HR Technology Conference Highlights: AI and More (Part 2)



October 25, 2023

In Part 2 of our episode series, we take a closer look at fairness, benefits, and HRIS systems, with a focus on both established giants like IBM and Workday, as well as emerging players looking to make their mark. We also explore companies that are expanding their product offerings to meet the changing demands of the HR landscape. Discover how these crucial elements are being addressed and enhanced in the HR industry, as we bring you the latest insights and trends from the forefront of this dynamic field.

Felicia Shakiba  00:04

Hello, everyone. I'm Felicia Shakiba. And you're listening to the CPO PLAYBOOK podcast. Join me and my guests as we feature insightful conversations with HR leaders, people scientists and executives from diverse industries and functions, offering valuable perspectives on the future of work. Discover a unique outlook on navigating the complexities of the modern day working world. Exploring innovative strategies in talent management and corporate culture from the Chief People Officers perspective. Tune in to stay ahead of the game when it comes to all things people related.

Felicia Shakiba  00:44

Welcome to part two of the HR Tech Conference highlights broadcast from the bustling arena of Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. In our previous segment, we unveiled cutting edge technologies capable of generating substantial cost savings for companies, enhancing productivity, promoting organizational transparency, skill validation in the workplace, and expediting roll fulfillment. In this week's edition, we thoroughly explore the world of compliance management, a task often postponed by many companies yet necessary to retain talent and well stay in business. We also explore the ambitious endeavors of human capital and HR Information Systems, also known as HRIS, as they integrate extensive functionalities into their technology solutions. These are the HR Tech Conference highlights, Part 2.

Felicia Shakiba  01:45

As a stroll through the showcase floor, a familiar face caught my eye, Toby Kennedy, who serves as both the President of Montage Insurance Solutions, and the Chief Strategy Officer of Bene App. Although he didn't have an exhibition booth to showcase, he does have a solution to a big benefits problem.

Felicia Shakiba  02:08

What are you seeing here at the show? 

Tobias Kennedy  02:10

You know, I'm really impressed, first of all, by the scale. There's a lot of really big vendors and booths and people, and I've been doing this for 17 years now and into several shows lots of different venues and spots in the country. And obviously Vegas is such a hub for conferences, but I think my first answer to that is the scale. It's big. 

Felicia Shakiba  02:32

And you're thinking about potentially becoming a vendor next year, what has you intrigued? 

Tobias Kennedy  02:39

I'm an insurance consultant, any of these vendors that are here, I'm looking to see, hey, do you bring value to the HR community in ways that I fit for my clients? But additionally, one of the offshoots of our firm at montage insurance solutions is that we're launching Bene App Inc. and Bene's an auditing software. And so for us, we wanted to see, first and foremost, how unique is our auditing software in the space, if you're going to accumulate a bunch of vendors, who basically say, Hey, I'm into the technology space to solve problems for human resources. And we were pretty encouraged to see, hey, I don't really think that too many people are in this specific space we're in so that I think was the first thing we're looking to see is just with this software product we have, how does it fit in when you gather a whole roomful of folks that are in HR software? 

Felicia Shakiba  03:33

And tell me a little bit more about that software. 

Tobias Kennedy  03:36

Yeah, thank you, fundamentally, as I said, it's born out of the fact that, you know, we've been doing insurance consulting for 20 years, and one of the big problems we often find is our clients will have a system of record their HRIS system, and it'll have canonical data about who's supposed to be on their insurance coverages, what the deductions are supposed to be, etc. But then when you actually ultimately get the carrier's invoices and or you look at what are we deducting from payroll, those things don't always match up. Someone that we thought was supposed to be terminated or supposed to be enrolled per the records in our HRIS system, don't always reflect on the carrier invoices, or maybe they're supposed to be on the plan and they are on the plan, but we're not deducting the right amount from their paycheck. 

Tobias Kennedy  04:22

So when we took those kinds of three disparate sources of information across the years with our clients and realized how often they don't match up and how much leakage there is right - so there was Ernst and Young study at the end of the year last year that found the average per employee per year leakage is almost $140. So employers are losing money by having people on the plans that aren't supposed to be so our software extracts the information from all of the different places, audits them against one another, and produces a handsome discrepancy report for clients so they can see on a monthly basis before I cut this big check to the insurance company am I covering precisely who I'm supposed to be covering? And am I also recouping precisely what I'm supposed to recoup from the payroll deductions? 

