Matt Candy is IBM’s Global Managing Partner for Generative AI and is a member of IBM Consulting’s global leadership team. In this role, he is helping IBM clients worldwide embrace this new era of AI, combining AI and experience to deliver meaningful business outcomes beyond improved productivity and efficiencies to become an accelerant to growth. Matt partners with IBM Consulting clients and brings the creativity, expertise, and innovation of his teammates together with the power of IBM’s watsonx technology. Plus, many of these engagements leverage solutions from IBM ecosystem partners (e.g., Adobe, Amazon Web Services, Microsoft, Oracle, Salesforce, SAP, etc.), which are embedded deeply into client offerings. Matt is also driving the generative AI strategy, adoption, and enablement of 160,000 consultants within IBM Consulting. Matt’s previous role was as the Global Leader and Managing Partner of IBM iX, the experience design and customer transformation group within IBM Consulting.
Pund-IT: I understand that your university studies focused on computer science. How did you come to pursue a career in business services?
Matt Candy: Yes – I studied Computer Science at Warwick University in the UK. I always loved technology and the power and potential of it as I was growing up. During the summer break between my second and third year at university, I did a placement for three months with a software company in London. It was wonderful as it gave me an appreciation for the commercial world.
Pund-IT: What sorts of work did you do?
Candy: During that placement, I worked with one of the big consultancies that was partnering with a software company to implement their platform in a client organization. This opened my eyes to the world of consultancy and the opportunities to fuse business and technology. So, I applied for a number of different consultancies in my final year and ended up choosing an offer from Price Waterhouse to join the graduate program within its Management Consulting business in 1997. We then merged with Coopers and Lybrand a year later, and in 2002, IBM acquired the consulting business of PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) – and so here I am!
Pund-IT: You moved from IBM GBS to IBM iX in 2013, first as a VP and then in 2018 as the group’s Global Managing Partner, leading over 23,000 creators and makers. Can you talk about your new role and how it will contribute to IBM customer engagements?
Candy: I have spent over 26 years in the consulting business. While that might seem like a long time working at one organization, each role I’ve taken on has been unique and meaningful in different ways. I started my career at PwC and IBM as a consultant working on client delivery projects – business and technology transformations, mainly all in the CRM space within the telco, media, and utilities industries. Most recently, I had the privilege of building and growing a business and culture with IBM iX, which is the experience design and customer transformation part of IBM Consulting. I led the business in Europe and UK for around five and a half years and then globally for the last five and a half years. Fast forward to today, and I couldn’t be more thrilled to be in my new role, which is a global leadership role for generative AI for IBM Consulting.
Pund-IT: What do you like about these positions?
Candy: What makes me most excited about the new role is the huge opportunity in front of us to change how we work, both as consultants and with our clients. Plus, how it enables us to deliver meaningful business outcomes for our clients and their customers and employees by bringing AI and experience together. Within IBM, we are in a unique position to do this as we are a technology company that has a 160,000-personnel consulting business embedded within it.
Pund-IT: What IBM solutions and assets does your organization employ?
Candy: We bring the power of our own as-a-service AI and data platform, watsonx, to help clients easily develop, tune, and deploy enterprise-ready and trustworthy AI more easily and at scale – AI for Business. We’re also helping clients successfully adopt AI technology across a diverse AI partner ecosystem, including Adobe, AWS, Microsoft, Salesforce, and SAP.
Pund-IT: They sound like compelling offerings for IBM clients.
Candy: There has never been a more exciting time for consultants. – C-suite leaders everywhere are looking for trusted partners with the deep technology and industry expertise needed to scale trustworthy AI, and IBM Consulting is well-positioned to deliver that.
Pund-IT: OpenAI, ChatGPT, and similar technologies have massively increased interest in generative AI. Do you believe those projects have helped people better understand generative AI? Are there areas that should be included or clarified in public discussions around generative AI that are currently absent or ignored?
Candy: Generative AI has absolutely caught the world’s attention and imagination. People understand better what these technologies can do now that they’ve had a chance to experience it first-hand. Citizens are using it for help with homework, writing emails, meal planning, and much more. However, there are some serious and fair questions that have been raised about AI’s potential impacts on society when it comes to bias, misinformation or misuse.
