AI isn’t just about the far future

Much of the conversation surrounding Artificial Intelligence (AI) for the enterprise has centered on potential or theoretical future implications. However, AI has been used in some form by companies for decades and is making a discernable impact right now.

During his presentation at DWS 2018 on the “True Impact of AI,” Anthony Abbattista, the Global Cognitive Advantage Leader with Deloitte, talked about some of the ways AI technologies are transforming present-day business practices, cultures, and workforces.

Evolving the CXO suite

Anthony Abbattista, Global Cognitive Advantage Leader, Deloitte

Anthony Abbattista, Global Cognitive Advantage Leader, Deloitte

As technologies evolve, so do corporate structures. When new technological solutions are introduced into an organization, they’re often relegated to the CIO or CTO as a part of their larger scope of duties. However, as these technologies begin to impact the organization as a whole, the rest of the C-suite necessarily becomes involved in the conversation.

“The one impact of AI that we’ve been really seeing a change in is at the boardroom and in the CXO suite,” Abbattista told the DWS audience. “[It’s] largely been the responsibility of the CIO and the technology executive team to discuss and bring forward, but we now see more and more people taking part in that discussion. So the first impact of AI is [more] people are saying the words, and it’s reached a new level of boardroom interest and CXO-suite interest.”

We don’t want to say doing more equals better results by itself.
But what we found is the companies that actually put some structure around
the cognitive journey are having better results and they’re starting to go faster.

—  Anthony Abbattista, Global Cognitive Advantage Leader, Deloitte

In fact, AI is becoming so central to business practices that we are beginning to see companies with dedicated Chief Artificial Intelligence Officers (CAIOs). A Vanson Borne study found that 62% of companies expect to hire a CAIO in the future to handle all AI development, implementations, and strategies.

Beyond the introduction of new AI-specific roles, companies are wisely beginning to view AI as a key part of their organization and future plans. According to a Deloitte study, the companies that have organized their AI game plan are not only implementing more solutions than their competition, they are finding the best results sooner than competitors too. “We don’t want to say doing more equals better results by itself,” Abbattista said. “But what we found is the companies that actually put some structure around the cognitive journey are having better results and they’re starting to go faster.”

The cognitive advantage

Abbattista described a growing distinction between the AI-haves from the AI-have-nots. The haves are outperforming the have-nots in a number of key areas. This emerging stratification is driven by something he called “The Cognitive Advantage.” He broke this down into three main elements:

1) Automation: Automation such as RPA has been around for decades. But we are now seeing the rise of “intelligent automation,” in which AI takes on not just transactional tasks, but cognitive tasks related to decision making as well. “In automation, we’re seeing transformative change,” Abbattista said. “We’re seeing automation coupled with AI, coupled with cognitive components driving flexibility and driving new competencies in the workforce. So, we’re sort of raising the bar on the human employees by automating the low-level things they were doing, and that’s pretty cool.”

2) Insight: AI solutions can process vast amounts of data to provide detailed snapshots of past events, and more importantly, forecast trends into the future. In order to facilitate better insights, companies are beginning to emphasize the collection, curation, and processing of large amounts of data. “Lots of people have upgraded their infrastructures or built data lakes. But the real question is ‘What are we doing with that?’” Abbattista told the audience. “So, cognitive insights, for us, are about realizing patterns, purposefully going out and looking for use cases around data and changing from backward-looking and reporting to forward-looking – to think about the predictive models, to think about how to nudge people to make better management and leadership decisions.”

3) Engagement: Digital colleagues like Amelia open new doors to engagement, which completely upends the way users interact with companies and their digital systems. “You know Amelia is about engagement – that’s one form of engagement along with bots or virtual reality or IoT or other things that are coming,” Abbattista said. “But that’s really the point-of-use and how we change the customer, employee, or other experiences to engage them in a different way and unlock some horsepower and increase what we do at that point of engagement.”

The rise of the No-Collar Workforce

Not only has AI had an effect on company leadership and the way business processes are handled, but it’s starting to change the workforce and company culture in other fascinating ways. Technology has disrupted the long-held model of work where people all gather at a central physical location and pursue careers within that organization for decades at a time. Thanks to AI, we’re entering the error of the “No Collar Workforce.”

“Really, what this is about is the blending of technology, employees, and traditional staffing models,” Abbattista said. “Consultants, contractors – [it’s about] bringing others into [a company] through the use of technology. And some of that’s crowdsourcing, some of it might be forming very special joint ventures, or even including freelancers.”

As companies develop their No-Collar Workforce (what we sometimes refer to as a “hybrid workforce”), it’s impacting entire company cultures, not just technology.  “The impact of this No-Collar Workforce is many-fold – and again AI is driving this – not just because some of the applications that you can apply to this space are AI-based, but because culture is an important point,” he said. “Are you looking at your existing workers and developing a culture – or at least substantiating a culture – that they understand? I liken this to the shop floor workers at General Motors and other places. They’re very used to working besides automation and technology. So the question is: ‘Are you doing that traditional sort of change management to get ready?’”

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