(US and Canada) Mark Minevich, Chair, Executive Committee, AI for Good Foundation, speaks to Michael C. Fillios, Founder and CEO, IT Ally, about the need for digitalization for SMBs, a potent cybersecurity strategy, customer experience, and the need for future talent to work alongside AI for better performance.

Minevich says that today, SMBs shouldn’t think about simply analytics but look at it as all-around digital AI adoption, and it’s the same for global companies and governments. Beyond that, the journey has to be expedited.

“We need to bring the whole ecosystem — our startups, our partners, our vendors —  and the rapid full digitalization is going to also safeguard us from vulnerabilities. Companies must shift from just simply automation of the existing processes to digitalizing their operation,” he adds.

Minevich emphasizes that it's not just about adopting new technologies. Instead, small businesses have to engage customers through personalization, intimacy, and customer experiences. “Customer experience actually overrules efficiency today,” he adds. “If you have two options right now, efficiency and customer experience, I would pick customer experience.”

It’s important to combine and deploy technologies that are necessary for businesses, employees, and customers, and they're going to support better decision-making, he adds. “You cannot focus on just AI and data. You'll have to make sure that there are sensors that are sensing all the information. So if somebody walks into your boutique, you want to have sensors available.” 

Moving to the topic of automation to drive efficiency and reduce costs, Minevich advises that employees should have access to the right tools — they need not be expensive — but they do need to be repeatable, agile, and scalable. This automation should not only create a better customer experience but also reduce labor costs.

Regarding cybersecurity, Minevich says that organizations need a clear strategy. “Get all information about where the critical data is being stored. Make sure you have redundancy built-in, the ability to archive information in a number of locations, remote capabilities, and also be in sync with government authorities. You cannot look at cybersecurity as just one issue. We have to have a discovery capability to constantly discover threats in specific data or the person inputting data. We have to have ways to secure this information using the best practices and the right tools and the right technologies and the right people.” 

It is also necessary to monitor changes with the application of AI. “We have to allow artificial intelligence to do the job,” he says. “There's no way that a human being is able to permute through all of those combinations specifically in the post-quantum world,” he says.

On the topic of talent, Minevich says that the shortage of talent has worsened post-COVID. While more professionals are looking at remote work — and organizations are encouraging this — remote employees need to develop certain skill sets and train on tools to make virtual collaboration more seamless.

He cites a Google study that reveals that remote work had no impact on effectiveness, performance ratings, or promotions for individuals and teams. This calls for better application of AI and letting AI do repetitive and functional jobs, he says.

“Humans need to recognize that they have unique skills and they could work together with AI instead of being threatened by AI,”Minevich says. “We have to focus more on creativity as human beings. We have to focus more on multidisciplinary knowledge of AI. That said, business strategies, industries, and public policies are essential. We have to leverage the machines to replicate our imagination. We have to elevate humans to higher-level tasks.”