Felicia Shakiba  05:06

Wow, that's probably a very big burden today for businesses. 

Tobias Kennedy  05:11

It is, it is. It's something that we've really found a lot of traction with. And I'm not to belabor the point. But the cool part is we had the problem first and came up with the solution. So we're not trying to introduce a problem. We had this within our book of business, on the montage side, our clients were regularly needing audit assistance. So we know that this is a big burden in the business world because we've seen it for so long. And we finally, after looking and looking and looking for solutions and solutions, we thought you know what, we'll build it.

Felicia Shakiba  05:42

Considering the recent enactment of pay transparency legislation in several states, including California, Washington, Illinois, Colorado and more, the law stipulates that any employer with 15 or more employees, is obligated to incorporate the salary range for a position in all job postings. Robert Sheen, a seasoned entrepreneur and CEO of Trusaic, underscores the significance of pay equality. from a professional standpoint, I myself have conducted numerous manual compensation audits for pay equity. When I encountered Trusaic, the first word that came to my mind was, "Finally."

Felicia Shakiba  06:26

Robert, how did Trusaic get started? 

Robert Sheen  06:28

Trusaic started from my experience and my idea. My family moved from South Korea when I was 10 years old in 1977. This was during a lot of backlash against Asian Americans due to Japanese auto imports. You know, that led me to be on the boards of MTV's is "Rock the Vote," University of Southern California Pacific Asia Museum, The Women's Foundation and Asian American Justice Center, and also had opportunity to work with a lot of big companies and small companies. I started my career at KPMG, I started a company, I started a bank and I owned and operated I worked with Intuit. So I had a very interesting career of understanding needs of mom and pop to global ginormous companies. And as we look forward today, for success for Trusaic it's going to be based on how everybody treats how they want to be treated, and the future will be there will be more technology, more algorithms, more AI in the future. But I don't believe that the technology, AI and software will, will lead to our future success. 

Robert Sheen  06:31

We believe that success is, human success will be based on our shared values, shared goals, shared vision, and the community. And this evolution we believe will be freedom. And once we treat each other as equal, we'll be free, and that will propel us to next greatness. And that's our mission. 

Felicia Shakiba  07:49

And I love that the product after seeing a demo really dives deep into how people are fairly paid. Can you tell me a little bit more about that? How does your product solve this problem, specifically? 

Robert Sheen  08:07

Our product solves the problem of equal pay by being on demand, live integrated with all the biggest HCM systems in the world. And the total rewards and the human resource managers are able to pull that data do analysis on time on demand. 

Felicia Shakiba  08:25

And what is the future hold? 

Robert Sheen  08:27

We have, I've always viewed the Equal Pay Act, which was settled in 1963 signed into a law United States in 1963, which is 60 years ago. And I always view Equal Pay Act as like a freeway without a cop. And now we're seeing legislation globally. The government activism is on the rise, and it's no longer not even just a good thing to do. The companies are going to have to do this. And that means they're going to be have to be paid transparently, they have to also record pay data reporting, and it is getting complex and it is about time 60 years now that the government is gonna force company to comply with this discrimination of not paying people equally, or based on their race, gender, ethnicity, or whatsoever, you know that that's protected. 

Felicia Shakiba  09:18

In recent time, there have been mandatory regulations for companies to show what the pay is on the job advertisement, even especially in California, and I know that there's other states. 

Robert Sheen  09:32

Yeah, there's currently in the United States, those eight states and five city that require you to post job and the what the skills and what is what's required, and you post the job pay range. So then now internally and externally everybody knows what that job pays. So that's where to achieve pay equity internally and externally as you're hiring people as you're promoting people as well. 

Felicia Shakiba  09:58

What are the repercussions for companies if they don't have their eye on equitable pay. I understand that there's various types of ROI from different perspectives. Where do you see the value of the most? 

Robert Sheen  10:13

For a company, it's about doing social good and good business. What the studied have shown is that diverse companies performed better than here's of a company that's not diverse. And which makes sense if you're selling product, and it's, let's say both male and female, you have to have people that understand the buyers of both men and women. So it makes sense to be diverse, to address not just the consumers, and the investors, but also your employees to be having diverse and equitable workplace. 

