Generative AI – how it can empower your business
According to a report by McKinsey, AI adoption has more than doubled since 2017, although the proportion of companies using it has plateaued between 50 and 60% in recent years.
However, a set of companies like Nvidia, CrowdStrike, Arista Networks, and Microsoft continue to heavily invest in AI, enjoying the highest financial returns, enabling them to get ahead on their competitors.
And the Portuguese company Singularity Digital Enterprise (SDE), now acquired by Devoteam, has also been making strides in the AI and generative AI areas, helping household name companies in Portugal like energy producers EDP and Galp, the private postal services company CTT, and bank Millennium BCP not only help provide better customer service at their contact centres, but support their in-house operations too.
In the FT1000 ranking of ‘Europe’s Fastest Growing Companies 2023’, Singularity Digital Enterprise won first place among Portuguese companies in IT and Software, just making it to the Top 100 in Europe (99) and 499 in the overall global ranking.
“Our journey has been a very interesting one and we are very grateful for what we do. We developed the first Open AI centre in Portugal”, says Pedro Martins co-founder of SDE whose company joined Microsoft Portugal in October to explain how generative AI can empower businesses to drive efficiency, improve decision-making, and develop new products and services.
“We invested €1 million with the aim of exploring, developing and implementing a new line of AI services for the market, and help our clients identify business opportunities using Open AI, thereby helping them to create new products and services while enhancing performance”,he says.
This was followed by a new and challenging project, the largest project the company has ever done since it was founded in 2016 by Martins and Hugo Cartaxeiro, both former Microsoft employees.
It involved developing the entire energy trading system platform for Portugal’s multi-national energy giant EDP, so that it could buy and sell in the energy market in a matter of seconds, in a market that represents €1Bn in trade on this platform.
Improving customer experiences
Take the area of customer service. Up until now customer service managers had to plug through a number of books on customer service when training, each with a different approach, and come to their own conclusions.
“Generative AI promises to cut down the time required to digest the literature and provide them with an array of options so that they can draw their own conclusions for what best works for them” says Daniel W. Rasmus, Thought Leadership Advisor for SDE.
And generative AI can help empower employee productivity through assisted decision making, improving data analysis, and aiding in creative tasks. If employees have access to cutting edge tools that reduce the barriers to valuable data, they can work faster without compromising on the quality of their work.
In one use case EDP joined forces with Microsoft Portugal and Singularity Digital Enterprise to develop a solution based on Azure OpenAI for EDP’s contact centre that made it more efficient for the company to deal with customer interactions and improve the customer experience.
Although still a prototype in development, the project looks at transcribing customer conversations from audio, précing information, making analyses of the quality of calls and degree of customer satisfaction, and producing reports after communications with customers with the aim of providing a better service while helping the contact centre operators to increase their capacity.
Over the past five years more companies and organisations have sought to employ data insights through companies like SDE to guide their decision-making processes and data-driven companies rely upon these data-driven processes, data analytics tools, and data-driven culture to generate business insights that help inform their decisions.
“Basically we help companies to build a data-driven organisation, and this year, within less than one year since Chat GPT appeared, we have noticed that generative AI will change our lives and that it was very critical for us and the company to create a contact centre to help our customers use generative AI. We were the first one and I think the only ones in Portugal to create a contact centre integrating generative AI,” explains Pedro Martins.
But the results of AI can only be as good as the quality of the initial information fed into their systems
Francisco Santos, Senior Data & AI Engineer at EDP, said its AI programme was mainly focusing on its customer service and back office through its efficiency hub.
“We have to manage expectations from the business, the hype is real but right now the business has the expectation that the accuracy on requests about clients should be 95-100%, and that’s not true.
That is because “It’s all about the data and it is still really important to have good quality data. What we saw is that even if you have Chat GTP 2.5 or 4, if you don’t have good quality data for context, you won’t have good outputs”, he said.
“You can have the best prompt engineers working on that, but if the data quality is poor, the outcome will still be bad. (Prompt engineering — the practice of designing inputs for generative AI tools that will produce optimal outputs)
Santos said that prompt engineering was a trial and error process in an evolving field, but that one of his main concerns with generative AI and developing products from these applications was how an end-to-end authentication and authorisation process could be assured with data segregation across all the processes.
