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A.I. is being embedded throughout the enterprise

September 28, 2021, 9:47 AM UTC

Good morning.

A.I. is steadily working its way into the business processes of big companies. That was my takeaway from a virtual event Fortune held yesterday as part of the lead-up to our Brainstorm A.I. gathering in Boston this November. A.I. applications are no longer limited to the easiest use cases—chat bots, robotic process automation, cybersecurity detection, etc. They are rapidly being embedded throughout the enterprise. For instance:

  • Duke Energy is using A.I. to evaluate video footage from drones flying over solar panel farms, to identify problem areas;
  • Wells Fargo is using A.I. for increased personalization, to help identify customer financial needs;
  • Boeing is using A.I. both to improve airplane performance—optimizing runway landings and fuel usage—and to help in airplane construction, use digital twins to explore edge cases.
  • Accenture has used A.I. to do image recognition in the Madrid subway system, to help predict loads and usage patterns.

Joe Depa, Accenture’s global lead for data-led transformation, says adoption of A.I. “has gone exponential in the last 12 months.” The pandemic accelerated the move to cloud, which in turn is facilitating data collection and analysis. Interestingly, the panel agreed that the two biggest remaining obstacles to adoption are not technology issues, but rather:

  • People and culture—“It’s less about the technology, and more about the team that has to deliver the technology,” said Bonnie Titone, chief information officer at Duke Energy.
  • Dirty data—“You need clean fuel to make the engine run,” said Sandra Nudelman, head of consumer data at Wells Fargo.

The panelists agreed that A.I. adoption used to be driven by CTOs and CIOs, but “now, I think we all would agree, it has become a CEO, and even a boardroom, priority,” said Accenture’s Depa. Boeing CIO Susan Doniz advised companies just beginning their A.I. journey to “narrowly define your use case…Don’t make it so big that you drown under it…Make it small enough to be manageable, but big enough to be meaningful.”

The Brainstorm A.I. main event, which is being held in partnership with Accenture, is Nov. 8-9 in Boston. Attendees include CEOs such as Noubar Afeyan of Flagship Pioneering and Jim Loree of Stanley Black and Decker; A.I. pioneers such as Andrew Ng of Landing AI and Margaret Mitchell of Ethical AI; investors such as Sunil Dhaliwal of Amplify Partners and Reed Sturtevant of The Engine; and top technologists from a broad range of companies including Twitter, Lululemon, Darktrace, DoorDash, Honeywell, Synchrony, Dow, PepsiCo, Kellogg, Dell, and more. For more information, or to apply to attend, go here

Other news below. And don’t miss Ellen McGirt’s and my Leadership Next podcast interview with former PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi on the challenges of being a successful CEO and a successful mother. You can listen on Apple or Spotify.

Alan Murray


Funding block

Republican senators have blocked a bill designed to keep the government operating and allow federal borrowing. Democrats, who are also trying to make progress on President Biden's $3.5 trillion human-infrastructure bill, will try again. What happens now could shape Biden's presidency, and the markets too. Bonus read: What the shutdown, if it occurs at the end of the month, would mean for you. Fortune

Instagram Kids

Under heavy criticism for the way Instagram harms the mental health of some of its younger users, Facebook has paused the rollout of Instagram Kids. In a blog post, Instagram chief Adam Mosseri denied this was "acknowledgement that the project is a bad idea," but the company wanted to "get it right." Lawmakers say it should just scrap the scheme. Fortune

World Bank

The scandal over current IMF chief Kristalina Georgieva allegedly intervening to boost China in a World Bank report, while she was previously working there, now seems to have led U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen to stop taking her calls. That indicates the Biden administration really is withholding support from her. Bonus read: Jeffrey Sachs thinks this all points to "McCarthyite treatment [of Georgieva] of the kind for which Washington has been notorious in the past," especially as subsequent World Bank reports also showed China rising in its index. Fortune

Ford EVs

Ford and South Korea's SK Innovation plan to spend $11 billion on building factories for electric pick-up trucks and batteries. The U.S. firm's portion of the deal, $7 billion, will mark its biggest-ever investment in plants. Financial Times


Big Tech cowardice

A chilling piece here on Google and Apple's obedience in Russia, when the Kremlin demanded they delete opposition apps at election time: "In July, Putin signed a law that requires foreign information technology companies operating in the Russian market to open offices in the country. The Kremlin would say this is to ensure compliance with Russian national security laws, but it’s really about getting bodies on the ground to bully…While these tech companies purport to augment the freedoms of those living under autocratic rule, their cowardice in Russia has made Russians less free." Wired

Merck and Acceleron

Merck is reported close to buying Acceleron Pharma, which is worth around $11 billion, in a bet on treatments for respiratory and blood diseases. Other would-be suitors include Bristol Myers Squibb. Wall Street Journal

TikTok memories

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has described his company's failed TikTok takeover talks as "the strangest thing I've ever sort of worked on" due to the circumstances (the Trump administration was pressuring TikTok to sell its U.S. operations to a U.S. firm, then, per Nadella, it lost interest). Nadella: "It was interesting. There was a period of time that I felt that the [government] had some particular set of requirements, and then they just disappeared." CNBC

Crypto hamster

"Mr. Goxx is not a certified or licensed trader," reads the disclaimer at the bottom of a Twitch stream featuring a hamster that "trades" cryptocurrencies, by running on the "wheel of intention" and deciding whether to run through a "buy" tunnel or a "sell" tunnel. You may laugh, but his returns are outpacing those of the S&P 500, Cathie Wood, and Berkshire Hathaway. So there. Fortune

This edition of CEO Daily was edited by David Meyer.

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