Here we present an exclusive interview with Dr. Wang, Chairman and CEO of LAIYE.
Artificial intelligence technology has drawn increased attention in recent years — along with a few renowned investors. Microsoft invested USD 1 billion in OpenAI to accelerate the development of artificial general intelligence (AGI) in 2019 and is planning a new funding round to bankroll the tremendous computing power of OpenAI on Azure, Microsoft's cloud computing service. Seven years after its inception, OpenAI is valued at USD 20 billion, making it a 'standout' in the primary market.
In the meantime, Google is reportedly in an advanced talk with Cohere, a natural language processing software developer, about the new funding round worth USD 200 million recently. Nvidia has also shown interest in potential strategic investment opportunities in AI. Founded in 2019, Cohere bagged USD 5 million from the Angel financing round within six months, with participation by Google Cloud AI chief scientist Li Feifei and renowned computer scientist Geoffrey Hinton. In February 2022, Cohere completed a financing round worth USD 125 million; and during the past October, Stability AI announced a new funding round worth USD 1 billion after securing USD 100 million from Coatue and Lightspeed Venture Partners.
With global market dynamics and fluctuations, investing in the AI industry becomes a wise strategy.
According to Deloitte research, leading industrial insiders such as Google, Microsoft, Amazon and AliCloud dominate the chips and data center business, with more than 12% market share. More than 60% of the market companies focus on specific AI applications, providing solutions for various industrial end users. The aforementioned startups aim to transform AI technology into powerful low-code and no-code platforms, breaking the boundaries between the foundation and application layers of the AI ecosystem.
LAIYE is one such company in the middle of the AI ecosystem spectrum. As an advocate of 'Intelligent Automation,' it provides integrated organizational digital intelligence transformation solutions for insurance, banking, telecommunications, power, government, retail, and other sectors worldwide. Based on the world's first leading work execution platform, LAIYE is dedicated to boosting various organizations' productivity by improving employee working experience and helping them embrace the digital age opportunities.
At the Make Work Better Summit, LAIYE released the Global Work Evolution Guide. 62% of the 1,300 global business leaders surveyed believed that business productivity is declining due to employee burnout and high turnover rates. While 52% of them pointed out that the low-working efficiency and boredom are essential factors resulting in employees experiencing burnout. To address the growing work execution gap and break the limitations of traditional digital tools in terms of high integration costs, lack of data collection, and relevant functions. LAIYE launched the Work Execution System (WES), featuring high integration, multi-function, easy deployment, open ecology, and reliance on metadata. WES covers several powerful functions, including robotic process automation(RPA), intelligent document processing (IDP), and conversational AI to help organizations achieve internal and external, multi-system, and extended process-linked intelligent automation.
EqualOcean recently interviewed Dr. Wang, the Chairman and CEO of LAIYE, for an in-depth discussion on several topics related to digital workforce. Dr. Wang graduated from Princeton University with a Ph.D. degree in machine learning and he is an expert in AI technology and also a successful entrepreneur. His philosophy coincides with that of Microsoft CEO Nadella and Google CEO Pichai: the next AI development phase is to make this technology not limited to research institutes and labs but become more accessible to nonprofessionals without programming skills and AI technology background.
According to Dr. Wang, the mission of technology is to serve all people and facilitate creativity and contribute to society. Below is the interview between EqualOcean and Dr. Wang from LAIYE.
Part I: From complementary to augmented
EqualOcean: Please introduce LAIYE's Work Execution System (WES).
LAIYE: The Work Execution System is a digital workforce platform supported by the best-in-class, advanced, intuitive, integrated, scalable platform of AI solutions and products. LAIYE Platform harnesses the power of automation, artificial intelligence, and analytics to streamline workflows and accelerate your digital transformation journey. It empowers your organizations to move forward with agility, fueled by more intelligent decision-making. The Platform covers a wide range of components the company needs on the journey, including discovery, building, execution, management and collaboration, enabling a hybrid workforce of human and digital workers.
