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Driving customer experience through cloud and AI

Autodesk’s global CIO Prakash Kota explains how the company is modernising is IT infrastructure and adopting cloud and AI to drive customer experience

When Autodesk transitioned into a subscription-only software company a few years ago, it was not just about changing its business model. The move also required the design and engineering software firm to shore up its IT capabilities to drive customer experience.

“Customer experience is at the heart of everything,” said Prakash Kota, global CIO of Autodesk. “In a subscription model, it’s all about retention, growth and continuously creating value for customers."

This meant streamlining workflows for all employees, from sales to customer service. “My predominant charter is to ensure Autodesk’s efficiency and scalability as we grow,” explained Kota. “We want to standardise and scale without sacrificing agility.”

Kota began by modernising Autodesk’s infrastructure, migrating to a cloud-based system. Today, while Autodesk utilises in-house cloud-native applications on public cloud platforms, it primarily relies on software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications such as Workday.

“We have minimal applications remaining in our datacentres,” said Kota. “Significantly, my team’s role is to integrate different SaaS applications to ensure the capabilities are turned on as quickly as possible.

Alongside SaaS, Autodesk implemented robotic process automation (RPA) about five years ago to automate tasks in finance, HR and other departments, allowing employees to focus on higher-value work.

“We strongly believe in using automation to augment our workforce,” says Kota, adding that Autodesk now employs hundreds of RPA bots orchestrated to complete specific tasks. “We have sophisticated RPA orchestration capabilities that evolve alongside our business applications and processes.”

Last year, Autodesk embraced generative AI (GenAI) to further enhance productivity and efficiency. Their initial foray was Autodesk GPT, running on a private instance of Azure OpenAI. “This ensures data remains within our ecosystem, not contributing to public model training, which is a common approach for many companies,” said Kota.

Prioritising GenAI use cases across business functions, Autodesk found significant success in customer support, leveraging both its own large language model (LLM) and vendor solutions such as Salesforce.

We are going to be turning on a lot of AI capabilities from every vendor, but we want to make sure the cost doesn’t skyrocket
Prakash Kota, Autodesk

“Our call centres handle a high volume of calls, and resolving customer issues could take 10-20 minutes as agents identified the problem, located relevant knowledge articles, and interacted with the customer,” said Kota.

“Now, agents have access to something called Agent Assist, which proactively provides solutions from knowledge articles. All the agent needs to do is to accept what the GenAI is suggesting and respond to the customer.” 

This GenAI tool, noted Kota, has significantly reduced response times and improved problem resolution. Agents can now manage multiple calls without needing to know everything in Autodesk’s entire knowledge base.

Autodesk also uses GenAI in marketing, leveraging Azure’s translation services to translate video and other marketing materials for diverse global audiences.

For developers, Autodesk introduced GitHub Copilot, which is now actively used by about 30% of the company’s developers, with 22% adopting code suggestions, said Kota.

A dedicated centre of excellence, comprised of stakeholders from product, security, IT, legal, data and vendor management teams, governs AI usage within Autodesk. This group evaluates use cases, privacy implications, and cost management, among other areas.

“We are going to be turning on a lot of AI capabilities from every vendor, but we want to make sure the cost doesn’t skyrocket,” Kota said. “We also don’t want duplicate capabilities with different people working on same solutions. So far, the synergies have worked out well as we experiment with use cases.”

Kota stressed the importance of change management in driving AI adoption. To that, Autodesk not only appoints champions to promote AI tools but also employs gamification to encourage usage.

“Using these capabilities earns you brown points, among other things,” said Kota. “We’re using gamification to incentivise employees to integrate these AI capabilities into day-to-day jobs.”

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