AI Business recently got the chance to speak to Josh Sutton, Global Head of Data and Artificial Intelligence Practice at Publicis.Sapient.

Publicis.Sapient is purpose-designed to address today’s digital business transformation imperative, with a core belief that success comes at the intersection of company and customer. They are pioneering a new way of working with clients, driven by a connected group of deep specialists and enabled by a specifically designed culture to foster platform behaviours – open, configurable, quick.

In his role at Publicis.Sapient, Josh is responsible for leveraging big data tools as well as correlation-based and causal-based AI platforms to help clients transform their businesses. He works closely with clients to ensure that the right tools and platforms are aligned with their business objectives.

Josh spoke on both days of The AI Summit in San Francisco on 28-29 September, first delivering his keynote on ‘The Intersection of AI & Enterprise Digital Transformation’, followed on Day Two by the topic of ‘Designing virtual assistants to maximize customer engagement’, which he presented with Publicis.Sapient’s Global CTO Ray Velez.



Josh Sutton of Publicis.Sapient


We begin by discussing how AI can fuel business transformation – Josh gives his overview of the current state of play:

“Artificial Intelligence technologies are largely designed to help humans work better – first, by generating insight from data more quickly and more accurately than is humanly possible and second, by acting automatically on that insight. Invisible to the human eye for years, these technologies have been completing a broad range of tasks, from correctly routing mail to detecting handwriting. Today, they are used everywhere you turn: Siri on your iPhone, rear parking assist in your car, automatically re-ordering supplies on Amazon, and suggesting clothes you may like on your favourite retail websites. These technologies (including image recognition, natural language processing, machine learning, causal reasoning, and robotics) can help businesses increase revenues, reduce costs, and mitigate risks.

“To date, enhancing the human ability to process has been a top strategic priority at early AI innovators such as Facebook, IBM, Microsoft, and Google”.


So, Josh continues, the question now is:  “How can companies take full advantage of such a fundamentally disruptive group of technologies to transform entire business models at a clip reminiscent of the industrial revolution?”

“Broadly speaking, AI technologies fall into two principal categories:

Machine learning (correlation-based analyses and predictions) through which complex patterns can be identified and acted upon. Machine learning tools allow businesses to understand what is happening in the data.

Causal reasoning (otherwise known as ‘common-sense AI’) platforms that apply real world understanding to information, test hypotheses, draw conclusions and allow executives to better understand why things are happening.


Although the application of each technology on its own can result in improved business performance, Josh points out that the truly transformative value and future of AI lies in the ability to seamlessly layer data analytics, machine learning and causal reasoning platforms to deliver digital transformation, which can be achieved through three channels: insight generation, customer engagement, and business acceleration. Josh expands on each of these:

Insight generation involves extracting meaningful and actionable intelligence from ever-increasing quantities of available raw data. With the amount of information in the world nearly doubling each year, it is no surprise that companies are scrambling to capture and make sense of it.

“One of the fastest growing uses of AI is to ‘listen’ to all customer communications, both directly with a company and about that company in the market at large – ranging from call centre conversations to chat sessions and even social media activity. AI tools are able to perform what no single human – or even team of people – could hope to do; they can read, review, and analyse vast quantities of disparate data, providing insight into how customers feel about a company’s products or services and why they feel the way they do.

Customer engagement has long been the ‘holy grail’ for marketing and CRM programs. Today, AI is radically enhancing the personalisation of information that fuels such engagement.  Nowhere is this more evident than in AI’s ‘next big thing’: chatbots and virtual assistants.

“Multiple companies such as Viv, Facebook, and Nuance are providing frameworks and turn-key solutions in the chatbot space, allowing for services as diverse as media content distribution to customer service support and customised marketing campaigns. Successful business use cases will be grounded in a strong user-centred design process, leveraging the input of business and marketing experts as well as those of the IT division. In fact, the virtual assistant we unveiled during The AI Summit demonstrates the kind of power they can have in delivering on the promise conversational commerce to create personalised experiences and drive customer satisfaction.

