When a company realised that 30 per cent calls it received were from customers asking about order status, its leadership wanted to know if artificial intelligence (AI) would be able to help manage the interactions. A virtual customer assistant could answer questions ranging from “Where is my order?” to “How long will I have to wait?” But the bigger question was if AI could help create an impact.
Look at how you are using technology today during critical interactions with customers — business moments — and consider how the value of that moment could be increased. Then apply AI to those points for additional business value.
For example, the interaction between a company and a customer provides data about the customer. When combining information with other data about that particular customer (i.e. they order X amount of Y products every Z weeks), the company can use AI to further enrich the relationship beyond that interaction.
Across the world, savvy CIOs are experimenting with business peers to discover cases for AI and to evaluate its potential to disrupt markets and revamp business models.
Over the past few years, the pace of innovation in AI technologies has been staggering, predominantly coming from small vendors. CIOs are in the perfect position to educate their company’s CEO and board about recent developments in AI and illustrate how AI might influence their business and competitive landscape.
Deep learning, natural-language processing (NLP) and computer vision are leading areas of rapid technology advancement, and are the areas where CIOs need to build knowledge, expertise and skills.
Capabilities like voice recognition, NLP and image processing benefit from advances in big data processing and advanced analytical methods such as machine learning and deep learning. Leading-edge AI technologies will play an increasingly important role in the top three business objectives often cited by CEOs — greater customer intimacy, increasing competitive advantage and improving efficiency. Hence, CIOs should look for cloud SaaS applications that apply AI to these areas.
What matters the most is where your business should use AI. AI is a technology that emulates human performance, typically by learning from it. CIOs should look for critical business points where human interaction or human expertise adds value as AI might augment those efforts to create even more value. The most common mistake with AI is to focus on automation rather than augmentation of human decision-making and interactions.
As AI hype accelerates with the promise to change business forever, CIOs have to distinguish between faux and real AI offerings.
When comparing different AI products, ask vendors how they manage risk with their AI products, and how that surpasses their competitors’ means of doing so. This is particularly important, as many vendors do not understand the risks involved in using AI. AI systems are not static and require vendors to be fully invested in improving their flexibility and resilience. Find out what vendors are doing to improve their offerings, whether by collaborating with independent data scientists or being active players in the industry. Cloud SaaS deployment facilitates continuous innovation from a vendor, and potentially other participants in the shared environment. Keep these considerations in mind as you adopt AI for critical business priorities: Look for ideas and possibilities in areas you couldn’t approach before because you didn’t have or couldn't attract enough talented people.
Learn the lessons that are unique to your organisation and minimise those that are more mainstream in nature. Also, survey and engage your hhest-value workers about mundane aspects of their roles that can be addressed through AI.
(The authors arevice-presidents and distinguished analysts at Gartner)