As AI technologies standardise across industries, becoming an AI-fuelled organisation will likely be table stakes for survival. And that means rethinking the way humans and machines interact within working environments.
FOR some organisations, harnessing artificial intelligence’s full potential begins tentatively with explorations of select enterprise opportunities and a few potential use cases. While testing the waters this way may deliver valuable insights, it likely won’t be enough to make your company a market maker (rather than a fast follower). To become a true AI-fuelled organisation, a company may need to fundamentally rethink the way humans and machines interact within working environments. Executives should also consider deploying machine learning and other cognitive tools systematically across every core business process and enterprise operation to support data-driven decision-making. Likewise, AI could drive new offerings and business models. These are not minor steps, but as AI technologies standardise rapidly across industries, becoming an AI-fuelled organisation will likely be more than a strategy for success—it could be table stakes for survival.
In his new book The AI Advantage, Deloitte Analytics senior advisor Thomas H. Davenport describes three stages in the journey that companies can take towards achieving full utilisation of artificial intelligence.1
In the first stage, which Davenport calls assisted intelligence, companies harness large-scale data programmes, the power of the cloud and science-based approaches to make data-driven business decisions.
Today, companies at the vanguard of the AI revolution are already working towards the next stage—augmented intelligence—in which machine learning (ML) capabilities layered on top of existing information management systems work to augment human analytical competencies.
According to Davenport, in the coming years, more companies will progress towards autonomous intelligence, the third AI utilisation stage, in which processes are digitised and automated to a degree whereby machines, bots, and systems can directly act upon intelligence derived from them.
The journey from the assisted to augmented intelligence stages, and then on to fully autonomous intelligence, is part of a growing trend in which companies transform themselves into “AI-fuelled organisations.” This trend is also about a sustained commitment to redesigning core systems, processes, and business strategies around AI and its possibilities. Its end goal: an AI-fuelled organisation in which humans and machines work together within designed digital systems to harness data-driven insights.
Over the last decade, Tech Trends has chronicled the emergence of AI and other cognitive technologies, and their growing disruptive potential. The AI-fuelled organisation trend, as we recognise it today, found its footing during the last several years when a few pioneering companies began experimenting with bots and other cognitive technologies to better understand their potential impact on productivity.2 We now see companies representing all industries and regions embarking on their own AI-fuelled journeys. For example, the German retailer Otto is currently using AI and ML to make operational decisions autonomously at a scale that humans cannot match.3 In the financial services industry, Zurich Insurance Group is using intelligent bots to process personal injury claims.4
Meanwhile, companies even further along in their AI journeys are looking beyond discrete initiatives and beginning to approach AI as an integral component of corporate strategy. A recent survey by the MIT Sloan Management Review and Boston Consulting Group of more than 3,000 business executives found that pioneering companies such as Chevron, Allianz, and Daimler are deepening their commitments by prioritising revenue-generating AI applications over cost-saving ones. They are scaling AI throughout their enterprise operations and are involving high-level management in AI initiatives. Notably, of the surveyed executives from pioneering companies, 90 per cent report already having AI strategies in place.5
The number of companies following in the footsteps of AI pioneers will likely increase in the next 18 to 24 months as companies identify ways to use cognitive technologies to achieve strategic goals. This process is already underway. In two consecutive global surveys (2016–17 and 2018), Deloitte has asked CIOs to identify the emerging technology in which they plan to invest. Cognitive technologies/AI has consistently topped the list.6
Though these CIOs—much like society at large—may be fascinated by cognitive technologies’ sci-fi-like possibilities, their AI ambitions are likely grounded in more practical (and achievable) benefits: Pursued strategically across cognitive’s three stages, AI can increase productivity, strengthen regulatory compliance through automation, and help organisations derive meaning from ever-larger data sets.7
Enterprise tech leaders, start your engines. The time to launch your company’s AI-fuelled journey is now.
