November 2019 — Fortune 500 companies. Household brands. Biotech. Hi-tech. Much, much more. That’s Seattle today. And for just about any of the firms in this region, digital operations, machine learning and artificial intelligence are becoming more critical every day.
That is the focus of Keystone Strategy’s Seattle office, headed by Keystone Principal Jennifer Graves and Partner Sean Hartman.
“AI and machine learning are causing fundamental change in the way we manage business,” Hartman said. Advances in big data, cloud computing and improved algorithms have created countless opportunities – companies just have to take advantage of them.”
“We help companies become more strategic so they can get a better handle on potential risk,” said Hartman. “We help them use AI and machine learning to respond to massive amounts of data now available, and, ultimately, improve profitability.”
“AI and machine learning can be used to help companies better manage cash, create a more efficient supply chain, greater inventory control and improved distribution networks,” Graves said.
“We are passed the stage of discussing whether AI can help a particular business. Today, the discussion should focus on how can a business leverage AI to make predictive marketing decisions, improve efficiency and profitability,” Hartman added.
Here’s a simple example from the retail food businesses. Weather conditions often relate to different types of product sales. When inventory needs to change due to impending weather conditions, AI and machine learning allows for a near real time response by combining analysis of external factors, weather and what people eat during different types of weather, with internal data — actual sales and unit profitability.
In cold, rainy weather, more people typically want hot beverages. If it is warm and sunny, there may be an increased demand for frozen yogurt. What is the historical data for each store in a retailer’s chain? That can be a huge amount of data for a company with many locations. AI and machine learning can make it far earlier to analyze – and dramatically faster.
There is a human element, too. Keystone will train a company’s managers to use the data and understand the implications – and unique local conditions that may not be clearly reflected in the data.
AI can use statistics and so-called big data for predictive analytics. It also can create an ecosystem of overlapping disciplines with responses to mimic a human response.
“We help our clients focus on the results of the analysis, not on writing complex computer code and its related technical information. Keystone does that,” Graves added.
Graves and Hartman and the Seattle team augment Keystone’s Information Strategy and Risk practice. As well, they support client strategies related to Data Science and Analytics-enabled operating models. They are key to the firm’s strategic growth and development across the West Coast.
Before joining Keystone, Graves was a Senior Program Manager, U.S. Operations, at Starbucks. While there, she oversaw the margin, inventory and field analytics for 10,000 stores in the U.S. and Canada. She implemented and led a $500 million waste management program, digitally redesigned inventory, and overhauled reporting for all the U.S. and Canada stores.
A guest professor of Business at the University of Washington, she lectures on operations management and on finance for non-finance majors.
Hartman joined Keystone in 2005 as one of the first employees in the company’s original Boston office. Now in Seattle, his practice area covers many areas, including digital transformation, ecosystem strategy, product management, and corporate strategy. He works across diverse industries, including cloud services, digital agriculture, electric vehicles, telecom and media. He also advises clients like Boeing, Microsoft, Facebook and Oculus, among many others.
In the last year, the Keystone Northwest team has doubled. Other team members now include: Ava Tichenor, Associate; Sydney House, Sr. Associate; Theo Arden, Associate; and Gloria Gross, Officer Manager.
“We love what we do and are passionate about Seattle and the Pacific Northwest,” Hartman said.
“Seattle and the surrounding area are teaming with numerous brands, and that makes it easier for us to join forces with them,” Graves said. “We love this area for many other reasons, including its immense beauty. The mountains, the coast, the cities, they are all breathtaking in their own way,” Graves said.”