AI and bots complementary to humans, tech exec says

By Edd K. Usman

Artificial intelligence (AI) is not anti-human and that bots are complementary to humans.

Microsoft Philippines COO and CMO Cian O’Neill issued this assessment about the impact of AI and other related technologies on humans, particularly on their jobs.

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He was prompted to bring up the subject after being asked about the local Information Technology and Business Process Management (IT-BPM) industry, an industry group of business process outsourcing (BPOs) companies, which are threatened by AI.

Instead of being anti-human, artificial intelligence can be a source of strength, O’Neill said.

“BPOs can only go from strength to strength actually by leveraging technology and understanding how machines can actually help them get smarter, understand, for example, analytics,” he said.

The Microsoft executive cited, for example call center agents’ jobs of receiving and answering calls, with a BPO company getting at least 20 to 30 calls a day.

“Do you actually have time to analyze what happens to your calls?” he asked.

On Sept. 29 in Makati City, O’Neill and other Microsoft executives introduced Microsoft 365, an integrated and complete solution for enterprise and small business as well, to the local market. The new product offering has AI and analytics built-in.

“With Microsoft 365 with the analytics that’s built-in to Office 365, you see that, you see in real-time what’s happening on the calls, what’s the symptoms of the conversation, (about) customer service. So, I think the question is not actually about AI versus man, but AI technology can actually really help you,” O’Neill said.

“You know, drive a whole new level of service, drive a new whole level of operations, transform your product sets, engage your customer.”

O’Neill said one only has to look at bots technology and the bots framework. “Bots are basically complementing and learning all the time.”

And that’s exactly how the leaders of the IT-BPM community wish to view AI, which is still considered an emerging technology despite being a hot conversation for decades.

Stalwarts of the Philippines’ BPO industry are still trying to find the right route to navigate AI’s challenges.

On November 7, the industry in partnership with tech organizations as well as top analysts will hold an international summit in Makati City on Nov. 7.

The two main organizers of the BPO summit, the IBPAP (IT and Business Association of the Philippines) and CCAP (Contact Center of Association of the Philippines), are counting on the human factor to navigate the labyrinth that is AI.

Their answer to the AI question is the Filipino workforce.

“As Filipinos, it’s in our DNA to be tech-savvy creative, emotive, and above all else, service-oriented. We have the capability to strike that perfect balance between human and technology to deliver an unparalleled customer experience,” said CCAP president Jojo Uligan.

IBPAP president Rey Untal shared the same sentiments.

“There may be some challenges ahead but with it also comes opportunities. With this new narrative, we will shape the future of enterprises, the future of jobs, the future of tech and ultimately, accelerate the IT-BPM industry into the future.”

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