The third annual Digital Workforce Summit (DWS) will take place on Wednesday, May 8 in New York City. DWS is the premier gathering place for discussions related to Artificial Intelligence (AI) within the enterprise. The event will feature top executives and thought leaders from around the world who will detail the successes, challenges and revelations they’ve encountered during their AI implementations.

One of the keynote presenters will be James Bell, General Manager, Integrated Global Services at Long View Systems, the Calgary-based IT services and solutions company. Long View has partnered with IPsoft to transform their customers’ operations through our intelligent solutions. As a preview to DWS, we caught up with James to discuss how these ascendant technologies will remake their operations and the impact beyond the business world.

What specific AI technologies that you think will be particularly impactful in the next five years?

Conversational AI is something I believe will continue to accelerate as people embrace automation in their everyday lives. I also see the lines between “personal devices” and “corporate assets” becoming increasingly blurred — when home automation assistants can interact with corporate assets, conversational AI will take on a different slant.

Autonomics has to continue to grow and develop. As companies spread workloads across multiple platforms (external providers, private cloud, public cloud, etc.), demand for AI-based, real-time decisions provided by autonomics will only increase. There are several complexities created by having information spread across multiple platforms versus a OneCloud-type strategy. The amount of data available to us continues to grow at a staggering pace and humans must rely on AI to help make data-driven decisions.

Are there AI technologies that your clients are particularly excited about (rightly or wrongly)?

Through our current ITSM PaaS, our clients are now beginning to see the value of resolving issues via virtual agents. It’s a very exciting time for us to watch clients and employees embrace this path with us.

The combination of AI and virtual agents is something all clients are interested in — but also somewhat skeptical of. I think there are several bot experiences that have skewed clients’ perceptions of how effective AI can be. There’s a lot of education to be done in this space. But again, we come back to the question of how will companies be able to make reliable data driven decisions in real time or in a predictive operational mode with only human eyes?

Describe your Vision 2020 initiative.

Vision 2020 is a four-phase tools-and-automation roadmap. Core to Vision 2020 is creating a culture of automation empowering our people to innovate and provide our clients with an amazing experience. Our goal is to be the most-loved IT company by 2025.

The first phase of Vision 2020 is the introduction of automation. Long View has entered into a partnership with IPsoft to utilize IPcenter in this effort. The key objective of the first phase of Vision 2020 is to reduce the number of manual low-value tier-1 and -2 tasks that are highly repeatable and repetitive. This will free up our people to focus on higher-level, more interesting work while increasing the quality of service delivered to our clients. Phase two will focus on cognitive agents, phase three will center on application performance, and phase four will be all about predictive analytics and advanced machine learning.

What human skills do you think will be emphasized in the era of AI? Conversely, which skills will become less important?

Basic technical “specialists” will become less and less relevant in our business. More advanced skills will also start to be replaced by “T-shaped” roles as our reliance on SMEs in certain areas gives way to AI. People who can architect, design, create and implement new automations will become much more relevant as human roles evolve and more data-driven decisions are needed. These people will have stronger business acumen as the results we seek are not simply a “technical outcome.”

Are there any aspects of AI that you feel are overlooked and you would advise businesses to pay more attention to?

Businesses who simply focus on the technology are likely not paying enough attention to people impacts. How do you bring your people along on this journey with you and empower them? How will you govern AI decision making? It’s critical to success in this space and critical to retaining your top talent in a competitive landscape.

What would your advice be for a young adult entering a rapidly transforming workforce?

I’d advise them to be aware of all the business skills that won’t change: the need for people to be self-aware, critical thinkers and strong communicators. There are so many platforms that widen the gaps in direct human contact (social media is the best example) that young adults have lost the experience of working together to solve problems. Furthermore, if you are not someone who embraces change, sees problems as opportunities, and understands how the technology in your life should enhance your capabilities and the results you seek, you are likely to get left behind in the new age.

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