Help From Hal: The Next Wave of AI

There has been a lot of hype about artificial intelligence. But just what are companies doing about it? Tata Consultancy tried to find out. It surveyed 835 executives throughout the globe and learned that 84% think AI is important and that 50% see it as transformative. In addition, 62% said AI is needed in order to remain competitive.

But that may only be big talk. The truth is that few companies have yet made bold investments in AI, and this could fuel a competitive imbalance tomorrow, Tata writes.  

So don’t think you can ignore the technology if you want to outpace rival brands. While 68% of the respondents now use AI for IT, an even greater number — 70% — believe AI’s greatest impact by 2020 will be in non-IT functions, like these:

  • Customer service — 32%
  • Sales — 29%
  • Marketing — 29%
  • Finance and accounting — 27%
  • R&D — 23%

There is the relevant nugget in this survey. If true, that means AI will be driving your marketing and facilitating your use of email, social media and channels you may not even know about yet. Among the respondents now using AI for marketing, 83% are deploying it to improve media buying. And 65% use it to anticipate future purchases and make relevant offers. Tata reports that “Nestle’s robot, Pepper, talks to customers about coffee preference.”

Despite the doom and gloom, some big companies are already investing in AI. North America is outspending Europe, with the average spend at $80 million versus $73 in Europe and $55 in the Asia-Pacific region. The average for Latin America is $51 million.

Tata also found that 7% of the respondents earmarked $250 million or more in 2016, and 2% plan to spend more than $1 billion by 2020. Why? They are looking to gain an advantage as early adopters,” Tara states.

As you might expect, firms that achieved success with AI in 2015 are outspending those that don’t — by a factor of five. The gains they are in revenue and cost improvements, Tata adds.  

Looking forward, Tata is projecting an 8% boost in AI jobs in North America by 2020, and a 10% increase in Europe. But it’s not clear whether that will have a significant effect on the economy.

How do you know if you’re ready? Here are the factors that will determine whether AI can help you. You should be able to do the following (we quote from Tata):

  • Make systems secure against hacking.
  • Develop systems that continually learn.
  • Develop systems that make safe and reliable decisions.
  • Get employees and managers to trust AI advice.

Here are some other findings that might persuade you to invest in AI (or not):

  • Of the firms that rely on AI for finance and accounting, 60% are using it for customer credit checks.
  • Of the companies that use AI at the corporate level, 83% rely on it to address potential customer payment problems.
  • 67% use AI for security and to deliver automation.
  • 20% see the largest AI's impact in non-customer facing area such as finance, strategic planning, corporate development, and HR.

Are you worried? If you’re not yet using AI, maybe you should call a meeting with your CEO, CFO and IT team leader. This may be the time to begins. 

2 comments about "Help From Hal: The Next Wave of AI".
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  1. David Bell from Tivoli Partners, March 16, 2017 at 4:44 p.m.

    Great article Ray.  AI is both exciting and scary for a smaller agency.  Do you have any ideas how a firm without a multi-million dollar tech budget can take advantage of some of these new capabilities?

  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, March 16, 2017 at 7:33 p.m.

    Until HAL doesn't open your pod and you find out that even sythning yourself won't help.

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