Sramana Mitra: This is really interesting. What trends do you see in the universe that you are playing in? What are the emerging trends? What kind of adoption are you seeing in customers of these kinds of techniques?
Doug Randall: I spoke to some of the trends on Big Data. There is an increasing desire among marketers for deeper and greater understanding of customers. This was ticked off when we knew that we could understand, at a personal level, what individuals want.
Amazon has incredible knowledge of an individual and that’s why they’re able to make recommendations. I think that that has created a quest to quantify everything and be able to get deeper and be more intimate with customers in every way. That’s one trend. Another big trend that everyone’s talking about is AI. This is really interesting in marketing because big company marketers talk about and ask about AI all the time. It could mean different things to different people.
AI is just an enabler. The trend of AI moving into analytics is pretty interesting because it changes what we’re able to know, uncover, and understand. The third trend is just the explosion of data which has created a need for us to be able to process that and use that in some way. The breadth and depth of data that is out there is overwhelming if you don’t have some way to process it, synthesize it, and understand it.
Sramana Mitra: Is there an open problem that you could point to that our aspiring entrepreneurs and readers could investigate?
Doug Randall: I do think that entrepreneurs right now should be looking at AI for analytics. The challenge in this is that data analytics requires judgement. What I know is that it always requires judgement. Why does McKinsey get hired over and over again by big companies? It’s because there’s a belief that they’re able to provide superior judgement than many of the other competitors out there. I don’t know if that’s true or not.
What I do know is that, overall, if you stack a McKinsey report against a third-tier player, they probably have better judgment. It’s probably hard to tap into the decisions that they made. It might have been in the design of the research. It might be in the way they interpret the data. It might be in the way that they state their conclusions.
That judgement, I think, is ripe for some serious investment and understanding so that artificial intelligence can start to be applied. What happened in social media monitoring is a whole bunch of companies want to explain what the social media universe was saying about a brand. They came out with technologies which were keyword searches with sentiment. The problem is there’s no judgement being applied. It’s not particularly useful for difficult decision making. I think there’s a whole area of AI for strategic analytics that is really interesting right now.
Sramana Mitra: Very good answer. McKinsey works because there’s a methodology that they have developed over a long period of time. Consultants are trained in that methodology. Turning that into some AI-driven technique could be very interesting. You’re saying that it applied to various different workflows and strategic decision-making.
Doug Randall: As an AI person, you know how hard that is going to be.
Sramana Mitra: That is incredibly hard.
Doug Randall: How do you do that? You narrow the type of problem and you do that problem at scale. That’s what we do. We’re trying to understand the belief system and we’re trying to understand what drives and shapes that belief. The more narrow you are, the more you can be focusing on process over and over.
Sramana Mitra: Intelligent constraint.
Doug Randall: Exactly.
Sramana Mitra: Very nice talking with you. Thank you for your time.