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INTERVIEW - Telcos, banks spur IBM Bulgaria's business as digital transformation gains pace

INTERVIEW - Telcos, banks spur IBM Bulgaria's business as digital transformation gains pace Author: IBM Licence: All rights reserved

SOFIA (Bulgaria), December 19 (SeeNews) - IBM is increasingly working with telecoms, alongside with companies from the financial sector which traditionally are early adopters of new technology, as they seek to transform digitally and tap into new businesses, Igor Pravica, IBM country manager for Bulgaria, said.

"We are in a time of pathbreaking technological growth and this trend is not going to stop. Digitisation has opened the doors for new relationships, new business models and new productiveness to differentiate, to lead or to be led by competition," Pravica told SeeNews in a recent interview.  

Businesses in Bulgaria recognised this critical moment of change and took action, i.e. they focused actively on including new technologies into their business environments which clearly impacts the level of digital maturity in Bulgaria, he added. 

"It is evident that enterprise CIOs are already investing or they are going to invest in AI to improve decision-making capabilities and personalise customer experiences. AI isn’t a futuristic concept anymore, AI has been applied in new ways across industries and it is able to solve specific problems at the enterprise level.  At the same time, more and more startup companies in the Southeast Europe region including Bulgaria find value in IBM Cloud and blockchain. Data, Cloud and AI will remain the game-changers for every organisation on their digital transformation journey," he commented.

Banking and telecommunication companies lead the market in terms of adoption of new technologies and a reason for that, according to Pravica, is the fact that those are more digitised industries and their adoption of new technology is higher and likely to accelerate. IBM's recent C-Suite executive study, from the IBM Institute for Business Value AI 2018 Report, showed the same trend.

In addition, there is a high level of regulation in the sector. 

They need to invest to be compliant with the new regulations anyway, so they are looking for ways to get something out of it, Pravica explained. 

Earlier this year ActivTrades, a UK-based forex broker active in Bulgaria, migrated its online trading platform to IBM Cloud in a move which increases its online trading capacity and the speed of customer service. ActivTrades completed the migration of its MetaTrader 4 and 5 trading solutions to IBM Cloud after signing a three-year IT services agreement with the global tech giant. In addition to cloud infrastructure, the agreement also covers IBM technology and security services. 

In 2017, Sofia-based DSK Bank completed the migration of its banking operations to IBM’s data centres as part of a long-term IT services agreement. Under the agreement IBM runs the complete IT infrastructure supporting DSK Bank's core banking environment and provides fully managed services for mainframe, servers, storage, end-user computing, help desk as well as software support. The transition has resulted in 15% annual recurring savings for DSK Bank and 35-40% higher efficiency during peak times, the lender has said.

Last week IBM released a 2018 retrospective that provides a sneak-peek into the future of AI as well as top three predictions for AI in 2019.

“This year saw major advancements in AI such as increasing competition, growing business adoption and rising concerns about AI’s lack of transparency. IBM’s scientists and researchers published 100 papers in 2018 with significant advances in AI research, showcasing notable findings supporting the move from narrow to broad AI including those for machine learning comprehension and natural language processing, AI hardware for accelerated training of deep learning models, and methodologies to reduce bias in training datasets," said Pravica. 

In his view, 2019 will bring even more progress for the AI industry.

IBM is watching out for three trends: improvements in causal modeling techniques will help advance today's AI closer to human-level intelligence and bring a new level of insight into how business processes are managed, interpret simulations, and develop new drugs and materials; trusted AI will open AI’s black box and it will become  central how companies build, train and deploy AI technologies while Quantum Computing will help accelerate scaling of AI. 

Pravica noted that even though their customers in Bulgaria are not fully utilising AI, it is very important for them to understand that data is a key resource they have. "And if they want to really utilise that data, they need to put some analytics on top of it. They need to put some AI to help them to get insights out of those data." 

As key challenges in this process Pravica singled out the people's mindset and the skills gap. 

"We are talking a lot to our customers to educate them. It is not about their IT, because they understand the technology, it is about the business – that they understand what kind of benefits they can get," he said. "Another challenge is the lack of skills and resources – this is a challenge not only on the local market, this is a global challenge and we are working a lot with universities to develop those skills." 

Pravica went on to say that the main issue for organisations is the way they reshape the human resources they have and assist them in acquiring new skills. 

"We are helping a lot of our customers go through digital transformation because this is a journey. We are helping them build the roadmap, how this journey should look like in the next six months, one year, two years, three years," Pravica said. "It is a lot about the mindset, about the people. You can plug technology wherever you want but if you do not have the people in your organisation who understand the benefits of what you are doing, then you will probably fail." 

In November IBM launched a new business - IBM Talent & Transformation  - to help companies drive the transformation necessary to use AI to empower employees, transform workflows, eliminate bias and build a modern workforce.