Daily Archives: July 21, 2021

Ancestry unlocks real-time financial insights with Jose Balitactac

  • It used to take Ancestry hours to make changes to their applications. Now it takes minutes.
  • Forecasting took weeks, now it happens instantaneously.
  • Accounting and financial planning departments have access to real-time data.

Ancestry knows data. Their goal is to help users discover their family stories and gain insight into their genetic lineage. To do this, they manage more than 100 million family trees, 13 billion ancestral profiles, and 300 million user generated photos, scanned documents and written stories. Ancestry is by far the world’s largest genealogy site with the largest consumer DNA database.

For the last nine years, Jose Balitactac has served as Financial Planning and Analysis Applications Manager at Ancestry. Sitting between the financial planning and accounting teams, he’s the point of contact for IBM applications including Planning Analytics with Watson, Cognos Analytics and Watson. Balitactac designs, develops and manages finance-related applications that enable analysts to quickly derive insights from Ancestry’s many expansive data sets. His mission is to build tools that enable the company’s analysts to better plan, report and forecast business performance with faster, more accurate and more reliable results.

“I enable my stakeholders to get insights on the data, so they can make informed business decisions,” says Balitactac.

The applications Balitactac had been using were no longer meeting the growing company’s needs. When Ancestry moved from on-prem to the cloud, Balitactac saw it as an opportunity to look for alternatives.

“Every time we needed to run a calculation or a forecast, or to make changes in our application, we needed to bring down the system for a minimum of one to eight hours,” says Balitactac. What’s more, all users had to be ejected from the system during this downtime. This was unsustainable.

“Because we had such a large application, it took hours to do the fragmentation,” says Balitactac. “We cannot afford to bring down the system for hours so that I can add a new account or business unit.” Even before the pandemic, Ancestry maintained a global workforce spread across many time zones, so there was no convenient time to conduct these processes.Forecasting was also a challenging task. “Our forecast process was taking two painful weeks because it takes hours to make changes to the hierarchy,” he says. “We needed to move into the 21st Century. Executives need to have real-time info,” says Balitactac. “And we need to leverage AI.”

Balitactac now uses IBM Planning Analytics with Watson on the IBM Cloud for several applications, including for income statement, balance sheet and cash flow. With Planning Analytics with Watson, Balitactac can make changes in real time. “It helped a lot during the pandemic,” he says. “I can make a change now and the users wouldn’t even know it.”

Balitactac’s team started with the income statement as a test case. They built their workforce module, their revenue module, and their CapEx module. When they were satisfied that it was working, they built out more modules and started to integrate planning across their enterprise. Now they use Planning Analytics with Watson, Cognos Analytics and Watson to analyze all financial data, including budgeting, labor costs, and forecasting subscriptions and revenue, and have even started to use Planning Analytics with Watson to manage their DNA supply chain. The team also built a new data source for Cognos, and they are working on using Planning Analytics with Watson as a data source as well to deploy Cognos in the mobile app.

“The biggest benefit is that we’re able to make changes so quickly,” says Balitactac. “The ability to do “what if” analysis, to be able to see results instantaneously, is the biggest benefit. The key in any business is to be able to react quickly. You don’t want to wait one day, two days, or even several hours to make a decision. With Planning Analytics you can go in, make a change in the parameters or make a code change so easily, and users are able to see the end results.”

Before implementing these solutions, the time required to change a parameter in a model might run to an hour or more. Now the same task can be performed in a matter of seconds. While Ancestry enables its customers to look more deeply into the past, Balitactac’s application modernization efforts are helping to ensure the company has a clear-eyed vision of the future.

“Don’t compromise on your requirements,” Balitactac says. “Build for the future, not only for today.”

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The post Ancestry unlocks real-time financial insights with Jose Balitactac appeared first on Journey to AI Blog.

Financial services: Trustworthy AI’s promise and payoff

Data: It’s becoming richer, cheaper, and increasingly open in the post-pandemic world of broad digitalization. And for financial services organizations, this windfall is opening pathways to improve business performance with end-to-end intelligent automation and hyper-personalized services to satisfy customers’ expectations.

As data gets cheaper, trust grows in value

For banks, insurance companies and other financial institutions on a quest for reinvention, the pressure to play catch up, or leapfrog means fast-tracking AI deployments while balancing governance, risk and compliance needs.

According to a January 2020 Forrester Consulting study commissioned by IBM, Overcome Obstacles to get to AI at scale, 40 percent of the participants report data governance issues are a serious concern. Additionally, 58 percent of its participants indicated that data quality issues are the number one challenge in their organization.

Now the good news.

A trusted architecture based on data and AI solutions generates higher business value, according to Brandon Purcell, Vice President and Principal Analyst at Forrester who spoke at a recent Data and AI Virtual Forum keynote, Trustworthy AI: Forging the future of banking, insurance and financial markets.

“The companies who are the fastest growing in their industries are over six times more likely to have scaled trustworthy AI. There’s no denying that there’s a direct relationship between higher growth and the ability to scale AI with repeatable and trustworthy processes,” he said.

Invest in building trustworthy AI: How to get started

At IBM, we haven’t merely identified this challenge, we’ve taken concrete steps to help organizations build what we call trustworthy AI. This means they can stay compliant while going for gold.

First, watch the recent IBM Data and AI Virtual Forum keynote to hear from IBM’s Global Chief AI Officer IBM, Seth Dobrin, Ph.D. on the principals of governed data and AI within an open and diverse ecosystem.



Next, keep watching to learn how trustworthy AI is put into practice. During the keynote, leaders from UBS, State Bank of India (SBI), and Regions Bank shared how they applied three dimensions of trust and how these areas of focus work together to deliver lifetime client value for each organization.

  • Trust in data: How to design a digital business from end-to-end having data domains, data governance, data lineage in mind.
  • Trust in AI models: How to ensure adequate risk management of AI models and business-focused governance to better foster collaboration at the crossroads between intelligent, exponential technologies and people.
  • Trust in processes and business models: How to increase business productivity by infusing AI based on trusted platform advantages. 

Finally, download the IEEE Trusted Data and Artificial Intelligence Systems (AIS) Playbook for Financial Services. This document was the result of an effort led by the world’s largest technical organization, IEEE, to formulate guidance for financial services as they develop new operating models around trusted data and AI ethics. Insights from IBM and other industry contributors aided in the development of this resource.  It provides practical tools based on 20 high-value use cases, plus ethical concerns that appear in each.

Financial services can adopt and infuse AI responsibly to build on trusted governance and transparency with well-defined guidance that brings together privacy and security.

Learn more about how to take advantage of a trusted architecture based on data and AI solutions — the foundation for both end-to-end digitization of core operations and the deployment of new digital services.

Visit: https://www.ibm.com/products/cloud-pak-for-data


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Geospatial Tech: A Silver Lining in the Pandemic

In this contributed article, Ajay K. Gupta, CISSP, MBA, CEO at HSR.health, discusses how geospatial data is now at the core of how most states in the US are responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. There is no doubt that GIS is demonstrating its incredible power during COVID. Integrating geospatial data with relevant statistics can help understand and evaluate the transmission and spread of a viral contagion.

4 Digital Experience Strategies You Need to Consider

In this special guest feature, Garrett Schwegler, Program Manager for Digital Commerce at Lucidworks, offers four strategies you should consider to help you focus and improve the digital experience for your users. More is better—more data, more insights, more happy customers and employees. More can also feel like ‘too much’ if you don’t know where to start.