There’s a revolution underway in data analytics that could create a competitive advantage for companies that jump on it. C-suites, take note: AI-powered business analytics is finally delivering future-facing data points that CEOs need to guide their businesses to the sweet spot.
The artificial intelligence (AI) technologies machine learning and deep learning are being used today to power through mountains of big data, much of which is previously inaccessible unstructured data such as text, video, customer reviews and customer feedback. Data scientists analyze the trends the machine learning uncovers, resulting in human-vetted, AI-derived, predictive analytics that provide strong decision support.
Companies using AI-enabled business analytics are seeing positive results, yet most believe we’re just at the tip of the iceberg in utilizing AI’s capabilities in decision-making. Indeed, almost 70 percent of the CIOs who responded to a recent survey said they believe decisions made by machines will soon be more accurate than those made by humans.
“Machine learning and deep learning have fundamentally changed enterprise data analytics,” said Tom Wilde, CEO of machine learning solution provider indico. He pointed out that a large majority of data is unstructured; in fact, according to some measures, as much as 80 percent of enterprise data today is unstructured. “In many cases, the unstructured data is where the real signal can be found,” and, as such, AI identification and categorization techniques can be used to develop analytics that could be used to improve a company’s product, predict future sales, identify cross-selling opportunities and reach new markets.
“Machine learning supercharges business analytics and data science,” said Scott Zoldi, chief analytics officer at FICO. Machine learning algorithms explore relationships and data that even the best data domain expert may not think to explore, but, properly used, “Machine learning augments data scientists to make their discoveries seem superhuman. Data scientists that use machine learning will ultimately drive differentiated business value for their organizations.” In other words, AI is like using newly invented night-vision glasses for deep dark data—it should give a company a tactical advantage.
What C-Suites Should Know about AI and Analytics
AI and business analytics may seem like a panacea for what ails a business. But it’s not a plug-and-play technology—AI requires constant care and feeding to churn out the trends behind the data. Here are three things the C-suite must understand before adopting AI as a business driver:
- AI in its current form is unlikely to replace a human being. It has transformative power, yes, “but AI is going to further a lot of progress that’s already in place, not necessarily upend everything,” said AJ Abdallat, CEO of AI firm Beyond Limits, an AI company. AI will be used to create great things in years to come, but it’s not a magic bullet, it’s not infallible and it requires humans in great measure today. People should not be concerned about their jobs, nor should there be any expectation that AI might save money on personnel. These cultural concerns, along with a not uncommon resistance to change, are one of the barriers to entry.
- If your company punted on digital transformation, you’ll probably need an outside vendor to help you foray modestly into artificial intelligence. “The sooner you can modernize your digital infrastructure, the sooner you can bring AI in to address your [larger] business issues,” said Abdallat. In many ways, the ability to employ machine learning and AI may wind up being looked at as one of the main positive outcomes of digital transformation. Working in concert, these technologies are probably your best protection against sudden disruption by a digital-native startup with good ideas.
- “Too many CEOs delegate AI to their innovation teams, who conduct small-scale experiments. It’s important for CEOs to bring their own AI vision to their organizations,” said Gurjeet Singh, executive chairman and co-founder of Ayasdi. CEOs need to apply AI to the most pressing problems facing their businesses. “The world is going to change far faster than they can grasp. They need to set course immediately.”
Adopt AI Soon
One thing that has become clear as more companies join the AI fray, either as purveyors or consumers of the technology: The time for digital infrastructure improvements and adoption of AI is now. That said, the scope of enterprises that have already adopted AI is comparatively narrow. Companies currently using artificial intelligence to explore big data include the obvious: Amazon, Apple, Citi, DoCoMo, Facebook, Google, HSBC, IBM, Lockheed, Microsoft, Mt. Sinai, Tesla and Twitter. Many other companies are experimenting with AI in one facet of their business.
How significant a trend will the use of AI by enterprises be? Is it at the scale of networking, the internet and cloud computing? “AI will have the same or greater impact on businesses for the next 20 years,” Wilde predicted.
“Part of me wants to quash as much of the AI speculation as possible. The hyperbole,” Abdallat added. “But frankly, I do think that AI is potentially more transformative [than the internet, cloud etc.] … I know I’m a little biased in this, but we might be entering the era of the cognitive corporation, when man and machine at all levels of the enterprise will [cooperate] to solve problems, each learning from the other.”