Could you tell us a little bit your company, Infocepts?
On a mission to bridge the gap between the worlds of business and analytics, Infocepts was founded in 2004 by me and Rohit Bhayana, both with more than 20 years of experience in the Data and Analytics (D&A) industry. People often use the term business analytics as one phrase, but if you have worked in the industry for a long time and if you talk to a lot of people, you’ll realise just how big the gap is.
And that’s Infocepts’ focus. We are an end-end D&A solutions provider with an increasing focus on AI and our solutions combine our processes, expertise, proprietary technologies all packaged together to deliver predictable outcomes to our clients. We work for marquee enterprise clients across industries. Infocepts has the highest overall ranking on Gartner peer reviews amongst our competitors and we are a Great Place to Work certified firm. So, we’re very proud that our clients and our people love us.
The data & analytics technology market is evolving very fast. What’s your view of it?
I love being in the data industry and a large reason is the pace at which it moves. In less than 10 years we have gone from about 60-70 technologies to 1,400+ and growing. But the problems have not grown 20X. That means, we now have multiple ways to solve the same problem.
Similarly, on the buyer side, we have seen a huge change in the buyer persona. Today, I don’t know of any business leader who is not a data leader. Today’s business leaders were born in the digital era and are super comfortable not just with insights but with the lowest level data. They know the modeling methods and have an intuitive sense of where AI can help. Most executives in today’s world also have a deeper understanding about what data quality means, its importance, and how it will change the game in the long run.
So, we are seeing a big change both on the supply and demand side.
What are some of the key challenges you see in front of business & data leaders focused on data-driven transformation?
The gap between the worlds of business and analytics is a very, very real one. I would like to quote this leadership survey which highlights this contradiction. Talking about D&A initiatives which are adding value – 90% of data leaders believe their company’s data products provide real business value, but only 39% of business leaders feel so. That’s a huge gap. Ten years ago, the number would have been lower, but the gap was still the same. This is not a technology issue. What it tells us is that the most common roadblocks to the success of D&A initiatives are all human-related challenges like skills shortages, lack of business engagement, difficulty accepting change and poor data literacy throughout the organisation
We all know the power of data and we spoke about business leaders being data leaders, but there are still people in organisations who need to change. Data leaders are still not speaking the language of business and are under intense pressure to demonstrate the value of D&A initiatives to business executives.
The pace at which technologies have changed and evolved is the pace at which you will see businesses evolving due to human-centric changes. The next five years look very transformational and positive for the industry.
Can you also talk about some of the opportunities you see in front of the D&A leaders?
The first big opportunity is to improve productivity to counter the economic uncertainty. Companies are facing financial crunch because of on-going economic uncertainty including the very real possibility of a recession in the next 12-18 months. Data shows that there are companies that come out strong after a recession, with twice the industry averages in revenue & profits. These are the companies who are proactive in preparing & executing against multiple scenarios backed by insights. They redeploy their resources towards the highest value activities in their strategy and manage other costs. Companies need to stop paying for legacy technologies and fix their broken managed services model. To keep up with the changing technology landscape, it’s important to choose on-demand talent.
Secondly, companies and people should innovate with data and become data fluent. Many organisations have invested in specialised teams for delivering data. But the real value from data comes only when your employees use it. Data fluency is an organisational capability that enables every employee to understand, access, and apply data as fluently as one can speak in their language. With more fluent people in an organisation, productivity increases, turnover reduces, and innovation thrives without relying only on specialised teams. Companies should assess their organisational fluency and consider establishing a data concierge. It’s like a ten layered structure instead of a very big team. A concierge which can help you become more fluent and introduce interventions across the board to strengthen access, democratise data, increase trust adoption.
Lastly, there’s a huge opportunity to reimagine how we bring value to the business using data. Salesforce and Amazon pioneered commercially successful IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS models in cloud computing that gradually shifted significant portions of responsibility for bringing value from the client to the service provider. The benefits of agility, elasticity, economies of scale, and reach are well known. Similarly, data & analytics technologies need to go through a similar paradigm and go one step further towards productised services, what we call at Infocepts – Solutions as a Service!
Can you talk more about your Solutions as a Service approach?