Pund-IT: Such as?
Candy: We advise some of the largest organizations in the world and take the perspective that getting to trustworthy AI at scale means taking a human-centric approach that’s based on core principles of trust and transparency. Our clients are rightfully focused on security and data protection and the need to have ethics, trust, and governance engineered into the whole lifecycle of AI. Achieving that depends on taking a more holistic view that encompasses people, process, and tools. Businesses are transitioning from +AI (bolting AI into processes and experiences) to AI-first (– embedding AI into their core, mission-critical processes and thinking about things from an AI-first mindset). The results we’re seeing from AI today are just the start of what’s possible. Foundation models offer an opportunity to more easily create, train, tune, and deploy models on any cloud to solve our toughest challenges.
Pund-IT: What is IBM’s current position in the generative AI market? How has that changed over the past five to ten years?
Candy: IBM has been a leader in the AI space for years, pioneering AI-driven technologies for enterprises. We have decades of industry and domain experience in IBM Consulting, as we’ve helped some of the largest organizations in the world transform their mission-critical processes. In fact, we were recently ranked as the #1 leading consultancy for artificial intelligence by BusinessChief.
Pund-IT: What roles does IBM watsonx play in these engagements?
Candy: With watsonx, we’re streamlining IBM’s AI offerings and embedding them with the power of foundation models, making AI for businesses available to organizations small and large by allowing customers to easily design and deploy AI that is more accurate, scalable, and adaptable than ever before. IBM Consulting has established a Center of Excellence for Generative AI with more than 1,000 consultants ready to help accelerate our clients’ business transformations with enterprise-grade AI from IBM and our ecosystem partners.
Pund-IT: I find it interesting that IBM is taking what might be called a “people first” approach to what many other companies are approaching in largely technological ways.
Candy: Each new era of technology brings its own opportunities, and throughout each one, IBM has always anchored our client work in the humans we serve – both our teams internally in IBM, but also those served by our clients – their customers, their patients, their suppliers, their employees, and their citizens, by – enhancing and making people’s experiences better, and removing friction from their lives. This new era of ‘AI for Business’ will be defined by this successful partnership between people, AI, and the experiences we put in their hands, anchored in trust and strong governance. This is why IBM Consulting is very well-positioned to help businesses navigate this new era.
Pund-IT: Generative AI is accelerating AI adoption in the industry. How have your conversations with IBM Consulting’s clients changed?
Candy: As we engage with clients today, we hear how there is more desire than ever before for increased productivity and enhanced customer and employee experiences. Therefore, the recent excitement with generative AI has put these conversations into overdrive. As a matter of fact, based on a recent IBM Institute for Business Value study, CEOs ranked productivity as their highest priority (48%), up from 6th place in 2022, and are increasingly looking toward operational, technology, and data leaders as strategic decision leaders.
However, CEOs need to weigh the urgency to act against potential risks of generative AI. And what we’re hearing from the majority of CEOs is that they are rightfully concerned about the security of data and worry about bias or data accuracy. As leaders begin to integrate AI and foundation models into their businesses, they must think about the speed-to-value and how to ensure the outputs are trustworthy.
Clients are keen to understand what they need to do next and how to put in place the right governance and guardrails as they scale within the enterprise.
Pund-IT: Are clients asking for or seeing quantifiable business benefits?
Candy: We very much believe that generative AI will help our clients achieve their most pressing needs and that it will be the thing that will fuel the next wave of business value. But it isn’t simply about technology. It’s about people and processes. Where it will deliver the most value is how it will boost employee productivity in ways that will allow for more creative thinking and collaboration and using those productivity gains to create the fuel for new experiences, new revenue streams, and new business models to drive competitive advantage.
Pund-IT: What are some examples?
Candy: It will also enable businesses to meet the demands of their customers for more personalized and enhanced experiences. Examples include delivering AI-generated spoken sports commentary to millions of fans at The Masters, applying generative AI in the customer relationship process for Bouygues Telecom, combining generative AI with IBM watsonx to verify the discovery of new applications with Mitsui Chemicals, and creating generative AI commentary and AI drawn analysis to the Wimbledon digital experience.
