Yes, says AI veteran Prashant Natarajan—we live in uncertain times. That’s why smart assistance that can help you get insight into that volatility really could help
Both enterprise and mid-range companies are looking for transformation. That would be hard enough on its own, but they are also dealing with the complex, unprecedented challenges of a UK economy coming out of COVID, Brexit, the global economic shock waves of Ukraine, and now the looming energy cost crisis.
At tough times like this, pragmatists will be open to any tactic that supports that overall business strategy. At the same time, they will be ready to dismiss options that don’t look likely to add much value right now.
Clearly, advanced digital solutions need to be evaluated to help get you through the crisis. And even though I am a convinced proponent of Artificial Intelligence, I now want to put on the table that if you’re not convinced AI can’t bring in–or save—you considerable revenue per year, then don’t look at it.
But if your gut tells you that there is room for growth through automation or process optimization using AI, then please read on.
What digital transformation is—and really isn’t
The reason is that AI is making a difference in multiple industries already–and in ways you can learn from to leverage it to serve your stakeholders and customers. Let’s see how.
The reality is that digital transformation isn’t about digitization, or even putting your data to work. The real value of digital transformation is when you create positive experiences and journeys for your employees, customers, partners, and all the other stakeholders in the ecosystem you’re an important part of.
Digital value, therefore, doesn’t emerge from siloed programme successes. Value creation from digital requires the active, positive generation of new business and human outcomes consistently and coherently across your organization–and beyond your existing digital and physical presence.
To be impactful and sustainable long-term, then, all your digital value must be predictable, scalable, and strictly measurable in terms of outcomes.
And while we’re definitely getting there, securing sustainable business value of digital transformation is still a work in progress. In fact, it’s the part of enterprise transformation and change management that organisations are struggling with.
AI’s huge contribution to improving your forward visibility
The good news: this is where AI comes in. Forget all the hype–AI has three core business benefits for you. Number one is it’s a great way of looking into the future and understanding the impact of all ‘known knowns and unknowns’ (thank you, Donald Rumsfeld) out there in the market and world right now.
That really matters, as AI can genuinely help show you things you don’t know about yet. And unknown unknowns seem to be what life’s all about right now. I’m not talking astrology; I’m talking using real information you couldn’t access otherwise to help you course correct a business strategy if you need to urgently.
You want to do that with reliable insights about what the future holds—which AI can genuinely deliver, as it’s able to hoover up both your data but also from multiple other sources, including in the public space.
It can also do that via much better and richer techniques than the statistical methods we have evolved for the last few hundred years too, by the way. That is a major boon to the CEO, as we need to plan and decide budgets, so getting a handle on the future must be at the core of any digital or enterprise transformation.
Without a doubt, AI is the best latest method we’ve come up with to help you do that more reliably.
A way to unlock the treasure in the majority of your organisation’s data
The second reason you want to look at AI to get that extra set of millions for your bottom line is that even today, after many decades of business database usage, 80% of all the data in an enterprise is unstructured.
That’s to say it’s text not organised on a database—it is images, recordings, video content. And very importantly these days, it’s comments that your addressable market is making about your company on social media channels, which may not be about you but your competitor’s product.
So far, we’ve struggled to get any value out of all that unstructured data and social media. The trillions of dollars spent on information technology over the last 50 years has all been focused on that 20% of structured data–because it’s the easiest to access and understand.
But that’s just not enough to capture reality. It’s like having a telescope and accepting that this is the one window you must use to describe the world. That’s ridiculous–and again, AI is a way to open that up and finally mine all that unstructured data for all the wisdom and treasure you know is in there.
AI does that because today, and often via open source resources, it can do natural language processing, computer vision, and intelligent character recognition in ways that were impossible even three years ago.
Is there another option other than AI to be able to do that? I don’t see one today or on the near horizon—so it must be a core part of your digital transformation drive to new value creation.
Do you want to be predator… or prey?
The third reason AI has to be something to be looking at right now is that if you don’t, you and your company will become merely a player in someone else’s game.
It’s been estimated that by 10am the average American has already been exposed to several thousand machine learning models–via smartphone apps, weather forecasts, news and media, personalised customer engagement, and risk and fraud prevention workflows, and so much more. By the time you’ve had your second cup of coffee, it’s a lot more.
You need to be a participant in this new world, controlling how your data is being used and you and your market’s behaviour gets shaped to benefit your customers and your own future as a brand.
You could ignore all of this, but the world is not going to stop moving forward. However, if you approach AI with some scepticism but be open to what it can genuinely do for you along the three lines I’ve outlined above (and maybe stop reading about AI as about to ‘replace’ us all) and start to see AI as a core part of digital transformation that you will soon be measuring in terms of business impact, then it can really help.
Beyond this business success, it is also incumbent on us to become involved with AI—and as humans: not just as businesspeople contributing data to such systems, but humans as owners, leaders, contributors, and stakeholders of a common AI-enhanced future.
But for now, the future of digital transformation is a partnership where AI complements and enhances knowledge, boosts employee satisfaction, improves customer happiness, and helps you deliver cost savings and extra revenues via transformation, at scale.
Don’t ignore the genuine assistance AI can give you
Yes, we’re in volatile times.
But openness to AI as an aid in combating that volatility could be a hugely important first step in better dealing with that volatility.