Take the financial field as an example. Decision-makers want to know the company's cash flow situation in real-time, especially under an unfavorable economic environment like this year. However, opening multiple bank accounts is essential due to fluctuating businesses and ongoing programs in different regions, which suggests the increased difficulty of always staying informed of the company's financial conditions. The RPA robot simulates employees' actions and presents financial information to company owners, which is a typical application case for finance management. This function benefits small and medium-sized companies and is also essential for large organizations with thousands of bank accounts and multiple ongoing operating projects. Additionally, RPA also automates the daily reimbursement, reconciliation and billing process.
RPA is also widely used in the human resource management field. The new hires or attrition can generate tons of repetitive work, such as permitting a series of working accounts, enterprise mailbox and meal booking. However, RPA can efficiently complete these tasks and enable employees to contribute knowledge and ideas within higher organizational roles.
For another example, LAIYE requires all employees to upload actual photos to the company software. The workload for HR to check each on employees and send reminders respectively could be unbearable. However, digital HR could be a perfect substitution for completing these tasks and lead to digital transformation.
Here is another example from business operation scenarios. Power grid companies use intelligent robots to gain the equipment operating conditions. In the past, the staff had to repeat the logging steps multiple times to ensure the equipment was in good condition during the inspection process. Because the systems mentioned above are typical in the early development stage, the level of automation is low, resulting in inconvenient manual inspection processes. On the other hand, digital workforce can complete the logging inspection and warning steps automatically, reducing the high labor costs for power grid companies.
In the compliance sector, it also plays a role. Digital workforce could also facilitate banks to check the violation records, information of stakeholders or business owners and relevant commercial data. Additionally, all the tasks completed by digital employees are highly traceable compared to the traditional labor force, which could benefit the companies in terms of compliance and management.
EqualOcean: What is the difference between the intelligent process automation of LAIYE and ordinary process automation?
LAIYE: We can use a visual way to explain. The traditional RPA is equivalent to the hand of human employees, which can only complete basic instruction. After being endowed with intelligence, RPA is more like a robot equipped with eyes, mouths, and brains, which can read documents and identify pictures. Additionally, it can interact with employees and customers and construct machine-learning models. Suppose you want digital worker to have the ability of human employees and perform some complex tasks; it is evident that traditional RPA is insufficient.
EqualOcean: How do different modules of WES work together to serve customers?
LAIYE: With Process Creator, developers can complete business process design with low or no code without the need for sophisticated programming skills. In some parts of the process, digital workers need to understand and extract the content in the document. At this time, IDP comes in handy. When it is necessary to communicate with internal and external personnel of the organization, conversational AI can also realize the automation of communication. LAIYE's no-code conversational AI platform delivers exceptional customer self-service. It can handle thousands of use cases, including the most complex requests, across many channels.
EqualOcean: How does LAIYE manage to provide services for multiple industries in hundreds of application cases?
LAIYE: The fundamental reason is that automation in operation, interaction, understanding, and decision-making processes which abstracted through intelligent technologies can be applied horizontally in multiple scenarios. Our R&D team specializes in grasping abstract concepts in production scenarios, and they can transform the observed needs into product functions.
Besides, we also focus more on specific scenes and industries based on comprehensive application cases. The primary application scenarios include financial affairs, human resource management, customer service and sales operation. Iaiye has partnered with several industry-leading customers by providing exceptional services in the energy, health care, banking, insurance, and government sectors.
Part II: Co-existence and co-prosperity
EqualOcean: Why does LAIYE value the low-code and no-code platforms highly?
LAIYE: Our founding team members have solid academic backgrounds, rich experience developing internet products along with continuous entrepreneurial experience. The eagerness to use technologies to bring exceptional customer experience and create robust and valuable products is deeply rooted in team members' genes. AI is the new rising star after the internet in the technology field. However, LAIYE firmly believes that only by bringing AI products into the hands of the majority of people, enormous economic and social value could be achieved.
