Walt Kristick, Apex Analytix: ‘AI is allowing hyper-personalisation of suppliers’

28 Feb 2020

Walt Kristick. Image: Apex Analytix

Walt Kristick of Apex Analytix discusses his role in driving cognitive solutions for embedding AI.

Walt Kristick, senior vice-president of applied and advanced technology at North Carolina-based Apex Analytix, has a background in infrastructure management, private and commercial application software development and business process re-engineering.

In his current role, he drives research and software development, and leads the company’s Archimedes Centre of Excellence, which provides predictive analytics, robotics and IBM Watson services to clients.

‘We’re constantly working to infuse advanced tech into our solutions, whether it’s cloud computing, AI, automation or blockchain’

Tell me about your own role and your responsibilities in driving tech strategy.

I lead a cognitive solution team whose goal is to identify opportunities to embed artificial intelligence (AI) into our products and services, and to automate repetitive, manual processes throughout the company with robot process automation (RPA).

Our applied and advanced technology team works directly with our operations and software development teams to build standalone solutions and components for software integration.

Are you spearheading any major products or IT initiatives you can tell us about?

At Apex, we continually develop machine learning predictive models to support our auditing practice, and recently incorporated Watson Discovery News into our Apexportal supplier information management risk module.

We are also assessing the use of blockchain for supplier identity and smart contracts for buyer-seller transactions.

How big is your team? Do you outsource where possible?

I work with a team of 10, comprised of data analysts, data scientists, and RPA and cognitive solution engineers. We do outsource the integration of our components with non-Apex software vendor products.

What are your thoughts on digital transformation and how are you addressing it?

Digital transformation has been ingrained in our organisation from the start. We’re constantly working to infuse advanced tech into our solutions, whether it’s cloud computing, AI, automation or blockchain.

In practice, this means identifying use cases where technology can add value for our clients and improve organisational efficiency. We conduct regular trend analyses to identify what’s affecting our customers and the technology needed to address these challenges.

For our customers, access to high-quality supplier data remains a top priority. Due to advances in AI and machine learning, we’re able to gather massive amounts of data on our customer’s suppliers, helping them to make more informed vendor decisions based on a risk analysis.

Predictive models powered by quantitative analysis allow us to identify the likelihood we’ll find our customers made an overpayment to a supplier, and the likelihood we’ll be able to help them recover that money.

Internally, we’re reaping the benefits of automation in the supplier management and audit processes as our employees are now able to focus on higher-value aspects of their role. For example, front-end bots that can analyse billing statements to identify and extract outstanding credits alleviate an audit advisor from manually looking up this information and determining next steps.

According to a certain dollar threshold, the bot will bring in a human or automate the entire process – moving hundreds of claims a week into recovery and getting the job done faster for everyone involved.

What big tech trends do you believe are changing the world and your industry specifically?

The growth of AI and machine learning is where we see the greatest opportunity to optimise systems internally and for customers. From natural language understanding of news articles for risk analysis, to ‘reading’ documents and extracting data for tax documents, AI is allowing hyper-personalisation of suppliers.

AI will continue to change the industry by streaming increasingly accurate information about supplier products and services, purchase history and performance. The benefits are numerous in terms of creating more informed decisions on vendor selection and management.

Beyond AI and machine learning, there’s a huge opportunity in cloud computing for enterprises to effectively manage a global client base. Only 20pc of enterprise workloads have been moved to the cloud, despite being safer than most on-premise data centres.

As traditional concerns about data security on the cloud disappear, we’ll see more organisations take a multi-cloud approach to storing data, using a mix of the private cloud, public cloud and hybrid data centres. This will allow enterprises to benefit from less expensive storage, while satisfying data privacy requirements of customers across the world.

In terms of security, what are your thoughts on how we can better protect data?

Network and system intrusion detection and prevention systems are the first line of defence against external threats. These systems, coupled with data encryption and data loss prevention software, will effectively protect data.

Additionally, a strong data governance programme adds another layer of protection by limiting individuals and systems that can access the data, tracing the lineage of the data, defining how the data can be used and tracking data use and movement.

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