The future lies in AI
Arun Khehar, SVP - Business Applications, Middle East Africa and India, Oracle
Arun Khehar, SVP - Business Applications, Middle East Africa and India, says that Oracle AI is ready-to-go, ready-to-build, ready-to-work after listening closely to its customers. Excerpts from the interview:
How do you think AI will change the means of business operations in five years, especially in this region?
AI is everywhere; it has become an integral part of culture. Every time you call for an Uber or stream a show on Netflix, you are using AI. It enables driverless vehicles and drones and autonomous databases, and it is powering voice-activated conversational assistants such as Siri, Cortana and Alexa as well as your social media feeds. From automated stock trading to recommending products while you shop online, AI is reshaping how we interact, how we work, how we live, and how we do business.
AI in Business
Businesses are embracing machine learning (ML) as they see the potential to transform into an intelligent enterprise. In arecent study by Harvard Business Review Analytic services, 80 per cent of respondents said that adding automation and intelligence to their organisation was critical to their future success. They want to bring AI to their enterprises to stay competitive while driving efficiency, improving customer experience, and reducing costs. Another critical area where businesses believe AI and machine learning will add value is the ability to get predictive insights from data, enabling their organisations to transform into data-driven intelligent businesses.
Meanwhile worldwide spending on artificial intelligence (AI) systems is forecast to reach $35.8 billion in 2019, an increase of 44 per cent over the amount spent in 2018 (IDC, Spending Guides, March 11, 2019). Furthermore, eight out of 10 custom applications will include embedded intelligence as a first-class capability by 2020 (10 Predictions for Developers in 2019).
How does Oracle compliment the UAE's AI vision? Tell us a bit more about Oracle's AI Strategy.
Oracle's approach to AI is unique in the market in that its geared towards both business users and those building AI. By providing robust pre-built AI solutions for business teams, a unified platform for AI solution development, and fully autonomous cloud services, organisations can overcome traditional barriers to get value from AI, no matter where they are in their AI journey.
In the UAE, Oracle is fully committed to support the implementation of the country's 2031 Artificial Intelligence Vision.
Oracle is one of the first companies to establish a first-of-its-kind innovation hub in Dubai to accelerate the implementation of AI in the UAE. Furthermore, Oracle has made significant progress in preparing next gen Emiratis for the digital economy by training them in emerging technologies like AI, Blockchain and Internet of Things. Oracle has now trained 500 Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT) graduates in these emerging technologies.
What are your top five predictions for AI in the GCC?
AI will change the global economy and tech industry so fast in the coming years that 60 per cent of the IT jobs that we'll have in 2025 haven't even been invented yet, Oracle CEO Mark Hurd predicted during his keynote session at Oracle OpenWorld 2018.
He offered examples, such as a supervisor of robots. "Everyone needs a boss, including bots," Hurd said. If 85 per cent of customer interactions become automated, people will play an essential role in making sure the bots doing that interaction are making the right decisions and leaving people with a good feeling about your company.
Hurd sees a day when AI-assisted health technicians, specialists in human-machine user experience, and many more IT jobs we haven't thought of yet are the norm. These new opportunities will be made possible by automating more mundane tasks.
When should organisations start talking about data science and AI; where should they start?
Implementing an AI-driven strategy will be critical to staying competitive. Everyone involved in formulating the AI strategy and execution, whether they are decision-makers (business leaders) or builders (data engineers, ML engineers, data scientists, developers), should get started sooner rather than later on formulating the AI roadmap. They can start by identifying the right business use cases that are going to give them the highest ROI and then move on to an enterprise wide AI transformation.
Businesses should also look into how they can leverage business applications and technologies that already have built-in AI/ ML capabilities. When customising business applications with built-in AI capabilities, businesses should bring their IT management, application development, and data science teams together so that there is a strong partnership among these groups, as they will need to collaborate closely to bring the vision of intelligent enterprise to life. These teams should consider utilising tools and technologies that already have machine learning embedded in them; doing so can help bring new innovations to market faster. Businesses will also want to consider working with a strong technology partner that understands their business and the technology needed to help them through the AI transformation process.
What are some of the notable achievements of Oracle when it comes to Data Analytics and AI?
Oracle offers an end-to-end unified AI platform to help mitigate many of the challenges of building AI-driven business. The platform enables enterprises to:
- Integrate, transform, and govern data: It is critical that data is formatted in a way that makes it accessible by data engineers and data scientists.
- Manage and process all data types: To address the volume, velocity and variety of data, Oracle Autonomous Data Warehouse and Oracle Big Data Cloud support any data type and analytical workload needed to run ML.
- Drive collaboration and efficiency with Oracle Data Science Cloud: Data scientists and machine learning engineers use programming languages such as Python and R and various open source ML frameworks such as TensorFlow, H20, and Caffe to build, train, and deploy models.
- Create developer solutions to build AI-centric applications: Application developers need the right application development tools to help them consume the ML-based algorithms to build AI-driven applications.
- Ensure a robust cloud infrastructure: . This cost-effective solution delivers security and high availability and enables application development teams to develop, test, and deploy cloud native applications at speed and scale, helping to bring new innovations to market faster with ease.
- Provide a developer and data science ecosystem: IT, development, and data science teams must come together with line-of-business leaders to collaborate more actively. In addition, developer and data science teams need access to communities and an ecosystem that can help them build new skillsets and keep them abreast on new technologies to keep pace with the rate of disruption.
Not many address the skilled manpower challenges that organisations face when it comes to working on AI. How would you suggest building the right workforce for an AI programme?
The future of work lies in AI, robots, and automation. You could certainly be forgiven for thinking this, given the headlines over the last couple of years. And it's true - but only partially.
Yes, new technologies are changing how we work, making businesses more efficient, and feeding growth. But it's people that develop, improve, and manage these technologies - and take care of areas that can't be handled by machines. People hold the power of innovation, and harnessing innovation should mean working better with people. As we bring more sophisticated tech into the workplace, HR teams could show us how to do this.
The HR team at Indian telecoms company, Bharti Airtel, has already done so. Using our cloud technologies to modernise applications and people practices across 17 countries, they were able to save time and cut HR workloads. They were then able to divert that time towards individualised support for the 22,000-strong workforce - and bring a human touch to their work.
How can new technologies and data help HR teams be more 'human' and better support employees?
- Learning - with AI-driven training programmes, you can push learning content to employees, based on their own, specific needs, as well as the future needs of the business.
- Workforce management - advanced analytics can help you spot opportunities for particular people within different teams, based on their skills and experience. You help those teams to innovate and succeed, and the individual has more opportunities to develop in new ways.
- More time for HR - automation in areas like job application triage or review management can cut the time your HR team spends on time-consuming processes. Then they can focus on more strategic work and more tailored support for employees.
- More power to managers - by gaining access to HR data, the managers who work with employees' day in, day out, are better equipped to monitor training, goals, and performance. And through predictive analytics and Machine Learning, issues can be flagged before they arise, so managers can act pre-emptively and look after their managers in a more personal way.
The power of innovation lies in the hands of people, which is why HR teams should be the driving force behind progress, innovation, and business success.