Modernization: Architecting the Future of Your Business | Oct 6 | Roundtable

Modernization: Architecting the Future of Your Business
October 6 | Dallas

The Bloomberg Modernization Roadshow featured top business and technology executives who are digitizing operations, without sacrificing innovation. It explored how companies can create a secure, integrated hybrid cloud environment that will extend the value of their technology investments, while accelerating the ability to respond to customer demand.

The roundtable discussion was a customer-centric, thought-provoking collaboration. It focused on changing demographics, the importance of community, humanized leadership, intelligent data management, and the ethics of AI. 

Speakers included: 

  • Greg Adgate, Vice President, Global Partnerships and Alliances, Equinix
  • Ronald Mehring, Chief Information Security Officer, Vice President of Technology & Security, Texas Health Resources
  • John Manaloor, Associate Vice President, Product Engineering, Thryv
  • Scott Baker, Chief Marketing Officer, Hybrid Cloud Portfolio, IBM
  • Yahia Zemoura, Senior Vice President, Director of Customer Data Strategy and Analytics, Comerica Bank
  • John Wei, Senior Vice President, Chief Technology Officer, Comerica Bank
  • Bob Kupbens, Chief Product and Technology Officer, Neiman Marcus Group
  • Scott Harper, CEO, Dialexa
  • Syed Baber, Chief Strategy and Technology Officer, SBase Technologies Inc. 
  • Mike Thomas, President, Converging Industries, NTT Data
  • Val Mukherjee, Founder & Chairman, Cyber Future Foundation 
  • Michael Holmes, CEO, Platinum Intelligent Data Solutions 
  • Joe Lynch, Global Sales, IBM
  • Raj Kathi, Senior Manager, Health Care Service Corporation (HCSC)
  • John Thompson, Chairman & CEO, SB22, Inc.

Bloomberg participants: 

  • Janet Wu, Anchor & Reporter, Bloomberg

Roundtable Highlights

The New Breed of Customer is Multi-faceted

Disruptive events like the pandemic have created a new breed of customer that migrates toward a multi-channel, dynamic experience, said Bob Kupbens, Chief Product and Technology Officer, Neiman Marcus Group. His company has noticed a shift toward a younger, very specific, high-value, one-time customer. He wondered, with this new breed, how do you repeat the sale and take full advantage of the relationship?  

“The answer is that you have to be responsive,” Kupbens concluded. Speed and flexibility must seamlessly adapt to market changes. Neiman Marcus recently spent more than $200 million in tech initiatives, part of which went to understanding customers on a fundamental level.

Different Avenues of Communication

“Does anyone make phone calls anymore?” Janet Wu, Anchor & Reporter, Bloomberg, asked the table. The general consensus is that it’s easier and less time-consuming to reach people by phone than over email. 

Getting rid of emails also works internally,  Michael Holmes, CEO, Platinum Intelligent Data Solutions, pointed out. “It’s all IMs, and we’ve seen a massive reduction of latency and an increase in productivity.” 

But Holmes cautioned that organizations have to be vigilant about the types of messenger apps employees are using. “They’re using all different apps that are now collecting data, and opening companies up to litigation,” he said. “What are you allowing the people working for you to do off of your devices? I highly recommend having your policies updated.”

Driving Culture Through Community

“There is no money left in retail banking, but you have to at least be present in the community,” said John Wei, Senior Vice President, Chief Technology Officer, Comerica Bank. Since the pandemic, in-store customers are on a rapid decline, he continued. This makes banking centers more of a marketing tool than anything else. Comerica’s strategy: to drive a positive, customer-facing culture with a robust brick-and-mortar presence.

Val Mukherjee, Founder & Chairman, Cyber Future Foundation, said his organization is also aware of the importance of creating a community for customers. “We’re doing a lot of refugee settlement, and now there are second- and third-generation refugees that are well-to-do, looking for their communities.” Mukherjee also noted that over the past few years, there’s been a new market, with a shift in demographics. Changes in culture start with changes in mindset, Mukherjee said.

Leveraging Audience Feedback

Everyone in the room agreed that social media is a great way to monitor customer feedback. “When it comes to airline or transportation companies, Twitter is where you monitor for the first failure, Wu said. “We get it from customers before we get it from our internal system.” 

Some brands are also gauging conversion using web-based heat maps, which show which parts of a website are particularly sticky for users. Neiman Marcus has found great success during the pandemic with this method, Kupbens said.

Ultimately, it’s about positioning yourself front and center for feedback: “When I was at Delta, it was controversial at the time, but the CEO, Richard Anderson, wanted to put the words ‘comment’ and ‘complaint’ at the top of our website,” Kupbens recalled. “And we were like, there’s no way we want to prompt that much feedback. But he was right, it worked…and it’s been there ever since.”

A Humanized Approach to Leadership

“When it comes to leadership, the smallest things make the biggest difference,” stated Holmes. This works for both customers and employees. The focus needs to be on driving the customer experience and creating seamless interactions. “If you’re a customer and you’re aware of the technology, you’ve failed,” John Thompson, Chairman & CEO, SB22, Inc. Customers don’t want to have to spend too much time figuring it out, he asserted. 

Kupbens agreed that leaders must set the tone for getting things done in a way that’s more aligned with the customer experience, versus operational efficiency. He added, “I love the design challenge of doing something you have to do, in an elegant and customer-focused way.”   

