What's in this article
With AI being the talk of the town, we wanted to give an inside view of our product team's ethos when it comes to integrating AI in the platform.
This approach has been spearheaded at Planned by none other than our Head of AI, Nim Cheema.
With our event tech platform, we've been adamant about not just hopping on the technology as a trend, but rather, applying it when relevant to pre-existing pain points.
In this article, we cover where Nim's interest in AI began, and how his growth over the years has led him to influence how Planned is becoming increasingly and intentionally AI-powered.
In his high school classroom in 2010, Nim already had an interest in AI. When he was given a project that required interviewing a professional in some specific realm of expertise, he immediately chose Yoshua Bengio.
The highly renowned figure in the artificial intelligence space didn't have the time, but passed him along to his assistant professor, Joelle Pineau. She is now global Vice President of Meta's Artificial Intelligence Research.
From there, Nim's interest continued in waves over the years. From being fascinated by hard sci-fi (a genre that blends believable science with fiction), to working in data visualization and enjoying the creative aspect, Nim ultimately pursued product engineering with a focus on user experience.
Previously at an AI company, he worked closely with the research team and had his interest in the technology rekindled with the emergence of GPTs.
As an engineer, he's been particularly fascinated by GitHub's Copilot and has drawn parallels for how Planned should embed new technology into the existing flow for the optimal user experience.
In Nim's opinion, AI should be an extension of UX. At Planned, he is leading the team to prioritize solving existing problems with AI, rather than using AI to seek out new problems that need solving.
As a product-driven company, our artificial intelligence ethos is centred around the idea that user problems are our top priority, and we consider potential AI solutions as one among many.
With an emphasis on product-driven rather than hype-driven applications, this looks like implementing targeted solutions within the flow rather than layering new features.
For example, Copilot enables the engineer to code as they would normally, and generates options to auto-complete based on what has been coded prior and what it expects the engineer to code next. To say this tool has engineers in awe is an understatement, “It feels like it's reading my thoughts,” Nim says.
In the event planning workflow on Planned, we've begun with iterating on the sourcing flow to optimize communication, transfer of information, and recommendations.
Operating within a highly-fragmented industry, where different tools solve for different needs, Planned's unique position is in being an end-to-end solution for the entire event planning flow, providing value to every stakeholder involved in the process.
What this means is that when we do choose to implement AI technology to optimize a certain section of the flow, it in turn benefits the whole suite of users.
Importantly, the new additions always improve the core flow, rather than adding on a tangential feature.
On the whole, Planned's AI ethos is thoughtful integration, steering clear of over-reliance and generic applications like chatbots.
Enabling the AI technology to have access to and interact with the actual platform enhances that user and AI synergy to the benefit of the end user's experience.
Context-aware suggestions, as we've seen with Copilot, are the best way to enhance efficiencies without creating unnecessary steps and noise.
Nim continues to equip the team in navigating challenges like over-optimization, pushing for relevance and simplicity in every new AI application.
He is one of the few who embrace AI-generated hallucinations as a feature, providing intuitive solutions beyond basic data scraping.
Ultimately, our goal with everything AI-related or not within product is to provide the best experience possible to our users.
"Our features, AI or not, are designed to have the same intuitiveness as an iPhone," Nim explains, highlighting the importance and delight of a user journey where the user just knows what to do next at every point.
With a clear, simple UX design supplemented by tooltips and user education where necessary, we hope to make the integration of new capabilities as simple as possible. Through intensive periods of discovery and analytics, we're on this learning path alongside our users as we iterate and experiment.
Privacy and bias
A critical piece within the events industry is privacy, and an ongoing concern with any integration of AI is that of uncontrolled biases.
Being a part of this data-heavy industry, we have already ensured compliance with privacy regulations (Planned is SOC 2 compliant) and other client-specific requirements.
While we lean toward experimentation as any good startup should, we only do so with the most secure AI platforms like Azure, and adopt best security practices along the way.
In leading workshops on AI internally, Nim noted our team's tendency to inquire about data risks and best practices whenever we talk about the technology.
Everywhere there is an integration with AI technology in the platform, we have a human-in-the-loop to both mitigate bias and maintain quality.
While there is a ton of hype out there about what is now possible with this technology, the truth is that there is a lot to be excited about, especially in the world of events.
Nim emphasizes the necessity of innovation and risk-taking for startup success, and this is just one of the ways we lean into it with the development of our platform.
“As a startup, we have the agility to experiment and develop much quicker and more effectively than some of the bigger tech platforms in the industry that are stuck in their ways and limited in how quickly they can evolve their product. It's not just that we're able to experiment with AI, it's our responsibility as a startup dedicated to innovation,” he notes.
AI is a crucial area for experimentation, and with his personal interest, expertise and way of teaching the technology to others, Nim is leading the way not only for Planned but for the broader tech, startup, and event planning communities.
"We're not just using AI; we're exploring its boundaries and sharing our discoveries," he says.
It's our hope at Planned that this approach helps demystify AI and encourages broader, more effective use across industries.
Looking ahead, the question isn't just where AI fits into the product but how it transforms user interaction. "AI should alleviate many UX problems such as the 'blank page syndrome,' which applies even in event planning, and should kickstart processes and empower users," he envisions.
As Planned continues to pioneer the integration of AI into its platform, we're doing so with a keen awareness of its potential and pitfalls. Under the guidance of our Head of AI, Planned is not just riding the wave of technological advancement but steering it, ensuring that AI serves not just as a fancy add-on but as an integral part of a more intuitive, efficient, and innovative future in event planning.
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