Editor’s note: Patrick Schwerdtfeger, closing keynote speaker at the GRC Conference 2019, to take place 12-14 August in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, USA, is a business futurist specializing in technology topics such as artificial intelligence, blockchain and FinTech. Schwerdtfeger recently visited with ISACA Now to discuss how these and other components of digital transformation will reshape the business landscape going forward. The following is a transcript of the interview, edited for length and clarity:
ISACA Now: In what ways do you consider the human imprint on business to be most valuable as automation becomes increasingly commonplace?
Human interactions remain the foundation of almost every business, not only because humans are the ones making purchases, but also because humans are the ones controlling the delivery of products and services. In the near term, the risk is not that machines start acting more like humans; it’s that humans start acting more like machines. In order to have any longevity as a business, and loyalty from customers, businesses need to keep track of employee engagement levels, customer satisfaction levels and public perception levels.
ISACA Now: Do you think AI’s value will ultimately outweigh some of the potential malicious ways in which it can be misused?
Machine learning is affecting every industry segment, including cybersecurity. Hackers are using increasing sophisticated tactics to infiltrate corporate systems, whether to steal intellectual property, sell personal information, or extort money. These are scary propositions, and cybersecurity professionals are working overtime to stay ahead of malicious parties. Nevertheless, the same technology is poised to revolutionize every industry, delivering better outcomes for fewer dollars. The benefits of artificial intelligence and machine learning will vastly outweigh the risks. In the world of accounting and finance, in particular, the ongoing digital transformation will yield enormous efficiencies and reveal endless insights that businesses can use to enhance their business models.
ISACA Now: Social media certainly isn’t new anymore, but what might be a few new ways of approaching it that can provide organizations some quick wins?
The opportunities with social media have not changed and, similarly, the way in which most businesses fail to capitalize on social media have also not changed. Businesses typically use social media to announce promotions, describe products and/or services, and ask potential prospects to buy. Meanwhile, those are the worst possible messages for the social media medium. Social media is about human connection and telling stories. Social media posts should only provide value. They should never ask for anything – only give, give, give. Once the prospect has clicked on something to arrive on the business’ website, that’s when an offer can be made, not before. Companies can get some quick wins by developing a series of content pieces (including blog posts, white papers, videos, or PDF cheat sheets) to give away for free, and then present recipients with a compelling offer to engage on a deeper level.
ISACA Now: What are some overlooked ways in which organizations can make use of big data?
Big data offers endless possibilities for profitable insights. Each use case presents unique opportunities. However, it’s worth noting that the profitable use cases thus far have almost all involved predictive analytics. In other words, how can we evaluate existing data to anticipate future behavior? These days, companies are building increasingly complex models involving hundreds of different variables, to gain a better understanding of the customer or the process being analyzed. And since deep learning and reinforcement learning benefit from larger data sets, businesses are in a race to accumulate as much data as possible.
ISACA Now: What other technological trends do you expect to have the greatest business impact in the next 10 years?
The most impactful technology trends will all be driven by either (1) machine learning or (2) blockchain protocol. The machine learning trends include autonomous driving (Tesla, Waymo, Uber), cashier-less retail stores (Amazon GO stores), automated socialbot call centers (Google Duplex, Apple’s Siri, Amazon Alexa), and streamlined security checkpoints (airport security, etc.). The blockchain trends include more efficient supply chain systems (smart contracts, custom clearance), traceability and chain of custody (diamonds, GMO foods, title insurance), digital identity ledgers (ID2020, healthcare, KYC), and digital payments (Facebook cryptocurrency, Apple’s credit card, AliPay, WeChat Pay).