Felicia Shakiba  10:52

Fairness, and compliance are critical aspects that many businesses often find challenging to navigate. However, a company known as Mineral was creating quite a buzz at their booth. Let's explore the reasons behind all the excitement. Nathan Christensen, Mineral's CEO tells us more.

Felicia Shakiba  11:09

Nathan, can you tell me about how mineral got started? 

Nathan Christensen  11:14

You bet, Felicia. So the problem that we saw in the marketplace is that HR and compliance is getting more and more complex for businesses, and we believe that we could use technology to solve that problem for it. It got started in sort of a surprising way. I started my career in management consulting, working with some of the biggest companies in the country. And I saw that they were doing great things, and that they had a lot of resources to bring to bare that I realized along the way that I'm more passionate about the small and midsize businesses. And as I began to look at them, I thought they didn't have the same sort of resources to bring to bare. And so Mineral really started with two things. One is a deep admiration for small and midsize businesses in the US. So admiration for the role they play in powering our economy and supporting our communities and driving innovation. And the second thing is an aspiration for small and midsize businesses. If we get turned HR and compliance from an anchor in their businesses to actually an accelerant, great things could happen. And so we thought that by using technology, we could democratize HR expertise for these businesses, and make a big difference for them. 

Felicia Shakiba  12:23

What's an example that a company might use Mineral for? How do they stay in compliance with your platform? 

Nathan Christensen  12:32

Yeah, so we put together a comprehensive platform to help small businesses stay in compliance and implement best practices to power their businesses, and it really starts with compliance management. So to be concrete, a customer will use our platform to understand any compliance events that are coming across their company just like your virus detection software works on your computer. 

Felicia Shakiba  12:32

And what's next for mineral? 

Nathan Christensen  12:54

Our software is running in the background for this for businesses, monitoring their internal environment, talent changes where their employees are based. It's monitoring their external environment, what are the laws and regulations that are being changed in their jurisdictions, and it's notifying them anytime a compliance event is coming up. 

Nathan Christensen  13:09

So we want to set a really good foundation for our customers with good compliance. And then from there, our software helps our customers build their policies and their employee handbook and their worksites, build their learning programs or training programs for their employees, build the documents that power their HR function, their job, offer letters, their job descriptions, make sure they have access to good information about compensation, and then also gives them access to a team of subject matter experts that are trained on the issues that small businesses have and are ready to help them solve them. 

Nathan Christensen  13:41

Yeah, Felicia, we think about the future of HR and compliance along four dimensions. The first one is more local. So we know that more and more of the regulatory and legal and compliance complexity is happening at the local level, in cities and towns and counties. And so we're expanding our coverage across localities across the United States. The second is more personalized. Every business is unique. Every business has its own personality and culture and team and its HR program should reflect that. Its policies, its processes, its documents, its trainings, all that should, should reflect the personality of the business. And so we're striving to make our solutions for our customers really tailored to their businesses. The third is more predictive. There's no reason why in the year 2023, any business should be surprised about things that they need to be doing from an HR and compliance perspective. So we're expanding our product and technology to make sure that our clients get advance notice of the things that are likely to hit their radar in the upcoming weeks, months and quarters. And the last is more digital. There's still a lot of workflows in HR and compliance that are done manually. As so we're expanding our solutions to help our customers digitize and automate those processes to build more productive workforces. We think all those things add up to better HR for our clients. 

Felicia Shakiba  15:02

And I'm curious to learn, what is the benefit? What is the ROI on investing in a compliance software like Mineral? 

Nathan Christensen  15:11

Yeah, it comes in a lot of different forms, Felicia. So the first is if you built a great workplace, it's not only complying with your obligations, but it's implementing best practices, you're gonna have a more productive and innovative team. Research shows that things like employee engagement, employee satisfaction translates into direct business outcomes. So we look for our customers to have more productive teams, more innovative teams, more growth, more profitability. All of that comes from investing in your people. And today, we work with more than a million small midsize businesses across the United States. Most of our customers are between five employees and 500 employees. And we hear stories every day from those customers about the ways they're able to transform or grow their businesses by investing in their people. 

