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AiThority Interview with Monish Darda, Co-founder, and CTO at Icertis

AiThority Interview with Monish Darda, Co-founder, and CTO at Icertis

Know My Company

What is your experience about the journey through Technology? What lead you to found Icertis?

Both Samir Bodas (my co-founder) and I have been entrepreneurs Icertis is my 7th startup, either as a co-founder or very early-stage employee. Architecting and building enterprise distributed systems have been a passion of mine and have taught me a lot over the years.

Samir Bodas and I co-founded Icertis ten years ago and soon realized the untapped potential of the Contract Lifecycle Management (CLM) market. We embarked on this journey to become the enterprise contract management platform of the world.

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How difficult is to help enterprises leverage contract management through Artificial Intelligence capabilities? What are the challenges you faced and how you overcame them?

As with any technology that is going through the hype cycle, there is a lot of jargon and confusion about how best the technology can actually be used. One of the biggest problems was ensuring that the difference between real AI/ML and reporting/analytics was well understood in order to be able to uncover disruptive use cases. The second was to deal with the expectation from people that AI would magically solve all their problems, or worse, make them redundant. The third, of course, was the need to be very patient since, as with most emerging and disruptive technologies, time and experience are critical in making things work in the real world. We have a unique advantage through effective AI and ML need data, and Icertis probably has one of the largest structured contract repositories in the world!

The first step to ensuring a successful application of technology was to find compelling business use cases that are in need of AI technology this is where we’ve focused on our customers. We’ve identified a series of formerly intractable challenges that uniquely benefit from AI solutions  including parsing huge volumes of contracts into their component parts, enabling more effective negotiations, and visualizing the complex relationships between all the contacts in a company’s repository.

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How can businesses safeguard their legal and compliance through Icertis’ Blockchain solutions?

Our customers are working on a number of compliance scenarios that leverage the Icertis Blockchain Framework to ensure compliance with their suppliers and/or customers. One such example is creating a more transparent and responsible supply chain through the use of blockchain and AI to enable more ethical, sustainable and secure sourcing, all while remaining compliant to various international regulations. Icertis is partnering with Mercedes-Benz to ensure full compliance with its ethical sourcing and sustainability standards across its 500,000+ suppliers. This is a critical first step towards eliminating child labor, “blood cobalt” sourcing, etc.

There are other use cases outcome-based pricing for cancer drugs that allows payment to pharmaceutical companies only when the efficacy of the drug in a specific treatment is proven is one such example where the solutions not only help bring compliance to the very sensitive health care segment but also have the potential to significantly reduce the cost of treatment.

What are the biggest roadblocks and opportunities for AI companies in dealing with rising technology prices?

Rising technology prices have two very interesting side effects technology investments are under intense scrutiny, and potentially disruptive technologies get a very defined budget for proof of concept projects! The opportunity for AI companies is what even when access to budget for a PoC is very easy, the biggest roadblock is that if ROI is not shown quickly, the POC dies away. With AI in contract management, there is so much untapped potential (digitization of this class of data has just started) that it has been fairly easy for Icertis to realize ROI for our customers and then move to investment and deployment at scale.

AI-powered imports of legacy contracts, effective risk analysis of third party contracts, enabling better negotiations and improving compliance for transactions based on the contract are all huge opportunities that have made ICM one of the most sophisticated AI-infused platforms in the world.

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AI in everything — Is it a good or a bad change for enterprises and why?

The thing that makes this question moot is that this change is inevitable! As enterprise generate more data and store it longer (some researchers suggest that 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are generated every day and that the last couple of years have probably produced more data than ever before) AI becomes *the* vehicle to use this data. As with any new technology that brings disruption (nuclear energy has been one such example), enterprises will need to adapt, deal with data privacy issues carefully (Facebook and Google are prime examples), ensure ethics in AI algorithms, and reskill employees where necessary. And as with any new technology, this brings so much goodness agility in business, reduced risk and better compliance, better customer service and value and better, more sophisticated products. Icertis is proud to be one of the vehicles to provide a never-before-seen level of sophistication, user experience and decision assistance in one of the most critical systems in the digital transformation journey of an enterprise its contract management system!

