Machine learning and artificial intelligence are near the top of the list of items dominating discussions about digital transformation. Chris Bedi is the CIO at ServiceNow and he said, during a briefing at the company's Knowledge 18 event, CEOs are now value in speed over cost. As businesses are changing, he says there's a huge sense of urgency as companies want to ensure they're not left behind.
When it comes to AI and machine learning, Bedi said "What a lot of companies struggle with is giving it meaning. It really boils down to three things: Speed - am I really helping my company fundamentally operate faster; Ingtelligence - am I getting smarter as a company? We should never have dashboard that doesn't after a suggestion to the human and; Experience".
Bedi noted that cost is not on the list of things. He says this is because if you achieve the speed, intelligence and experience parts right, the cost benefits will be realised. He said that if businesses focus too heavily on the costs that they will compromise on one or more of the potential benefits.
Where companies struggle, said Bedi, was answering the question 'How digital am I?'. He noted that ServiceNow has a scoring system that allows them to grade processes and then pull those together to determine how digital a function or department is. By creating a metric, they give the C-Suite something more tangible to discuss.
"One of the jobs the CIO has today is taking something like digital transformation and making it real," said Bedi.
For those of us who worked in IT back in the late 1990s, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems brought along a significant transformation in how companies operated. Bedi said machine learning offers an even greater opportunity to get us beyond process efficiency to better decision making.
"The biggest tasks the CIO has is to help their enterprise to understand how to recognise opportunities for machine learning".
Bedi says one way to do this is to look at whether an activity has a ranking, rating or forecast. It it does it's a candidate for machine learning and building up that competency. That means not using the same tools to solve business problems they have always used. Consequently, CIOs have to move from being technology experts into sales people who can present the benefits of new ways of doing things effectively. As those changes can be threatening to businesses CIOs need to be able to help their colleagues through the change journey as they promise a better future.
One of the interesting things Bedi noted was that people are happy to use AI and machine learning outside the workplace. For example, many people rely on services like Google Maps to get them to and from work in the fastest possible time. But when that kind of technology is suggested for a business process there is resistance.
Just as Google Maps hasn't replaced drivers but assists them, Bedi said "CIOs have to help them through that, showing them ML is additive, not replacing them".
When it comes to identify how digital a process is, Bedi said you need to look through the lenses of speed, intelligence and experience. For example, when you assess speed, you can look at execution times, the number of manual touch-points there are and how many steps are automated. Those and other attributes can be scored and weighted to deliver a metric that can be compared to other processes.
For intelligence, you can look at whether you have predictive analysis or only 'rear view' analytics, or if you have machine learning based recommendations. For experience, it's about feedback from customers and stakeholders.
With new technologies such as AI and machine learning becoming increasingly important and offering companies a competitive advantage, if they are adopted successfully, Bedi's approach of measuring existing processes in order to identify where the best opportunities for digitisation and automation offers a useful model for technology leaders. But equally important is his message of the CIO becoming a leader that can guide the rest of the business through a transition that may be challenge old assumptions and be seen as a threat.
Anthony Caruana attended Knowledge 18 in Las Vegas as a guest of ServiceNow.