Our podcast, hello, Human, features the leading builders, explorers, and warriors of AI. Together, we investigate how they’re putting AI to work to transform enterprises and make sustainable progress on automation, privacy, business disruption, human-bot teaming, and much more. We strive to make each episode intelligent and engaging, with the ultimate goal of improving your understanding of the opportunities AI can bring to your business and our world.
In episode #3, my guest was Doug Henschen, Vice President and Principal Analyst at Constellation Research. Doug has a unique view of the business world, since his firm is focused on helping early adopters leverage disruptive technology. The top 5%, as he puts it. In our conversation, he shared what those pioneers are doing in process orchestration, how it helps companies manage new information, and how AI can elevate the customer experience. And, believe it or not, we talked about Domino’s Pizza. But we started with a look at the digital transformation acceleration that’s happened across 2020.
“We often hear that in the last six months, companies have done more digital transformation than they did in the past six years,” said Doug. “It’s all about getting more agile, getting more data-driven. It’s put the move into the cloud on steroids. The companies that are ahead of the curve are in a good position.”
But being ahead of the curve takes more than just moving to the cloud, according to Doug. Every company is swimming in data these days. So there’s a dire need to manage that data, understand it, and put it to use in valuable, impactful ways. But it’s going to take a mix of technologies and humans to do it well, and the approach has to be unique to each enterprise.
“I think we’re going to see platforms on which people will start to build very custom applications,” Doug explained. “Instead of these standardized enterprise applications, they’re going to build more and more. (Their needs are) just too unique to the organization to have a commercial software vendor provide that application. Companies are going to be using this mix of technologies to build their own applications and experiences on top of what I’d call intelligent orchestration platforms.”
Of course, humans will lead the orchestration, but it’s becoming more and more clear that machines will be part of the decision-making process. Doug noted that it’s been almost a decade since IBM’s Watson won on Jeopardy. But the promise back then of artificial intelligence (AI) leading us to huge advancements has yet to materialize. Instead, much of the context behind the data or alongside the decision remains understandable only to humans. So AI might make a recommendation that humans then use to make a better decision. But that then invites human bias, errors, and inconsistencies.
“It’s not just about the data; you really have to know something about it,” added Doug. “It’s the metadata around that data. Who is this customer? What is their history? What is the stage of the process they’re in? When did we talk to them last? Do they have a service issue that’s unresolved? Are they near the end of their contract? It’s not just data, it’s the context around the data.”
“That’s one reason I’ve been doing a lot of research and been advocating embedded approaches of next-generation applications that bring the data and the context right into the context of the application. You have both a human understanding and machine understanding, and you can drive better actions, whether those actions are carried out and executed by a machine or by a human.”
Doug gave a great example of this type of contextual understanding using Domino’s Pizza. They’re taking an innovative, data-driven approach to not just back-end ordering, inventory, and operations, but also using those same insights to elevate the customer experience with increased visibility and interactivity. Progressive financial services institutions, such as Capital One and Rocket Mortgage, are doing the same, and crushing the competition with a stellar customer experience based on data and context.
Again and again, we’re seeing that AI is at its best when used to augment human abilities, especially in human-to-human interactions like customer service. Technology is a huge help, and it takes much of the burden off of workers, making them more efficient and productive. But, in the right context, there’s not yet a match for putting a real human on the line with a customer in need.
“Sometimes you might have to take the (digital) agent offline and switch in the human because something is happening dynamically in the business environment,” said Doug. “That’s what we see ahead. The progress is now happening, where it’s overall monitoring of the process, not just adding more and more bots to have silos of automation.”
There’s much more to my conversation with Doug on the hello, Human podcast. You’ll also hear his favorite resources for staying current on the latest technologies. Or, you can read the full podcast transcript here.