Applied AI: Thinking realistically, not radically

(Image credit: Image Credit: Computerizer / Pixabay)

With conversations around AI starting more than 70 years ago, there has been plenty of time for us to adjust to the notion that machines will someday be able to think and behave just as we do. However, while there is no denying that artificial intelligence has made its mark, there is very little evidence to support the ideology that we are on the verge of a technological revolution. In fact, it is quite the opposite, with recent data from Gartner revealing just one in seven CIOs are currently deploying AI technologies.

Despite a great deal of propaganda, the big-bang promise of artificial intelligence that we’ve all been waiting for is unlikely to occur any time soon. However, a much more practical rollout of AI is within reaching distance, giving organisations a realistic example of how these technologies can be used to enhance their business model.

2019 may not be the year we experience a complete takeover, but we will start to see AI being implemented to make people smarter, more effective and more productive. In order for organisations to take AI from idea to implementation, there are a few key things to consider.

De-stress your staff 

The notion of people being replaced by robots and every organisation having a fully automated workforce is still one of the first concerns raised in conversations around AI. In reality, one of the main benefits of these tools and technologies is that they take away the repetitive manual tasks that staff spend a lot of time on. By freeing people of these mundane jobs, employees will not only be under less strain, but will have more time to spend on tasks that drive greater value to the wider business. If organisations reduce the amount of stress that employees face on a day-to-day basis, they can expect a greater payback that any amount of money spent on technology.

The financial services industry is a prime example of how using artificial intelligence can be deployed to streamline operations. Staff spend up to 70 per cent of their time on directly engaging with customers on simple tasks that they could theoretically self-serve through chatbots, such as reporting lost debit/credit cards or asking for their pin number to be re-set. The remaining 30 per cent of their time is then spent speaking with customers who require greater levels of assistance, such as someone who has lost their partner and needs to deal with their financial affairs.

Employees need to be allowed to decompress, therefore businesses need to figure out where the balance lies. Organisations must find the correct proportion of time spent on challenging work whilst taking into consideration the productivity levels. In order to achieve this, businesses need to re-think the way their employees are operating, how they are being measured and what support they are being given.

Augment the intelligence

In 2018, businesses have moved from over-playing up the AI hype to de-emphasising the role of artificial intelligence in their operations. This is due to the negative connotations that have been surrounding AI lately, as well as to the unrealistic concerns of a terminator-style takeover. However, in numerous other instances, businesses are channelling what they believe to be artificial intelligence, but are not realising that what they are actually deploying is augmented intelligence. 

Similarly to artificial intelligence, augmented intelligence enhanced the intelligence of people using it by tapping into tools and capabilities that allow humans to make better decisions. As businesses consider a new idea of AI and find the right level of technology-led activities, they can apply one simple and basic rule: if a decision on a task can be made in less than thirty seconds, then that task can be easily automated. If businesses do apply augmented intelligence to supporting the decisions that can’t be made in less than a few seconds, they must be backed by insights and analytics that will help them find the right solution. Artificial intelligence must not be looked at in isolation – even tech giants such as the likes of Microsoft have referenced the use of augmented intelligence, describing it as the combination of deep learning technologies and modern era computing.

Set the right expectations

As many common misconceptions are starting to fade – including AI teaching itself – the only realistic AI development for businesses within the next year is for them to understand the outcomes that they are aiming to achieve. In fact, the hype and mythology is vanishing as organisations are realising that the typical AI programme takes four times as long as they originally planned. Vendors are starting to claim that self-developing technologies are pre-populated with knowledge instead of being able to take place in a year or even four years; however, that is not the case. 

Instead of focusing on what is likely to happen in the future, organisations need to work on adjusting their mind-set. Small and organic increases are starting to come in, but the technology is not maturing or developing anywhere near the rate that the industry noise is suggesting. It is necessary for businesses to realise that it is no longer good enough for them to discuss artificial intelligence if they are not already applying it or are willing to in the near future. 

Up until a few years ago, robotics was something organisations thought they just ‘had’ to do, without understanding how or why. More recently, AI has fallen into a similar situation and that is due to the wrongful perception that businesses will be perceived as inadequate and fall behind competition if they do not engage with the massive AI uproar. 

However, organisations have to understand that artificial intelligence needs to be experimented with in multiple and smaller initiatives, such as augmented intelligence. AI is not something that can be done in the blink of an eye. Whether it’s a million-dollar corporation or a start-up company, the businesses set to have the greatest AI success are those that adopt an agile attitude. As long as business have clarity on what they are looking to achieve and a realistic idea of the impact that technology could have, they will deliver meaningful and successful ROI.

Neil Kinson, Chief of Staff, Redwood Software
Image Credit: Computerizer / Pixabay