Human intelligence and AI are inextricably linked, and the latter exists to complement and enhance the former, says Tanvir Khan, Chief Digital and Strategy Officer at NTT DATA Services

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Human intelligence and AI are inextricably linked, and the latter exists to complement and enhance the former, says Tanvir Khan, Chief Digital and Strategy Officer at NTT DATA Services
Human intelligence and AI are inextricably linked, and the latter exists to complement and enhance the former, says Tanvir Khan, Chief Digital and Strategy Officer at NTT DATA Services

The ultimate purpose of artificial intelligence is intelligence enhancement: for the machines to enhance, expand, and improve what humans do.

This is an exclusive interview conducted by Santosh Vaswani, Journalist & Editor at CIO News with Tanvir Khan, Chief Digital and Strategy Officer at NTT DATA Services.

What is the current state of artificial intelligence (AI) in the IT sector?

The current state of artificial intelligence (AI) in the IT sector is marked by rapid advancements and widespread integration. AI has become a transformative force, enhancing efficiency, automating processes, and enabling intelligent decision-making.

The shift from AI, which has been with us for decades in one form or another, to generative AI has been seismic and is redefining our sector.

Operational efficiencies are reaching new levels; revenue generation both for IT providers and for their clients is going to follow very different paths; customer engagement is on the verge of a new frontier. Change is so fast that most opportunities for differentiation become existential threats if not exploited at unprecedented speed.

We are moving from a traditional human workforce to a new modern workforce, which consists of both employees (human intelligence) and nonhuman actors (artificial intelligence) augmenting human intelligence.

The ultimate purpose of artificial intelligence is intelligence enhancement: for the machines to enhance, expand, and improve what humans do. Human intelligence and AI are inextricably linked, and the latter exists to complement and enhance the former.

Artificial intelligence became front-page news when use cases started blurring the line between what humans can tell is human-generated vs. computer-generated (e.g., it writes the term paper). It’s the use cases starting to challenge the Turing test that made it front news. This is going to affect the IT sector, too.

It will collectively transform the way organizations generate value. NTT DATA is bringing together an ecosystem (partners and platforms) to reinvent entire industries and create new ones with Generative Enterprise solutions that harness the Generative Intelligence of the Modern Workforce. In IT, AI applications range from predictive analytics and natural language processing to automation of routine tasks, revolutionizing how organizations operate. Machine learning algorithms drive insights from vast datasets, optimizing resource allocation and improving overall system performance. Key areas of adoption include data analysis, automation, personalized customer experiences, predictive analytics, supply chain optimization, NLP (natural language processing) applications, and healthcare advancements. AI, driven by machine learning and NLP advancements, has made breakthroughs in image recognition, autonomous systems, healthcare, and personalized user experiences. As artificial intelligence continues to evolve, collaboration between industry leaders, policymakers, and technology professionals becomes crucial to navigating its ethical and operational dimensions effectively.

How will AI evolve in the IT sector in 2024? How is AI expected to transform the IT industry?

NTT DATA knows that Gen AI will transform our world in extraordinary ways—igniting new, game-changing capabilities for business and industry while enhancing employee talent for greater value to the organization—and that all companies must embrace Gen AI to compete.

In 2024, artificial intelligence is poised to continue its transformative impact on the IT sector, shaping the industry in several ways. Firstly, AI’s integration into IT processes will lead to increased automation, enhancing efficiency, and streamlining operations. Machine learning algorithms will become more sophisticated, enabling predictive analytics and data-driven decision-making. AI-driven cybersecurity measures will strengthen, offering robust defense mechanisms against evolving threats. Natural Language Processing (NLP) and conversational AI will advance, revolutionizing customer support and user interfaces. AI’s role in software development, from code generation to testing, will expand, accelerating development cycles. Additionally, AI’s ability to analyze vast datasets will foster innovation, driving breakthroughs in areas like personalized user experiences, healthcare analytics, and business intelligence. As AI matures, its ethical considerations and responsible deployment will be crucial focal points, ensuring a harmonious integration that maximizes benefits while addressing potential challenges.

In addition, AI will fundamentally change the way IT companies generate revenue and win business. Sales and marketing are dramatically impacted by generative capabilities, and for IT services companies to be able to leverage those capabilities to respond to requests, generate proposals, and even help with solutioning, they will become table stakes. Client expectations will rise, and anyone not embracing these technologies will be left behind.

By the end of FY24, we should aim to have 50% of our services augmented by generative AI. Failing to do so will jeopardize our entire business. This is true for all our competitors, too.

Generative AI will redefine automation as we know it. Our automation ecosystems will have to be re-architected to take advantage of Gen AI capabilities. This includes leveraging a much wider spectrum of partners to take advantage of the cauldron of innovation that is the startup ecosystem. It also means that for asset-based services, we are seeing a shift from build to buy; no service provider can keep up with this level of change. This is true for startups, as stated above, but also for our strategic partnerships with companies such as Microsoft or Salesforce.

We are in the middle of an exponential curve, which means that if we look back, it looks flat; if we look forward, it looks vertical. The change ahead of us will continue to accelerate.

What are the most promising areas of AI development in 2024?

We and the entire sector will have to ethically and responsibly apply Gen AI to transform value chains and improve outcomes for all, today and in the future. We’ll use our service expertise and unique industry partnerships to help businesses navigate the wide range of imperatives and options. Doing so ensures organizations will meet their Gen AI requirements and Gen AI ambitions. We’re not accommodating a Gen AI future—we’re actively shaping it.

