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Addressing AI Concerns: Q&A with Sarah Carney, National Technology Officer, Microsoft ANZ

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By Published On: December 19, 20230 Comments

Sarah Carney, National Technology Officer at Microsoft ANZ addresses all your questions and concerns about implementing an AI strategy and shares her advice on building a culture that supports AI.

What are the critical areas where businesses can benefit most from the implementation of AI?

At the moment, there tend to be three main categories where we see AI being applied to great effect:
  1. Chat with your data – using search and natural language to interrogate your existing systems to surface content and insights.
  2. Content generation – creating content from new product concepts through to short circuiting the R&D process through generative prototyping, content creation has leaped forward from just creating drafts for documents.
  3. Intelligent analytics – using the ability to pair natural language with structured and unstructured data, we see customers using the capability to derive insights into their business operations to enable better decision making.

Do you have any use cases to share? Any specific to Australian businesses?

There are loads of use cases, I’ve popped a few Australia ones below.
My favourite current use case is ChatNT which was built by Tourism NT and uses Abbie Chatfield’s “voice” to provide travel recommendations: Summer done differently | Chat NT summer with Abbie Chatfield (

How can businesses foster an organisation and culture that supports AI? What steps need to be taken to ensure that support?

The key to building a culture that supports AI is to focus on agility. Having a space in which people can experiment and fail safely is critical to success. The most successful organisations we have seen are those that also have strong buy-in across their leadership teams. If leaders are the ones advocating for and demonstrating the use of AI, people very quickly align to the new direction.

Data security is a concern for many Australian businesses right now, how can AI support this? and is feeding AI data safe/what safeguards are in place?

The concerns around data security have been fed by the publicly available consumer focused tools and models. As with any technology, what businesses need to be looking at are commercial grade systems that have data security controls and functionality baked into them. No organisation wants to inadvertently expose critical data or proprietary IP, and so a system that leverages all your existing layers of access management and data governance is critical. If you are doing this, then you can absolutely connect your own data sources to a generative AI system to get real business insights and benefit. Consumer systems were designed for users to have fun with, not to perform business tasks, selecting the right tool will ensure business safety.

Where is AI heading in the next ten years in business use? Is it imperative to get on board now?

We have never seen the rate of change in terms of new technology adoption and innovation in the way we have over the last 12 months with generative AI. This rapid adoption means that employees are starting to expect to be able to use it within their day to day work, and customer expect their service providers to have it baked into the platforms they interact with. This means that for organisations that haven’t already started exploring this space, they are rapidly getting left behind. The biggest challenge with all new technologies is skills and generative AI is the same. Organisations that wait too long will have to fight for technical talent to help them catch up to their competition. As we move through the next 12 months we will see further innovation in this space where generative assistants can “talk” to each other, problem solve amongst themselves and provide critically thought out answers back to their users. We will naturally chat with the systems we use at work and at home to get things done and they will understand our individual context that will deliver personal results and insights.
Download Microsoft’s Demystifying AI In Retail: Connecting Consumers And Retailers report to hear more from Sarah and find out how to utilise AI to connect with consumers to drive enhanced shopping experiences, optimise business processes, and more:

About the Author: Rosalea Catterson

Rosalea is the Editor of Power Retail. With a keen interest in consumer behaviour and tech, she covers everything ecommerce and hosts the Power Retail Power Talks Podcast.

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