Intelligent Automation: Creating the Workforce of The Future
Wednesday, April 13, 2022 | Boston, MA
IT decision makers from finance, academia, mental health care, biotech and high tech gathered for a private lunch and the chance to continue a conversation around the ways they are shifting how they work, from reskilling alongside AI implementation to finding new talent and using tech to close labor gaps.
Despite all that the pandemic threw at them, these innovative leaders helped maintain, or even increased workplace efficiency, employee culture and customer satisfaction.
- John Avery, Head of Artificial Intelligence and Advanced Data Analytics, Fidelity Investments
- Amy Brady, Chief Information Officer, KeyBank
- Dave Johnson, Chief Data and Artificial Intelligence Officer, Moderna
- Matt Kosinski, Vice President, Data & AI and Automation, Americas, IBM
- Bill Lobig, Vice President, Automation Product Management, IBM
- Colin Mazzola, Partner & Co-Head, Technology, Wellington Management Co.
- Anthony Mutti, Chief Information Officer, Springfield College
- Michael Slack, Chief Executive Officer, KidsPeace
- Brad Sorenson, Senior Vice President of Global Supply Chain, Boston Scientific
- George Warner, Founder, Horizon View Services
- Mandeep Singh, TMT Team Lead & Senior Analyst & Host, “Tech Disruptors,” Bloomberg Intelligence
- Janet Wu, Anchor & Reporter, Bloomberg
What problems did they solve during the pandemic, and what challenges are left?
All agreed that the saving grace was having AI strategies already underway.
High-profile was the rapid rollout of hundreds of millions of Covid-19 vaccines. The key, according to Dave Johnson, Chief Data and Artificial Intelligence Officer, Moderna, was engineering a 42-shipment sequence to collect the formulation components. The broader picture in the last two years is one of “staggering growth,” from about 500 U.S.-based employees to about 3,500 in 33 countries. Because so much of drug development is operational, AI’s role was pivotal. “We spent about a decade working on building this engine, building all sorts of algorithms, processes, automated decision-making and analysis of data. That’s why we were able to move so quickly. We had just built this end-to-end system.”
Is AI still a blackbox for users?
Yes, and it’s an everyday issue, said John Avery, Head of Artificial Intelligence and Advanced Data Analytics, Fidelity Investments, who said analysts and portfolio managers nickname it things like Grim Reaper and Darth Vader. “If they can’t see the path, they have no interest in trying to use things like decision trees.” Employees need to understand the purpose, what’s being solved, said Amy Brady, Chief Information Officer, KeyBank. “They used to come in, in the morning and wanted to walk back everything AI had done overnight.”
“We are on the precipice of a massive wave of mental health crisis,” said Michael Slack, Chief Executive Officer, KidsPeace. Last year brought the most referrals of any in their 140-year history. While the human connection is vital in mental health care, “It’s often what fails us. Tech can improve some transactions. The question is, how do you segment that out and make it desirable?”
Generational, institutional asset management is still a long way off from high-value transactions using AI. There is still debate over passive versus active and whether or not cryptocurrency is an asset, said Colin Mazzola, Partner & Co-Head, Technology, Wellington Management Co. “There aren’t even decisions by humans, so how can they be made by a machine?” He described a spectrum of thought on the importance of transparency, using as examples, vaccines and college endowments, which require explanations, versus customer service calls that don’t have an impact on a societal level.
How long does it take to train an algorithm?
Working with a bank at the beginning of its AI journey, Matt Kosinski, Vice President, Data & AI and Automation, Americas, IBM, said the bank set the attributes correctly, but didn’t manage it. They also talked about wanting their own branded credit card, in partnership with someone else, but were not confident with their customer service staff. The point being “People are just on different journeys. There’s no simple answer to that question.”
The conversation turned to cybersecurity. For most, it’s a tedious, unfulfilling job with a high regression rate that has left a gap of 300,000. “I’ve seen hospitals go down. The threat is real,” said Brady, who advocates for empowering people to own their career path. Anthony Mutti, Chief Information Officer, Springfield College, said there is an assumption that people want to do the jobs they are in. Brad Sorenson, Senior Vice President of Global Supply Chain, Boston Scientific, agreed, adding, “People will embrace better jobs, if you give them the opportunity.”
When it comes to hybrid working, Sorenson warned against allowing a bifurcated culture to form. Brady challenged the assumption that the new norm, particularly for younger workers, is a desire to work remotely. “Not true! Younger people do want to get in and learn from others. Different points of view and experiences are essential to innovation.”
How will companies be better for having had to push automation during the pandemic?
It’s broader than that, with Mazzola noting more diverse talent, gleaned from hiring “people we wouldn’t have even interviewed before.” Mutti said Springfield College had little remote learning and had not embraced technology. “Covid brought a new appreciation for what tech can do.” He added that automation can keep the cost of a college education down, since most of the budget goes to paying faculty. Yet another perspective came from George Warner, Founder, Horizon View Services, which works with New York State agencies. “It all depends on leadership and the contracts for state employees.” And, interestingly, Johnson said he wouldn’t say Covid-19 changed anything, in terms of digital automation. “It validated a strategy already in place.”
Politics also factors in. Brady used the example of Mastercard and Visa pulling out of Russia and wondered about setting ideals-based precedents; provoking fear of the same kind of sanctions in countries where government ethics are dubious.
With Moderna and Boston Scientific at the table, it was an opportunity to talk a little about the FDA. Sorenson said the agency is interested in the process of digital twins, and reached out to his company to ask if they thought it would offer sufficient proof. “They are opening up to the concept.” That said, they hit an impasse over the infallibility of AI. The job that once entailed 350 people doing nothing but inspecting medical stents through microscopes is now done entirely by learning software. “The FDA said, ‘Prove the machine is never wrong.’ We can’t, because the machine never makes a mistake. There’s no data to analyze.” In other words, you can’t prove a negative.
Avery summed up how we will work in the future. “We’re trying to augment humans, not replace them. Person and machine are better than either.”
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