At Manchester Digital we like to interview our members to find out a bit more about what they do and their work in the Greater Manchester digital and technology sphere. This week we're speaking with Iain McKeith, co-founder of Enabl AI. Enabl AI were founded in July 2020, and aim to make automation and AI accessible and useful, so that businesses can focus on what they do best.
What does your organisation do?
We provide artificial intelligence (AI) and automation solutions and services. We believe that AI and automation can deliver significant benefits to organisations, but also that these can be difficult technologies to get started with. There is often an unwarranted air of mystique surrounding AI and automation as well as some practical issues such as finding the necessary time and skills, as well as coming up with the initial concepts and ideas. Our aim is to make these technologies more accessible to our clients by helping them overcome these barriers.
We do this by designing, building and offering pragmatic, usable solutions and services that focus on outcomes and benefits rather than just the exciting tech, and enable organisations to adopt intelligent automation and AI quickly and easily. These solutions and services bring together business insight and experience along with technical expertise of the latest AI solutions available on the market.
Our solutions accelerate our clients’ adoption of AI and subsequent transformation as they are quick and easy to implement and deliver rapid benefits and return on investment. They can be simply configured to meet an organisation’s requirements or used as a starting point to build something bespoke.
Our goal is to make automation and AI accessible and useful, so that businesses can focus on what they do best.
What do you think is currently the biggest issue facing the tech industry?
Well clearly the pandemic is the issue that is front of mind at the moment. Inevitably some sectors and areas will see a slow down in investment, projects and recruitment as businesses have to cut costs or slow down spending to protect themselves. This could slow the growth of the tech industry for a while.
Looking beyond that though, one of the biggest issues facing the tech industry is then likely to be the skills gap. As more and more organisations look to innovate and grow their tech capability the demand for skills in that area is growing exponentially.
Obviously, this demand is a good thing in many ways but if initiatives and projects fail as a result of not having the required capabilities then companies could become frustrated or disillusioned in technology as a sound investment. This loss of confidence could lead to focus being placed in other areas which could lead to a stall in the growth of the tech industry.
What is your organisation’s biggest achievement?
We only began in July but have been overwhelmed by the levels of interest in the work we are doing as well as the solutions that we are bringing to market. We are currently working with a number of different organisations on pilot projects including document categorisation, intelligent customer engagement and using AI to predict trends and business outcomes.
Given the short amount of time that we have been around, we are really pleased with how things are going so far and the levels of interest, and are really excited for what the future holds and how we can continue to grow our capabilities through new recruits and partnerships with like-minded organisations.
What would you consider to be your organisation’s biggest challenge?
As we grow and take on more projects and clients, we are conscious that forming the right partnerships and bringing in the right team members will be critical to our success. We are often working at the bleeding edge of AI and automation technologies, and leveraging many of the best technologies on the market to do so - because of that, and the general shortage of skills in a number of the areas that we focus on, we will have to strike the right balance between hiring in expertise, developing our own talent and forming partnerships.
Delivering business benefit is at the heart of what we do, and providing robust and high quality solutions that require minimal maintenance is central to being able to achieve that. We invest heavily in our own automated testing, deployment and monitoring capabilities so that we can deliver consistently high solutions that are continuously monitored for issues and performance. Maintaining that focus on high quality will be of paramount importance as our business scales and we bring in new talent.
What do you think the future looks like for Manchester’s tech sector?
We think it looks very bright, certainly based on our experiences over the past year and the interest that we are receiving. The growth and investment in the Manchester tech sector was clear to see before the pandemic with CircleSquare and the likes of Amazon, Accenture, HP and Booking.com opening large offices here.
The potential positive outcome of lockdown, if there can be one, is that it is showing organisations and individuals that lots of work can be done remotely; co-locating may not be as critical as it was once believed. This realisation could lead many businesses to conclude that it is not necessary to invest in expensive London offices or agencies and instead look to increase their investment in regional tech sectors like Manchester.
Tell us something that we might not know about your company?
We have followed in Google’s (and other tech pioneers) example, by giving each of our team members 20% of their time (and budget) to focus on creating their own solutions to the problems that we are seeing in the market, alongside developing their skills and knowledge with our support.
Our goal is to make AI and automation easy and accessible. And, whilst this is a cornerstone of how we work with clients, we are also conscious that we have an opportunity to share our expertise for the common good beyond those organisations that are working directly with us.
A lot of what our team learns, we share with the wider community through blogs and source code that give solutions to problems that we have encountered or that provide insight into the way we are thinking or approaching certain business challenges. We hope that this altruistic approach not only benefits our team members (and of course to Enabl AI as a whole), but also that it catches on more generally as we believe tech works best when we all collaborate, share ideas and give people the space to learn and be creative.
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