The AI-fuelled organisation trend is the latest in a series of technology-driven transformations that have delivered quantum leaps in productivity. In the early 20th century, new tabulating machines helped workers organise data and perform calculations. The 1950s saw the emergence of programmable systems—early antecedents of today’s computing and internet technologies. And at the dawn of the new millennium, cognitive technologies such as AI, ML, and robotics began augmenting and amplifying human intelligence, a transformation that continues to disrupt operational models and illuminate new opportunities.8
Today, the possibility of achieving the next quantum leap in productivity propels our march towards autonomous intelligence.9 The human brain can decipher and derive meaning from large volumes of data, but this unique ability is limited by the amount of data our brains can absorb at any moment. Unlike the human brain, AI has no such limitation, which has the net effect of turning a trickle of business insights into a raging river of strategic possibilities. More and better insights delivered autonomously can lead to increased productivity, greater efficiency and lower operational costs. Yet in the context of AI, these three may prove to be low-hanging fruit. Consider how autonomous AI could fuel other opportunities, including:
Indeed, organisations are using AI in innovative ways, but as the AI-fuelled trend progresses, more companies will evolve, moving from using the technology in isolated pilots to deploying larger AI systems. But which systems? Three system models are currently in play:
An AI-fuelled organisation places AI, ML, and other cognitive technologies at the very centre of business and IT operations. While this may sound like a straightforward proposition, its disruptive ramifications will likely ripple across the enterprise, with particular impacts in the following areas:
Whilst AI offers an opportunity to process, analyse and act on data at phenomenal speeds, quality data is necessary to set up AI in the first place. Unfortunately, preparing data for AI deployments - and then creating the dynamic capabilities you will need to manage it - can prove difficult. Of the roughly 1,100 IT and business executives interviewed for Deloitte's second annual State of AI in the Enterprise survey, 39 percent identified “data issues” as being among the top three greatest challenges they face with AI initiatives.18
Training machine learning. To function, AI technologies rely on ML algorithms operating within neural networks that must be “trained” on massive volumes of data. In the context of the global AI gold rush, China—which takes a different approach to data privacy from those of many other nations—currently has an advantage. As they train their neural networks, Chinese developers enjoy ready access to enormous data sets owned by firms such as Alibaba and Baidu, all of which are ultimately controlled to a greater degree.19 In Western economies, companies lack comparable access to vast, controlled data stores, which puts them—at least for now—at a competitive disadvantage.
Yet there is an alternative technology-based means for training AI that may help companies overcome this data access challenge. DeepMind, a UK-based company owned by Google, has developed a system for training neural networks on simulations rather than on real data. In other words, DeepMind’s AI solution trains itself. It’s too early to tell whether simulation-based AI training can fully match the benefits of training with traditional data, but it does offer an alternative approach that could put AI training and full deployment within the reach of millions of companies around the world—including startups without years of data sets already in hand.20
Ethical AI. The current debate surrounding the ethical ramifications of using AI and its potential impact on society isn’t ending anytime soon.21 In the absence of ethical consensus on so many aspects of cognitive technologies, individual companies on AI journeys should factor ethical considerations—as well as their organisation’s values—into the development of their own AI solutions. Though a few organisations operating at the vanguard of cognitive exploration are using machines to write code, by and large humans continue to write it. As such, all their biases, assumptions and perceptions may find their way into the algorithms being developed.22 As you build your AI-fuelled organisation, ask yourself: What does ethical AI mean? How do governance and ethics overlap? Do the algorithms we are creating align with our values and those of society in general? How can you build transparency into AI decision-making? How can you calibrate algorithm models more consistently to remove the unconscious bias that may exist in underlying data or in the surrounding environment?
Talent. Only the biggest companies with the deepest pockets likely have the resources to keep industry-leading AI talent on the payroll on a permanent basis. Moreover, as more organisations become AI-fuelled, competition for expertise will only increase. How will you secure the talent and skills you need to compete in this climate? The first step is to jettison the old-school idea that employees are and must always be, full-time workers. As discussed in Deloitte’s 2018 Global Human Capital Trends report, “the traditional employer-employee relationship is being replaced by the emergence of a diverse workforce ecosystem—a varied portfolio of workers, talent networks, gig workers and service providers that offers employers flexibility, capabilities and the potential for exploring different economic models in sourcing talent.”23 This does not mean that full-time workers will no longer have a role to play in IT. It does mean, however, that as cognitive technologies and automation transform IT roles and skill sets, the definition of talent will evolve to include:
This last talent category—bots—is important. In the future, humans and machines will likely complement each other’s efforts effectively, with intelligent bots assuming many of the tasks that full-time employees perform today. This will free humans from low-value, repetitive drudgery to focus on tasks and initiatives that create value. This hybrid talent model lies at the heart of what we foresee as the “future of work.”24 It is also a foundational component in the AI-fuelled organisation.
