“I am Iron Man” – Tony Stark
AI in the enterprise is hard. While headlines are captured by intelligent robots doing backflips; using AI to deliver meaningful real results in companies is messy and complex.
At Cisco Services, we are in the midst of our AI journey. Our journey is taking us from “Reactive” (after a problem occurs) to “Proactive” (suggestions to reduce general chance of errors) to “Predictive” (predict problems before they occur) and eventually “Preemptive” (solve problems before they occur). Last year, we launched Cisco Predictive Services with great promise. For e.g., at a large US bank we detected a problem before it occurred.
Along the way we are making mistakes and learning a ton. I wanted to start capturing some of the lessons learned in this blog. These lessons are not glamorous but they are real! These are not comfortable but these are honest!
The Iron Man Lesson: Be explicit about where you want to be on Man-Machine continuum
When we started this journey three years ago, we debated what the final form of Cisco Predictive Services would be. When we dug deeper, we found out it really wasn’t about the form of Cisco Predictive Services, it was really about the fact that we as an executive team differed fundamentally in what we thought man-machine interactions would look like in the future.
Some of us thought machines would dominate and people would really not have a role in the future of services. And some of us who thought, “Hey, people will always remain our strongest asset and machines, at best, would supplement them.” And some were in the middle and thought man and machine would play together.
The real question for us was not what should be the form of Cisco Predictive Services, the real question, was:
The movie Iron Man provides an apt metaphor to think through this problem. For those who know the movie, it’s about Tony Stark, a brilliant engineer who develops a powered exoskeleton. Now, Tony Stark himself is brilliant and great. The powered exoskeleton is wicked cool, but it’s only when Tony Stark and the exoskeleton come together, it creates Iron Man. The amazing super hero that my six-year-old son loves and really wanted to be this Halloween.
We took a page out of Iron Man and we thought really deeply about our business, our customers and our strategy and we thought about where on this man-machine continuum we should play and what we quickly realized was that our people are our Tony Stark’s. Our people are expert simplifiers, expert optimizers, expert implementers and expert advisors. Cisco Services customers love our people. We realized that the human connection would always be important.
We set the goal to the man-machine question at 30/70. 30 percent of our solution would always be human and we’d make the humans better and help them do more and become more through AI. Now the lesson for us what not the exact solution of 30/70, the lesson for us was to unearth an underlying assumption about where we should play on the man-machine continuum and think about for our business, for our strategy and for our customers, what is the right answer.
Our customers continue to help us determine the right mix. Analytically, our customers told us for network outages, they are not ready for auto-remediation. They are not ready for a machine tell them what fix to put on the network which is going to govern hundreds and thousands of devices. So, we thought a lot about what the soul of Cisco is and we assert,
Our engineers are our Tony Starks
Every organization facing this challenge needs to think through the man-machine continuum for their own business, their strategy and their customers. What do you take into consideration when evaluating the man-machine balance in your business?