LAIYE is committed to equipping the public with powerful AI tools. The WES possesses vital functions while maintaining easy-to-operate nature. This product is designed based on the philosophy of helping more organizations employ digital workforce to achieve intelligent manufacturing of the whole product lifecycle and facilitating people familiar with the business to unlock the full potential of operating tools. You can imagine a future where everyone has an intelligent assistant that can understand and serve their needs through simple natural language interactions.
EqualOcean: Has LAIYE paid attention to how customers use the product?
LAIYE: We are a product-driven company. Our goal is not only to sell the products but also to contribute to our customer's success. Our team closely monitors the frequency of customers using the product, including how customers develop automated processes and digital workers through the platform and whether the CIO, CFO or even CEO benefited from the products.
Our philosophy is that an excellent product will contribute to a thriving ecosystem, which in turn will further boost the product's efficiency. So we put a lot of effort into building the ecosystem. We encourage our employees to become ecological partners and provide customers with intelligent automation-related services. Increasing numbers of organizations choose to embrace digital transformation, which also facilitates the growth of the market and ecosystem.
EqualOcean: Does LAIYE perceive any regional differences when serving customers from different countries?
LAIYE: The rapid development of intelligent automation is based on the pursuit of innovation for the Chinese market: RPA tool was introduced to the market after sufficient AI development. However, the situation was drastically different for the overseas markets, especially those mature ones. RPA was invented earlier due to the high labor cost. The trend of empowering the RPA with AI technologies comes after the market realized the RPA's inability to cope with complex high-value scenarios, which is the opposite of the Chinese market. Currently, both the domestic and overseas markets have reached the stage of combining RPA and AI to realize true intelligent automation.
In addition to the different development paths, we also feel the differences in ecological maturity between the domestic and overseas markets. Most Chinese customers expect the manufacturer to have the capability to complete the project directly. Otherwise, manufacturers' market competitiveness will be significantly reduced, especially when they want to secure influential customers. However, the social division of labor in overseas digital ecology is relatively detailed and precise. A bank may cooperate with software manufacturers and consulting companies to implement intelligent automation projects. The consulting companies are further divided into strategic planning consulting companies and implementation consulting companies. Software developers can focus on improving their products and cooperating with companies with solid service capabilities to meet customer needs.
But we also witness China's digital ecology developing rapidly, and the ecosystem is becoming more mature. The relevant supporting services and training will grow substantially, and so will the division of labor.
EqualOcean: As the first company in the industry to release an ESG (environmental, social, and corporate governance), why does LAIYE attach so much importance to ESG? And how does the company practice ESG issues?
LAIYE: ESG is gaining increasing public recognition around the world. As a global company, we have contributed to environmental protection and society since our establishment and improving corporate governance simultaneously.
In terms of environmental protection, LAIYE helps customers reduce carbon emissions. By automating the processes of critical scenarios, enterprises can effectively reach their carbon emission reduction targets. China Mobile Online Services Company Limited Shandong Branch has improved IT resource efficiency by 900%, reduced expenses by CNY 99.7 million and greenhouse gas emissions by 1,149 tons per year. As online office and collaboration become trendy, LAIYE's digital workforce helps organizations improve efficiency and optimize collaboration, building a foundation for saving carbon emissions caused by commuting.
Regarding social responsibility, LAIYE actively fights against the COVID-19 pandemic. In the early stages of the outbreak in Wuhan, we actively worked with governments and medical institutions and offered free use of our products. At that time, one of our partners in Wuhan used our platform to build a robot that could assist in pandemic prevention and control. It helped community workers reach hundreds of households automatically, collecting and reporting health information to higher authorities. After a major flood in Henan in 2021, we noticed many users in Henan suddenly lost connection with the 'Xiaolai' due to power failure and Internet shutdown. We found users in desperate need of help and initiated donations to them.
In terms of corporate governance, LAIYE's digital workforce enhances client companies' compliance and improves employees' work satisfaction rates. Additionally, LAIYE has set up a digital worker department to assist with compliance in the finance, audit and HR fields.