Pund-IT: How is AI transforming the ways your clients do business (the ways businesses work)?
Candy: AI is about a new way of working, driving an accelerated throughput of work and helping to drive transformation at a greater pace. It’s aA new era where human potential is less constrained by process silos, where human creativity is unleashed and the potential of every person on every team is amplified. AI is an opportunity to fuel and fund innovation and allow humans to do what we do best: – idea generation.
In today’s economy, organizations are doing more with less, yet the stakes remain higher than ever for creating an exceptional customer and employee experience. There is certainly the need for enhanced automation of manual and repetitive tasks. When businesses automate repetitive tasks with AI, they’re able to overcome skills gaps and more quickly optimize processes for digital transformation. This also allows for new business models and can help drive efficiency to produce content and code.
Pund-IT: How do enterprise leaders and decision makers need to respond to the opportunities from AI?
Candy: Again, to unlock the potential of AI within enterprises, we believe leaders need to start with an AI-first mindset. One that goes from seeing AI as supplementary, to instead viewing your whole business instead through the lens of AI. Looking at AI through this lens will allow you to make step changes. But no AI technology will magically change things without an enterprise-wide approach to adopting AI.
Pund-IT: What steps do leaders and their organizations need to take?
Candy: To truly embrace AI and reap the rewards, leaders must be mindful of the following:
- Develop cultural fluency in your organization, and embed a culture of responsible AI and trust in all you do from the start. Every decision has to have ethical considerations.
- Successful implementations require connection to high- quality, governed data that supports and is representative of the desired business outcomes.
- Encourage a culture of flexibility, of innovation and of continuous learning. Provide support and resources for those who are apprehensive – to ensure no one is left behind.
- Move with urgency and gain an agile extraction of value from transformative efforts – how do we deliver value at the speed of AI.
Pund-IT: Are open-source technologies and communities important to IBM’s AI efforts?
Candy: From our point of view, IBM Consulting also sees innovation moving faster in the open -source space. As enterprise leaders make decisions, we want to help them see a world that is multi-model and multi-cloud. In order for them to successfully leverage AI, they will also need to embrace an open approach by adopting different AI models for different use cases, so they have the flexibility to choose the best model for the job at hand. And then ensure they have the right ability to govern and manage these LLMs across the enterprise.
Pund-IT: What are the risks inherent to any Gen AI initiative?
Candy: We know that with any technology going through rapid development, AI can be hazardous, especially in business settings. We are also still at a point where businesses are underprepared and unsure about how to implement AI. There are still too few rules of the road, so if developed in the wrong way, AI can be frivolous or dangerous.
Pund-IT: How can firms mitigate the data and IP security issues? Mitigate bias and hallucinations?
Candy: IBM watsonx enables enterprises to bring their own trusted data and IP to build tailored AI solutions that are adaptable to the evolving legal and regulatory landscape. With watsonx, clients are not limited to just prompting someone else’s AI model with no control over the model or the data. By bringing their own trusted data and AI models to the platform, an enterprise’s own data becomes the difference between capturing or relinquishing market value.
Pund-IT: What specific features and benefits does IBM watsonx offer?
Candy: IBM watsonx consists of three components: watsonx.ai, watsonx.data, and watsonx.goverance. With watsonx.ai, users have access to high-quality, pre-trained, and proprietary IBM foundation models for the enterprise that are domain-specific and built with a rigorous focus on data acquisition, provenance, and quality – with full visibility of the data that was used for training, but as well they also have access to a full range of open-source models through the Hugging Face integration in the platform. With watsonx.data, businesses can access a data store that enables the gathering and cleansing of training and tuning data. And with watsonx.governance, which will be available in Q4 2023, businesses can direct, manage, and monitor their organization’s AI activities and employ software automation to better mitigate risk, manage regulatory requirements, and address ethical concerns.
Pund-IT: What was not possible in the past that is now possible with generative AI? What business use cases is generative AI empowering, and what new use cases it is it creating?
