Mike Romeri: Augmenting a Digital Future with Strong Artificial Intelligence Representation and Tech Innovation
by Analytics Insight
February 1, 2022
Mike Romeri worked as a management consultant for almost 25 years with a firm that’s now owned by PWC before cofounding OPSRules. OPSRules was engaged in AI consulting projects with a vision to provide unique, highly sophisticated AI solutions to cater to the needs of the supply chain and price optimization sectors. The company took up several projects starting from early-stage e-commerce companies to Fortune 500 companies providing them with real-time intelligence for decision making. OPSRules was sold to Accenture in 2016 and since then, Mike put a phenomenal team of data scientists and business veterans together to build Analytics2Go (A2Go). The goal at A2Go is to deliver easy-to-use, powerful AI solutions to all businesses so they can continue to compete with the Amazons of the world.
An AI and Data Pioneer Leading at the Front
Mike describes that he has learned throughout his career that change within a company is a very difficult thing to do well and always takes longer than anticipated. He expresses that billions of dollars are wasted every year on platforms, software, training, and more because companies feel the pressure to use data & AI but they don’t know how to make AI-solutions fit their business nor do they have a plan to assure adoption across their workforce. If their decision-makers won’t use it, it is worth nothing. One of the biggest barriers to adoption comes from ripping out & replacing existing workflows that were built after years of effort and financial investments. Workflows that knowledge workers believe are valuable and do not need to be changed. To solve this problem, Mike and his team build AI solutions that are embedded into the existing workflows, which target a specific, recurring business decision and can be measured.
Mike further articulates that the data & AI markets are very confusing where everyone is describing their solutions as using AI when in reality, they do not. But even for those that do, Mike believes that the same basic problems still exist for the vast majority of companies when it comes to using any new technology, AI in particular, which are getting the right solution fit and getting adoption.
He says that the 800-pound gorilla in the room for AI solutions is ‘data’. Businesses are almost always shy when it comes to questions like “What data do you have that is relevant to this problem?”or “Is all of your data accessible now?” Many just don’t know the answers. Mike clarifies that there will be data ‘issues’ in nearly all businesses that are embarking on new AI initiatives. Because of this, A2Go prefers to do a data assessment early on in their engagements and encourages clients to not try to get ‘data ready’ before they understand the problem they will be solving. In short, businesses should focus on the business need first, not the data they may or may not need.
Overcoming the Misconceptions of How to Acquire AI Capabilities
According to Mike, the biggest initial challenge A2Go faced was changing peoples’ mindsets on how machine learning and AI can be used in businesses. Many were familiar with things like robotic process automation (RPA) to automate document processing and directing information from point A to B without a human decision-maker. In addition, most business leaders were aware of the many prepackaged platforms available in the market that address specific needs but not necessarily the ones each customer has. Early on, it was clear that most business leaders had no idea that there was a better way- a way to get AI capabilities embedded into what people already do to improve decision making and see improvements in revenue and operations quickly.
Practicality and Tech Adoption: Must for Leader
While talking about the vital attributes of a successful leader, Mike says that practicality is what comes to his mind. He explains that when leaders are evangelizing AI at conferences, in articles, etc, more emphasis should be placed on the practical business uses and practical ways that AI can be deployed. As per Mike, deployment and measuring success are two of the hardest parts. A practical, well-defined use case that can be measured and quickly produce ROI, is where the focus should be. Mike further mentions that most businesses today know they need to up their game in terms of digital transformation to remain competitive. “Customers tell us this all the time, but most do not know how to start or even understand their own data, in general. We try to frame our customer engagements in practicality- specific to them,” adds Mike.
An Innovative ‘Toolbox’ for Artificial Intelligence Solutions
Mike emphasizes that A2Go builds its solutions based on customer needs. The more customers it works with, the more AI solutions and components it develops. A2Go uses its component ‘toolbox’ to quickly compose AI solutions as needed. According to Mike, by the term tools, the company means everything from sets of algorithms that it has proven work well on specific workflow decision points, to external data sets it has used to augment a particular supply chain solution, to the hundreds of ‘connectors’ needed to tie its solutions to ERPs, CRMs, POSs, existing dashboards, internal data sources and more. Every company is a spaghetti bowl of software and workflows, all of it should be considered. Mike further clarifies that no two companies are exactly the same nor do they have the same workflows to make their decisions. After many years of all businesses trying to ‘fit’ themselves into solutions, it became very clear that solutions must be composed for each customer by taking their existing situation into account. Mike is confident that this doesn’t have to take years or millions of dollars. For him, this is really the point—bringing affordable, easy-to-use, and targeted solutions to businesses that can change with the business, not confine the business.
Entrust Business Problems to ‘AI as a Service’
Mike is always at the forefront of innovation. He believes that technologies that are disruptive and ever-changing will always impact any bottom-line business model by laying a foundation for its future success. “Advancing technologies such as AI have created a very dynamic business environment that is difficult to navigate without help,” he mentions. Mike jokes that in today’s technology race, business owners are playing the game of frogger by jumping from one technology to the next to stay afloat but he warns that oftentimes they jump too fast because of the fear of missing out. Jumping too fast could mean selecting technology before understanding the business need and what data and AI are needed to solve it… For companies like A2Go, understanding, and testing how each new technology best serves customers is its challenge and its expertise. It requires a strong data science team, engineering team, and innovative business thinkers to bring the best solutions to customers. A2Godescribes their model as ‘AI as a Service’. Mike believes that the burden of keeping up with fast-moving technology will move the vast majority of non-tech companies toward a ‘service’ model for end-to-end data & AI capabilities.
Towards New Horizons with Amazing Plans
While talking about future plans, Mike opines that his vision for A2Go is to build large libraries of AI solutions and solution components to bring the power of AI to businesses of all sizes. This vision includes providing very targeted solutions into existing workflows to augment human performance in things such as demand forecasting, supply sensing, dynamic pricing, and more. Most businesses simply can’t afford the price tag or time to rip out entire workflows and replace them. In terms of the AI software industry, Mike believes that the future lies in targeted, high-value AI solutions, or apps, that are built to be easy to use, easy to monitor, and easy to improve when needed.
Words of Wisdom for Aspiring Leaders
Mike advises future leaders to focus on customer needs. First, there are many platforms and solutions out there that don’t and can’t address every customer’s needs—forcing businesses to squeeze their business into multiple solutions. Customers are looking for AI that augments what they already do. Second, “You will quickly learn that even the most amazing AI solution has a small market because very few customers are ‘data ready’ for it,” he adds. Assume every customer will need help with their data.
Also, for those building AI solution companies, Mike asks the leaders to believe in one certainty—customers “will change”.So, he pushes them to build solutions that can change with the business. Mike also believes that they should keep it fun. He likes to think that A2Go works to give humans many superpowers.
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