Business acceleration refers to how companies use AI to expedite knowledge-based activities to improve efficiency and performance. Examples range from hospitals finding potential patients for drug trials to financial institutions creating investment strategies for their investors. While these types of activities are often viewed as opportunities to reduce costs through the automation of internal processes, they also should be considered in terms of their ability to transform the customer experience.  For example, if a bank can use AI to reduce the time it takes to approve a loan, it not only reduces its own costs but also provides an improved customer experience.  As a result, when AI tools such as Watson from IBM and Cyc from Cycorp are deployed, today’s market leaders ensure that they leverage the technologies with both cost-cutting and customer-satisfaction in mind”.


“Perhaps most importantly”, Josh adds, “successful companies of tomorrow will fuse together AI solutions with the customer in mind”:

“Rather than seeing each emerging AI technology as an exciting new tool in and of itself, they will seek to determine which combination of AI technologies can generate the most actionable insight into their customers and clients.  They will use that insight to provide consumers with products and services that meet their needs when and where they need them. And, they will design these AI solutions from the outside in – from the perspective of their customers – as opposed to inside out, via traditional divisional and product silos”.




So how do Publicis.Sapient fit into this? Josh explains his company’s key proposition in the enterprise:

“Publicis.Sapient partners with our clients across industries to help them deploy AI solutions that can transform their businesses, radically improving customer experiences, increasing revenues, reducing costs and mitigating risks. We combine expertise in many of the mainstream platforms with partnerships with the major AI players to put together the best possible solution for our clients’ businesses”.


Within this, Josh elaborates on the main areas P.S. focus on to help companies formulate and execute strategies for leveraging AI in practical and impactful ways:

The first is virtual assistants: We have designed and deployed virtual assistant solutions for a wide range of companies. Our efforts have helped our clients to not only deploy the right technology for their business, but to also ensure that the resulting experience is a positive one for their customers. Designing for conversational commerce is a new field that we are investing heavily in for our clients.

“Recently, in partnership with Luminoso, we have enabled virtual assistants, or chatbots, to go beyond simply capturing intent, but rather, capturing and processing insights that can be used to transform a company’s interactions – and thus relationships – with its customers. Simply said, we are deploying the brains behind the bot”.

Another is generating insight: We help our clients deploy the leading AI platforms to turn their data into insights. Depending upon the requirement, we will leverage machine learning tools, semantic tools, or a combination of both. For consumer-centric insights, we also leverage our proprietary data aggregation platforms which enable us to capture individual behavioural data for the majority of the population of the United States. These insights help companies make better decisions across a wide range of topics from how to spend their marketing dollars all the way through to what R&D investments might be most beneficial.

There’s also automating manual processes: Time is the high-cost commodity of which few companies have enough. Today’s highly evolved AI technologies can give organisations a competitive advantage by reducing the time it takes to complete routine, yet complicated, tasks. These solutions also provide the incremental benefits of reducing the costs for an organisation as well as improving the quality with which tasks are performed.

And finally, analysing unstructured data: The chatter over social feeds is just one example of the unstructured data that makes up 80% of all data today. We help companies leverage AI to mine this largely untapped resource, because at the end of the day, the companies that do so successfully will be the ones that win”.


With so much to offer enterprises, Josh identifies one challenge Publicis.Sapient’s clients have faced when investing in AI technologies – and explains how his company are solving it:

“Several clients have quickly come to realise that they have invested in one emerging AI technology or another believing that it alone can provide the transformational solution they seek.  Unfortunately, we have not yet worked with any one technology that can provide a transformational impact.  The greatest challenge for our clients is to find a partner who understands, has worked with and can fuse together multiple technologies to craft products and solutions that drive radically improved customer experiences, increased revenues, reduced costs and mitigated risks. As a result, we are committed to remain experts in the mainstream platforms of the major AI players as well as to be fluent in today’s emerging technologies”.


Josh spoke on both Day One and Day Two at The AI Summit in San Francisco, delivering his first keynote on ‘The Intersection of AI & Enterprise Digital Transformation’. His second, on ‘Designing virtual assistants to maximize customer engagement’, was delivered with colleague Ray Velez and Luminoso CEO Catherine Havasi.

Josh and Publicis.Sapient will also be at The AI Summit in New York on 1st December, as the event comes to America’s business capital! Find out more here: 




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