Artificial Intelligence, Automation and Robotics
It’s been an interesting few weeks spending more time looking at practical applications for AI and Automation. This included a great day at the AI and Robotics Directors’ forum on Business Transformation in London last week.
As a key theme, it’s notable that, whereas 12 months ago there were limited practical examples, the range of organisations that have now implemented some level of capability in this space is growing. A significant number of examples are based on actual experience.
For many organisations who are yet to fully engage in this area, AI and Robotics in particular remains a dark art, yet some of the new capabilities that organisations are implementing around robotic process automation (RPA) and approaches to managing Big Data are moving them into this space. The lack of a consistent definition in part is contributing to the confusion for those starting to look for opportunities in this space.
Narrow AI and Big Data
This subject pulls together a number of elements including Big Data, Machine learning, AI, Voice and Visual Recognition and Robotic process automation. This typically gets bannered under a title of narrow AI where the applications are largely individual processes and tasks.
Big Data in particular is faced with the “three Vs” where Volume relates to massive data sets, Velocity relates to real time data and Variety relates to different sources of data1. Whilst all three do not apply to every instance, the underlying premise of needing to analyse in a timely manner drives the need to tackle in a different way to traditional linear approaches.
In terms of business benefits, initial interest tends to focus on efficiency with the much publicised focus on progressive automation removing jobs from the economy. This is a significant area and use of different technologies including ability to process unstructured data has enabled automation of non-standard processes and data sources. However whilst some jobs have reduced, in part the application of new technologies have driven the rise of new organisational roles.
Beyond efficiency, organisations that have embraced the new technologies are finding a much broader range of benefits including a focus on Customer Service, Risk mitigation, Fraud prevention, Revenue generation and compliance which complement existing roles and processes rather than replacing them.
Approach to Business Change
Key to effective business transformation remains a focus on business objectives and how new technology can enable them rather than a focus on the technology for technology’s sake. As with more general cultural and organisational change, active engagement with the workforce on the range of opportunities enables greater benefits.
Notable learning as part of implementing new technologies which have a human interaction suggests a need to focus on human based design. For all the efficiency and capability of new technology, it loses an element of emotional intelligence which underpins human interaction which needs to be factored in in developing an approach that works.
Also worth noting as part of business transformation, AI and automated technologies which automate processes continue to fall under both existing and new regulation including within the much heralded GDPR.
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1- Information Commissioner’s Office Paper on Big data, AI, ML and Data Protection