Tuesday Aug 29, 2023

Inside Insights: The Convergence of AI and RPA with David C. Williams

In this next episode, Mustansir Saifuddin speaks with David C. Williams, Assistant Vice President-Automation at AT&T. David dives into how hyper-automation, specially RPA, and AI come together to effectively and efficiently make a business impact. It's not about choosing one over the other.  

During David's career with AT&T, he has created deep-link HTML marketing initiatives that garner 90 million monthly impressions, led Competitive Intelligence which helped shape AT&T's Mobile First strategy, has been responsible for supporting several Fortune500 companies encompassing $120M in revenue, and authored two patents for Reprogrammable RFID and bridging satellite and LTE technology. In his current role, David is responsible for hyper-automation & emerging technology to transform Customer/Employee Experience and Cost Structure for his organization. He leads the largest Robotics Process Automation program worldwide. His innovations are driving change across the company as his team has developed 600+ Bots automating 70M contacts, realizing $400M in operating income at over 3,000% ROI. Additionally, he also invented & sponsored a decision engine driving $200M credit reduction annually.

David is the 2021 Legacy Award recipient at Black Engineer of the Year STEM Global Conference, 2x Dream in Black winner, AT&T Champion of Diversity Award winner, a proud mentor of multiple Employee Groups, & Diversity Ambassador. David’s humble beginnings in the poorest corner of Dallas, TX, continual giving back through Solar Robot Workshops to the community, and rise through a corporate giant is encapsulated in his book entitled, Business Model. 

Continue the conversation on:


David C. Williams

Mustansir Saifuddin

Innovative Solution Partners 

Twitter: @Mmsaifuddin


or learn more about our sponsor Innovative Solution Partners to schedule a free consultation.


Show Notes:

[00:00:03.320] - Mustansir Saifuddin



[00:00:04.180] - Mustansir Saifuddin

To Tech-driven Business brought to you by Innovative Solution Partners. In this episode, I welcome back David C. Williams. Listen in as David shares his thoughts on how organizations can use AI and RPA to move business forward. David dives into the role each plays and how they complement each other to solve business problems.


[00:00:27.320] - Mustansir Saifuddin

Hello, David. How are you?


[00:00:37.300] - David C. Williams

Must say I'm doing well.


[00:00:42.460] - Mustansir Saifuddin

Thank you, David. I'd like to welcome you back to my podcast, Tech-Driven Business. Today, I would like to talk about how RPA and AI is helping organizations. How does that sound to you?


[00:00:59.900] - David C. Williams

Wonderful. It's an exciting topic, brother.


[00:01:07.610] - Mustansir Saifuddin

Yeah, I know this is very near and dear to you. In our previous sessions, you had talked about at length, about RPA. I thought this will be a good segue into this conversation.


[00:01:21.770] - David C. Williams



[00:01:23.000] - Mustansir Saifuddin

How is AI and RPA helping organizations increase efficiency in their operations and throughout their business in general?


[00:01:34.740] - David C. Williams

Well, when I think about it, RPA is, I would say all of hyper automation, but especially RPA, is one of the, if not the least, expensive way to solve a business problem with software. Artificial intelligence is the computing power we've dreamed of. When you take that type of computing power and intelligence and give it a efficient reach like RPA, you can go do a lot of cool things very quickly and it doesn't cost your arm and the leg.


[00:02:17.250] - Mustansir Saifuddin

I like the way you connected the two. So it seems like they are both connected at the hip in terms of how they are complementing each other.


[00:02:29.080] - David C. Williams

Yeah. Ai is a brain, right? And just like in a human body, a brain is great, but it can't move anything physically, right? And so you need all these extremities to go about the brain's business every day. That's how I think about AI and RPA coming together. You have the most intelligent computational brain that you could imagine or dream of with mobility of RPA that's so flexible, so ubiquitous, so applicable in so many ways that when you put the two together, it's exponential.


[00:03:09.370] - Mustansir Saifuddin

That is great. Let's talk about something in terms of leveraging the efficiency part, right? We talk about efficiencies in business, in our general lives, how we can do things faster, better.


[00:03:25.920] - Mustansir Saifuddin

When we talk about leveraging the efficiency of RPA and the capabilities of AI, what makes it beneficial to a business? Can you give some examples? Talk about that.


