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How to effectively adopt AI with Stig Martin Fiskå from Cognizant

In this episode of Wonderful Work, we chat about artificial intelligence and intelligent automation with Stig Martin Fiskå. Stig Martin started his first company at 16 and is currently the head of artificial intelligence, data, IoT & industry 4.0, Nordics at Cognizant.

Stig's childhood ambition

"I can't really remember what I wanted to be as a child," Stig explains. "I'm not very good at looking backward. I'm far better at looking forwards, so I really had to think about this question. I thought it would be a good idea to become a lawyer like my dad. But I thought making my own money would be a very good thing, too."

As a young man, Stig set up his own company with some people from school and started making money. "I guess at that time, you could say I was an entrepreneur," Stig explains. But Stig didn't think of himself as an entrepreneur. "The word startup didn't even exist back then," Stig says. 

How Stig got started in technology

Despite his busy schedule, Stig found time to study law and philosophy. During his university days, a friend showed Stig a webpage he had created on Netscape Gold. According to Stig, he didn't really have much interest in computers at that time. But being shown how to build something sparked his interest.

"I figured if some people think this is magic, maybe I can make some money with it."

But despite having a talent for reverse engineering open-source CMS, Stig did not feel that this was a proper career. 

So he began law school, where he quickly got bored. But it was in law school where Stig met a few tech graduates who were struggling to find work. Like Stig, the new graduates had a talent for reverse engineering, and a business was born.  

Stig's take on data maturity

"I think the focus of data maturity these days is people," Stig says. "The success of any technology depends on people knowing how to use it and what is possible. Technology, in many cases, is already far beyond what many people could imagine a few years ago," Stig says.

Stig's advice on overcoming bad data

"There's no silver bullet, and every organization is different," Stig explains. "IT departments often talk about standardization, which is a very popular expression. But I believe that there is no standardization. Everything is in bits and pieces, and many people don't really understand what to do with data." 

To remedy this problem, Stig advises implementing a data modernization strategy. Although these projects are often essential, Stig stresses the risk of using time and money to clean up data without thinking of business outcomes. "You have to do this in several work streams, but I recommend leading by the use cases where you can see and create optimization and new revenue streams. Build a foundation from these results," Stig says.

Can a leader develop a data-driven culture?   

"It depends on the company. If you're working at Spotify, you can because you have the incentives. Those people start from the right place, as they're digital natives. But in most cases, I would say no," Stig explains.

Stig advises hiring experienced people to help lift the organization. "It's about upskilling and getting your hands dirty," Stig continues. "There are also various definitions of what being data-driven is. A C-level executive has a completely different definition of being data-driven than a VP. So, how can you measure the outcome if you've never done a data-driven approach?

Stig's observations about digital maturity in the Nordic region 

Some studies conducted in the Nordics have proven a lot of overspending, with little return on investment at present.  

One of the first things many people say to Stig is, "We're not going to have AI, and we don't want any AI." "This tells me that they don't know what AI is, which is fine as I need to define it," Stig explains. 

"But there was a period, around five years ago, when AI was seen as fairy dust that could be sprinkled over anything. But covid has made companies more aware of both the benefits and limitations of AI.  

"Companies now ask how they can be successful, what is the right scope of this stuff? Where should I really start? Of course, transformation can't be run as a single project. It's an ongoing and long-term change."  

How Stig explains artificial intelligence to his friends and family 

"AI is about automating a process and doing something with more insights and understanding and processing large amounts of data. Companies can also use AI to create new revenue streams." Stig explains.

What is artificial intelligence in the Nordics

Who should be most interested in artificial intelligence in a large company?

"We are still in the early days of AI and data-driven organizations," Stig says. "C-level executives should be interested, but CFOs and CEOs should be extremely interested, as AI is about reducing risk. What's more, artificial intelligence can bring a lot of insights to improve everyone's work experience."

Common mistakes companies make while adopting AI

“The most common mistake I see is internal hiring," Stig explains. "Placing a few data scientists somewhere and asking them to figure out AI is a mistake. Data scientists can do a lot of great things, but they need a whole team of technical specialists around them. Another common mistake Stig sees is that the business side of operations is not involved enough. "They put too much work on the team, internal or external. You have to integrate these things properly and change the way of thinking and operating," Stig says.

Stig's role at Cognizant 

Stig's role at Cognizant is a busy one. He works in AI, the internet of things, and industry 4.0. We asked for his opinion on hiring machine experts. "First off, If you're anything but a local shop, you need to invest in machine learning or something surrounding data," Stig states. When it comes to hiring talent, Stig focuses on young and upcoming recruits. 

"This isn't only due to the so-called talent war. A lot of young people have a great mindset and can jump into learning new things. I invest in the young and hungry ones and try to coach them," Stig continues.

Upcoming trends in Nordic businesses

According to Stig, knowledge work will be heavily disrupted in the next five to ten years. "We'll have to change our way of working, as work will become much faster than it is today. 

You'll find AI in places where you never thought you'd find it before," Stig says. "You'll find it in the dentist's office, you'll find teachers and plumbers using it, and you'll see it in construction. The construction industry already uses a lot of cutting-edge technology."

Stig's tips for business leaders investing in AI

"Get your hands dirty," Stig insists. "A few years ago, I met the chief of business at Google. I asked him how he stayed on top of one of the most disruptive industries around. I'll never forget the answer because it was so sober and realistic. He said that anyone that comes up to him with a new idea must draw it on a whiteboard until he can understand it."

Stig's final thoughts

Stig advises anyone wanting to learn more about AI to visit Medium.com. A lot of the content is high-level, detailed, and very up-to-date. If you're not yet at a high level and want to start with the basics, check out the chief decision officer of Google on YouTube. Cassie Kozyrkov makes the subject tangible and understandable. 

The Wonderful Work podcast

If you'd like to learn more about Stig and his views on advanced technologies, check out Stig and Lari's full chat on the Wonderful Work podcast. 

Written by

Josef Konderla

Content Marketing Manager

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