In a recent interview with The Drum, Candy discusses his new role as IBM Consulting’s global managing partner of generative AI, and his vision for how the technology will transform the business landscape.
Generative AI is a double-edged sword. Yes, it can be used to cut down on production time and costs, but it can also cut the hand of the wielder who’s incautious about copyright infringement or the spread of misinformation.
In other words: generative AI can be a powerful tool but only if it’s used competently and safely. This isn’t an easy balance to achieve due to the technology’s inherent complexity and also to its novelty. In many cases, a brand that’s keen to leverage generative AI may need a little help doing so.
These seem to be among the core principles underlying Matt Candy’s philosophy toward generative AI.
As the new global managing partner of generative AI at IBM Consulting – the tech company’s consulting and professional services branch – Candy is charged with the task of helping clients adopt the technology, both that which is developed by the brand in-house and that which is developed by its tech powerhouse partners including Microsoft and Adobe.
The Drum recently spoke with Candy to learn more about his new role and about IBM’s generative AI strategy.
Can you tell us about your career at IBM to date and what your new role entails?
I’ve been here at IBM for about 26 years. You could categorize my career into two big chunks up until now. One big chunk was 15-ish years of doing consulting and client delivery projects. Part two has been the last 11 years, where I’ve been leading and growing the IBM iX design consultancy business. I was running that in Europe and in the UK for five-and-a-half years and then globally for the last five-and-a-half years. We’ve grown that team to about 23,000 people and it sits within our overall consulting business. Part three of my career starts now, which is leading what we’re doing in generative AI.
We’ve put in place a dedicated leadership team within consulting that’s focused on generative AI. We’re quite unique as a company because we have a technology part, so IBM is developing its own generative AI technology, but also within consulting, we work with a huge range of ecosystem partners – including Microsoft, AWS, Salesforce and Adobe – so we leverage all of their generative AI technology in the work that we do for clients. That means we have the advantage of the technological part of our company as well as what we do with the ecosystem around us. My new role is the global managing partner for what we’re doing in generative AI within the consulting business.
AI is causing a lot of excitement within the marketing industry but also some trepidation given the potential legal and ethical risks involved. How would you describe IBM’s strategy and philosophy with respect to this tech?
For us, this is all about AI for business – how we can help brands, government organizations and enterprises adopt AI. In some respects, this isn’t new for IBM; we’ve been using AI and machine learning and large language models for many years. So we have a heritage and a history of working with clients to adopt this technology.
We very much believe that generative AI is the thing that will fuel the next wave of business value within organizations. It will boost employee productivity, enable new experiences for customer engagement, allow for new business models and drive efficiency for the production of content and code.
In order for enterprises to be able to successfully leverage AI, they’ll need to adopt a multi-model, multi-cloud and open approach. We think organizations are going to adopt different AI models for different use cases and they need to be using models that are safe for enterprise use and that are being trained on datasets that don’t open you up to IP infringement and other risks. We believe that the innovation that’s going to happen in the open-source space will probably accelerate and exceed the innovation that we’ll see from the proprietary space. Enterprises are going to need to adopt highly curated and industry-specific models. From a consulting perspective, we’re working with our own technology and IBM, but also across Microsoft, AWS, Salesforce, Adobe and other partners, helping our clients leverage that tech.
What are the main advancements your clients are hoping to achieve through the use of generative AI?
Certainly the automation of manual and repetitive tasks. Take marketing, for example: according to IBM research, CMOs rank content creation, editing, SEO and social media monitoring as some of the top use cases for generative AI.
And within the content supply chain space, generative AI can help to speed up that content production process and also improve the quality and controls around it.
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How do you think AI will impact the ways in which we work – both as individuals and as groups?
Over the course of my career, various tools and technologies have come along that have helped me in the job that I’m doing, such as platforms like Slack for collaboration. These tools have changed the nature of how we get work done; they’ve helped remove friction and have made things more efficient. The volume of work that we as individuals get done today probably vastly exceeds what it was 10 years ago and that’s all enabled by technology that enables efficiency and collaboration.
I look at AI as the next wave of that trend. It’s going to speed up the throughput of work and it’s going to help companies drive transformation at a greater pace. But more importantly, it’s going to help us do what humans do best, which is creativity, thinking and idea generation. The programmers, coders and designers of the future who are really going to succeed are going to be the ones that are able to use AI to augment their workflow and bring ideas to life more rapidly.
There has been a lot of discussion recently about the potential risks of AI. Is there anything about this technology that keeps you up at night?
I wouldn’t say I’m concerned. AI opens up massive opportunities, not just around productivity but also around consumer engagement and business models. I get very excited about the potential that this technology opens up. It’s going to take friction out of all of our lives and open up all sorts of new possibilities in the future. It doesn’t keep me up at night worrying – it keeps me up at night with excitement.
But IBM and others in the tech industry – and this is a really important part – have got to help enterprises adopt this technology in a way that’s safe for enterprise use.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
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