Sierra Ventures' 18th Annual CXO Summit

Sierra Ventures' 18th Annual CXO Summit

Written by

Anne Gherini

Published on

November 15, 2023

Sierra Ventures recently hosted our 18th annual CXO summit, which focused on AI in the enterprise. We heard from leaders like Ali Ghodsi, CEO of Databricks, Vittorio Cratella, CIO of P&G, and Dave Williams, CIO of Merck. 


Generative AI adoption has moved at lightning speed in the past year. Jonathan Cohen, head of applied research at NVIDIA, summarized where GenAI is today and the progress made in the past year


Large language models (LLM) will transform businesses in every industry, and this shift is important to how future enterprises are run. Technological advancements are making way for new platforms and categories of business applications that didn’t make sense before to emerge. An example is the notion of zero-shot foundational models that can be generalized to solve new problems without training data. 


In the future, these applications will be seamlessly integrated into the enterprise and it will automate the human experience. Yet today, these Gen AI applications are not the one-stop solution for the enterprise’s problems. 


Gen AI in the Enterprise

Ali Ghodsi, CEO of Databricks, dove into the challenges of integrating AI into enterprises, emphasizing the importance of embracing unstructured data sources. He also addressed misconceptions about AI and the need for innovation.


"I would just urge going slow and figuring out which projects are important and bet on those. There’s a little bit of a 2008/2009 iPhone moment right now–every organization on the planet says, ‘we have to build iPhone apps.’ 10 years later, it’s like ‘Okay maybe some of those were important, but not all of them.’ Just doing lots and lots of Gen AI projects left and right might not be the right strategy.”


Vittorio Cratella (CIO of P&G) and Dave Williams, CIO at Merck, stressed the significance of aligning AI with business objectives, and he dove into his strategy for scaling these efforts.  


Williams emphasized the importance of operating with caution so as to be legally compliant and discussed the steps that the Merck board is taking to stay vigilant. 


 “Is there more risk in doing nothing? I actually think there is, but you need to proceed cautiously when legal compliance, technologists, and our business folks are all working together.”


Nicola Bianzino, the Global CTO of Ernst & Young, seconded these statements and stressed that you first need a strategy. 


“You need to focus on 2-3 things that really make a difference. This is not about building a bunch of bots, this is something that fundamentally transforms the way we should look at the business so I think it needs to be looked at that way–less use cases, more impactful use cases do not over-pilot.”

The event included a discussion with industry leaders, including Anirban Deb (Gap), Sanjay Sood (CDW), and Bin Mu (Adobe), who all shared their experiences with Gen AI in production and the speed of transformation. New research papers and new libraries are coming out daily alongside new, completely transformative technologies. Yet, even with all the excitement surrounding Gen AI, enterprises must stay disciplined and focused. Adoption will require comfort with experimentation and a willingness to iterate. Start the path to adoption by aligning AI with the most pressing business goals.