Transformation in a Time of Uncertainty
February 28, 2023 | Atlanta
Most organizations know that automation is critical to their long-term success. Much of their early investment has been in digital solutions that allow workers to accomplish more with less. What’s next? A higher level of automation, orchestrated across both business lines and IT, that integrates with existing systems and cultures to provide intelligent workflows. The result: Scalable architectures, improved worker productivity and more resilient systems. This roadshow series will highlight strategies for managing an uncertain economy by implementing automation projects that make IT systems more proactive, business processes more efficient and people more productive. First stop: Atlanta.
Click here to view the Feb 28 briefing.
- Paul Antony, Senior Vice President–Technology, The Home Depot
- Jerry Cuomo, Vice President & Chief Technology Officer, IBM Technology
- Greg Goff, Chief Technology & Delivery Officer, Alight Solutions
- Narayanan Krishnakumar, Chief Technology Officer, Delta Air Lines
- Kemal Kvakic, Vice President, Head of IT Innovation, Raymond James Financial
- Julieta McCurry, Vice President of In-Flight Entertainment & Connectivity Strategy, Delta Air Lines
- Rob Pluta, Vice President & Chief Technology Product Officer, Ryder System
- Jay Schneider, Chief Product Innovation Officer, Royal Caribbean International
- Neal Shah, Executive Vice President, Head of Strategy & Administration, Technology & Operations, Regions Bank
- Travis Smith, Chief Architect, Head of Data & AI, The Weather Company
- Ken Spangler, Executive Vice President IT, Global Opco Technologies, Express, Ground, Freight & Logistics, FedEx
- Ritika Gupta, On-Air Reporter & Producer, Bloomberg
- Brett Pulley, Atlanta Bureau Chief, Bloomberg
- Janet Wu, Anchor & Reporter, Bloomberg
A bag of chocolates was used by Jerry Cuomo, Vice President & Chief Technology Officer, IBM Technology to illustrate that you never know what you’re going to get, including when it comes to intelligent automation. “But it’s chocolate. How bad can it be?” And he pointed out that uncertainty brings opportunity. He warned against using AI just to save money, because, “your competition may be doing more than that.”
Panel Discussion: Automation that Packs a Punch
When it comes to risks and rewards, Neal Shah, Executive Vice President, Head of Strategy & Administration, Technology & Operations, Regions Bank, said Regions has become really good at strategic planning and prioritization in the last decade, going through robust processes before allocating capital. “Narrowing it down starts with what our customers need, what they want and where our associates benefit.” Automation is just one tool in the tool kit of the technology department, Shah added, noting that customer and associate mapping, followed by process mapping, is used to really understand the end-to-end automation process in detail. “There’s a tendency to just get started, to say ‘Here’s something we want to go solve.’ That’s not always the best thing, because there are dependencies, up, down, left and right.”
Kemal Kvakic, Vice President, Head of IT Innovation, Raymond James Financial said that five years spent automating has allowed for the removal of a lot of red tape around determining what constitutes a good automation. As part of our hiring process, we ask, “Can that be automated versus hire?” That said, in those five years, they have not lost one job to automation. “It’s job opportunities. Nobody wants to do mundane work day after day.”
“The number one thing for retailers is to get the product on the shelf. You would think that would be easy, but it’s not. It’s one of the hardest things to do consistently, every day, every location,” said Paul Antony, Senior Vice President–Technology, The Home Depot. Critical to bringing automation to that process is getting every associate to follow the same process. His advice: “Automating something is not how you gain. It’s critical that you change. You can optimize. That’s great. But the big win is when you stop doing something and start doing it totally differently.”
Asked for a quick answer on how they are looking forward, Antony said, “At the end of the day, it’s about what’s easier for the customer. Shah joked that he will never stop hoping for autonomous flying cars, but eagerly anticipates insights from disparate data coming together. Kvakic said he believes quantum AI’s speed will take things to the next level, but offered the caveat that, “These answers won’t age well.”
IBM Sponsor Spotlight
Travis Smith, Chief Architect, Head of Data & AI, The Weather Company described how his company uses various tools, including “backyard” weather stations, observability of backend data and scaling systems. The Weather Company has been using AI and machine learning since the 1970s, when it first started forecasting. While the tool sets have gotten better, “we can’t dismiss that legacy because there’s so much value, and so much scale that C code can provide on machine learning. The newer tools, like Python, can’t even scale as fast to that degree.” The key is to use everything. “The new tools, as great and beautiful and sexy as they are, don’t necessarily fit all the needs. That’s why technology is always changing.”