[00:03:43.690] - David C. Williams

Yeah, sure. If you think about the combination of the two things that you could do with this. Let's say you have a workforce that uses some knowledge management system. Well, every day that workforce thumbs through a virtual encyclopedia, right? They thumb through a virtual dictionary to go get information or they query it.


[00:04:19.960] - David C. Williams

With the advent of generative AI combined with RPA, what you could do is you could use AI to do the querying and summarization of all of that knowledge management. You can use RPA to quickly place that in so many different places to make it more accessible. Yep, we got it. We got the great brain that's going to take all of this stuff and compile it into something that's usable and easy to extract from. But how do I get it over to my field technicians, to my customer service group? How do I leverage that across several systems? Rpa and other components of hyperautomation are very prone, very likely to be the best options to go do that without having to reinvent the wheel.


[00:05:18.730] - Mustansir Saifuddin

That's a great example you use. That leads me into my next question about you've been doing hyper automation for quite some time, and you had some great success and gains that you saw with that implementation at AT&T. How do you see that journey evolved with the addition of AI now?


[00:05:42.030] - David C. Williams

Oh, man. Well, I would tell you, when it comes to things like RPA, my team does sit on the very forefront of where all that stuff is going, the way we use it, the conversations we even had with Microsoft on what they're building and enhancing and all that stuff. When I think about where it's going, though, and with AI, AI is going to take our most challenging parts of the development cycle, the most challenging parts of every business or many businesses, and it'll simplify. When I think of that, I think about a world where RPA is even more democratized, where literally any knowledge worker can use RPA. Instead of putting up PowerPoints, we can share prototypes.


[00:06:45.660] - David C. Williams

That is going to open up an entire universe of innovation and automation.


[00:06:53.900] - Mustansir Saifuddin

It seems almost like you are fast tracking a lot of things.


[00:06:59.900] - David C. Williams

Trying to, man. The funny thing about automation is the more you do it, the more folks want it, which is a good thing, but it is still a challenge. As we continue to grow the program, as we continue to help more of our colleagues, coworkers, customers, as more parts of the business depend on the things we create, we look for ways to continue to accelerate. There are a ton of quotes that we believe in and mantra we have on our team. One is that success is momentum over time. As we continue to... We found some success, we built some momentum. It's taking us a little bit of time as we continue to go down this path, we're going to keep driving more momentum. That is the expectation. Honestly, we're positioned for it. The more things that we build, the more we get to leverage. At one point, we were using bricks to build buildings, then we're using buildings to blocks to build cities, cities to build, etc. We're just still lead on that journey, accelerating and looking for ways to continue to accelerate. And that AI version of what I just spoke about is just one area.


[00:08:16.220] - David C. Williams

There's a ton of other things that we're looking at to automate so that we can accelerate everything that we're doing in that space.


[00:08:24.640] - Mustansir Saifuddin

That is awesome. When you think about opportunities, what opportunities do you see in this area where AI and RP are working together, the idea of creating this intelligent automation? Where do you see that going?


[00:08:42.160] - David C. Williams

Well, I think that at a certain point it's going to happen. For those that discover it or leverage it, priced, they will solve more complex business problems at a cheaper price, at a faster pace, and that will impact their competition and so forth and so forth. I think it's just a matter of time. These things, these operations, these big companies, whether you're talking telecom or healthcare, doesn't matter. The efficiency that they can drive helps them to be able to capitalize on the things that they do in those specific industries. Rpa is the least expensive hyperautomation is the least expensive way of solving a business problem with software. I haven't found anything cheaper. You put cognitive capabilities on top of that. That means the more complex things you can get after with the cheapest means of doing it. If you're doing that better than your competitor, look at our competitor.


[00:09:57.630] - Mustansir Saifuddin

Yeah, for sure. I mean, there's always this conversation about what technology is moving away from or getting a thing of the past. So when you hear people talk about who say that RPA is a thing of the past and the future is AI, what is your response to that?