Organisational and culture changes. Among the most prized IT skills today are those in the areas of data analysis, data modelling and applications development. As AI adoption grows, companies will increasingly value expertise in data science, algorithm development and AI system design—with special emphasis on the human-centered design skills required to develop personalised user experiences. For CIOs, this presents a challenge: What do you do with existing talent whose expertise lies in legacy systems? You can retrain, reskill and retool your workers, or change your workforce altogether. Some CIOs may find that the best way to meet their needs is by pursuing both options, to the extent possible.
Yet retraining and acclimating legacy talent to the world of AI may present its own challenges. It’s not about just learning a new skill—it requires adapting to a new culture. AI-fuelled organisations work in unorthodox ways. Anecdotally, we have seen companies struggle to get their people to accept using analytics to perform traditional tasks. As we move into the AI-fuelled model, workers will have to adapt to a more advanced end state in which humans and machines interact and collaborate in ways that, until recently, existed only in the realm of science fiction. What will an organisational culture shift of this magnitude mean for AI adoption, buy-in, support and sponsorship?
Insights, not information. Traditionally, CIOs have spent much of their workdays (and careers) maintaining legacy systems and “keeping the lights on.” As AI, ML and other cognitive tools drive automation across the IT ecosystem, CIOs and their teams may spend less time on maintenance and more time helping the enterprise with informed decision-making about how they use and what they expect from technology. CIOs have unique insights, directly affecting business strategy and tactics, to address key questions:
Ultimately, the AI-fuelled journey presents CIOs with an opportunity to redefine their own role, from chief information officer to “chief insight officer”—the organisational leader who serves as custodian, facilitator and catalyst for informed decision-making at the corporate level.25
The speed with which pharmaceutical company Pfizer has deployed artificial intelligence to accelerate innovation across its organisation demonstrates best practices that could serve as a model for the entire industry. “In terms of scaling up new technology, as an industry, we must work on moving that needle faster,” says Mary Hall Gregg, vice president of business technology, research and development. “Speed and efficiency are critical if we want to improve patients’ health and quality of life; AI allows us to move forward, faster. Without it, it will take too long to have the kind of impact we need.”26
Technology and business leaders within the organisation quickly recognised AI’s potential to deepen Pfizer’s understanding of patients and their diseases, as well as accelerate the process of drug discovery and delivery to the market. But to realise that potential, the company needed to take a broad organisational, business-driven view and be willing to “fail fast”—to quickly identify when an approach may not work and make appropriate changes. Pfizer saw AI as an untapped opportunity to enable innovation and a means to gain competitive advantage, but with so many potential applications, it needed to gain precision on where to apply the technology.
Pfizer offered AI training across the enterprise, to help business executives understand the broad range of possibilities for the technology as well as to separate the facts from the science-fiction hype. The company held five AI boot camps in 2018, with more than 1,000 employees taking part. Understanding what’s possible with AI—and conversely, what the technology can’t solve—has played a vital role in helping Pfizer’s business units formulate their end goals, focussed on driving speed, quality and efficiency in areas as diverse as research and development, patient safety, medical, finance and the global supply chain.
Pfizer’s IT team—which placed a premium on agility and open-source technology—believed that the company would be served best by building an in-house AI workforce that could employ a wide range of tools, from natural language processing to neural networks to statistical models and more. Pfizer chose to invest in people—establishing an AI Centre of Excellence and hiring AI developers who understood the pharmaceutical business and could rapidly apply AI techniques within a business context. With a software-driven approach and a significant data management framework already in place, implementing AI required only a modest capital investment.
