Artificial Intelligence (AI) adoption has increased 270% during the last four years, according to Gartner. The research agency’s 2019 CIO Survey is as notable for its enthusiasm of AI adoption as it is for its realistic perspective on the hype surrounding AI in the enterprise. And here’s the current reality: AI spending represents only the tiniest fraction of IT spending worldwide and CIOs have a lot of work to do in order to understand how to use AI correctly, effectively and ethically. I’d encourage any executive to step back from the tactical for a moment and think about AI in a new way.
In this article, I break down the potential for AI in the enterprise, as well as the harsh realities that come along with poorly-planned adoption. In short, we should all be excited about what AI can deliver for us, both in the short and long term, but we must understand that AI adoption isn’t an incremental play. It’s an entire rethink of the digital space, and it’s not a project that can be plugged in and turned on in a single day.
AI and its constituent disciplines including Machine Learning (ML), Cognitive, Information Retrieval (IR), and Natural Language Processing (NLP) can create opportunities to transform business. For the courageous leader, it provides a means to rethink the way legacy business processes are done — and to build an adaptive, truly responsive digital business.
This means potential new revenue streams, as well as more efficient production and service. As we mentioned in IPsoft 2019 AI Trends series, success with AI systems will become easier to measure once enterprises and employees gain experience with implementing, training and using the technology. Those that are willing to learn, grow and adapt with new AI platforms have a distinct advantage as digital-human hybrid workforces become more commonplace.
For the overly conservative organizations, AI projects may be viewed an endless series of laboratory experiments that have the potential to consume resources and offer few benefits. Here’s my advice: Don’t get caught up in the hype – and don’t increment yourself to irrelevance.
AI presents a great opportunity to create value if done well. If done poorly or too slowly, you risk other players and competitors – even those from outside your core industries and markets – claiming your position in the market. Betting big on a single, overarching implementation can be too problematic for most companies. Instead, we recommend that businesses test AI carefully and set realistic expectations.
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Introducing any new technology into the workplace requires some trial and error and working directly with employees to assess the success of the transformation. Businesses should make internal changes visible to staff, address concerns quickly and be willing to admit mistakes or switch direction when necessary. In other words, organizations should treat AI implementations as not just a technology change, but a change in corporate culture that must be carefully considered, managed and monitored.
As the saying goes, Rome wasn’t built in a day. AI has been around for a long time but only now do we possess the processing power and data to take truly meaningful strides. This will not be a single-step process. I recommend making a plan and investing with courage.
Success with an initial AI use case will help set expectations within your company about the kinds of ROI and change AI delivers. Clear communication on AI’s ability to provide value in stages — first in an initial use case, then in other use cases with multiple tasks and procedures — can help manage expectations going forward. With this step-by-step approach, and by setting realistic expectations, your company can reap the rewards of digital labor, while also turning human workers who have historically handled rote tasks into change agents and revenue generators. We can’t promise it will be easy, but we do promise that it’s achievable and manageable.
It’s true that your business will change, probably radically, due to AI, but this will happen over time at the hands of those armed with vision and a realistic plan for how to get there. You should be excited and ambitious, but also cautious and practical to achieve measurable success.
Jamey Hancock, Account Vice President at IPsoft, spearheads the vendor’s partner relationships and joint enterprise AI engagements.
Vice president at IPsoft | Automation Cognitive & AI