Advice for CIOs on getting started with AI

Advice for CIOs on getting started with AI

Tips and guidance from three leading tech chiefs rolling out artificial intelligence initiatives in Australia

The CTIO said offerings from existing vendors were a good place to start with AI initiatives.

“One of the ways to get started, and Stockland has taken a quite pragmatic view with that so far, is to use embedded vendor offerings. How do you actually start in a lean way? If you’ve got a customer systems based around say Salesforce – well you can use tools in that. There’s simple tools in Facebook, same with AWS, there’s lots of tools there that you can use if you need to get started and prove the value,” she explained.

Stockland CTIO Robyn Elliott
Stockland CTIO Robyn Elliott

AI initiatives were like any other technology proposal, and had to be presented to boards in terms of business value, Elliott said.

“My experience of working with boards is you’ve always got to tie it to a business problem. If you go to a board and say ‘we need to build an AI capability’ – there’s only a couple of board members who probably would relate to that. But generally you’ve got to tie it to a specific problem, which is a business problem you’re trying to solve,” she said.

“If you use AI as a tool in that mix to solve that problem, that’s the best way to get started, then ramp it up.”

AMP CTO Chris Bell

Having set out on a cloud-first strategy a number of years ago, financial services firm AMP now has its sights set on increased automation and innovation.

Like any new technology, the opportunity of AI is framed in terms of its business benefits.

“We have lots of ways that we roll out innovation across the group. We don’t treat AI as any different from any other kind of opportunity in terms of the way we assess the opportunity. At the end of the day, you have to go back to the business benefits around doing it, the do-ability of the opportunity,” said AMP chief technology officer Chris Bell.

The company has rolled out a number of chatbots over the last 18 months including Rosie, an online chatbot which assist customers by answering questions and guiding them through AMP’s Flexible Super superannuation product. Rosie is a cognitive virtual assistant from fintech firm Flamingo.

Another bot, from Spanish AI firm Inbenta, is being used internally to assist AMP contact centre staff.

“Our proof of concepts we got up and running quickly. My observation now, because we have a few of these running now, is ok what’s next?” Bell, who joined AMP in July last year, said.

The success of early AI proof-of-concepts is now being used to raise awareness of AI’s potential at the board level, kick starting the formation of a cohesive strategy.

“AI was something that our business was keen for us as a technology organisation to get involved in and start exploring. So having a quick win up there like that has really enabled us to build a broad strategy around AI as well. What we’ve been doing over the last six months is trying to further educate our executive committee and board around what the opportunity for AI is and really bring a bit of structure to that,” Bell said.

Like Mills, Bell emphasised the importance of getting back-end data sorted before pushing forward on such projects.

“We’ve been focusing a lot around getting the foundational aspects around data sorted out, that really can’t be underestimated. That’s an absolute non-negotiable for any of the things we’re doing around AI and machine learning,” Bell added.

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Tags agileexecutivesampctoAIStocklandAWSRobyn ElliottFairfaxNIBDiusCTIOChris Bellmachien learningBrendan Mills

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