Candy: There are three use cases where we are seeing clients applying a lot of focus and where AI can make a massive difference, and our consultants are already helping clients get results in these areas:
- AI for HR: The first use case is AI for HR and talent. We all know that generative AI will change how we work. HR leaders are seeing the possibilities AI can bring to improve recruiting, retaining, and developing skills for talent. IBM Consulting brings our deep HR, industry, and technology expertise with solutions such as watsonx Orchestrate. This platform can automate and enhance HR workflows and integrate with applications across our partner ecosystem. This goes back to the notion of AI amplifying human capabilities and automating repetitive tasks to create a more engaging and fulfilling employee experience.
- AI for customer service: For me personally, I am extremely excited about AI for customer service and marketing due to my former role leading the IBM iX team. IBM Consulting also sees tremendous opportunity for this use case. In fact, based on the latest research done by the IBM Institute for Business Value, customer service has become CEOs’ number one generative AI priority. There is also value for marketers. When asked about the primary use cases for generative AI, CMO respondents ranked content creation and editing, SEO, and social media monitoring as some of the top use cases. In addition to what watsonx can do to help train and fine-tune foundation models using company and customer-specific data, we also recently made generative AI partnership announcements with Adobe and Salesforce. With Adobe, IBM Consulting is helping brands successfully accelerate their content supply chains through Adobe’s creative, generative AI models. And with Salesforce, we are helping organizations accelerate their adoption of AI for CRM using IBM watsonx and Salesforce’s AI technologies.
- AI for application modernization: The third use case is AI for application modernization. Technology leaders are facing an incredibly complex IT landscape, with aging applications, siloed skills, and high cost of cloud adoption. AI can help address these challenges. IBM Consulting has the experience of co-creating hybrid cloud strategies and a deep understanding of how to modernize applications on hybrid cloud, manage hybrid cloud journeys with reduced risk, and predictable outcomes with the help of AI.
Pund-IT: What does this mean for IBM? What is the company’s strategy over the next 1-3 years?
Candy: In the same way that we established our successful Hybrid Cloud services business built on the Red Hat OpenShift platform, IBM Consulting intends to be the leading consulting services provider for watsonx. In addition, IBM Consulting has a rich partner ecosystem, and we are already a leading partner to the other key technology players like– AWS, Microsoft, Salesforce, Adobe, SAP, Oracle, and others. Our clients will be using multiple different Gen AI technologies within their landscape, and we want to be the transformation partner who is able to help them drive the value realization across all these technologies.
Pund-IT: We saw that IBM Consulting just launched their 1,000-worker Generative AI CoE. What’s the mission? Skillsets of team members? How are client interactions structured?
Candy: The CoE has more than 1,000 consultants with specialized generative AI expertise who are engaging with a global set of clients. In 2023 alone, IBM Consulting has interacted with more than 100 clients and completed dozens of engagements infusing generative AI alongside classical machine learning AI strategies. The CoE will use the full generative AI technology stack, including foundation models and 50+ domain-specific classical machine learning accelerators aimed at helping clients improve productivity and foster innovation. We will also use IBM’s proprietary AI “advisor” toolkit in IBM Consulting to improve our internal operations and client delivery.
Pund-IT: From what we’ve discussed so far, IBM Consulting is clearly not going it alone in supporting clients’ generative AI needs.
Candy: IBM Consulting has unique skills in IBM technology but also works closely with a diverse AI partner ecosystem, including Adobe, Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft, Salesforce, SAP, open-source technologies, and more, to help ensure clients benefit from the technology solution that best meets their needs.
Pund-IT: How should IBM Consulting clients think about which tools and cloud vendors to leverage for scaling generative AI?
Candy: We believe a platform is only as valuable as the ecosystem it enables. This is why IBM Consulting takes an open and collaborative approach to plan, build, implement, and operate generative AI solutions that embrace multiple models on multiple clouds from industry leaders. An open ecosystem approach helps clients define the right models and the right architecture to deliver the desired outcomes.
What is most important is to focus on the business problem and outcome and then work to identify the most appropriate technology to support this.
Pund-IT: Thank you, Matt. I appreciate you taking the time for this discussion.
Candy: You’re welcome, Charles.
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