Ryan Steinberger, vice president of business technology at Pfizer’s Global Business Intelligence and AI Centre of Excellence, explains, “AI adoption is accelerating at different rates across the enterprise. As one business unit innovates and begins to accelerate—such as the medical group did with natural language processing—other teams piggyback on that success, taking the lessons learnt and applying that knowledge to their own business unit.”27
To date, Pfizer’s AI-fuelled approach has enabled 30,000 colleague hours, a number that is continuously growing as more AI-fuelled automation is deployed each month. Other significant achievements include the deployment of the company’s scientific data cloud, which aggregates real-time data from a wide variety of instruments to create algorithms that improve compound prediction. The organisation is also speeding pharmaceutical development teams’ design-and-build process using AI. And it’s engaging with the US Food and Drug Administration to explore AI for use in adverse-event reporting—a dramatic shift in the regulatory space. Finally, AI has allowed Pfizer to more effectively engage with physicians to inform them about the appropriate use of products and customise engagement with patients who are participating in research, both of which have the potential to significantly improve patient outcomes.
Alex Benay, CIO of Canada, sees a convincing go-to-market imperative for governments to leverage artificial intelligence.28 The need to keep up with industries such as banking and telecommunications—those with which the government does business and regulates—and the vast opportunities that AI affords its agencies are helping to drive Canada’s push to operationalise the technology.
Public-sector stakeholders face unique challenges in effectively fostering, procuring, and leveraging leading-edge innovation: lengthy contracting cycles, restricted budget pounds and more, while balancing the need for transparency. As such, the government is investing in public-private partnerships, pursuing procurement reform and issuing ethics standards, with the goal of accelerating the use of AI across government and furthering Canada’s comprehensive digital innovation strategy.
Most notable is the government’s advocacy for and need to develop transparent policies to support the responsible and ethical use of AI. “A different paradigm surrounding AI exists in the public sector and for our citizenry,” Benay contends. “For example, we don’t believe governments should be handing over life-and-death policy decisions to black boxes and software when they don’t have the means to validate outcomes or intervene in the decision-making process if necessary. Nevertheless, we collectively have to close the digital gap between government and the industries we’re charged with overseeing by using the same technology they are.”
Setting standards and guiding principles for the government’s AI deployment—and those organisations doing business with the government—is at the heart of Canada’s digital strategy. And those standards are firmly rooted in the nation’s values and ethics. The government is developing a directive on automated decision-making with input from the public; Canada’s commitment to transparency allows citizens to monitor the process. This commitment to transparency will continue once the directive is approved, as it will direct federal departments to show Canadians how automation is being used to deliver services.
In addition to the directive, the Canadian government is developing a set of tools: an up-to-date list of approved AI vendors, from which departments can procure AI products and services; an algorithmic impact assessment tool to help project leaders determine how to select and apply AI within their particular functions; and an “ethical switch.” That switch, developed with AI company Cognitive Scale, is an algorithm that identifies ethical biases in AI engines and aims to help mitigate them. The Canadian government is piloting the ethical switch so it can better evaluate countermeasures to deploy if biases within the AI programme are encountered. Intended to be a failsafe, the switch is envisioned to monitor algorithmic decisions and pause the system so that human reviewers can take action.
And the government hasn’t pursued its AI directive and policies in a bubble. Not only have officials consulted with citizens—they have consulted with corporations, academia and other countries on the concept of openness, transparency, and traceability of decision-making. Canada’s leaders, notably Scott Brison, the first-ever minister of digital government, hope to set an example and are working one-on-one with other countries and as part of the Digital 9 group of nations.29 Benay shared the government’s draft directive at the November 2018 D9 meeting to elicit both feedback and support from the member nations. “These are heated conversations that cut to the core of public-sector ethics across the world,” he says. “It’s triggered a lot of discussion about the future role of public service in light of artificial intelligence and automation.” These conversations culminated in D9 members endorsing Canada’s AI principles, a signal of international cooperation on the responsible use of AI.
