The opportunity for partners to participate in the AI market is omnipresent and significant. In Canada, we are leading the way, locally and globally, in amplifying human ingenuity with AI. Irrespective of industry, whether healthcare, finance, manufacturing, retail, government, or education, organizations of all sizes are exploring how to leverage AI-based capabilities to modernize their operations, improve their customer experience or more broadly, enable themselves to become a digital business.
AI will not only create endless business opportunities for partners, but also will provide competitive advantages and tremendous benefits to those who are leading.
As I indicated in my post “The incredible AI opportunity for the Canadian Ecosystem”, we have some incredible work being done by our partners to lead with AI, that we wanted to share. As the second in a series of “unplugged” Q&A, I’d like introduce Pythian, and have some thoughts shared from Chris Presley, Director of Consulting in Transformation Services & Solutions Architecture.
About Pythian, and their core business
Chris Presley: We are a global IT company with more than 20 years of experience in data and we help businesses all over the world leverage disruptive data technologies to better compete. Our services and software solutions empower companies to take advantage of the full range of benefits that cloud, data and analytics present.
We are proud to be a Microsoft Gold Data Platform and Silver Cloud Platform Partner and have extensive expertise planning, implementing and managing Microsoft Azure cloud implementations and offer expertise across a wide range of Microsoft technologies. Our Kick Analytics as a Service (Kick AaaS), is a cloud native data analytics platform built on Microsoft Azure, that transforms data into business value for analytics users, data scientists, or other systems by automating processes for verifying, transforming and unifying complex, multi-source data on a single platform. Our family of Microsoft MVPs and certified experts are passionate about helping companies benefit from disruptive technologies such as AI and Ethereum Blockchain that are driving today’s innovative, agile businesses.
Pythian experts are highly sought-after speakers on the hottest topics in data and technology. We have also spoken at a number of Microsoft-related events and regularly blog on our site.
In a nutshell, we live and breathe our tagline “Love Your Data”.
Thinking about your business, what type of customer/buyer do you target? Is there a specific functional area that you focus on?
Chris Presley: In the broadest sense, our clients are businesses whose data and IT systems drive their revenues and include SaaS, media, gaming, financial services, and e-commerce companies across the globe.
To simplify, we offer a wide range of services and products that includes everything from managing databases to moving databases to the cloud to analytics as a service— and we’re always excited about working on projects that involve newer and emerging data technologies like blockchain and AI. In short: we are all about solving business problems with cloud and data solutions.
How have the advances in Artificial Intelligence helped your business grow?
Chris Presley: Our clients are all working to leverage their data. They all want to use advanced analytics (AI/ML) at some point in their data journey. Until recently, advanced analytics has been the domain of a limited number of data scientists and the tools they used often resulted in long development cycles because they weren’t integrated with their data. With the introduction of Azure Machine Learning, the movement to AI has become more realistic, and equally important, more cost-effective. As these toolsets become more widely used, our clients are investing in the aggregation, cleaning and integrating of all of their data to better equip their AI teams with the key ingredient for success – DATA that is clean, organized and available. This has increased demand for migrating data to the cloud, data platforms that integrate and clean data, and for our data services that help organizations operationalize the outputs of their AI/ML models.
Generally, when you engage with a new customer, what is the key business challenge(s) they are looking for your help with?
Chris Presley: Customers recognize the value in their large volumes of data — many see it as the “new oil”. But turning that data into real value is challenging. Often, when customers don’t know where to begin, they turn to Pythian to solve large-scale data challenges, like getting a 360-degree view of their customers to improve the customer experience. In use cases like this, they need to integrate large volumes of data from multiple sources, and the process is complex and time-consuming. With Pythian’s more than 20 years of organizing, managing and moving data, customers know they can trust us to help them make sense of it all. They know that Pythian has the unique mix of business savvy and deep technical expertise to turn their data into actionable insights that align with their business goals.
Our customers are at varying degrees of maturity when it comes to AI. For many, they simply want to get all of their data in one location so they can do exploration and simple analytics. Others are ready to move into advanced analytics including AI and ML. Our objective is to meet the needs of clients at any stage of data maturity and help them accelerate their path to AI.
Is there a specific customer that you would highlight where you’ve had a direct impact on their business outcomes?
Chris Presley: A well-known leader in the live entertainment industry, with a global network of venues, sports franchises, music brands, integrated entertainment districts, and ticketing platforms, had a vision for connecting with customers and enhancing the user experience for all of their events. They had the opportunity to use big data to communicate with clients in a more personalized and timely way to provide the ultimate experience at their events and venues.
In order to do this, they had to get a complete view of their customers from what events they attended and with how many people, to what they ate and what they did at the events. The data they needed to create this integrated view was locked in multiple silos—a number of ticketing systems, several email marketing systems, point of sale systems from the venues, and web traffic data, to name just a few.
Pythian worked with the client and Microsoft to implement our Kick AaaS cloud-native Customer Data Platform, a big data and analytics solution.
For the first time, the client could see the entirety of their customers’ behavior and preferences, allowing them to create personalized, timely communications. Self-service analytics has become a reality for them, as Kick AaaS enables business users to perform analytics and create visualizations using Power BI, without requiring help from a specialized BI team. Now this company is moving into advanced analytics — Kick AaaS lets them bring their machine learning models out of individual desktops and into a data platform where they can make use of data at a scale that was previously unimagined, and where collaboration on the outputs of the models can take place. These outputs can be integrated back into the appropriate enterprise system through data pipelines that are fully managed and running at scale.
Lastly, what are your thoughts on the future of AI and its impact on society?
Chris Presley: Whether we are involved in building the technology or not, Artificial Intelligence will touch all of our lives in the next decade. Highly visible to all will be the autonomous driving and traffic automation systems so desperately needed by our continually growing urban centers. Less obvious, at least initially, will be the industry impact as AI realizes greater efficiency in everything from business process optimization to near human-free mass production.
Specifically, we will see repetitive human tasks streamlined both in the office and the production line. That need not translate to a loss in jobs but rather a shift in hiring for the more valuable human attributes that cannot yet be found in AI systems and helpers.
A lot of traditional simple analytical and administrative work will be replaced with background AI that we simply shepherd to our goals. Ultimately, the result of AI in a decade will be to foster a culture where the most informed decision makers are the most successful.
Research and Development will be dramatically altered by the convergence of AI and progressively cheaper computing. When products need optimization or testing, realistic simulations of real products can be repeatedly tested and optimized at levels previously only available to large corporations. Whether you are innovator on Indiegogo looking to simulate a new boat hull in the water or you are a pharmaceutical company looking to test a drug virtually before pursuing human trials, AI optimization and testing will be available to anyone with a cloud account and a reasonable budget. New marketplaces will be created around pre-trained AI models and realistic simulations. Readily available AI will be a disruptive force for creators and innovators.
“We have reached the point where any business that is not looking ahead to take advantage of the huge opportunity that AI presents is in danger of getting left behind. In a rapidly changing economy, cutting-edge technologies like Machine Learning and AI drive business strategy and outcomes, have the power to enhance the customer experiences on a whole new level and so much more – the possibilities are endless.”
— Paul Vallée, CEO, Pythian