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AI Empowers Proactive Technical Services

Hank Stokbroekx

An interview with Hank Stokbroekx, Vice President, Enterprise Services, Huawei Enterprise Business Group. | October 2018

You’re listening to New Horizons, the podcast channel for Huawei’s ICT Insights Magazine. Join us as we talk to innovators and thought leaders from around the world.


New Horizons: Hi everyone. We’re back with Hank Stokbroekx, Vice President of Enterprise Services for Huawei Enterprise, and today we’re going to be talking about digital disruption and AI. So Hank, can you fill us in on what you’re working on?

Hank Stokbroekx: Glad to be back on the program. Digital disruption is something that is frequently being discussed in the media, also with the experts, of course, within businesses as well — particularly around AI, Artificial Intelligence, and the impact that might or will have on businesses. And obviously Huawei, being a technology company, one of the largest in the world, we’re also very much focused on looking at what AI, can do for businesses, for industries. How will it impact ourselves? How can we use it for our own benefit?

Digital disruption and Artificial Intelligence, machine learning, are all topics that are very much on the minds of executives these days. Businesses, governments, etc., and obviously Huawei is looking to play an active role in that.


New Horizons: How is AI going to affect digital disruption? What part does it play?


Hank Stokbroekx: Well, that’s a very good question. AI, Artificial Intelligence, actually the term is already maybe 50, 60 years old. If you look at what Turing did with his machine, that was already could be considered Artificial Intelligence. So Artificial Intelligence in itself is not really new, but for a long time, the technology just wasn’t capable of applying that theory in a massive scale.

Now, with the reduced cost of storage with the much better compute power that we have, with cloud computing, with big data analysis, with the availability of big data, now suddenly AI becomes much more realistic — and particularly machine learning, which is kind of like a subset of Artificial Intelligence.

Machine learning, in particular, is now much more available to businesses and governments and even people, which wasn’t the case before. So even though AI and ML, machine learning, had been around for a while, the tools just weren’t capable of doing what we wanted it to do, but now with the technology where it is today, that’s actually become much more realistic.


New Horizons: And which industries are you seeing that are being disrupted today by AI?


Hank Stokbroekx: Actually, every industry to be honest, seriously — also our own industry, the IT, I’m in the technical services. Also, services are being disrupted by digital technologies.

Take for instance, voice recognition. These days, when you call a help desk, 95 percent of the time you get a person on the phone. With the improvements being made in voice recognition, natural language processing, the ability of replacing these people with computers is actually very realistic.

Now you could wonder, Is that a good thing? Well that’s another discussion maybe, but the reality is that computer just has certain advantages over a person. A computer is much better at rapidly going through an enormous amount of data and coming up with an answer. So if you have a massive amount of data from previous reports or incidents that customers have reported to you, the computer can very quickly analyze, “Okay, you have this problem?” I can in a split-second search my database, and come up with a right answer, and show that to the customer in a natural language. For a human, that would actually take more time.

Plus, a computer obviously works 24/7, never gets tired, never gets bored, never gets angry. So there are these benefits to using a computer over a person. There are other many examples of where that’s not the case, but this is just one particular example, where a computer can complement what other humans are doing.


New Horizons: Right, there’s two aspects to that. The AI can be an assistant to somebody in their job, or potentially replace a job, but would that be creating potentially new and different types of jobs?


Hank Stokbroekx: Well exactly, I mean for instance if a helpdesk person would be replaced by computer, a helpdesk person could probably move on within the organization to do something more advanced that the computer cannot do. So, it actually would help that person to move up in their career and start doing maybe more interesting things than what they were doing today. So give them new opportunity to do more interesting things.


New Horizons: Right, so they’re not going to lose their attention span when they’re doing a boring, or mundane, or repetitive job.


Hank Stokbroekx: Exactly, yeah and actually I think that’s a key point if you look at AI and ML today is that it’s able to do repetitive work much better. And there is still a lot of repetitive work to be done everywhere in every industry. And AI is just able to do that more efficiently and allow people to do more interesting things rather than this repetitive work.


New Horizons: Right, well your focus is on technical services and in providing support for our customers; so how is AI going to affect that industry?


Hank Stokbroekx: Okay, good question. For instance, AI, ML, relies on big data. You need to have an enormous amount of data, and then the algorithm can detect trends in that data, and start to do predictions. Most of company’s services, IT service companies, these days are still in a reactive mode. You have a problem, you call, we fix it, done.

What would be much better if we would call you, the customer, and say, “Well, Mr. Customer, there’s a 98 percent chance that within the next three weeks you’re going to have this and this problem.” And we can say that because we have analyzed the big data from other customers; and based upon that, if you have an environment that looks like this, then statistically the chances of something happening will be this and this and this. So we can actually call you and actually prevent that problem from occurring, because I can be proactive, just have a schedule that every three months, I’m going to come to your place, do some work in order to proactively prevent problems.

I still don’t know whether that problem is actually going to happen or not, but I’m going to do it anyway. That’s proactive.

Predictive is saying, well, I have pretty good information that something is going to happen, and I’m going to prevent it. That’s predictive, which is much more difficult. You need to have that big data analysis with the trend and the algorithm to actually learn from it, because that big data is so big, if you do it properly, that no human can do the analysis. You need to have the learning algorithm to understand what the trends are, and actually by constantly feeding it more data, it will get more and more accurate over time. So it will actually learn, which is a key part of Artificial Intelligence and machine learning.

Maybe sometimes, it will make a mistake. It should learn, the algorithm, from its mistakes and success as well. That’s the key part of the algorithm, which actually makes it intelligent. That will make a big change in the service industry, in the IT service industry, in no longer sitting by the phone waiting for customers to call with a problem, but actually reaching out to customers and saying, “Well, you know, I am aware, we’re going to do something about this. Otherwise, you will most likely have a problem in the next three weeks.”


New Horizons: Right, right.


Hank Stokbroekx: Which obviously for everybody, it’s much better.


New Horizons: I would think so, and now you’ve written a paper on this subject going a lot more in depth, because I’m sure you could wax poetic about this for several hours.


Hank Stokbroekx: Sure.


New Horizons: Where can people find the article?


Hank Stokbroekx: So the article is published on CIO.com.


New Horizons: Okay.


Hank Stokbroekx: So if you search for “digital disruption in the service industry” or look for my name, you will probably find it pretty easily.


New Horizons: Okay great. Well Hank, thanks again for joining us.


Hank Stokbroekx: You’re welcome.


New Horizons: And looking forward to the next interesting topic that you want to bring to us.


Hank Stokbroekx: Okay, for sure.


New Horizons: Again, we’ve been talking with Hank Stokbroekx, Vice President of Technical Services for Huawei Enterprise. And again, Hank, we’ll have you back again soon.


Hank Stokbroekx: Sounds good, thanks.


Thanks for listening to this episode of New Horizons. If you enjoyed it, please be sure and share it on social media. Once again, thanks for listening.


Biography

Hank Stokbroekx is the VP of Huawei Enterprise Services. Based in Shenzhen, he looks after the service marketing, leveraging his 25 years in the IT industry to build and deliver high-value services for partners and customers.

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