Are you an AI evangelist or fatalist? Today AI is often profiled as either the end of the world as we know it, where robots will take all of our jobs, or the answer to all our problems, where AI is the ultimate solution to save the planet. It’s ironic that such a complex technology often provokes such a simple, binary response. And, it’s a problem. Because as anyone who actually works with AI will tell you, the truth is less dramatic, at least in the short term, but far more relevant here and now. So in which enterprise areas will we see AI first and which use cases will be pioneering the development? These are the ones I predict will gain traction rapidly:
AI AUGMENTATION AND DECISION AUTOMATION
One reason as to why some people believe that AI will deprive people of their jobs is that they confuse AI with automation. According to Gartner, “2020 will be a pivotal year in AI-related employment dynamics, as artificial intelligence (AI) will become a positive job motivator … AI will create 2.3 million jobs in 2020, while eliminating 1.8 million.” According to Gartner analyst Svetlana Sicular, “’Unfortunately, most calamitous warnings of job losses confuse AI with automation—that overshadows the greatest AI benefit—AI augmentation—a combination of human and artificial intelligence, where both complement each other.” (see footnote)
One example for how this can be used is within decision optimization. In an expanding global market, industries constantly wrestle with increasing complexity. Globalization, innovation, and competition are all growing fast, with businesses constantly tasked with producing or delivering more, from fewer resources, using leaner, faster operations. One consequence of the rapid globalization is that demand for product and services may shift instantaneously in markets across the world. Imagine a manufacturing company selling products in 50 markets. A sudden increase of raw material prices in one region, or new trade tariffs, will make it important to be able to adjust demand and possibly pricing on short notice. Here, the AI can help you create an overview of a large number of factors simultaneously to produce a plan for how to adjust demand planning and pricing. Historical data can be used to learn to make or propose decisions to make them both quicker and more intelligent. With very large sets of data from multiple markets it may be hard to pinpoint what is actually important. AI can help you to detect anomalies and patterns as well as raise alerts when data points go outside certain intervals. This way, some decisions can be automated by the AI. Based on past actions and specified priorities, your AI-enhanced business software could for instance present your daily top-5 list of decisions you should action.
Using AI for anomaly detection, the human would focus on making decisions on how to manage the anomalies, which may require more human qualities, like creativity or empathy when judging human reactions and consequences. Finding this balance to optimize how humans and AI can work together will be crucial to succeed with an AI strategy in the long term.
AI-ENHANCED PREDICTIVE MAINTENANCE AND SERVICE
High-profile AI stories like driverless trucks always grab the headlines. In reality, for most companies it’s more likely to be how the truck is maintained and serviced that AI will impact first—which algorithms will use what sensor data to predict the truck’s specific needs in context, ahead of time, whatever the climate, whether on the open road or in the service bay. In fact, AI will play a major role in maintenance in many, many industries. McKinsey found that for manufacturing operations, predictive maintenance enhanced by AI allows for better prediction and avoidance of machine failure by combining data from advanced Internet of Things (IoT) sensors and maintenance logs, as well as external sources. Asset productivity increases of up to 20 percent are possible, and overall maintenance costs may be reduced by up to 10 percent.“
AI-SUPPORTED SYSTEM INTERACTION
The area where AI perhaps is most advanced already is within interaction with people or systems. AI-powered voice assistants represent a major opportunity for many organizations, both internally and externally. The key is to use it for the uncomplicated queries or transactions that occur in great volumes. These tasks can be uncomplicated in nature but still require you to log in to an application and perform a short series of actions every time you do it, which in the long run takes time.
In a company-internal setting, AI chatbots have a great potential to make this process more effective. One example could be when employees are to call in sick, ask for leave, or simply want to find and access certain items within their enterprise software. Making it possible to access this information, and actioning it, using your voice, or by chat, enables significant time- and cost-savings. The added AI capability can in time refine the process, so the path to executing the task will be even smoother and quicker in the future.
Externally, taking calls at a service helpdesk is a natural way to use AI chatbots as the calls often are simple requests like establishing opening hours, or determining when an engineer is due to arrive. This AI-powered approach is going to get increasingly important not just in terms of the quality of service you can deliver, but in the context of growing skills shortages of service providers.
As many contact centers are now developing omnichannel solutions, to include voice, email, social media, and chat as contact options, the AI capability could help to identify your preferred contact option and guide you
About the author:
As director of IFS’s in-house technology think tank, IFS Labs, Bas de Vos is responsible for positioning and communicating the company’s innovation projects to illustrate the future of enterprise software. Bas and his team research and develop ideas that derive from concepts and technologies beyond the context of traditional enterprise IT. His role is to adopt the customer’s point of view and to refine ideas, develop business models, and bring IFS’s innovations to the broader community. For more information, visit www.ifsworld.com/us/.
Modern Contractor Solutions, March 2019
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