Making Portugal’s notaries more digital and efficient
Portugal’s registry and notaries institute IRN has also been using open AI and generative AI to improve customer and back office services.
“We started using open AI and Chat GTP from the autumn of last year with a project that generates company names. We have a team of employees that think of company names, ensure they are not too similar to existing registered companies. We created a model with GTP 2 to enhance that.
In February, IRN produced a chatbot, and is currently looking a how the technology can be used in other sides of the business, such as digitising all of its services to the public (currently only 40% of is service is online) within two years.
Pharma – a special case
Big pharma is another sector that stands to benefit from AI where AI algorithms and machine learning models can have a significant impact on the biotech industry, from the development of life-saving drugs and production, to clinical trials, communication and drug target identification.
Simon Billot, Head of the IT Service Centre and IT Transformation at Ferring Pharmaceuticals, a research-driven, specialty biopharmaceutical group that specialises in reproductive medicine and maternal health, and gastroenterology and microbiome medicine, among others, explained how generative AI was being harnessed by his company.
“The pharmaceutical industry is a special case as it is not the most dynamic of industries since it can take 15 years to develop, trial and bring to market a new drug, while everything is tightly controlled by government and EU regulations. However, the sector has been applying computational biology, artificial intelligence and machine learning in its drug discovery approach.
“Now we are seeing a lot of investment from the big pharma companies in big data and AI, and we at Ferring are developing our first use case for cost and production efficiency through the development of a chatbot interface to be able to consult and ask questions, and reference data to reduce the amount of training for those starting work in the company, as well as creating a platform for accessing information,” he said.
CTT – balancing priorities
Pedro Farausto, Strategy and Business Development at Portugal’s postal service company CTT, said that AI would be part of the transformation that the postal sector is undergoing.
CTT has gone from being a traditional postal service company, with mail representing over two-thirds of its business five years ago, to a company where mail now accounts for less than 40% of the business, while the revenues at Portugal’s oldest company (500 years) continues to grow.
“We have turned into a very diversified company, ranging from traditional mail and parcel delivery, to logistics, e-commerce, banking services, and business solutions where we hope technology such as AI will help us on our (diversification) path,” he said.
Summarising what the market wants from CTT in its delivery business, Farausto said: “Better, faster and greener” meaning accuracy, simplicity, predictability, speed and sustainability
“We want to make our delivery service a simple as taking a product off a shelf, and make it as hassle-free as possible for our customers who want to send and receive (letters and parcels) as soon as possible. This means in some cases redefining our processes and balancing these three aspects, and AI is certainly helping us in this strategy”.
Data – essential for investment returns
SDE’s Pedro Martins, author of ‘Building a Data-Driven Organisation’ affirms that data is a critical resource that many organisations fail to invest in sufficiently or leverage its full potential.
“I helped found Singularity Digital Enterprise with an eye towards the future. We started with data because we knew it was essential for organisations to realise returns on their investments. Productivity without purpose can make an organisation go out of business faster than ever before.
Now, with a new book ‘Empower Business with Generative AI’ co-written with Daniel Ramus and Patrícia Milheiro, he says: “We believe in productivity with purpose. We have always envisaged AI as part of the customer journey.
“Once the client has their data orchestrated, we apply AI tools to analyse and forecast. With generative AI we will be able to take use cases to the next level , with systems that not only display charts but tell stories from among the data”, explains Martins.
And as for fears that AI will take over the world and spell doom and destruction for mankind, Pedro Martins suggests that AI has brought the world together “not to talk about a threat over which we have little control, but an amazing new technology over which we have full control, even if it doesn’t seem that way.”
And concludes: “Yes, AI arrives with some risks, but they are risks humans can manage without inventing anything new. We have equal control over the value that we receive from generative AI. We will decide how to integrate it into our business, how much autonomy it has, and how much oversight is needed.”
Picture: The new Devoteam – Pedro Martins, CEO Singularity Part of Devoteam
Sebastien Chevrel – Group Managing Director- Devoteam
Hugo Cartaxeiro – Founder & Managing Partner Singularity Part of Devoteam
Bruno Mota – Managing Director at Devoteam Portugal