Artificial intelligence (AI) is changing the way businesses operate, allowing them to accomplish tasks in less time and create more personalized experiences that boost customer loyalty. But AI technology is complex and requires the right tools, processes and management strategies to achieve its full potential. A successful AI project is a strategic imperative for organizations that want to maximize efficiency, gain new revenue opportunities and make sense of data on a scale that humans can’t.
AI is the capability of computers to perform tasks that would be difficult, impractical or impossible for human beings. The field of AI has been advancing since the 1950s when scientists like John McCarthy developed the Lisp programming language, Joseph Weizenbaum created ELIZA to simulate conversational AI and Marvin Minsky published his theory on neural networks.
In recent decades, major advances in AI include the launch of Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa voice assistants; IBM Watson’s victories on Jeopardy; Google DeepMind’s AlphaGo beating world champion Go player Lee Sedol; and self-driving cars that can navigate highways and city streets without a human driver. However, AI is still evolving and hasn’t yet achieved the level of intelligence that Alan Turing envisioned when he proposed his famous “Turing Test,” which specifies that a machine must be capable of completing reasoning puzzles at least as well as a human to qualify as intelligent.
The evolution of AI is being fueled by three main factors: The availability of affordable, high-performance computing capability; the increasing sophistication of algorithms and techniques; and the rapid adoption of business applications. For example, a 2021 McKinsey survey found that the number of companies that have adopted at least one AI solution had doubled in two years, while the percentage that could attribute at least five percent of earnings to AI increased from 22 percent to 56 percent.
These trends are allowing more companies to realize the value of AI and the potential for a business advantage. But, as with any technology, the benefits of AI come at a cost. Without a thoughtful strategy, the benefits of AI can easily be offset by unforeseen risks.
Fortunately, there are steps that businesses can take to mitigate these risks. One way is to employ an agile approach when developing AI solutions, implementing a testing and learning mindset that can help employees embrace failure as inspiration rather than fear it. Another is to empower frontline workers with AI-based decision support. This can accelerate the speed of decisions and empower employees to act on their own insights, rather than wait for approval from the back office.
A third important factor is to have an ongoing dialogue between IT and line-of-business teams so that both understand the technology, its limitations and how it works. Finally, it’s critical to communicate with customers and colleagues about the use of AI and to encourage them to be open to its possibilities. When all parties embrace the potential of AI, the sky’s the limit.