[00:10:19.710] - David C. Williams

It's probably a laugh, a chuckle. It would be like saying, Oh, you know what? The Wright brothers have mastered human flight. We've discovered human flight. We all can fly now. There's no need for tires. No need for tires. Nobody needs tires anymore. It's impossible to even think like that. I would say the same about AI and RPA. There is no competition between the two. This is chocolate and peanut butter. They work better together. There is no competition between the two. There is no replacement of one or the other. Your brain will never replace your thumb. Never. I don't care how good of a brain you have. That thumb sure comes in handy. That's how I think about RPA is that it's not that this is the 3G and there's 4G. No, no, no, no, no. This is complementary. As long as you have one, you will want the other. That's what I think about AI and RPA. As long as you have one, you're going to want the other. If you have RPA, you want cognitive capabilities to make those automations smarter so you can automate more things. If you have AI, you want reach and you want quick reach because with AI you get quick answers.


[00:11:54.510] - David C. Williams

So you want quick, ubiquitous, far, far reaching reach. Rpa gives you that hyper automation gives you that. Putting up Lego blocks together in the right ways, you get exactly that. For those that say that, I guess maybe it may be a little telling, but I don't see it.


[00:12:14.950] - Mustansir Saifuddin

I love the example you use. That is really great. It just puts things in perspective. I think it's just like the one cannot live without the other. It's almost like a marriage made in heaven. That's awesome.


[00:12:28.810] - David C. Williams

It really is. I mean, when you think about just how fast AI is able to go get the most complex, sophisticated answers and responses to produce code in seconds, whole paragraphs in seconds, whole reports. When you think about that to have that level of intelligence with the an arm 8,000 miles long, you can do a lot. You can do a whole lot. And so that's, I think, the beauty of AI and RPA coming together.


[00:13:10.790] - Mustansir Saifuddin

That makes sense. Definitely. For sure. So I guess that takes me to my next point. Based on all that we covered today, what is that one key takeaway that you would want our listeners to leave the session today with?


[00:13:29.000] - David C. Williams

You got to embrace AI quickly. You got to move safely with it. Don't throw the baby out with the bath water. Rpa is still the future. Rpa still has a huge impact. I would say to many American Airlines is great for getting you from New York to Los Angeles. But if you need tacos delivered on Tuesday at 2:00 PM American Airlines is probably not the place that you want to call. There's probably better options, more suitable options. One is not better than the other. They just have different roles. That's how RPA and AI relationship are. They have different roles that are extremely complementary of each other.


[00:14:23.860] - Mustansir Saifuddin

I think that's a great way to put it. I like the example you use. I think it seems like a lot of times folks are thinking of one technology versus the other. The way you're explaining or you're rationalizing this whole thing is one is helping the other to be more productive, more efficient, and be more robust together as a business, as a technology that is working together to make things better.


[00:14:58.570] - David C. Williams

Must have said, I would tell you, brother, that one of the biggest mistakes people make in technology is they want to put all the eggs in one basket. Oh, we're going to have this one thing that's going to do all these things. You know what that's called? They did that a long time ago. It's called the Titanic. It doesn't work well that way. Even if you look at Netflix, Amazon, everything you're looking on a page, it's not just one application. There's so many applications working at once. You just see it in one user interface. And so the same way that those microservices work and they feel like one, but they're all separate is what hyper automation, what RPA is. It feels like one thing, but it's still separate. You put all these things together and you can create something magical versus trying to do this just one big, herculean, Titanic thing. And so I find that putting one and one together, if you get them close enough together, one in one is 11. You get further, faster, you get something exponential. You can skip all the other stuff. That's how I think about AI and RPA coming together.


[00:16:17.120] - David C. Williams

You get further, faster putting them together.


[00:16:20.620] - Mustansir Saifuddin

For sure. Now it's been a great session, David. And thank you for sharing your thoughts and your insights into this discussion point. I mean, definitely, there is a lot of progress that needs to be made in this field where both AI and RPA coming together, helping businesses and making our lives better. So I really appreciate your time. Thank you so much for joining our session today.


[00:16:49.500] - David C. Williams

Thank you. Have a great day.


[00:16:58.250] - Mustansir Saifuddin

Thanks for listening to Tech-driven Business brought to you by Innovative Solution Partners. David gave a great overview on the power of AI and rpa. His main takeaway: embrace AI quickly, move safely with it. Rpa is still the future and will have a great and huge impact. We would love to hear from you. Continue the conversation by connecting with me on LinkedIn or Twitter. Learn more about innovative solution partners and schedule a free consultation by visiting isolutionpartners.com. Never miss our podcast by subscribing to our YouTube channel. Information is in the show notes.




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