Change is a constant in the world of Business. That is why, at any given point in modern history, Enterprises are dealing with some “transformational trend” or the other. In the 80s and 90s it was computing; in the 2000s it was the Internet followed by mobility, cloud, and now the latest mantra – Digitalization. In a way, it is this constant need to evolve, change, and improve on the status quo, with all the tools available to us, that defines us as a human race.
The only way is forward and progress is only limited by our own inventiveness.
So, where do AI and all the related technologies and domains, such as NLP, cognitive computing, deep learning and others fit in, within this larger map of digitalization? Do they constitute yet another emerging transformative trend?
Having been involved in scores of real-world customer engagements around the application of AI solutions in large Enterprises – I firmly believe AI is much more than a trend. It represents the start of a brand new period of exponential opportunities as well as significant challenges for Enterprises. There is well-established data around the current and potential proliferation of AI enabled automation in every industry. The impact on jobs and the very nature of human work has been well documented by reputed organizations and thought leaders. I will focus on the opportunities that AI and related technologies enable for Enterprises and for humans.
The more I study organizational patterns and investment trends, the more I realize that Enterprises are facing what I call “The Expectation Gap”. Let me explain.
During my recent conversation with the CTO of a large consumer services organization, he outlined the top expectations of business stakeholders, his partners, his employees, and his customers – and how they have evolved from just a few years ago. Topping his list was the need for businesses to show speed, adaptability, and agility while maintaining LEAN operations. Customers and employees are clamoring for personalized experiences and “predictive” Service Quality. This is underscored by a larger demand to achieve greater “Service Orientation,” a fundamentally different way to operate for many organizations.
In my discussions with the CTO, it was quite clear that there was no magic bullet to meet these expectations. In fact, many of them are at cross-purposes with each other. This is because there are fundamental ground realities that seem insurmountable, like limits to human performance, the near certainty of human induced errors in any manual process, the burden of legacy systems and processes, and most importantly, cost pressures. So how does one surmount the insurmountable?
In many cases, AI and its related technologies prove to be a beacon of hope for bridging the expectation gap. With mature AI solutions, Enterprises can not only automate repeatable low-level tasks, but also more complex human-centric tasks. The most visible example of this is how cognitive and natural language interfaces are becoming more and more mainstream every day. Or how with the power of machine learning (and now deep learning), truly autonomous decision-making systems are becoming a reality. Combine this with powerful large-scale data analytics, and suddenly (to borrow a quote from Adidas) Impossible is Nothing.
Now, loan-approval systems which could involve a lot of manual labor and take many days can be significantly simplified by end-to-end orchestration using systems based on AI technology. Or customer service processes can be totally transformed to be consistent and efficient like never before, through the application of Cognitive and NLP systems. We are already witnessing many examples of digital applications and smart websites changing content, offers, and even performance based on user personas, dynamic environments and trends – providing a “hyper-personalized” experience for users. There are several examples of the impact of artificial intelligence on businesses across industries and domains.
This is Enterprise AI like it has never been imagined before. The world, by its very nature of constant change and evolution, has thrown various challenges for Enterprises to meet and overcome. And more and more Enterprises are using the power of AI to meet those challenges by bridging the gap between escalating expectations and ground realities. If AI was built to achieve a higher purpose, this is it. To help us be bigger, better, faster, and more agile than ever before – and to overcome our natural limitations. So, returning to the original question, is AI another transformative trend? I think the answer is clear. AI is the new way to operate. It is a significant opportunity for Enterprises to rebuild and reimagine themselves on a brand new AI-powered foundation where man and machine are engaged in ways never thought possible.
Authored by: Kalyan Kumar, CTO – IT Services, HCL Technologies