John Manaloor, Associate Vice President, Product Engineering, Thryv, chimed in, “The leadership makes a lot of difference. You trust what you implement will trickle down.” Sometimes, success only comes after a big challenge or a change in leadership, he suggested.

Scott Baker, Chief Marketing Officer, Hybrid Cloud Portfolio, IBM, pointed out how innovation and creativity are also key aspects of humanizing your leadership approach. He used Southwest Airlines as an example. “They have the culture right. They took a tech deficiency (they can’t charge you for a bag, their system won’t support it), and turned it into a strategic advantage. They’re creative and the people buy in…and it’s consistently profitable.”

Making Better Decisions Through Data

Technology improves our lives but the problem is, we always need more of it to prepare for the future, Wu said. “I cannot picture the time we spent maintaining lives before dishwashers. But still we are very busy, and that’s because the challenges of what needs to be accomplished are changing as well.” 

Holmes asked IBM’s Baker about data-based decision-making in the agricultural sector. How is data being used to create efficiency in farming? “We see a huge demand for AI and analytics to optimize a plot of land you have,” Baker said. “We’re looking for the densest population of food that you can provide. It’s not so much about getting out of the land what you already have, but trending and trying to forecast so you don’t overproduce, and then you have a lot of waste.”

Data should be embedded for relevance,  Baker continued, it’s not about how much you collect. Modern tractors are edge-based sensors that not only analyze the soil, but can predict weather conditions and forecast the best crop field or fertilizer. It’s collecting data that you can take to the finish line to make smarter, more informed, business decisions. 

Baker concluded, “It’s paramount that we’re providing the cleanest and most relevant pieces of information to the business, and it has monetary value to the individual that’s receiving it.”

The Age of Digital Waste 

Data aggregation and consolidation have to be a part of the conversation, Baker said. It’s a means to support a larger sustainability goal, not just from a risk perspective. “This idea that we make storage, and it’s sort of a set-it-and-forget-it mentality, then we wind up creating something very similar; creating digital waste that affects sustainability in a way that we’re not really talking about it.” 

Holmes was quick to agree that if companies hold on to data too long, they get into trouble. But often they’re battling a fear that they might not have enough. Changes happen quickly, and users must be able to stop and ask about the disposition of their data. Does it align with the strategy set forth? Anyone in supply-chain optimization can tell you exactly how everything moves, where every part is, and what happens next in the chain. Applying the same concepts to applications of data means always thinking about where it will reside and who can access it.

As Baker added, “I can’t tell you the number of times we’ve talked to companies that have these hidden repositories; dark corners, where all this data is that they had no idea was there…and they don’t know what to do with it.”

The Ethics of AI

“You have several ways to put together an AI system, so how do you address how it behaves or who is coding it?” Manaloor asked the table. 

Baker noted that IBM has established an AI coding ethics board that provides ethical oversight to all AI systems. Scott Harper, CEO, Dialexa, remarked, “There’s an error of bias you can put in.” It’s important that leadership doesn’t hinder innovation by creating too many obstacles for developers, he said.

Kupbens added, “That’s the value of having these reusable components for AI and cloud providers. You have fewer places for those ethics bodies to live. Whether it’s IBM or Google or Amazon, they become common, feasible components, where everyone takes advantage of that governance, rather than a single AI.”  

Even if you build from well-understood or well-accepted AI components, the moment you have systems talking to one another without human interaction, risk is involved. Especially if it’s a learning moment for humans. Thus, the outcomes must be analyzed. Wei agreed: In making AI decisions, “you don’t really need 100 percent precision. You need about 95 percent, and then you have that human component.”  

  “So what are AI ethics exactly?” asked Thompson

Baker answered, “To make sure that you’re randomly selecting and monitoring the AI output that has been created–that we understand we have a well-documented design goal in place before we get started. To determine what the outcome is so we don’t have these rogue, unpleasant experiences. A lot of it’s involved with just checking the output and the traditional testing mentality, before we qualify it as good to go.” 

Learning from Artificial Intelligence

“There are moments where AI teaches us,” said Baker. For example, having a bank cut off your cards when traveling outside the country because you forget to call your bank. “They only need to shut you off once, before you learn your lesson.” 

Wei relayed that Comerica uses AI to combat spam calls.  AI will detect nuances in speech and other pauses to determine if the caller is a robot, then drop the line before customer service picks up, he said. In this way, machine learning is refining the CS process, combating unethical AI, and creating teachable moments. 

Holmes agreed that “AI is only as good as what you’re feeding it, but you have to train it. Go back and do analysis after analysis to get it right. Just be cautious with how much AI you adopt without monitoring on a regular basis.”

Syed Baber, Chief Strategy and Technology Officer, SBase Technologies Inc., summed the lunch up perfectly, “We’ve come full circle here. We started with the human touch and we brought it back. It’s about being human-centered. These technologies are supposed to help us, but you can’t really replace humans.”

This Bloomberg briefing was Proudly Sponsored By


Join the Conversation: #RethinkModern
: @BloombergLive
LinkedIn: Bloomberg Live
Twitter: @BloombergLive

Interested in more Bloomberg Live virtual events? Sign up here to get alerts.