Quick Video: Deloitte’s Beena Ammanath on AI, Data and Analytics

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Beena Ammanath of Deloitte on AI, data and analytics

Todd Pruzan, HBR

Welcome to fast shooting HBR video. I’m Todd Pruzan, Research and Special Projects Editor at Harvard Business Review. And today I’m with Beena Ammanath, Executive Director of the Deloitte AI Institute. Beena’s expertise spans e-commerce, finance, marketing, telecommunications, retail and software products with companies such as HPE, GE, Thomson Reuters, British Telecom, Bank of America, E-Trade and a number of Silicon Valley startups. She is also the founder of the nonprofit Humans for AI. Beena, thank you very much for being with us today.

Beena Ammanath, Deloitte

Todd, thank you very much for inviting me on the show.

Todd Pruzan, HBR

Beena, to start with a general question, what feeds your curiosity?

Beena Ammanath, Deloitte

Todd, I think while you were reading my bio, I thought my career just shows a curiosity path that I took, leading me into all of these different industries. I think it’s a need – a relentless need – to acquire knowledge, to learn different things. This quest for knowledge is what fuels my curiosity across all these different industries, and my career path reflects that.

Todd Pruzan, HBR

So, as a leader, how do you encourage curiosity within Deloitte?

Beena Ammanath, Deloitte

Yes. And look, Todd, we live in an interesting time where innovation is happening at a faster rate than ever before. There were certainly some triggers. And my work at Deloitte really brings [the] The AI ​​ecosystem and all dimensions of the ecosystem, plus data and analytics, at Deloitte. So what I do to encourage curiosity is really part of my job, which challenges the status quo, encourages new ideas and thinking within Deloitte, but also provides a safe space to try out those new ideas.

Todd Pruzan, HBR

Now, when you were a new emerging leader, what were you most curious about? And what do you think you should have been curious about?

Beena Ammanath, Deloitte

My training is therefore mainly in computer science. And then I did an MBA too. And my curiosity at the start of my career was really how [do] data analysis and technology in general have an impact on businesses? How did businesses operate? What is the impact of these technologies? What drove the business decisions? Curiosity was very business-oriented.

But as I grew in my career, the curiosity spread to what made people click. Why did someone behave or respond in a certain way? What makes successful teams? What motivated my team and how can I empower my teams to achieve the most success?

Todd Pruzan, HBR

So how would you describe the relationship between curiosity and innovation?

Beena Ammanath, Deloitte

Todd, I think curiosity is one of the key factors that fuel innovation. Without curiosity, innovation would be at a standstill. Curiousity [is] this desire to know more, to find these means of doing things better, faster, in a more optimized way. Curiosity is what helps us improve human life. And that’s the anchor for everything that happens in innovation.

Todd Pruzan, HBR

So which areas of technological innovation have the most potential to change the world?

Beena Ammanath, Deloitte

My career has always been rooted in data. I have been in different organizations, different industries. But it has always been rooted in data. And so I saw the evolution of the data space from the time it was purely transactional databases. Then came the era of business intelligence and analytics. Then came the era of big data, machine learning and AI.

So for me the area of ​​technological innovation which I think has [the] the greatest potential to change the world is data analytics, AI. I have seen all this space evolve in my career. I anchored my career in data. And I’ve seen it move from transactional database systems to business intelligence and data warehousing, then to AI, machine learning, and analytics. And we saw that the use of data and analytics grew just a few years ago.

We now see it spreading to almost every industry, to almost every function of a business. Even today, analytics is everywhere. And I think we’ll continue to find new use cases for analytics as the AI ​​progresses. We’re going to see new applications, new ways to innovate by leveraging analytics and AI. And AI and analytics will truly be the foundation of what I believe is a smart future, which will benefit all of humanity.

Todd Pruzan, HBR

How will AI and analytics shape and transform the future of the financial services industry?

Beena Ammanath, Deloitte

So I worked in the financial industry from different angles, whether it was during my time at E-Trade or Bank of America and Merrill Lynch. I have seen different perspectives of the financial services industry. And what I’m seeing is AI, analytics, and predictive modeling in financial services – that’s been around for years, hasn’t it? We didn’t call it IA. It was still done with statistics and analysis.

And now we see how these new technologies are impacting financial institutions, whether it’s a better way to interact and interact with their customers, to provide more personalized services, to improve the customer relationship. Analytics and AI [are] used to engage customers in a more personalized way. [They’re] used for marketing campaigns. So really in the financial space I would say [they have] moved from back office to front office and really be at the center of how business is done.

Todd Pruzan, HBR

Do you believe that it is possible to emerge from this more curious and innovative global pandemic as a society? And if yes, how ?

Beena Ammanath, Deloitte

One hundred percent. Look, data and analysis and AI [were] the fire behind these life science companies and pharmaceutical companies and their ability to deliver vaccine at an incredible rate, right? – something no one thought possible three or four years ago. And the world was watching, and they did.

So I think everyone’s thinking, well, if data and analytics were fueling drug manufacturing and innovation, what else could be done [they] fuel? How can I optimize the efficiency of my organization’s processes? How to go faster? How to provide better service? How to become more efficient, right?

Can data, AI and analytics be the way to do this? That’s what’s on everyone’s mind right now. And that curiosity will change our lives forever, even beyond the pandemic.

Todd Pruzan, HBR

Beena, thank you very much for being with us today.

Beena Ammanath, Deloitte

Todd, thank you very much for having me.


SAS and Deloitte partner to help clients improve business performance with analytical insights powered by deep industry knowledge and sophisticated analytical technology. To learn more about their partnership and how other innovators are putting curiosity to work, visit sas.com/curiosity.

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