3 Strategies from the 2016 CEO Digital Transformation Summit

In an era of “transform or be transformed,” it’s increasingly critical that companies seek out ways to gain a competitive edge by using data and analysis tools to better understand customer decision-making, speed processes and improve operations. Here are 3 things companies exploring digital transformation should consider.

Leveraging artificial intelligence for decision-making
alyssaringler_160725_tt0054-compressorThe unbiased decision-making that comes from data being plugged into algorithms can inform rather than replace strategic decision-making, David Kenny, general manager of the “artificial intelligence as service” IBM Watson unit, told CEOs attending the Summit. For example, when an HR department receives an overwhelming number of applicants, computer models can help cull through the onslaught and generate a list of qualified candidates for a new hire. “In a lot of cases, the answer is in being able to look at the folks who are successful now and replicate that,” explains Kenny, who noted that removing human bias also helps guard against legal issues by ensuring that qualified candidates aren’t overlooked.

“We all bring our biases to the table,” he said. “If I am a recruiter searching through documents, I am exercising some kind of bias and prejudice. By having algorithms in place, you can take those out. We believe there is a certain human interaction that has to happen, but that using technologies can narrow the gap.”

In a similar fashion, artificial intelligence (AI) can play a part in helping management weigh strategic decisions. Kenny predicts the day will come when virtually every large company will have a robot director on its board. “If you are considering making an acquisition, selling the business or making a big capital expenditure, there are implicit models that go into that decision-making process that an AI system can use,” he explained. “Then your other directors will add judgment on top of that. The decisions are better when it is the man and the machine working together. From the boardroom right up to every major decision, AI will become a tool in our lives.”

“The decisions are better when it is the man and the machine working together. From the boardroom right up to every major decision, AI will become a tool in our lives.

Tackling the talent gap
The current dearth of technically skilled workers is one of the biggest challenges to digital transformation today, agreed many CEOs attending the Summit. While addressing that will ultimately require changes in the nation’s educational system, companies can’t afford to wait for that shift to happen organically, said Dow Chemical CEO Andrew Liveris.

“Infrastructure and materials companies like ours and AT&T have to do it ourselves,” he noted, referring to the need to work with community colleges to design curricula tailored to company needs. “The big opportunity is how to collaborate and rebuild the public education system…because our ecosystem will require more jobs, but of a different skill set.”

Staying ahead of digital disruption
alyssaringler_161206_ce0802-compressorIt’s the nature of evolution that the very companies that once innovated their way to success become vulnerable to the next big thing once they reach a certain size. 1-800-Flowers—which revolutionized the floral business by embracing telephone sales and, later, e-commerce—practices constant vigilance in that regard, reported Jim McCann, founder and executive chairman of the company.

The firm was an early partner with IBM Watson, which led to the creation of a digital concierge. Dubbed “Gwyn,” the robot helps its web customers with their gifting needs and will, thanks to machine learning, get to know its craft much the way a floral shop employee learns about floral service over time.

1-800-FLOWERS is also partnering with Uber to speed delivery service, has a chatbot on Amazon Messenger and a partnership with Amazon’s virtual assistant, Alexa, that allows customers to place an order with a voice command. McCann said he identifies such opportunities largely by taking a personal approach to fostering an atmosphere of innovation.

“I run monthly dinners with 10 to 15 people,” he explained. “I ask core talent folks to invite younger newer people and we ask them to bring ideas, anything they do that is new and creative. We have wonderful dialogues. In fact, being early to Facebook was because of a lady sitting next to me who told me how she used Facebook. The next morning I was there with two cups of tea saying, “Show me what you do on Facebook.”


MORE LIKE THIS

  • Get the CEO Briefing

    Sign up today to get weekly access to the latest issues affecting CEOs in every industry
  • upcoming events

    Roundtable

    Strategic Planning Workshop

    1:00 - 5:00 pm

    Over 70% of Executives Surveyed Agree: Many Strategic Planning Efforts Lack Systematic Approach Tips for Enhancing Your Strategic Planning Process

    Executives expressed frustration with their current strategic planning process. Issues include:

    1. Lack of systematic approach (70%)
    2. Laundry lists without prioritization (68%)
    3. Decisions based on personalities rather than facts and information (65%)

     

    Steve Rutan and Denise Harrison have put together an afternoon workshop that will provide the tools you need to address these concerns.  They have worked with hundreds of executives to develop a systematic approach that will enable your team to make better decisions during strategic planning.  Steve and Denise will walk you through exercises for prioritizing your lists and steps that will reset and reinvigorate your process.  This will be a hands-on workshop that will enable you to think about your business as you use the tools that are being presented.  If you are ready for a Strategic Planning tune-up, select this workshop in your registration form.  The additional fee of $695 will be added to your total.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $695 will be added to your total.

    New York, NY: ​​​Chief Executive's Corporate Citizenship Awards 2017

    Women in Leadership Seminar and Peer Discussion

    2:00 - 5:00 pm

    Female leaders face the same issues all leaders do, but they often face additional challenges too. In this peer session, we will facilitate a discussion of best practices and how to overcome common barriers to help women leaders be more effective within and outside their organizations. 

    Limited space available.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $495 will be added to your total.

    Golf Outing

    10:30 - 5:00 pm
    General’s Retreat at Hermitage Golf Course
    Sponsored by UBS

    General’s Retreat, built in 1986 with architect Gary Roger Baird, has been voted the “Best Golf Course in Nashville” and is a “must play” when visiting the Nashville, Tennessee area. With the beautiful setting along the Cumberland River, golfers of all capabilities will thoroughly enjoy the golf, scenery and hospitality.

    The golf outing fee includes transportation to and from the hotel, greens/cart fees, use of practice facilities, and boxed lunch. The bus will leave the hotel at 10:30 am for a noon shotgun start and return to the hotel after the cocktail reception following the completion of the round.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $295 will be added to your total.