PwC Alliances Summit 2023

Woman standing in front of a computer screen

We gathered experts from across PwC and our Alliance partners, to discuss the vital role of technology as organisations look to drive business-wide value and navigate the changing geopolitical and technological landscape. We’ve detailed the key takeaways and topics discussed at the Summit to show the actions business leaders should consider and how we’re enabling renewed confidence throughout transformation.

Building trusted foundations for our AI-powered future

Today’s businesses are undergoing rapid transformation, with technology fuelling the pace of change. More and more businesses are migrating to the cloud as part of their transformation journeys: 78% of respondents to our recent 2023 Cloud Business Survey reported their companies had adopted cloud in the majority, or all, of the business.

As well as the significant uptick in cloud adoption, businesses are embracing the possibilities that artificial intelligence (AI) and generative AI (GenAI) offer their organisations. A Google survey from May this year revealed that 64% of executives feel a high sense of urgency to adopt GenAI. With this in mind, our annual Alliances Summit drew together industry experts, from cloud hyperscalers to enterprise application and infrastructure giants to professional services specialists. Each kept returning to the opportunities GenAI is creating in every sector—and across global societies.

Gathering just a week after the first AI Safety Summit at Bletchley Park, PwC and our Alliances partners speaking at the Alliances Summit agreed it’s crucial that we use GenAI responsibly and ethically: regulation and safe usage of AI tools were common threads running throughout the agenda.

Innovation amid ambiguity

In a climate of geopolitical instability and economic uncertainty, governments and businesses are looking to innovate and drive progress. Discussing the challenges of navigating this nuanced backdrop, Lord Gavin Barwell, in his fireside chat with Alan Milburn, Former Secretary of State for Health and Social Care of the United Kingdom, left us with a resounding message: “Tech is the future in every regard.”

AI, as a subcategory of transformational technology, now has a place in boardroom meetings, in UK regional policy and in public debate about its enormous economic possibilities. The question isn’t if organisations should invest, it’s how. AI tools, and increasingly GenAI, are clearly now firmly embedded into digital transformation initiatives across all kinds of industries. What’s also clear is that alliances and partnerships bring opportunities for collaborating to build momentum in digital transformation to carve out more stable, productive futures with technology.

“At PwC, we’re bringing together our business expertise from across the firm, alongside our long-standing relationships with technology leaders, to drive value. Our clients face a changing market and need a trusted strategy to enable continual transformation. Emerging technologies, such as GenAI, makes the need for action now greater than ever. We’re supporting organisations to move their technology transformation beyond a vacuum to embed sustained value across their operations.”

Oz Ozturk
Partner, Head of Technology Alliances at PwC UK

The value of GenAI across a broad range of sectors has been recognised since the explosion in interest and awareness that came with the release of OpenAI’s ChatGPT in November 2022. Since then, both the risks and opportunities of using GenAI have been brought into sharp focus. The careful consideration with which governments have approached the regulation of AI has shown the commitment to harnessing the opportunity it brings without blunting its potential, while also minimising risk.

One key message resounded at this year’s Summit: your use of GenAI can only be as effective as the data you feed it. Strong data foundations are fundamental—and organisations need to get their data in order now.

Our 2023 Cloud Business Survey found that 88% of cloud-powered companies have an enterprise-wide data strategy, while other companies lag behind at 59%. Your data maturity and journey to cloud allow you to set the scene for success with AI: “With their data in order, cloud-powered companies can turn their attention to leveraging machine learning and AI to reduce costs, add intelligence and get things done more quickly,” the report states.

Redefining the industrial blueprint

In this exciting era of AI, from GenAI to the potential of artificial general intelligence (AGI), it’s vital that we embrace the ingenuity and talent of experts and technologists in all kinds of roles and industries.

In his talk “How GenAI can be applied in industry”, Glen Robinson, National Technology Officer at Microsoft UK, said the democratisation of innovation is leading to technological progress at a pace never seen before.

His advice for securing an innovative and profitable AI future was: focus on the skills, the data and your AI strategy. It’s clear that organisations should be cultivating advanced AI skills and expertise now.

Alex King, Head of Data and Analytics at Google Cloud, gave guidance on how to approach GenAI and underlying large language models (LLMs). He warned: “Do not try to build your own LLM.” The data models already available are not only sufficient but continually trained and improved—to bypass this would be at best a missed opportunity, at worst a waste of time and resources. King identified three use cases to apply GenAI:

  • Making complex data accessible
  • Chatbots for customer interactions
  • Content generation and automation

Google’s King also brought awareness to a trend we will see across all kinds of software and APIs: the “SaaSification” of AI. Expect to see AI capabilities appearing in mainstream software that organisations are already using, at an increased rate. The transformation opportunities within software are endless and will bring new capabilities to businesses and consumers that will reshape the workforce in all sectors.

We also brought together industry experts from PwC to share their thoughts on the sectors where GenAI is prompting significant innovation. Vicky Parker, UK Power and Utilities Lead, encouraged openness and honesty around the use of AI and highlighted the potential for GenAI in decarbonisation. Understanding and using data is the key to understanding how we optimise energy solutions. GenAI will enable us all to achieve this.

Jacqueline Windsor, UK Head of Retail, gave us a thought-provoking assortment of applications for emerging AI technologies. These included enhancing the customer journey, digitalising operational models, driving cost efficiency and meeting ESG regulations and other corporate commitments.

Shared trust in our AI future

In our final session, Mary Shelton Rose, Leader of Industry for Technology, Media and Telecommunications, led a fireside chat with DeepMind’s Dex Hunter-Torricke, drilling down into the future of AI, including applications such as advanced materials science for developing battery technology and Harvard research into new ways to break down proteins.

Amid the excitement around the promise of AI, however, it would be unwise to ignore its potential risks. Earning trust in how we use AI is a huge challenge for organisations in every field. In this respect, governance of AI is critical.

At PwC, building trust is one of our key areas of focus. That means trust in the technologies that will propel us into new futures, including placing guardrails around AI to build a safe path. As well as the enthusiasm for innovation, guidance is extremely important.

Responsible and ethical use of AI is critical. While the technology is advanced, and it increases in sophistication daily, it’s important that businesses apply strong evaluation to all outputs and keep a human in the loop at all stages, with multiple layers of governance.

Alliances and collaboration will help us all capitalise on the potential of AI while ensuring—by applying shared expertise and insight—that however we use AI, we use it safely, for the good of society and business.

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