The Insight IGNITE Innovation Roundtable series provides C-level technology and digital leaders from large global companies the opportunity to learn, network with peers, and engage with emerging software market leaders. In March 2018, the IGNITE team hosted a thought leadership and networking event in Reykjavik, Iceland to view the Northern Lights.
Manoj Saxena, Chairman at CognitiveScale and Former GM of IBM Watson, kicked off the day with the bold statement “Machine learning will be dead in three years and artificial intelligence will change the world” Artificial intelligence, says Saxena, will be as important to humankind as fire and electricity. Saxena regrets that AI has been hijacked by Hollywood, in a move he calls “augmented intelligence.” We’re all being led to believe that AI will take away our jobs, but nothing could be further from the truth. We have to think of AI like Iron Man’s Jarvis suit: it will make us stronger and more capable, not less. During his presentation, Saxena also observed that Blockchain will enable an “internet of trust” and that AI and Blockchain will be tightly linked. In the closing moments of his keynote, Saxena asserted that “AI can’t be left to the tech team” that astute leaders who understand both business and technology must lead the way to find game changing business opportunities.
Next, we heard from Corey Glickman, Partner & Practice Lead for Strategic Design Consulting @ Infosys who outlined the three phases of digital design. In the early days there was UI/UX, when companies and their designers were focused on making apps “pretty.” Next came Design Thinking, where the customer experience was fundamental, and that’s when we saw engineering teams from Stanford teaming up with product designers at IDEO to develop a more collaborative design process. Now we are in the “computational design” phase, says Glickman, and going forward, data is going to drive all design decisions. This is a very profound statement given that designers historically were not very interested in the data. From Glickman’s point of view, data must be embraced as both a disruptor and an enabler.
To close out day one, we heard from Insight Venture Partner’s own Thomas Krane, who made the observation that testing is what often chokes agility and also consumes a tremendous amount budget which would be better spent on additional digital projects. Given that the Continuous Testing transformation disrupts the traditional organizational structure and process, Krane also noted that testing transformation cannot be led by vendors — it has to come from the top. Thanks to next generation vendors like Tricentis and QASymphony, it’s now possible to automate testing which unlocks both agility and digital funding.
Professor Robert Wolcott from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University opened day two at The Blue Lagoon with the statement that to prepare for a future we can’t predict, we need to build a portfolio of options to prepare for a variety of scenarios. The last thing any business wants to be is a “radio program on the television,” which is what all the earliest television shows were. For example, as cars become autonomous, we have to think about what the world might do, not where it will go. We can see three years ahead, but not five. Wolcott was joined by a panel at various stages of their Digital Transformation, Todd Pierce of Dignify Health, Harry Moseley of Zoom and Mamatha Chamarthi of ZF. While the panel members shared several important best practices and success stories, it was quite clear that legacy infrastructure and cultural barriers stand in the way of Digital Transformation.
Rafi Sweary, President of Insight Portfolio Company Walkme, made a powerful point that digital products and services won’t drive business value if the users can’t remember how to use the software in the end. WalkMe is the pioneer of a new market called Digital Adoption and have developed a GoogleMaps-like platform that shows users inside and outside of the enterprise how to use the digital software. Just like no one reads maps anymore when driving a car, users won’t require training manuals, videos or classes when using software. Needless to say, this has already changed the game for many organizations. The good news is that products and companies get better with AI – it will be fascinating to see where WalkMe goes next…
The roundtable wrapped up with Insight Venture Partners own Lonne Jaffe. Jaffe shared details about the firm’s point of view on AI and discussed news about Insight’s recent investment in Recorded Future, a company that utilizes AI to crawl the deep and dark web looking for threats. Artificial intelligence gives companies new products that ultimately attract long-term investors, says Jaffe. Companies get better when they’re infused with AI, he says, and AI gives companies a new source to scale.
In closing, the host, Founder of Insight IGNITE and Venture Partner Emmet B. Keeffe III, stated it’s important to remember that Digital means something different to every company and industry. While legacy infrastructure and culture are the biggest threat, clearly AI is going to be a powerful accelerator for global companies that are driving change. The fact that design must be at the center of Digital Transformation and that it’s all about the data in the end was a profound finding from our collaborative discussion in Iceland.