‘Cognitive computing is building a future where machines & humans can coexist’

‘Cognitive computing is building a future where machines & humans can coexist’

Harnath Babu, CIO, KPMG India, shares how new technology adoption can transform the way businesses function while delivering superior customer experiences.

Technologies like Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Cognitive Computing, and RPA have the potential to help enterprises achieve significant productivity gains and greater operational efficiencies. But they also have the potential to impact existing jobs. Harnath Babu, CIO, KPMG India, believes that while machines will replace certain jobs, this will also free people to focus on higher value work and take on new roles and responsibilities. In this exclusive interview with CIO Dialogues he discusses how enterprises embracing these emerging technologies are building a future where machines and humans will coexist.

How do you see technologies like AI, Machine Learning, and deep learning transforming enterprises?
Businesses are increasingly going digital nowadays with the rise of technology trends as well as constant changes in consumer needs. Innovations like AL, Cognitive Computing and Machine Learning are introducing new cultures, changing the competitive landscape, increasing customer expectations and disrupting existing business models.

We need to operate outside the traditional business models to harvest value in the present digital era while staying competitive in the market. The need of the hour is to enable flexibility and responsiveness for internal stakeholders, so that we can improve customer experience and deliver to them at scale.

How mature is cognitive computing as a technology? How is KPMG in India experimenting with it?
I believe cognitive computing is rapidly evolving and impacting both our professional and personal lives. By enabling systems to replicate human capabilities, we can see cognitive computing technology building a future where humans and machines would coexist and enable businesses to streamline business processes, improve operational performance, make faster, informed decisions as well as augment organisational productivity.

Considering the developments, enterprises are looking for ways to implement cognitive computing technologies to gain competitive advantage. For example, healthcare service providers are leveraging cognitive computing-based applications to improve the quality of diagnoses as well as treatment provided to patients. Even in the banking sector, cognitive apps are being used to automate several business processes. To address customer queries faster, companies are also leveraging chatbots.

At KPMG in India, we have deployed RPA to automate a number of everyday tasks performed by different teams. This has significantly helped us improve user experience, reduce costs as well as save time for core business activities. We have deployed a chatbot—a conversational bot powered by AI—that addresses user queries in real-time and helps them with internal employee-related services.

We have also implemented a voice digital assistant, configuring it with specialised skills for a few specific requirements. For example, integration with analytics so users can request the voice-based assistant for key metrics or key KPIs with simple voice commands for both business and IT.

RPA is another technology that has the potential to cut down costs and improve efficiencies. But it also has the potential to impact jobs. How do you think enterprises will deal with this?
Most forward-looking enterprises are leveraging RPA to eliminate tedious tasks, reduce costs and free up corporate workers to focus on higher value work. As with any automation technology, RPA has the potential to eliminate jobs, which is one of the major challenges. However, I strongly believe that RPA will create new jobs as corporate workers train and take over new roles and responsibilities within their companies. Like I said, emerging technologies such as RPA, AI and cognitive computing are helping build a future where humans and machines coexist and enable businesses to streamline business processes, improve operational performance, make faster, informed decisions as well as augment organisational productivity.

While cloud (SaaS, IaaS) has matured as a concept and enterprises are increasingly moving various workloads to the cloud there still exist concerns about cloud security and data extrusion. How does one address these?
With benefits like higher flexibility, lower fixed costs, improved collaboration, increased storage capacity and the liberty to work from anywhere, businesses now operate on the cloud. However, cloud being an open environment, there is a great deal of uncertainty about cloud security and data privacy at various levels. Some of the ways businesses can prevent cloud security threats include educating employees on best practices to help ensure data security, invest in daily data backup, offsite storage and disaster recovery, opt for cloud encryption to make sure the movement of data in the cloud is protected, and implement the right cloud application governance process to ensure compliance with internal as well as external data privacy mandates.