Transformation in a Time of Uncertainty
October 19, 2023 | Toronto
Companies large and small find themselves unsure how to harness the power of artificial intelligence to benefit their businesses. The Bloomberg Intelligent Automation Roadshow made a stop in Toronto to take a deep dive into how organizations can implement AI and intelligent automation systems to enhance observable, predictable operational efficiencies and help create a path forward during a time of increasingly rapid technological evolution.
- Marcus Bertagnolli, Senior Vice President, Operational Accounting & IT Solutions, Choice Properties REIT
- Rohit Chandra, Vice President I&IT Development & Delivery, Metrolinx
- Debbie Gamble, Chief Innovation & New Ventures Officer, Interac
- Julie Lévesque, Executive Vice President, Technology & Operations, National Bank of Canada
- Andreas Liris, Chief Information & Technology Officer, Maple Leaf Foods
- Ryan Macaleer, Vice President, AI Ops & Integration, IBM
- Caren Morrison, Vice President, IT Operations & Site Reliability Engineering, Royal Bank of Canada
- Deb Pimentel, General Manager, Technology, IBM Canada
- Mamta Sethi, Chief Information Officer, Group Functions Technology, Manulife
- Jaime Tatis, Chief Insights Officer, TELUS
- Scott Taylor, Director General, Digital Enablement, Shared Services Canada
- Lisa Mateo, Business Correspondent, Bloomberg
- Sandra Mergulhão, Executive Producer, Bloomberg Television
Deb Pimentel, General Manager, Technology, IBM Canada raised questions around the current uncertainty in the economy, supply chain and more, and AI’s promise to address these challenges. The headlines, she said, are about how it will change the way we work and live. The arrival of ChatGPT brought awareness by every business in the world of the need to explore how they can automate. “They need to ask, ‘What is the difference that it’s going to make?’.”
In Conversation With: Julie Lévesque, Executive Vice President, Technology & Operations, National Bank of Canada
Automation for automation’s sake is not the goal at the National Bank of Canada, according to Julie Lévesque, Executive Vice President, Technology & Operations. The priority is creating value for the customer. “If it doesn’t, I would look at our product offerings and processes and simplify that, and what’s left, I can automate. “During the major shift that began at the bank two years ago, perspectives have changed dramatically. “Simplification was not the word that would come out of the mouth of all my colleagues, but in the business unit today, that’s all they talk about.They see the benefit of simplifying the way that they work and how we can leverage it to positively back the customer experience.”
What about the potential to over-automate? “I don’t think you can, but if you do it in the sense of that’s the only purpose, then you’re missing the point. At the end of the day, you need to balance both customer benefit and cost structure.” On generative AI, Lévesque likes that it “brings something completely new to the table,” and when it evolves, it will be a huge lever for efficiency.
Panel Discussion: Putting Artificial Intelligence to Work
AI is key to how risk is managed in the financial services industry, said Debbie Gamble, Chief Innovation & New Ventures Officer, Interac. The firm uses it on behalf of shareholders and other participants to prevent fraud. That automation – AI and machine learning – has been in place for a while, and with that has come the realization that it’s not just about productivity. “At the end of the day, AI is really a set of algorithms to manage some mathematical patterns. That’s the basis of it, and we use machine learning to try and solve some pretty complex problems. I’m sure we’re going to get into large language models and generative AI, because it’s key to who we are.”
Andreas Liris, Chief Information & Technology Officer, Maple Leaf Foods listed their numerous automation applications, including predictive signals, robotics on the plant floor, to assure product consistency and food safety, even using digital twinning and vision technology. “There’s a very broad spectrum of tools that are available to us just because of the operating environment.” But that environment is challenging, and has demonstrated the need for patience and perseverance, especially when it comes to vision and voice. “It becomes really nontraditional. For instance, we have sanitation practices, so the camera will get misty. The lesson here is you really need to roll with the punches and there needs to be the general acceptance that things are not linear. You don’t want to necessarily chase the shiny thing but you do need to be persistent, because things are changing.”