Felicia Shakiba  15:55

One of the conferences most thrilling revelations involves a renowned entity not typically associated with the HR industry. IBM, a globally recognized and highly successful corporation has made a resounding entrance into the realm of HR. Let's explore their latest endeavors with IBM's watsonx Orchestrate Worldwide Sales Leader, Ben Mandelstein.

Felicia Shakiba  16:18

Ben, how did IBM watsonx Orchestrate get started? 

Ben Mandelstein  16:23

Felicia, it's a really good question. And lucky for me, I've had the opportunity of being part of the team that's worked on this solution for the last three years. And so it really started off as a research initiative, where you could think about, what if you could talk to Watson and ask it to get work done for you? And it could actually help you get anything done regardless of the system or application you're working in. So unlike chatbots, and other use cases for Watson, really thinking about Watson helping you get work done, helping drive productivity. So it was a research initiative, that then the product management team and research work together, I had the opportunity of building our first sales team and partnerships team, where we partnered hand in hand with our product management team, and really tried to understand both with existing IBM clients and people who've never worked with IBM, were wanting when it came to automation, productivity, all through this conversational experience. So we did a lot of interesting research, went to many different conferences, events, and ultimately worked closely with our product management team, to drive what we have today, watsonx Orchestrate is really an automation platform, and it leverages both generative AI and traditional AI to help you get work done. So you just can talk to a natural language, and it can actually take that natural language utterance and do things for you do actions, call API's, leverage robotic process automation, many other automations. 

Felicia Shakiba  17:54

Wow. And what is the problem that you're looking to solve today, as the product has come into market? 

Ben Mandelstein  18:03

Yeah, overall, I think one of the things we've noticed is productivity. So when you think about the shopping experience at Amazon, during the pandemic, they've really mastered, predicting what you're going to buy, storing your credit card information, storing your address. And so it's almost too easy to buy something. But when you think about your own experiences as a worker, oftentimes, there's still these convoluted complex processes that are very manual and repetitive. And so really, making the work experience better, easier, freeing up your time to do more strategic work, is really the problem we set after. So different people work in different systems, but many of us have these manual repetitive things that take a lot of time that we don't really feel like are a good use of our time. 

Ben Mandelstein  18:50

So leveraging AI and automation together actually help alleviate a lot of these manual things, can free you up to do higher value more creative things, which really make the employee experience a lot stronger. 

Felicia Shakiba  19:03

And what does the future look like? 

Ben Mandelstein  19:07

I really think about and using generative AI and automation throughout all the different processes, you may pick a certain area or use case to start with, and say, Hey, this is our biggest problem. This is our biggest bottleneck. And let's look at different technologies and different things out there to see what fits this problem. But what I see us moving towards is really leveraging AI and automation to improve experiences in pretty much every line of business. We think about employee experience. You think about promoting your employees, talent acquisition, talent management, to throughout both HR and even other industries outside of HR. So IBM, we started with HR, we worked with our VP of HR transformation in this journey because we felt like there was a lot of opportunity for improved efficiencies. And there were a lot of these repetitive manual things that were happening that were very labor intensive that required people. So we've focused there, but really thinking about just driving innovation, which will lead to cost savings for organizations really freeing their employees up to focus on higher value things. 

Felicia Shakiba  20:14

And it sounds like it's not just an applicant tracking system, or an HCM, or a succession planning software. It's not like a specific solution. It's very flexible and malleable and the ability to actually increase in productivity in any role, it sounds like. 

Ben Mandelstein  20:33

Yeah, absolutely. You know, I think there's different analysts who have talked about you know, you have your ATS, you have all these points solutions, but what this really is, is an AI assistant that can work the tech stack you already have, it can work around those kind of repetitive manual things that are in your current tech stack. So we infuse automation, we infuse AI to help with your experience. But it really is about having that assistant that helps you get work done. That helps make the different processes easier, and works with the technologies you already have today. So it's not, you don't need to replace and remove the current technologies. It's just about having that conversational layer that works with your existing tools and makes it a better experience.

Felicia Shakiba  21:15

Determining how to nurture employee growth and identifying their skills and strengths necessitates a fair and precise performance review. For someone well versed in performance management, philosophy and strategy, Lattice holds a unique position as it blends performance evaluation, with engagement scores, evolving into an all encompassing platform. Lester Lee, the VP of Partnerships, sheds light on what makes Lattice exceptional. 

