The implementation of artificial intelligence in daily business operations and the creation of a company culture that truly embraces innovation were two main topics highlighted by the speakers at Luxembourg’s “Innovation Day 2018”.

The use of artificial intelligence (AI) in everyday business processes is not a phenomenon of the future – it’s already here. This was the main message imparted by David Bar, Director for Customer, Digital & Data Analytics at KPMG Israel who was one of the keynote speakers at Innovation Day 2018. Organised on 17 April by ITOne in collaboration with KPMG Luxembourg, the event brought together around 100 representatives of Luxembourg’s business community.

Mr Bar quoted figures indicating a five-fold increase of AI in customer service interactions between 2017 and 2021 and compared the societal impact of digitalisation, robotics and automation to that of the industrial revolution two centuries or so ago. The key question is how far this change will take us. “Will business become completely autonomous? Will robots replace everyone in business?” Mr Bar asked, and then attempted to answer himself: “I don’t think so. This would require much more time. But I do think that we will fuse AI with customer service.” This would make it possible to offer staff more interesting tasks and give more valuable services to clients.

Cognitive automation

The key to the future, according to Mr Bar, is to automate processes to a certain degree to make it easier for customers to interact with companies and get access to their services. New techniques for cognitive automation such as natural language processing, big data analytics, deep learning and large-scale processing make it possible to automate a large proportion of customer interactions and has many advantages. “A robot service centre only needs to be trained once, is always on, is consistent and can be personalised to a degree,” Mr Bar pointed out, while also highlighting that there are situations where nothing can replace the human contact. The secret is to find the right mix of automation and human interaction to create a great customer experience and gain the loyalty and trust of the client.

The human element is also the hinge between failure and success for organisations. “An automated system can have more knowledge than any human. People come into play for decisions that need wisdom, such as strategy and business model considerations,” said Mr Bar. “Each organisation will implement its processes differently and get different results, and this will determine its success.”

Innovating your everyday business

While digitalisation has given rise to companies, products and business models that no one would have imagined a few decades ago, it also offers great opportunities to virtually any business. “It is a mistake to believe that we will all disrupt the market,” said Olivier Beaujean, Chief Digital Officer of Luxembourg tech company IEE. Instead, he suggested innovating business models with the help of digital tools. “Start by focusing on your key product and enrich it with digital data to understand what the real value is for the customer,” he said. “Define your strategy and find the right business model before thinking about what digital tools to use.”

Mr Beaujean also underlined that no company has all the expertise needed to succeed with digital innovation within its own organisation but needs to find skills through acquisitions, partnerships or collaboration with customers. Working on innovation with the whole ecosystem concerned could bring a meaningful purpose to all players while offering substantial profits. “Co-create new concepts with your clients and test them before they actually exist,” he suggested.

Leadership and culture

Implementing an innovation approach in an existing organisation means influencing its whole culture. Bruno Wozniak, who was recently appointed Chief Innovation Officer of cargo airline Cargolux, uses a “guerrilla approach” to get his first innovation projects off the ground. Teams of a few people work on small innovation projects that only need limited resources. As soon as they yield results, there are widely communicated to show the benefits to executive management and raise the interest of the staff in general. Katty Conrad, Senior Director, Strategic Initiatives at RBC, spoke about the efforts to install a new innovation mindset in her organisation. “The top management is fully engaged in the process,” she said, “but we need to find a way to empower each employee to share their ideas and creativity”.

KPMG Luxembourg Partner Pascal Denis concluded the event by calling for a style of leadership that is able to embrace and anticipate innovation, accept failure and encourage testing. He encouraged participants to “think of one thing that you will do to be part of the innovation momentum and create a long-lasting impact by influencing the leadership and culture of your organisation.”

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