New to AI?
Discover what is Artificial Intelligence, how it applies to businesses, and how it might impact your industry.
What is AI?
AI is technology that makes computers more intelligent. It works in three steps.
First, you begin with data. For example, in our diagram below, we begin with a picture of a cat.
Second, you feed the data (the cat picture) into the AI. The AI will take the data and to try to do something intelligent with it – for example, interpret the picture. The AI is essentially asking, “what is this?”. The truly remarkable thing about AI is that its guesses will get better over time with practice and feedback. The AI can learn! The more pictures of cats that you share with the AI, the better it gets at recognizing them.
Third, the AI makes a guess about the image, and states its confidence level. In the case below, the AI is 95% confident it is a cat, and says so. After all, it might be a funny looking dog.
In essence, that is what AI is, and how it works. Of course, there is only so much use for spotting cats. The real power comes when you teach the AI to learn about parts of your job.
How is AI changing the way we work & live?
AI is like electricity. But instead of powering things, it makes them smarter.
- All of the software, hardware, robots, appliances and gadgets in our lives will be made smarter with AI.
- A recursive loop of innovation will emerge. Smart machines will themselves help us make smarter machines, which will accelerate the pace of change.
It is hard to overstate how important these changes will be.
“AI is one of the most profound things we’re working on as humanity. It’s more profound than fire or electricity,”
What do businesses need to know about AI?
It is said that by 2030 there will be two kinds of businesses: those that use AI and those that are bankrupt.
This means that businesses can either start to adopt AI on their own or be forced to by a competitor.
At the same time, AI is risky. Some 80% of projects fail because people get connected to the wrong solutions.
The best way to maximize ROI, and avoid failure, is to stop thinking about AI as a technology problem and start thinking about it as a people problem. Leaders need to bring their teams together and focus on the right questions Having this focus is half the battle.
What is AI good for?
AI can automate repetitive tasks in an intelligent fashion. Because of this, small teams with AI “co-workers” can have the impact of much larger ones. For a Finance team, this might mean intelligently merging data from multiple Excel spreadsheets, freeing the team to focus on preparing the next quarter’s revenue forecast. For a lawyer, this might mean reading thousands of documents to identify certain terms, allowing the lawyer to concentrate on the identified passages. Once trained, the AI can do the job the same way, every time, 24/7.
AI also has the ability to make recommendations/decisions/forecasts based on data. These decisions can be faster and better than any human could ever do, because the AI has the ability to process so much more information, and to “connect the dots” in a way that is impossible for a human. For example, many companies try to predict future revenue by looking at a historical series of data on the assumption that the future will be much like the past. AI is able to look forward, combining the historical data with additional points about seasonality, locations, web traffic, promotions, currency fluctuations, prices, and so on. This richer source of information leads to a better forecast.
AI can even help organizations be more creative by suggesting novel and more effective ways to carry out many familiar tasks: creating a new slide layout for a presentation, coming up with an attention-grabbing title for a report or suggesting new strategies for organizing a work schedule. In these cases the AI works together with its human ‘client’ to come up with the best option for the specific situation.
Look here for use cases, and vendors.
What is AI not good for?
AI is still no substitute for a human when it comes to empathy, relationships or social connection.
AI can also lack what we would consider common sense, and it‘s not always good at using what it already knows in new situations. Teaching it about cats does not necessarily help it learn about dogs. It probably has to be taught about dogs from scratch. As well, right now AI typically needs a lot of data to learn anything from scratch.
To put it another way, AI is typically not suited for situations that can change rapidly or problems that cannot be clearly and concretely defined.
And AI usually doesn’t have much of an understanding of cause and effect. An AI might know that clouds and rain go together, but wouldn’t be able to learn from this that clouds cause rain.
Questions business leaders should ask to determine their AI readiness
As remarkable as AI is, the best results come from combining humans with AI, not from replacing human beings.
Keep in mind that AI has the ability to make almost any product or service smarter. If you imagined a way to embed AI in your offerings, would you reconsider your business model? Are there competitors, perhaps from outside your industry, that could disrupt your business model?
Align your team on this before you get into the technology
Has your leadership team had introductory training/coaching on AI in order to have a meaningful strategic conversation?
Far too many organizations develop a “proof of concept” that technically works, but is trapped in a “sandbox” environment. Instead, make the project something that the team can actually use in their day-to-day work, and improve over time. This contributes to a flywheel effect.
If not, it is like buying a lightbulb without electricity or wiring. Typically, organizations are ready for AI after they have begun their digital transformation journey.
If not, do you understand how to engage them so they come to see AI not as a threat to their jobs, but as a miracle that takes on the aspects of the job they dislike the most?
Is there a cheaper, less complicated alternative to AI? Crowdsourcing or data analytics can be excellent sources of insight, and they can be leveraged more easily than AI. They may be a more appropriate first step for an organization.
It is important to have access to a trusted advisor who can provide independent expert advice.
How can businesses take advantage of AI in their organization?
The key to leveraging AI is to get started on the right path. The organizations that maximize their ROI are clear about what they want to do, ensure that the team is aligned, and verify that they have necessary the data and the infrastructure. That is the roadmap to success.
When they head down that path, they accomplish three things.
First, businesses can make their products and services smarter, by embedding AI in them. This can open up new sources of revenue, new markets and new business models. By leading this change themselves, business reduce the risk of being disrupted by a competitor.
Second, in their back-office support functions, they can reduce inefficiency through automation. These savings can turn into lower prices for customers, along with higher margins.
Third, they can multiply the impact of their team by giving them AI tools. Engaged properly, staff can help spot the biggest opportunities for AI, and then be enthusiastic adopters of the technology.
How to Ensure the Successful Use of AI in Your Firm
First, we find out whether your business has the potential for a successful AI project that supports your goals. (If it doesn’t, we’ll tell you!)
We conduct exhaustive interviews and analysis in order to define the objectives you need to meet to succeed.
Finally, you get a detailed roadmap for reaching those objectives, and we point you to the right vendors for your project.
Avoid falling behind in the race to deploy AI.
Instead, you can mitigate the risks of your investment and tap into the power and potential of artificial intelligence to transform your business into a leading force in your industry.