Benay (also co-founder of the non-profit CIO Strategy Council, a Canadian collaborative that discusses digital transformation issues and looks to help set industry standards30) stresses that the country’s AI directive is only the first iteration: It will be reviewed quarterly or semiannually and adjusted as the technology and ethical environment evolves. “This isn’t going to happen overnight,” he concludes. “But that’s a good thing on the ethical front: It’s important that the government takes the time to do AI properly and—more importantly—to respect Canada’s values.”
Many have speculated about the potential for artificial intelligence to replace much of the human workforce,31 but the Adecco Group foresees a future in which augmented intelligence will enhance rather than replace human skills such as critical thinking, emotional intelligence and value judgements. And the company is accelerating the use of the emerging technology across both its internal and market-facing functions. Leaders see two paths of opportunity for artificial intelligence: to amplify the Adecco Group employees’ recruiting efforts and performance through automation of core legacy tasks and to offer innovations to clients to improve their talent recruitment and career management.
“We don’t see ourselves as a tech company,” says the Adecco Group CEO, Alain Dehaze.32 “But we see an opportunity to leverage technology to complement, advance and even disrupt our existing business to stay attuned to today’s workforce.”
Currently, its general staffing brand, Adecco, uses Mya Systems' chatbot to streamline its initial screening of candidates. The chatbot prescreens potential job candidates by matching their skill sets, experience, geographic location, availability and salary requirements with open positions; it reaches out to suitable candidates to set up appointments with an Adecco recruiter. Because automation provides better-qualified leads and follow-up happens quickly, both recruiters and candidates have responded positively.
The Adecco Group’s initial foray into AI prompted the company to explore other opportunities to scale the technology for greater efficiencies within other core processes across the enterprise, such as using robotic process automation to manage the time registration and payroll administration of 700,000 temporary workers daily, as well as applying analytics to prioritise work for company recruiters.
The market interest in AI-driven efficiencies in recruitment and hiring drove the Adecco Group’s acquisition of Vettery in 2018, for its fully automated, zero-touch recruitment AI platform. The acquisition gained the company the algorithm it needed to expand its capabilities, while providing Vettery’s AI engine with data on which it could train and learn over time. Vettery began with listing IT-related jobs—such as programmers and DevOps professionals—because they were the easiest to codify and, in just a few months, had realised automated recruiting processes for the vast majority of the permanent positions for which it was seeking talent.
The firm also plans to capitalise on the market shift towards a gig economy, driven in most part by millennials seeking freelance work; it created YOSS (your own boss), an end-to-end digital marketplace that leverages AI to match supply with demand.33 The platform helps build trust between freelancers and hiring companies and can match freelancers with benefits and training as well as handle payment arrangements.
“We see an opportunity to disrupt a traditional market, which is still heavily based in high-touch, personal relationships and contacts,” Dehaze says. “AI has given us the opportunity to grow our digital strategy and broaden our offering into a fast-growing digital recruitment market while also complementing our professional recruitment business. We want to grow these capabilities geographically as well as expand into additional vertical markets.”
While many companies are just beginning to explore the potential benefits of artificial intelligence, Google recognised the value the technology can bring to its business model from the beginning.34 Over the course of the last five years, the organisation has gone from deploying AI in narrow strategic areas to becoming “AI-first” and mandating its use across the Google enterprise. And it’s taking best practices gained from operational use and building those AI capabilities into nearly all its products. Now, Google Cloud is working to bring Google’s innovation in AI to all businesses.
“We’ve found that in most cases where we had a particular business challenge, artificial intelligence could be applied to help us solve it,” says Rajen Sheth, senior director of product management at Google Cloud Artificial Intelligence. “We believe every company is going to be transforming itself with AI over the course of the next 10 years, so we felt it was imperative that we deploy it broadly as part of our own business strategy.”