Felicia Shakiba  21:44

Last year, what is the problem ladder solves best? 

Lester Lee  21:47

So Lattice really started out as in alignments and Performance Management Solution. We've also expanded out into engagement surveys, as well as growth and career development planning for employees. And we've also added compensation. So you can think about it as a full scale talent development platform. So if you think about your company, 60 to 70% of your costs are people, it's really about how to get the most out of that, that talent. 

Felicia Shakiba  22:10

You recently launched compensation. How did you get from performance and engagement to compensation? What was the strategy behind that? 

Lester Lee  22:20

Yeah, I think compensation makes a lot of sense for us. Because when you think about historically how you do compensation planning, I think you're trying to pull together a lot of different variables from different places. So you have obviously that person's compensation, you have maybe third party or external benchmarks that you're trying to measure that against very important variable that I think people try to consider - they typically try to bring in is around performance. And so if someone's performing at a really high level for you and your company, but they're paid, let's say, just that median, or average, you start to get insights into, into that and you can start making decisions around okay, maybe here's an area where we can work with this employee a little bit more. And so it's really about alignment. That's a very core theme for us. And so for us, we thought, well, you know, since we have all this great performance data, what if we also use that to inform how people are rewarded. 

Felicia Shakiba  23:07

And report is really a great tie in to performance management philosophy, where you're rewarding high performance appropriately? What about OKRs? Can you talk to me about what are OKRs, and why did you select or choose that type of philosophy to be digitally integrated into the platform? 

Lester Lee  23:26

Yeah, as part of our platform, I think it's also hard to fairly measure someone's performance or talk about performance without thinking about what those goals were for that person in the first place. So we don't have a strict philosophy around you have to do goals in a certain way, our system is quite flexible. So if you believe in kind of the strict traditional method of objectives and key results, you can do that. Or if you have a looser, or just a more general form of goals could be something like smart goals could just be very simple personal goals, that's also supported within the platform. So for us, the talent suite's really about all of these different modules working together. And so we think about performance, as you're writing someone's review, or writing and self review, we have a side panel where you can see okay, this is that person's goals and how they've performed against it. So it makes it really easy to give very actionable truthful feedback, whenever you're doing review. 

Felicia Shakiba  24:17

The check-ins portion of the platform is also fairly unique. Sometimes organizations forget that conversations are a huge part of the performance strategy. So what do check-ins offer a customer? 

Lester Lee  24:30

Yeah, so within the Lattice platform, we have this concept of one-on-ones, where that's typically between the manager and an employee. So you can set up a cadence, weekly, bi weekly, monthly. We also have a concept called updates and updates might be more asynchronous. And so maybe every Friday, have a very basic set of three questions that just helps you update your manager on how things are going. 

Lester Lee  24:53

And for us check-ins are really, really important just because you think about these review cycles, they might be six months or even a year between doing reviews. Check-ins are really a way just to make sure that teams are checking in with one another and that you're just kind of keeping a good pulse on things. 

Lester Lee  25:09

And so it doesn't have to be this, I don't know heavy kind of lift every six to 12 months where you're talking about all the things that you did, and it's a huge essay, it's really nice just to give really pithy updates these quick check-inds on a more frequent basis. So I think for HR teams, it really, it also helps to just kind of feel like my manager has this tool that they can easily use to make sure that they're just in constant communication with their teams. 

Felicia Shakiba  25:32

And what does the future look like for Lattice? 

Lester Lee  25:35

We just announced a really exciting product. So we just announced Lattice HRIS. What we're really excited about that is the kind of offers a lot of our customers who really liked Lattice, a new alternative for kind of a core HR system. I think it's also a really exciting way to plug into like the larger ecosystem. So I run the partnerships team. And since launching hrs, we've had really interesting conversations just with the rest of HR tech, because I think most HR kind of connects through your central core HR system. What's really exciting in a similar vein to compensation is that if you think about OKRs, goals, engagement, performance, compensation, all these different, really strategic HR modules, you have such rich information that's actionable, right? 

Lester Lee  26:14

What kind of workflows can we create in our HRIS if you sent her things like performance? I think that's a really powerful concept. 

