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Business+Tech at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business hosted a Deloitte Consulting panel Tuesday evening focused on use of artificial intelligence in the data analytics field. The event, “Adapting to the Rapid Shift of AI”, featured three expert consultants who spoke on the importance of keeping up with technology.

Business graduate student Abena Adu-Nyako, a member of Business+Tech, moderated the event and introduced Business+Tech’s goals.

“Business+Tech’s vision is to help build a vibrant and connected community across campus,” Adu-Nyako said. “So, not just Ross, but we want to include the School of Engineering, the School of Information and all of the other schools just so we can have a really connected community.”

Tami Frankenfield, managing director of AI and data at Deloitte, said AI is frequently used in workplaces due to the multitude of processes that the technology can assist with. She said customer interactions have become primarily AI-driven, especially in financial industries like banking and insurance.

With the growing prevalence of AI leading to upgrades in the technology, Frankenfield said users may no longer notice the presence of AI right away. Typical AI customer service aspects like automated phone calls that prompt users to select options using the number pad have since become a less mechanical and more conversational AI experience. 

“There’s been a lot of maturing from what was previously a customer support interaction, like calling and selecting from a phone tree (or) getting specific prompts … you can tell that there’s a little bit of AI behind it,” Frankenfield said. “(Now AI is) almost being somewhat conversational with questions and negotiations back and forth — whether it’s through text or through audio.”

Charlotte Rath, Deloitte’s strategy and analytics manager, said AI has also made common workforce system tools even more productive. She said Microsoft 365 Copilot, an AI assistant for Microsoft 365 applications, is an example of software that can improve productivity. She also spoke about how AI can improve climate research, referring to Nvidia’s Earth-2 project, which uses AI to simulate climate and weather scenarios.

“There’s certainly other (models) that exist, but (Nvidia’s Earth-2 is) one that I would recommend that you look at,” Rath said. “That’s all about predicting how the climate is going to change, and what we can do and creating a digital twin for planet Earth, which is certainly challenging.” 

Ellen Tomljanovic, Deloitte’s technology senior consultant, businesses must adapt to the constant changes in AI to maintain a competitive edge. She addressed those who might either currently run or want to own a business in the future.

“As you’re implementing new technology, make sure you’re educating and training folks — building up the right skill set to be successful in the space so that people process technology,” Tomljanovic said.

The panelists also discussed common obstacles businesses face when they begin to utilize AI. Tomljanovic said one of the biggest obstacles is lacking vision for the role AI will play in a company. She explained how companies will oftentimes express their desire for AI usage without knowing what function it should serve.

“Being able to find the people who can help support that vision, and who can translate the data into something that’s actionable and usable as a business, I think are the two bigger issues that organizations face,” Tomljanovic said.

The panelists also discussed privacy concerns surrounding AI usage. Tomljanovic mentioned that, especially in the fields of medicine and health care, sensitivity with private health information is paramount. She said it is important to train AI models to distinguish between what is private versus public information, and to be diligent in ensuring that those definitions stay intact.

“If I’m a customer of an e-commerce site, and suddenly another customer receives my credit card information, I’m not thrilled about that,” Tomljanovic said. “Understanding privacy as it relates to that use case and then setting up the proper divisions to make sure that everything is public that can be public (is integral). So you’re still training … the (AI) models and you’re still learning but also protecting what needs to be protected.”

In an interview with The Michigan Daily following the event, LSA senior Shruti Swaminathan said she found the event helpful in understanding AI from a business perspective.

“I’m personally a data science major and I understand AI from a technical standpoint,” Swaminathan said. “But I wanted to gain a better understanding of how it can be used by different businesses, and I got what I wanted.”

Daily Staff Reporter Luke Jacobson can be reached at lukejac@umich.edu.