One of the keys to successfully applying artificial intelligence, Sheth says, is identifying an internal business challenge and then exploring how AI might solve it. For example, Google Cloud leveraged Google Assistant technology to personalise experiences with the service department in its customer contact centre. Using natural language recognition and simulation combined with machine learning automates the handling of tier 1-level calls. Rather than asking a generic set of questions from a script, the technology is able to understand the specific issues about which the customer called and access the knowledge repository to provide relevant questions and comments in a conversational manner. Another use case for AI allowed Google Cloud to improve the energy efficiency in its data centres: Using machine learning to set cooling system algorithms and reinforcement learning—where the system tries different things to test an outcome and then retrains itself based on findings—the system learnt, on its own, what the optimal settings were. The cooling energy needed was reduced by 40 percent, resulting in a 15 percent reduction in overall data-centre energy usage and producing significant cost savings for the organisation.
Google Cloud continues to explore internal deployment opportunities that could inform future commercial product development—from demand forecasting to systems control optimisation and quality control. Its AI team is exploring use cases for artificial intelligence across the medical, scientific and automotive industries, and it’s made its AI training programme open source so that all technologists can benefit from the learning. It is also devoting resources to investigating how to monitor and analyse AI behaviour, to detect and rectify bias in AI engines and to facilitate the transformation of a traditional workforce in the age of machine learning.
Digital technology is fundamentally transforming the way we interact with the world. People, machines, data and processes are becoming increasingly interconnected, and the result is an explosion of information that can be used to understand customer needs. Yet the sheer volume of data and data sources required to get us where we need to go has exceeded the pace and scale of our human capacity to process it. Enter artificial intelligence. Poised to lead the next wave of exponential change disrupting health care, AI can mobilise analytics and automation to deliver moments that matter. The winners in the health care industry will be those organisations that not only empower patients to own their health data but use AI to generate actionable insights from data in real time to drive engagement and outcomes.
Our multidimensional digital transformation strategy and AI-first mindset help us treat every individual as a population of one. Our first step was to stand up a platform-based AI engine rather than point-to-point data solutions. We invested heavily over the years in our underlying data management capabilities as a foundation for this transformation. For example, our data infrastructure was already able to process both structured and unstructured data, feeding and curating our data pipeline and continually governing and certifying the data. Next was implementing data governance, security and a trusted layer around the data stores. We added machine learning engines, algorithm layers, and software development kits, which facilitated building out APIs for portal, mobile and internal channels. And we built feedback mechanisms allowing our AI to evolve from gathering data to providing insights to prompting actions—automating and speeding up processes and continuously learning from the feedback to improve future interactions.
Also critical to realising the full potential of AI across Anthem was gaining enterprisewide support for the initiative, which meant conceptualising with our stakeholders the positive business outcomes we could achieve. We asked our business partners for input on how we could use AI to rethink, reimagine and re-implement across core business processes. Initially, we focussed on automating data processing and analysis where AI could have the most impact on our business: serving customers more efficiently. The team identified operational functions, including claims adjudication, prior authorisation of procedures, provider payments and consumer/customer billing functions as the top choices for the initial pilot programmes. We built a proof of concept for each and if the application provided value, we doubled down to scale it, applying agile techniques and pushing the process into production.
Finally, we knew that, to execute on our vision for AI throughout Anthem, we needed to be proactive in broadening our talent base. So we created Anthem AI, to attract skilled technologists and cultivate existing internal talent by offering a structured AI training programme. The unit works to retain that talent by building a culture that promotes innovation and ideation of AI solutions for the business.
Currently, AI is just one technology fuelling our digital transformation across the enterprise. One of our recent projects is a yearlong data trial to test whether blockchain and precision medicine, along with AI, can predict when people will experience allergies. The hope is that our predictive model can add accuracy, speed and cost-effectiveness to health-related insights.
Cybersecurity professionals are becoming exceedingly aware of the threat of hackers using artificial intelligence to gain access to customer and organisational data.35 However, as we navigate the risk, security and privacy implications of AI technology, it is important to understand that AI also can be an effective tool to fight cybercrime, fraud and threats. As AI gets more intelligent over time, learning from events and feedback loops to increase its ability to recognise threats and vulnerabilities, its accuracy in determining the likelihood of an event will become even more precise. Here’s how.