“It won’t shock anybody if I say government sometimes has some slow, complicated processes, and they’re ripe for automation,” said Scott Taylor, Director General, Digital Enablement, Shared Services Canada. Across the nearly 100 federal agencies he works with, it’s used for foundational tasks like paying bills and managing access requests. It will likely see increased use in analyzing large amounts of citizen data. Generative AI, however, is being navigated with caution. “I think the line over which the government gets really concerned about AI is when we allow an algorithm or a machine to make a decision and I don’t think that happens right now. All of our policy documents have guidance about automated decision making and we’re very careful about how an algorithm or AI capability can make a decision on, say, who gets a grant or who is granted citizenship.”
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Ryan Macaleer, Vice President, AI Ops & Integration, IBM, spoke with Caren Morrison, Vice President, IT Operations & Site Reliability Engineering, Royal Bank of Canada.
“It’s 2023, and we’re still talking about automation,” Morrison said. “I know AI ops brings a lot of new, cool capabilities, but the big shift that we need to look at is how we automate things differently. How do we go from automating our own, independent silos to building out capabilities? That’s where it’s exciting to build. We’re talking today about future model efficiencies and opportunities.”
They work very closely with frontline operations teams to understand from them the best use cases and how to make their work lives easier. “We found that it gives us a very accurate view of where the opportunities lie. It gives us automatic buy-in of the teams because they’re happy and thrilled to be getting rid of some of those manual tasks.” Upskilling opportunities are sought; the kind that employees will embrace. Analyzing the calls that come in for support allows the bank to efficiently leverage AI, and reinvest the savings to further broaden automation.
Panel Discussion: Advanced Automation and ROI
Asked to give an example of a project that makes their companies stand out, panelists offered compelling insights and inspiring creativity.
“One of the issues we had is finding a good budgeting system,” said Marcus Bertagnolli, Senior Vice President, Operational Accounting & IT Solutions, Choice Properties REIT. “Real estate budgeting is actually quite complex and there’s no good tool out there. It was an endless source of frustration for the organization.” With admitted trepidation, they built their own, collaborating across departments. “It’s been extremely successful. We’ve run with it for a couple of years now, and it’s addressed many of the issues. The operations people like it because it really has transformed our whole budget process. It also did a lot to build up that trust with the business, to show that you know you can use technology in a way to do something that’s different.”
Mamta Sethi, Chief Information Officer, Group Functions Technology, Manulife talked about the mega challenge of moving a global organization to the Cloud, a 3-year process, so far, that is about 62% complete. “In markets like Asia, for example, it’s not very easy. We have different regulations, different governments, different requirements, and so for us to actually have done that was a huge, huge, huge feat. Bringing people along on that journey showed them the benefits.” It’s an ongoing transformational change that she is not yet willing to give a score to, but noted, “What I’m probably most proud of right now is the fact that we’re trying to implement that mindset into the DNA of what we do and how we do it.”
Rohit Chandra, Vice President, I&IT Development & Delivery, Metrolinx spoke of cultivating an organizational approach to a transformation journey, and had some parallel thoughts. “What I’m probably most proud of right now is the fact that we’re trying to implement the mindset into the DNA of what we do and how we do it.” Automating should not be done for its own sake, but with the understanding of why and the intended outcome. “It’s not gonna happen overnight but we need to really, all of us, think in terms of why we want to do things.” That requires, as well, an awareness of needs across each aspect of an organization.
In Conversation With: Jaime Tatis, Chief Insights Officer, TELUS
A year ago, when everyone was looking for a super quick Open AI launch, TELUS looked for the most secure way to do it, according to Jaime Tatis, Chief Insights Officer, TELUS. An architecture was created by their internal IP that allows team members to ensure that all the information that they place in it is secure, private, and there’s no retention. “It gave us the ability to actually create a lot of features and functionalities really early. One of the things that we learned in that process was that a lot of people were initially using AI only for very basic things.”
So, they set out to move past asking for help with bullet points and summaries. With a workforce of more than 100,000, that requires a strategy, in this case, training videos that demonstrate functions like being able to debate with AI. “The most interesting part is as soon as the people get into it, it is amazing to see what they can achieve. Every week, we are amazed by examples of things they have been able to do on their own with it, transforming and changing their processes.”
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