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May 08, 2018
How to be a catalyst for AI in your organization – a look at the Novartis way
By: Arnab Chakraborty

I attended an event on artificial intelligence (AI) and healthcare a couple of months ago near Frankfurt and want to share some insights I got from Loic Giraud, the lead of Data & Analytics CoE at Novartis. I have been working with Loic for more than a year now and have seen first-hand how he is a digital catalyst at Novartis.

During our presentation together, Loic’s advice for getting started with AI in a large corporate environment is: prioritize. “Think big and start small. Think about where you want to invest,” he said, adding, “Culture first, data second, and AI third.”

Novartis has embarked on a five-year digital strategy focused on three areas. It wants digital tools to boost innovation, for instance AI for discovering new drugs or personalizing medicine; to increase revenues from existing and new products; and to make operations more efficient with robotics and cognitive capabilities.

For Novartis, these goals are critical as it works to increase the longevity of human lives and face its business challenges, such as price pressure and the constant need to discover new drugs. An inherent part of the strategy, what Novartis calls its “digital ambition,” is its enablers, which Loic described as people, processes and technology. What I found particularly interesting is how he linked processes and culture.

“Processes start with culture. You can only be successful in the digital world if you change the culture of your company,” he said. “You need to enable your people with the right culture so they can drive change,” Loic indicated.

Culture first

A culture that embraces and innovates with digital tools is something I talked about as well in our presentation. I’m eager to see this foundation laid at healthcare companies. With it in place, I believe we will have better treatment quality and patient outcomes.

It is my personal take that healthcare is the industry with huge opportunity for AI. There are just so many chances – to do things differently and, as I like to say, to do different things. One reason is the incredible amount of computational work at healthcare companies, such as molecular research. Once companies do become AI-empowered, they benefit in many ways. They are not stuck in the old world of rule-based processes. They become living businesses. They exist in a loop -- a self-learning loop that is powered by structured and unstructured data.

As Novartis continues down its chosen digital path, it is focused on training programs designed to engage and enable existing employees with digital tools. It is also addressing culture as an important component for learning how to use data as the basis for decisions, and not just gut-feeling or the historical perspective.

As you can probably tell, and as I said during our talk, I am an inherently optimistic person -- also about AI.

I see so much opportunity, not just for commercial benefit but also for society and customers. That’s why I’m glad Loic is out there acting as a catalyst. This will help the healthcare sector move from one that is using AI on an experimental basis, to one that is using it exponentially.

To watch the video of our joint presentation, click here.

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