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Artificial intelligence is here to disrupt industries. Are we ready?

Artificial Intelligence technologies and capabilities are driving digital transformation, growth, and opportunity in nearly every sector. In fact, a report by AlphaBeta urges Australia to double its pace of artificial intelligence and robotics automation to reap a $2.2 trillion market opportunity by 2030.

So, why is it that AI can have such a massive impact, and should your organisation jump on the bandwagon? The short answer is that the window of competitive advantage will be small, and if you don’t jump through it, one of your competitors will. There’s much to be gained by using AI to improve business outcomes.

Pegasystems recently conducted a global survey of over 600 business and IT leaders across the globe to understand how prepared organisations are to deal with the disruptive change coming to their industries, with a focus on the use of AI to drive business outcomes. The ones using it effectively reported improved customer engagement (18.3%) and reduced costs (18.5%) as the most common business outcomes.

The benefits of AI, however, don’t stop there. AI is making significant advances in its ability to make sense of data, including both structured and unstructured data types. It also plays a key role in transforming data into actionable intelligence to support faster and more effective decision making. For example, the cognitive technology based on AI algorithms can help organisations to effectively support and improve corporate intelligence and risk management processes, by providing effective and real-time insight on strategic initiatives, partners, and any third parties, to know what the competitors are doing and what the market trends are.

However, the Pega survey showed that businesses have a long way to go to optimise their use on AI. Less than two-thirds of respondents said that their organisations were using AI in any meaningful way. Only a small percentage of respondents (5%) said that AI either connected to or prolonged the life of legacy systems. There’s a real opportunity here, as this could postpone expensive rip and replace projects and keeps your organisation focused on what matters in the near-term – providing better and faster customer experience.

Australia, in particular, is failing to embrace AI in business as quickly as the other top industrial nations. According to 2017 Infosys report on artificial intelligence, Australian companies are lagging behind other countries such as the United States and China in terms of the level of progress and adoption of AI by business in the various fields like manufacturing, retail, and healthcare.

But embarking on a digital transformation journey with AI doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing proposition. The most successful businesses find a way to start small, experiment with the best use cases, and then fine-tune their approach before replicating their successes over different parts of the organisation. Here are some ways to get started with AI implementations if your organisation hasn’t  started yet:

Find one customer journey in dire need of improvement. Tease out a few key customer engagement pain points that AI could alleviate, and hyper-focus on addressing them.

Set manageable goals that can be accomplished in 90 days or less.

Don’t boil the ocean, as even one customer journey in a large enterprise can become daunting in terms of data and systems involved. Resist the urge to fix it all at once. Use effort versus value trade-offs as your priority guide. Use an agile approach to manage the project, show results quickly, and you’ll have an example to showcase and build upon.

Measure your project in terms of business outcomes.

Set tangible objectives like increased revenue, customer retention, or employee productivity. The AI technologies you weave in are merely parts in the overall solution. Ultimately, you’re only interested in AI only as a means to help you meet or exceed your key objectives.

Look for an experienced AI vendor.

The best vendors will demonstrate not only that they understand the AI technologies, but more importantly that they have proven experience building and servicing at-scale AI business solutions.   

Research other businesses already using AI and machine learning to determine parallels.

AI and machine learning are not yet in the DIY category as it's all still very technical. So, it's worth finding out what other businesses have similar goals, and how they have addressed the issue.

Create an implementation plan.

Before you can get started; you need to think about a plan which addresses a question like, 'How can AI improve marketing?'. For example, AI could help you make predictions about what happens when customers open an email, based on previous experience. Addressing such questions and coming up with the solution can help in crafting the right plan for AI- deployment into your operations.

Practical AI applications can manifest in all sorts of ways for organisations, depending on your needs and the business intelligence (BI) insights derived from the data you collect. AI can be employed for everything from mining social data to driving engagement in customer relationship management (CRM), to optimising logistics and efficiency when it comes to tracking and managing assets. Although its impact is clear, dipping your toes into AI can be a daunting task. Following the above will help organisations take the small leaps towards making a big splash.

Luke McCormack, Managing Director & Vice President, Asia Pacific at Pegasystems