When deploying AI within your organisation, there must be a governance plan in place to monitor these AI engines, much as the HR department would oversee the management and behaviour of human employees. This governance encompasses a wide swath of considerations, including employee and customer privacy, data security and integrity and safety in interactions between humans and machines. Data handling, management and governance—both of direct data inputted into the AI engine as part of its training, as well as derived data, which results from AI’s feedback loop—becomes even more critical when rules-based artificial intelligence is able to act on its own.
No two companies will adopt a technology trend in the same way. Every organisation has its own goals, strengths and weaknesses to ponder before it embarks on its own transformation journey. If you are unclear on what the AI-fuelled trend offers—or requires of—your organisation, ask yourself the following questions:
What business objective(s) can our organisation achieve by deploying artificial intelligence?
Artificial intelligence may offer a wealth of benefits to your organisation, but only when viewed through a strategic business lens rather than as an IT project and only when brand rhetoric gives way to measurable results. Collaborate across functions to identify the enterprise’s main objectives, then align the AI strategy alongside to achieve those outcomes. You may choose to pursue solutions that reduce costs, facilitate a leap in productivity, monitor compliance, reduce risk scenarios, or derive greater meaning from more data. The first step of the AI journey should be setting end goals, which will enable you to draw a much more detailed, actionable road map with clearly marked milestones.
How can I use AI to achieve a competitive advantage?
AI is a broad category that includes natural language processing, computer vision, machine learning and more, all of which can augment back-office, intra-office, and customer-facing systems. If you’re not sure where to start, look to your organisation’s vertical industry for guidance and inspiration. Proceeding with an eye on your industry’s trends can ensure that you’ll both meet customers’ needs and remain competitive. For example, in the financial services industry, developers are creating highly personalised products and services; a financial firm may want to initiate its AI pilots by creating a robo-adviser or chatbot that can offer customers one-on-one investment advice. Deriving your initial AI pilots and use cases from your industry’s trajectory—which you can understand better by talking to customers, vendors, and industry analysts—helps ensure that your resources are utilised to meet business goals.
Is my technology adequate for an AI-fuelled organisation? If not, how do I find the right partners to build my AI ecosystem?
To move forward, your organisation’s existing technology and talent pool may be inadequate to meet the needs of standing up an AI system. You might look to bring in next-gen IP, products, and solutions to broaden your ecosystem. Once you’ve determined where AI fits into your business processes, you can evaluate your existing technology, talent, and expertise to determine where there are gaps. You may decide to augment your existing resources by investing in startups that are further along in their AI journeys, or you may identify vendors and other industry partners with whom to collaborate and potentially co-invest in building market-ready applications with shared resources.
I’m sensing “cognitive fatigue” in my IT organisation. What should I do?
There are companies that dove headfirst into cognitive only to realise that they had taken on too much, too soon. Underwhelming results from early cognitive initiatives can dampen enthusiasm for further exploration. If you find yourself in this situation, consider starting a “lessons learnt” dialogue with stakeholders and IT talent to review what went wrong and what can be done differently in future initiatives. And discuss AI approaches that other companies in your industry have taken that delivered desired outcomes.
Do I think big and start small—or go all-in?
More important than going big or starting small is moving purposefully. CIOs and business leaders appear to recognise the value of creating a long-term AI strategy to guide their efforts. Stay focussed on the desired outcome and employ design thinking, and the right plan will fall into place. Begin by identifying opportunities for AI within your organisation, such as transactional, time-consuming tasks or data-heavy processes that require a bit of “tribal” knowledge. Carry out a cost-benefit analysis to determine whether an AI solution is feasible for that process, taking into consideration both existing resources and those you will need to acquire. Next, structure a pilot programme around one of those transactions to run four to eight weeks. If those results are positive, you’re ready to determine how you can move forward to scale to production and, eventually, expand to other products and service lines.
AI’s role in the enterprise is growing as cognitive tools and tactics are standardised across IT environments. While it is true that in coming years, AI will likely be deployed not only to augment human performance but to automate some operational and business processes altogether, proactively printing pink slips is an ineffective means of planning for the next cognitive stage. Now is the time to fundamentally rethink the way humans and machines interact within working environments, and what they can achieve together in the AI-fuelled organisation of the future.
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