a living.

Clearly, digital technology has helped companies across all industries to get closer to their consumers. Keeping up with the latest trends and technology is a full-time commitment for C-level executives. What advice do you have for leaders looking to stay ahead? 

SM: Be bold, don’t wait and be sure to scale. You can do that by embedding these four practices into your way of thinking:

  • Pursue a new focus and look for new ways to realize and monetize value. Initiatives might include: spawning new business models, driving greater operational efficiencies to self-fund broader transformation or innovation, or developing better, more holistic ways of servicing customers using the data you have and contextual data you can gather externally. Look at what companies outside of your industry are doing. Do this regularly.
  • Build new expertise. Look at new technology and expand your ecosystem of partners to provide the capabilities that you are interested in using. Bring them in, or they just might take you out.
  • Build a culture of innovation. Incorporate design thinking, agile working, and fearless experimentation. No idea is too crazy. Embed a culture of not being afraid of failure, and be willing to fail fast; learn to adapt and innovate.
  • Embrace digital drivers. Technology is an enabler. The power of data together with thinking machines and automation turns boardroom visions into reality.

Your keynote panel at the Digital Enterprise Transformation Assembly is titled: “Creating the intelligence-driven Digital Enterprise.” Can you give our readers a hint at what you’ll be discussing?

SM: I will be taking the audience beyond the “Digital” enterprise. The existing application of “digital” technology has expanded to include cognitive, automation, augmented intelligence and robotics. You cannot transform without these and I will be talking about why it is important to embrace these technologies and not fear them. We will hear from Millennium Alliance delegates in a panel discussion of where they see these technologies – and data – taking them. You can count on lots of thought-provoking ideas that the audience can take back to the office.

Thank you Shamayun for joining us.


Shamayun will be leading the discussion at the Digital Enterprise Transformation Assembly this November into “Creating the intelligence-driven Digital Enterprise”.

Robots. Thinking machines. Automated everything. This is the new reality of the digital enterprise. In this panel, attendees can hear first-hand from modern businesses how they are transforming their industries – on the cloud and driven by data, cognitive enterprise automation.

You can keep up with the action from the event by following us @Mill_All #MillenniumLive.

Digital Enterprise Transformation


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