Enterprises have always looked for ways reduce costs while maintaining quality of service. In the past, companies turned to offshoring and outsourcing, with varying degrees of success. In many cases quality was sacrificed.

 

Today, those cost-cutting measures are giving way to the future of the enterprise: robotics.

 

Decades ago, robotics transformed the manufacturing industry, and Artificial Intelligence is poised to make a similar impact on business process outsourcing.

 

The potential is immense. Everything that requires human knowledge work to make a decision is a candidate for autonomics. For example, insurance companies routinely train new agents with manuals and peer-to-peer shadowing.

 

A robotic system could be trained similarly by absorbing the manual and then “observing” humans, learning from the observation and then proposing the best problem solving methodology. A machine that successfully understands structured and unstructured information could potentially become a virtual insurance claim agent handling end-to-end customer interactions.

 

But Artificial Intelligence need not necessarily replace people. Instead robotics can empower humans with information to help them make the best informed decisions, even under pressure.

 

Take mechanical engineers working on an oil rig in the Bering Sea, one of the most hostile environments in the world. Now imagine an Artificial Intelligence technology helping the engineers understand issues, learning from how others have fixed specific situations and assisting with problem-solving.

 

It is difficult for humans to keep up with the rate of changing information, but machines adapt to change faster and more predictably and can amass and process large sets of data in real time.

 

The key difference between robotics in manufacturing and business is human interaction. In manufacturing, robotics are a back office function that exist in an isolated environment. Customers don’t see the difference if their cars are built 80 or 90 percent by robots; they only see the final product. AI in business is fundamentally different. These are machines that change the way humans interact with the core service.

 

In the last decade, we saw an evolution in the way people communicate though technologies such as text messages and social media sites.

 

In the coming decade, we will see an evolution in how we interface with Artificial Intelligence. Customers need to be comfortable speaking to a robotic system and come to a point where they can’t differentiate whether they’re talking to a machine or a person.

 

Most AI technologies today interpret sentiments conveyed by words. The next phase is emotional and empathetic modeling so systems can track sentiments by inflection, tone and facial expression and can respond accordingly.

 

The next decade will be telling. The time scale will be dictated by our adoption of change rather than the technology itself. Very soon we will see AI introduced into the marketplace, first through the enterprise environment. For example, we will likely encounter AI in internal service desks, business to business engagements and business data connectivity services.

 

It is important to understand that robotics do not compromise processes or sacrifice quality. We are building machines to do justice to human work, and the potential will only increase as we begin to remodel our business processes based on the capabilities of AI.