The most promising areas of AI development encompass diverse sectors. In e-commerce, AI is enhancing personalized shopping, fraud prevention, and introducing virtual shopping assistants. Education sees AI streamlining administrative tasks, creating smart content, and implementing voice assistants. Lifestyle applications include autonomous vehicles, spam filters, facial recognition, and recommendation systems. Navigation benefits from AI-driven GPS enhancements, optimised routes, and improved safety. Robotics leverages AI for tasks like goods transportation, cleaning, and inventory management. In human resources, artificial intelligence aids recruitment processes through intelligent software. Healthcare explores AI for disease detection, cancer cell identification, early diagnosis of chronic conditions, and drug discovery. These applications collectively shape the dynamic landscape of AI development.

What are the emerging trends of AI the IT sector needs to follow?

In the ever-evolving landscape of artificial intelligence, the IT sector must closely track several emerging trends to stay at the forefront of innovation. Firstly, the integration of generative AI, particularly in code generation, is poised to be a transformative force. This trend, akin to the disruption caused by offshore outsourcing two decades ago, is reshaping labor-intensive tasks across the industry. As businesses delve into applications, from UI design to test data generation, and navigate the intricacies of infrastructure management, AI’s automation prowess is streamlining processes such as ticket triage and end-user services. Conversational AI, bolstered by natural language processing advancements, is rapidly disrupting service desk operations through voice bots and chat bots. Moreover, the acceleration of transaction processing automation in BPO using generative AI is another key trend, along with the rise of more autonomous agents and the development of multimodal and OpenAI models. AI ethics and responsible AI practices are becoming paramount, addressing biases and ensuring ethical AI deployment. Continuous upskilling in AI technologies is crucial for IT professionals to navigate these evolving trends effectively.

Application development will never be the same. Generative AI has already redefined how we write code and develop software. This is going to redefine user experiences and customer experiences, both in retail and B2B. It is also going to reshape the most substantial aspect of our sector.

BPO is about to see a dramatic change as we shift from outsourcing and shoring to AI outsourcing. We are already talking about pairing shoring ratios with human/virtual ratios. At NTT DATA, we have been working in automation and talking about automated FTEs for nearly a decade; now we are taking this to the next level.

Another aspect is GenAI as a service. There is a huge market to be created in offering not only consultancy but also services to companies that do not want to major in Gen AI but need to take advantage of it. While these technologies are relatively easy to access, they present unique challenges of a never-before-seen nature. We are already winning large chunks of business helping clients overcome those challenges either by coaching or by delivering turnkey Gen AI services to them.

What are the expected challenges with the evolution of AI? What can be done to overcome these challenges?

The evolution of artificial intelligence presents a spectrum of challenges that demand proactive strategies for mitigation. A foremost concern is the potential disruption to traditional labor structures, particularly in content generation and code development, where generative AI is poised to significantly reduce the need for human effort. Additionally, the pervasive adoption of AI, often without a full understanding of associated risks, exposes companies to information security, privacy, and compliance issues. One major challenge lies in users unknowingly making proprietary or private information public through interactions with AI models. To overcome these challenges, organizations must prioritize the development of comprehensive governance structures. This involves stringent measures for information security, robust privacy protocols, and adherence to compliance standards. Furthermore, there is a need for heightened awareness and education among users to ensure responsible AI usage, avoiding inadvertent disclosures of sensitive information. Companies should also focus on developing proprietary generative enterprise architectures, working closely with AI providers, to safeguard their data and maintain control over the training processes. These proactive steps are crucial in harnessing the transformative power of AI while mitigating associated risks.

We are at the top of a hype cycle, which means we are about to fall into the trough of disillusionment. My view is that the next 12–24 months will see two elements conspire to give people a reality check.

First, we’ll see one or more major security breaches, potentially with worldwide visibility, due either to the inevitable accidental misuse of the new technology by well-meaning but incompetent actors or to the deliberate use by nefarious actors. It is not a matter of if but rather of when.

Second, business and IT leaders in particular will come to terms with how exceptionally resource-intensive generative AI is. Artificial intelligence is going to consume more power than Argentina in 2024, and it’s still growing exponentially. Soon, it’ll be constrained by power demands.

Finally, moving forward, the talent race will heat up even more: we’ll need to continuously invest in the hiring, training, and systems required to establish AI literacy, value, and impact among our clients—individually and by industry.

Any other points you would like to highlight?

In addition to the aforementioned aspects, it’s crucial to highlight the pivotal role of interdisciplinary collaboration. The synergy between AI experts, domain specialists, and ethicists is essential for holistic AI development. Emphasizing the importance of public awareness and engagement in AI discussions fosters a collective responsibility for its societal impact. Continuous adaptation to evolving technological landscapes and a commitment to lifelong learning remain paramount for staying at the forefront of AI innovation. Finally, fostering a culture that encourages diversity of thought and perspectives contributes to richer, more ethically sound AI solutions.

About Tanvir Khan:

Tanvir is the chief digital and strategy officer, focusing on technology direction, go-to-market, and offering management. With more than 25 years of experience in the IT industry, he is a thought leader in digital transformation, associated core technologies, and value realization. He is also a hands-on IT practitioner with five patents and four pending patents in artificial intelligence and automation. As a spokesperson for NTT DATA Services, Tanvir shares his insights with clients, media, and analysts on topics ranging from generative AI to emerging global service delivery locations. Prior to joining NTT DATA Services, he held global leadership positions at Dell and Wipro Technologies.

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