Compared with traditional companies, LAIYE's product solutions and business characteristics enable more business possibilities: we practice ESG ourselves and help our customers and partners exercise ESG measures as well, thus creating a multiplier effect. Our goal is to become an ESG-leading company in the AI ecosystem and lead more organizations to embrace the idea.
EqualOcean: What is the main focus of LAIYE in 2023?
LAIYE: In the challenging economic environment, we will pay more attention to cash flow and profit and realize revenue growth by creating value for customers rather than simply cutting expenses. We will focus on our key customers and continuously refine products and solutions, to improve the revenue scale and optimize the profit structure. In 2023, LAIYE will generate more profits, which is a very challenging task.
EqualOcean: How does LAIYE identify itself in the AI ecosystem spectrum?
LAIYE: Major companies such as Google, Microsoft and Baidu will provide artificial intelligence computability and cloud infrastructure services, while we will serve as a bridge between infrastructure and end users. We tailored AI technology for different industries' needs. Currently, LAIYE automation creator enables anyone to create a compliant automation process in a drag-and-drop manner.
Part III: New work execution system, new man-machine cooperative organization
EqualOcean: What is the role and work status of employees pictured in LAIYE's ideal competent organization?
LAIYE: In an organization where intelligent automation is realized, employees will be freed up from tedious tasks and focus on other more critical tasks such as interpersonal communication, innovative design, and strategic decision-making, which is a phenomenon of change.
Collaboration between human and digital workforce will be standard in the future. As the technology of the digital workforcer matures, the role of human workers will gradually become the manager instead of mentor to digital worker. One human worker may manage multiple digital workers, which suggests that people with specialized skills will be empowered by the digital workforce and enjoy greater freedom of starting a business or taking managerial roles in the future.
Insufficient management skill is the factor that prevents people from taking on managerial roles or starting entrepreneurship instead of lacking ideas or skills, which will no longer be a problem in innovative organizations where the digital workerr is ubiquitous.
EqualOcean: Should decision-makers focus more on developing management skills?
LAIYE: No, it is the opposite. Traditional management skills will become less critical. People Management is still an essential soft skill but requires high EQ and empathy. However, this capability is possessed by only 1% to 10% of the entire population.
But in a highly intelligent and automated organization, the importance of People Management is weakened. Ninety percent of those unable to develop that skill also have the opportunity to become organizational managers or promising entrepreneurs. People need to enhance their understanding of intelligent automation technologies, develop the ability to use intelligent work execution systems, and learn how to manage the digital workforce better.
EqualOcean: Is it possible to summarize that traditional managers have outstanding 'emotional intelligence', while managers in the digital era should have outstanding 'machine intelligence'?
LAIYE: Yes, it is true. We believe that more startups will emerge in society, and the probability of success is also higher. Many talented people with excellent professional skills, innovative ideas and hard-working spirits need more management skills. It is easier to cultivate 'machine intelligence' than to develop management skills.
EqualOcean: Can we understand the LAIYE's vision as not only to improve the digital intelligence of the organization, but to a greater extent to stimulate the creativity of people and the entrepreneurial spirit in society?
LAIYE: Yes, this is the third phase in our blueprint. Laye's digital workforce platform will generate substantial influence in constructing new organizational models and social division of labor, unleashing more people's creativity and entrepreneurship.
EqualOcean: What other advice do you have for managers in the age of artificial intelligence?
LAIYE: Future managers should realize the potential of AI for human capital development. One of the critical tasks of managers is to stimulate the potential of human capital and unlock infinite possibilities in the organization. Under the wave of digital transformation, managers should focus on developing and using digital labor based on online data. Organizations that can realize human-machine collaboration will gain long-term development.
EqualOcean: How can non-professionals predict the AI development trend?
LAIYE: It's not necessary for everyone to be an AI or machine learning expert. The new generation of entrepreneurs needs to consider which positions could be substituted by digital workforce when forming a new type of organization, which gives the new organization a comparative advantage. For example, if 50% or even 80% of the work in an organization were completed by digital worker, it can lead to different expenditure structures, operational efficiency and management complexity. Overall, the ability to employ digital workforce properly is more important than being an expert in machine learning.