Felicia Shakiba  26:30

Workday hardly requires an introduction. It stands as one of the most comprehensive HR tools available in the market, and has garnered significant attention worldwide in recent years. I had the privilege of securing an interview with Aashna Kircher, a Harvard Business School graduate and the General Manager of Talent Products, where she shares insights on Workdays latest developments with generative AI and its future. 

Felicia Shakiba  26:59

What is the problem that workday solves really well?

Aashna Kircher  27:02

What Workday's value proposition has always been having all our data sitting in system and really connecting experiences across products, and that's still very much valid today, and we do the same thing. We've got that unified data core now layering AI and ML into that as well. We've been on that journey for a decade, and we're able to use that data to really surface experiences for our users across the talent lifecycle in the HR space.

Felicia Shakiba  27:27

And what are you offering today? What can customers expect to see in your latest updates in your product, and as a whole?

Aashna Kircher  27:37

Great question, we actually just had our user conference about a week and a half ago in San Francisco, Workday Rising, and we made a number of announcements on that front. The majority of the announcements were really about how we're using AI and putting AI at the center of enabling our employees, our managers, our HR professionals, and business leaders in our products to really experience what they need through that talent lifecycle. So ranging all the way from- I'll give you a manager example, we launched the manager insights hub, which pulls together, all things related to team development really focused on helping a manager enable their people in their careers. Similarly, we launched Flex Teams, for employees and for businesses, it's really around bringing together people outside of traditional organizational structures to get work done for the business. And we're seeing that in our customers become more and more important. From a professionals perspective, we're really supporting, continuing to simplify and uplevel those experiences. And that's where AI can really come in to help automate and make more efficient in their daily lives. We're doing some work around, around change job, we're doing some work around intelligent job architectures, all in that vein.

Felicia Shakiba  28:49

And so when you talk about intelligent job architecture, can you provide an example or share a little bit more about that?

Aashna Kircher  28:56

Yeah, so Workday has been on a close to 10 year journey around skills. So we launched Workday Skills Cloud back in 2018. It's completely driven by AI, and it's the foundation for many of the talent experiences that live in Workday today. Skills permeate recruiting, they permeate talent management, they permeate rear end development, and they also tie back to HR core. So they also tie back to jobs today, when we provide suggestions. We also provide leveling on the job, and those suggestions are powered by the AI that underpins workday skills cloud. We're investing in similar ways in kind of evolvable job structure for our customers. Similar to the reasons we're investing in Flex Teams, which is we're seeing a need from customers to evolve their businesses stay on top of the challenges that they're facing in the market, and we're looking at how can we provide more malleable structures for the business to support those needs as well.

Felicia Shakiba  29:55

And what's on the horizon? Product roadmap? 

Aashna Kircher  29:58

Yeah, so I already touched on one, you know, intelligence job architectures is definitely one of those. We're bringing in embedding AI in more and more places on the roadmap. So we've made a number of announcements of where we're investing early next year, bringing generative AI into all facets of the experience from helping hiring managers or recruiters generate job descriptions more quickly to allowing for managers to create growth plans that summarize performance and feedback data on behalf of their employees to allowing administrators who are managing knowledge articles and content for the organization to very quickly summarize policy documents into knowledge articles and tailor them for the different user types in the organization. So lots and lots on the horizon. As I said, we made many, many more announcements than these just a couple of weeks ago.

Felicia Shakiba  30:48

That's the key highlights from the HR Tech Conference Part 2. If you believe that any of these technologies have the potential to enhance productivity, boost employee retention, reduce the time required to fill new positions, facilitate upskilling for your workforce, or promote a more equitable company culture, please get in touch with We can provide you with further information on how we can assist you in making the right technology choices.

Felicia Shakiba  31:21

If you like today's podcast, we have more podcasts on innovative HR strategies, talent management, organizational culture and more, and how to navigate the complexities of modern day HR. Find them at CPO or search CPO, playbook on Apple podcasts, Spotify or wherever you listen. Thanks for listening to the CPO playbook podcast. We'll be back with a new episode next time.

Felicia Shakiba  31:55

If you liked today’s episode, we have more podcasts on innovative HR strategies, talent management, organizational culture, and more, and how to navigate the complexities of modern-day HR. Find them, at or search CPO PLAYBOOK on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen. Thanks for listening to the CPO PLAYBOOK podcast - we’ll be back with a new episode next time. I’m Felicia Shakiba.

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