On generative AI, The Weather Company is investigating the use of smart messaging that targets an individual’s specific needs for weather predictions. Consumer data, weather data, and other ancillary enhanced data would be merged to create useful insights to help people plan their days and stay safe.
Case Study: Creating a Customer-Centric Culture
FexEx delivers some 10 million packages every day, said Ken Spangler, Executive Vice President. That requires scaling and cultural buy-in, particularly on the technology advances that need to be implemented very quickly. FedEx experienced explosive growth during the pandemic. “We expanded all forms of automation, from physical material handling all the way to process automation.”
Just before the pandemic, FedEx began testing Bluetooth sensors on high-value packages. Vaccine delivery became a critical testing ground. “We could see them in real time and utilize that data in all forms of automation and intelligence, but the vaccine packages became the most important shipments we ever had. In a sea of packages in our hubs, we could see every vaccine package.” Delivery rate accuracy exceeded 99 percent, Spangler said.
Chairman Fred Smith, who founded FedEx 50 years ago, is “one of the greatest innovators of the last century,” Spangler said. He described Smith’s focus on creating a culture open to change from the start. “Smith said ‘information about the package is just as important as the package itself,’” Spangler related. “If you say it today, everybody says, ‘No kidding.’ Except Fred said that in 1978.”
Case Study: Creating a Customer-Centric Culture
Julieta McCurry, Vice President of In-Flight Entertainment & Connectivity Strategy, Delta Air Lines offered an intriguing look at the recent launch of the airline’s move from a one-size-fits-all customer experience to “supercharging” it. The company is offering free WiFi on flights, and new seatback screen technology will roll out later in the year. Also on its way: content created for individuals, including real-time travel updates, baggage location, food ordering, information about the destination and streaming entertainment that picks up where the viewer left off. A new “personalization hub” provides an improved customer interface. “We can offer curated content and personalized offers, because now we know where you’re headed. We’re getting to know the customer better to serve the customer better,” McCurry said.
Narayanan Krishnakumar, Chief Technology Officer, Delta Air Lines described the airline’s pandemic strategy. Delta took advantage of that interval to “take the bold step” of moving to the cloud, Krishnakumar said. “I think that was one of the important things that supported all of what we’ve done since then.” Cloud adoption allowed for scale and resilience, and facilitated Delta’s goal of making customer services continuously available. The company’s two largest pillars, after safety, are customer experience and operational excellence. Both require a lot of data and data integration. “We’re trying to bridge the gaps between those two pillars. We need data, AI and machine learning…so we can scale.”
Panel Discussion: Automation and ROI
Docking cruise ships and getting 70,000 crew members to their homes around the world, then getting them back onboard after the pandemic was just one of the monstrous Covid-related tasks facing Royal Caribbean, said Jay Schneider, Chief Product Innovation Officer. “It was possible only through the investments [in automation] we made prior to the pandemic. That paid off in volumes.” The company is focused on creating technology that will create greener ships, including automation tools that know when guests leave the ship, putting staterooms into eco-mode, and reversing when they return. “Over time, the automation learns your comfort levels,” Schneider said.
Greg Goff, Chief Technology & Delivery Officer, Alight Solutions offered a look at COVID-19’s impact on its business of providing payroll and benefits services to clients. “As soon as it hits, companies start furloughing people, there are large periods of uncertainty, people need access to money, so demand surges.” That required people and software that could provide the right answer quickly. In the works: using technology to connect people to a wide range of needed resources, in the moment.
“You name it, we’re trying it, even drones,” said Rob Pluta, Vice President & Chief Technology Product Officer, Ryder System, said of the company’s current innovation efforts. Ryder is automating people, warehouses, customers and more than 240,000 vehicles on the road. “We’re trying to understand what’s happening with those vehicles and how we help our customers by ensuring that we have the uptime for those vehicles in delivering the goods we all rely on.” Artificial intelligence, robotics, camera technology and those drones provide key data in warehouses, Pluta said. In the works: digitizing the customer experience, through self-service, mobility and online tools.
This Bloomberg briefing was Proudly Sponsored By