What we mean by Solutions as a Service is a combination of products, problem solving & expertise together in one easy to use solution. This approach is inevitable given the sheer pace at which technology is evolving. This new category requires a shift in thinking and will give you a source of advantage like how the early cloud adopters received during the last decade. Infocepts offers many domain-driven as-a-service solutions in this category such as e360 for people analytics, AutoMate for business automations and DiscoverYai (also known as AI-as-a-Service) for realising the benefits of AI.
There is a lot of buzz around AI. What does AI mean for the world of D&A and how real is the power of AI?
Oh! It’s very real. In the traditional BI paradigm, business users struggled to get access to their data, but even if they crossed that hurdle, they still needed to know what questions to ask. AI can be an accelerator and educator by helping business folks know what to look for in their data in the first place.
AI-driven insights can help uncover the “why” in your data. For example, augmented analytics can help you discover why sales are increasing and why market penetration varies from city to city, guiding you towards hidden insights for which you didn’t know where to look.
Another example is the use of chatbots or NLP driven generative AI solutions that can understand and translate queries such as, “What are sales for each category and region?” Thanks to modern computing and programming techniques combined with the power of AI, these solutions can run thousands of analyses on billions of rows in seconds, use auto ML capabilities to identify best fit models & produce insights to answer such business questions.
Then, through natural language generation, the system can present the AI-driven insights to the user in an intuitive fashion – including results to questions that the user might not have thought to ask. With user feedback and machine learning, the AI can become more intelligent about which insights are most useful
In addition to insights generation, AI can also play a role in data management & engineering by automating data discovery, data classification, metadata enhancements, data lifecycle governance, data anonymisation and more.
On the data infra side, models trained in machine learning can be used to solve classification, prediction, and control problems to automate activities & add or augment capabilities such as – predictive capacity & availability monitoring, intelligent alert escalation & routing, anomaly detection, ChatOps, root cause identification and more.
Where can AI create immediate impact for businesses? Can you share some examples?
AI is an enabler for data and analytics as against being a technology vertical by itself. As an example, let’s look at the retail industry – use cases like store activity monitoring, order management, fraud/threat detection, assortment management have existed for a while now. With AI, you can deliver them way faster.
In media, some of the use cases that we are helping our clients with are around demand prediction, content personalisation, content recommendation, synthetic content generation – both text & multimedia. AI also has vast applications in banking. We again have fraud detection, and coupled with automation, now it’s not just detection but you can also put controls in real time to stop fraud.
We have also implemented AI use-cases within Infocepts. We leverage AI to increase our productivity & employee engagement. Our HR team launched ‘Amber’, an AI bot that redefines employee experience. We use AI assistants to record, transcribe and track actions from voice conversations. Our marketing & comms teams use generative AI tools for content generation.
The advancement we have seen in the tech space in the last few years is what you will see in the next 3 to 4 years on the people side. And I think AI assisted tech processes and solutions will play a huge role there.
What advice would you give business leaders who are looking to get started with AI?
Embrace an AI-first mindset! Instead of the traditional approach of tackling complex business problems by sifting through data and wrestling with analysis for months before you see any results, it’s important to embrace an AI-first mindset to get things done in no time! AI-driven auto-analysis uncovers hidden patterns and trends so analysts can get to “why” faster and help their business users take actions. The auto-analysis gives data teams access to hidden patterns and the dark corners of their data. Let your AI tools do most of the grunt work faster than your traditional approaches. And now with Generative AI technologies bolted on top of these solutions, you can make it conversational using voice or natural language search capabilities.
Solutions like Infocepts DiscoverYai does just this. It gives organisations the opportunity to make smart choices based on data-driven insights. Our process starts by identifying clients’ objectives and then leveraging advanced AI strategies that quickly assess data quality, highlight key relationships in your data, identify drivers impacting your results and surface useful recommendations as well as provide an impact analysis resulting in actionable recommendations that have maximum impact potential – all delivered through an effective combination of tried-and-tested practices along with cutting edge AI driven processes!
Secondly, to gain the most from AI-driven insights, you’ll need to be ready for a little experimentation. Embrace getting it wrong and use those discoveries as learning opportunities. Hackathons/innovation contests are a great way to generate quick ideas, fail fast and succeed faster.
It’s also essential that your team can confidently understand data; this enables them to recognise useful actions generated by artificial intelligence without hesitation. So, while you use AI, ensure that it is explainable.
Lastly, help your organisation set up systems which will make sure your AI models don’t become obsolete in an ever-evolving landscape – keep upping their training so they remain ready to take on even harder challenges!
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