We see artificial intelligence as augmented intelligence: Sanjay Srivastava, CDO, Genpact

As we move into a new world dotted with new challenges and realities, it is interesting to see how we will grapple with AI bias, ethical cross-roads, sentient AI and a cloud-dominated outsourcing landscape. Sanjay Srivastava, CDO, Genpact talks about how core IP, cloud RPA, acquisitions and digital ethics officers are going to etch a new direction in the industry as they move forward.

DQ: It has been surmised that the pandemic put digital process automation on a fast-track of as many as six years for many enterprises. Is that a good thing for the industry? What challenges or caution areas, if any, should we be alert about?

Sanjay Srivastava: Prior to COVID-19, many companies had a five-year roadmap to digitise their operations. Now most of them want to go digital within just two years. In fact, we are seeing a 10x faster business acceleration to the cloud. Companies understand that they must accelerate their digital transformations or be left behind. However, digital transformation requires the intersection of three vectors. When all three don’t come together, initiatives fail. These comprise deep understanding of domain, digital tools, and capabilities to architect the new business framework, and large-scale programme management to orchestrate people, process, technology and data. In that way, you can drive change and deliver business outcomes in a predictable-managed fashion.

DQ: Can you tell us something more about the next-generation drug safety project in the UK?

Sanjay Srivastava: We are proud to work with and support companies in many parts of the global testing and vaccine value chain in the fight against COVID-19. This highly complex and connected ecosystem presents some of the greatest strategic, operational, and logistical challenges of our time, and technology innovation applied to specific pain points will be critical to how we solve them. This includes the work we do with major manufacturers in the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries.

The use of AI is critical in managing massive amounts of data in the fight against COVID-19, as evidenced by Genpact’s work with the UK government surrounding planned adverse event reporting for the COVID-19 vaccine.

DQ: Can you elaborate on how the solution shaped up?

Sanjay Srivastava: The UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) needed an AI software tool to help process adverse events to a COVID-19 vaccine to ensure no details of adverse reports are missed. When a vaccine finally gets distributed at scale and speed, a technology solution will be needed to track batch and lot numbers to know where each dose is. This gets complicated at scale, but is a critical element to overall public safety.

Historic large-scale vaccination campaigns in the UK have resulted in large increases in suspected adverse event reporting. Without such a solution, MHRA may be unable to effectively process the expected high volume of vaccine adverse events received through its public website where such reactions are reported.

To facilitate a rapid solution, Genpact is implementing specific components of its AI software suite to integrate with the government’s website where adverse events are reported. Technology solutions will enable the government to track reactions by batch, lot and location, and provide details on any potential issues or trends related to ethnicity, age, gender, and other demographic factors that are essential to public health.

The software suite is Genpact’s Pharmacovigilance Artificial Intelligence (PVAI) – and we have utilised components from PVAI for providing the solution to MHRA.

DQ: What new considerations envelop AI today? Is ethical governance one of them?

Sanjay Srivastava: AI is intrinsic and influential. As a result, there have been concerns regarding how organisations use it to make decisions. Concerns over bias in AI systems and lack of skills to design AI solutions are not new, but there seems to be an increase in board-level recognition of the pitfalls and the need for ethical frameworks. Our most recent study shows that while 67% of consumers worry about AI discriminating against them, and 64 per cent fear that AI will make decisions that affect them without their knowledge, companies that understand these issues and act accordingly can succeed. There is a need to establish ethical AI frameworks for effective decision-making without misuse of data as AI continues to increase its influence in business decision-making.

DQ: How can these concerns be addressed then?

Sanjay Srivastava: With these frameworks, businesses can build trust with consumers, which support AI adoption, but also brand reputation. As part of ethical AI frameworks, business leaders must encourage diversity. The goal is to have complete and comprehensive data samples that can cover all scenarios and users to eliminate bias. Enterprises could see more positions like digital ethics officers with multiple responsibilities: implementing ethical frameworks to make appropriate decisions about new technologies; addressing considerations such as data security and bias; looking ahead to future technology challenges; building new standards of technology governance; and establishing new check-and-balance systems to ensure that preventative measures remain effective.

DQ: Is the landscape ready for adaptive/sentient AI? Should we be worried about any hyper-automation pitfalls?

Sanjay Srivastava: Sentient AI has many different implications stretching from sensing the emotion in a conversation to being empathetic in the response that we provide, to making very complex decisions based on not only logic, but also emotions. Where we already see many successes is in the area of sensing and incorporating emotion. And sensing emotions has many applications. The effectiveness of AI is the highest around breadth as opposed to depth. AI has a stronger application in getting a pulse on the emotions of 100,000 employees on a daily basis than understanding what a specific person is feeling.

AI is really good at prediction, and it is only getting better. But it needs to be combined with human judgement in order to deliver outcomes. We always see a pairing of machine and human intelligence in order to deliver these outcomes. We see AI not as artificial intelligence but as augmented intelligence.

DQ: Are you observing any new shifts in the market with respect to cloud RPA, rebadging, captives and multi-sourcing?

Sanjay Srivastava: Genpact is seeing a significant acceleration to the cloud during COVID-19 as an increasing number of executives experience the availability, resilience, and performance of cloud-based applications. We are partnering with top cloud providers to bring strong cloud-based solutions in all our high-priority areas, such as finance and accounting, supply chain management, banking operations, and insurance operations, to name a few. For example, for a large industrial client, we are re-imagining their cash collections process to reduce errors in payments and improve regulatory compliance by re-platforming their collections application to Amazon Web Services in order to drive improved cash flows.

DQ: What are Genpact’s future plans in terms of expansion through handshakes, like with Enquero, especially when almost every big player is on a cloud-native and AI spree?

Sanjay Srivastava: We continue to identify new opportunities as well as build differentiation in existing offerings. Once prioritised, these are funded through an organic (R&D) or inorganic (alliances and M&A) process. This has enabled us to build some unique solutions that have helped us differentiate and grow at a much faster pace. This has also helped us deliver superior outcomes for our clients, be it meeting compliance, ensuring customer satisfaction, or generating top-line impact, faster speed to close loans. We are focused on creating value beyond costs for our clients across industries. Data is rightfully a first-class citizen in enterprise architectures and a significant component of the value driver in digital transformations. The data stack is fast changing to a cloud infrastructure and Enquero is at the forefront of this shift. We are strong believers in the true value of digital at the intersection of data and domain. Enquero reinforces our already strong commitment to domain-led data and analytics and expands our capabilities in digital transformation.

DQ: Where do you see this industry in the next five years and what is your strategy on that horizon?

Sanjay Srivastava: Every company in the world is a technology company. Some just don’t know it yet. We at Genpact embrace technology at our core. It is important to build IP in digital. We are taking a thoughtful approach to where and how we build IP [and where we don’t]. We have established a framework across services IP [including frameworks, playbooks and POV] and tech IP [reference architectures, domain data models, business rules and data labels]. We are not building IP in areas where we can leverage hyperscalers and tech providers.

Genpact Cora has now grown to become Genpact’s IP around delivering domain-specific digital solutions to the market. This IP covers both services IP like frameworks, playbooks, benchmarks, and technology IPs like accelerators and composable services, as well as IP built on top of partner technologies like AWS or Microsoft.

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