How do you consume information on Artificial Intelligence related topics?

There has been a ton of research in this area for decades, and the pace of innovation in the last 3-4 years has been unbelievable. A dedicated team of data scientists and researchers within Icertis is focused on leveraging all this research to pick the best new AI technology for use in enterprise contract management.

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What makes deploying Artificial Intelligence solutions so hard?

Most Artificial Intelligence is actually very intelligent training (learning – deep or otherwise). As the name suggests, you need data for learning. And most data, if it is present, is unstructured, not complete, too hard to get, wrong or simply not useful. We have been lucky in that our contract data is vetted by the best authority on the subject our customers who create and use the contracts themselves.

By far, which has been Icertis’ best use case according to you?

The best use case for us, without doubt, is the ability of the Icertis platform to bring AI and blockchain together to solve some of the most intractable governance and compliance problems in contract management including a transparent, more ethical and sustainable supply chain.

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Where do you see AI/Machine Learning and other smart technologies heading beyond 2025?

I believe AI and related technology is heading towards being able to very accurately predict in 2025 what will happen in 2026. It is a scary and very exhilarating thought at the same time. As you are driven to the office (autonomously, of course), drinking coffee that is chemically synthesized to your taste and mood of the moment, your personal 3D printer will deliver a custom protein tablet with synthesized medication to suit your activities of the day as an autonomously negotiated employment contract pops out for the work you will deliver that day for your employer, and the country’s president will be automatically elected for the day because technology will predict the best person for the job based on today’s sentiments of the country’s population. Crazy? Maybe! But we do believe that autonomous contracts (contracts that automatically negotiate the best terms for both parties) and the Internet of Contracts (an interconnected, “live” network of contracts) will be very well on their way in the future.

What AI-focused start-ups and labs are you keenly following?

Most of the AI work that can be easily consumed by the enterprise is happening as Platform as a Service. The big three Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud Platform – are deploying powerful services that commoditize AI. Apart from our own work and a handful of startups in the domain, I am keenly following the big three. Remember, they have the data.

What technologies within AI and computing are you interested in?

There are many with the nature of our work, Machine Learning and Neural Networks are definitely of interest and so are distributed ledgers and trusted computing.

What could be a piece of professional advice that changed your life?

Always remember, most people are smarter than you are.

Tag the one person in the industry whose answers to these questions you would love to read.

Satya Nadella, of course!

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Thank you, Monish! That was fun and hope to see you back on AiThority soon.

Monish has more than 20 years of experience in application and systems software development and the architecting of enterprise distributed systems. He co-founded Websym Technologies in 1998. He also set up and headed the India R&D operation of Storability, an enterprise storage management startup from Boston. Storability was eventually acquired by Sun Microsystems, after which Monish founded and led the India R&D of BladeLogic, helping build a highly scalable enterprise platform for server management in the data center. BladeLogic was acquired by BMC Software after a successful IPO, and Monish contributed to BMC’s cloud management vision, laying the foundation for some of the early pioneering work on cloud resource management and provisioning. He is also the co-inventor of two patents in this area.

Monish has a BE in Mechanical Engineering and a Master’s degree from Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, Florida.

In his spare time, Monish is a self-proclaimed ““gadget freak” and “gamer.” He loves his Xbox Kinect and PS3 Move systems (he just outgrew the Wii a few months ago) and often claims that video games keep him fit! His other interests are Formula 1 and reading. He is a sci-fi aficionado and loves Isaac Asimov.

Icertis, the leading enterprise contract management platform in the cloud, solves the hardest contract management problems on the easiest to use platform. With Icertis, companies accelerate their business by increasing contract velocity, protect against risk by ensuring regulatory and policy compliance, and optimize their commercial relationships by maximizing revenue and reducing costs. The AI-infused Icertis Contract Management (ICM) platform is used by companies like 3M, Airbus, Cognizant, Daimler, Microsoft and Sanofi to manage 5.7 million contracts in 40+ languages across 90+ countries.

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