Competitive AI

Why enterprises shouldn’t ignore the value of decision-making AI

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Competitive AI

Why enterprises shouldn’t ignore the value of decision-making AI

AI – it’s hot, it’s exciting - and it makes sound commercial sense.

THERE is no question that AI is everywhere; or at least it’s being talked about everywhere. It’s on TV, in the newspapers, online, on social media; even one of Britain’s leading novelists, Ian McEwan, has used artificial intelligence as the backdrop to his latest novel.

In May it was announced that former British Prime Minister David Cameron has been appointed to a strategic role on the advisory board of the American AI company Afiniti. Also on the board are Lord Browne, former CEO of BP, and Francois Fillon, the former Prime Minister of France. Afiniti, set up by the American entrepreneur Zia Chishti, specialises in the use of AI in call centres.

Yes, AI is powerful, with an influence that is becoming all-pervading. Everyone suddenly wants a piece of it. That’s no surprise to me, but it certainly is to some of the world’s most influential CEOs, CTOs and CFOs who in my view still haven’t quite grasped its significance. Not least its commercial significance.

We’re in a competitive world – and AI, if it is harnessed and used correctly, stands to make many enterprises of all shapes and sizes all the more competitive. The problem is not everyone realises that a lot of the noise surrounding AI is hype - and many enterprises are swallowing the hype without developing a coherent strategy for AI.

While those of us who are actually working in the AI community are making great strides in taking it to the next frontier, the rest of the world (or at least large parts of it) is lagging behind.

I’m not the only person to notice the huge deficiencies in the corporate world’s understanding of artificial intelligence. A report published last year by Microsoft in conjunction with Goldsmith’s College, University of London found that although 41 per cent of business leaders interviewed for the survey believe they will have to dramatically change the way they work within the next five years, more than half do not have an AI strategy in place.

Don’t lag behind

There is a lot of talking and posturing about AI but when it comes to action, many enterprises seem reluctant to get involved - and make the most of these opportunities.

In the same report, Microsoft UK’s Chief Operating Officer Clare Barclay said: “AI represents a huge opportunity, but only if UK organisations embrace its application in the right way. AI is not about making UK businesses leaner; it’s about how we use the technology to make them stronger. In doing so, we can make our work more meaningful and boost UK competitiveness.”

When I read this report, I was actually surprised that the number of enterprises lacking such a strategy was only 51 per cent. That’s a serious underestimation in my view.

Whatever its size and scale, that ignorance - and there is no polite way of putting it – has serious implications. The problem for many of these companies is that every quarter they get a report from a consultant about AI. They are given bullet points, standard bullet points which could come from almost any consultant. They look at the bullet points, think about what they might do one day in terms of an AI strategy and then nothing very much happens - until the next report comes in and another set of bullet points arrives.

Grasp the potential

When it comes to an AI strategy most of the enterprises in this country are frankly all over the place - which is ridiculous considering the importance and potential of AI. Another recent report, published by PwC found that AI could help the UK economy grow GDP by up to 10.3%, while spending power could increase by between £1,800 and £2,300 per household. It’s clearly time for our business leaders to grasp that potential. And much of that potential lies in AI for decision-making. Our own area of expertise.

There are signs, mercifully, that the highest growth companies are finally grasping the nettle. Another Microsoft report published earlier this year showed that enterprises at the top of the tree are taking their AI strategy seriously: 93% of high-growth companies intend to invest in decision-making AI in 1-3 years and 53% of these expect to do so in the next 12 months. And the lower growth companies? Well, it looks like they are going to stay at the bottom of the pile. Only 33% of lower growth companies are likely to make a serious investment in decision-making AI. More fool them.

So why are so many companies reluctant to frame a strategy for AI, when all the evidence points to the commercial growth that comes with it. One of the drawbacks of any new industry – and AI is no exception – is that there is going to be an element of hype. A bubble. Take for instance Deepmind’s development of AlphaGo. The original AlphaGo, developed by Deepmind in London, became the first computer programme to beat a human professional player at Go. It was a striking and highly newsworthy achievement and it was an excellent example of how AI can be deployed in an eye-catching way. But was it anything other than hype? Probably not.

It certainly did not lead to a breakthrough in artificial intelligence. Its information was based on data contained within a box; it had no real grounding or potential effect within the real world.

If enterprises are to make the most of AI, they need to realise that ultimately, effective AI depends on decision-making – the power to make decisions based on proper data in the real world. That decision-making AI is what we are developing at We need to make that clear and cut through the hype.

So many existing examples of AI – including AlphaGo – rely upon simulations. But the reality is AI can only be truly useful if it facilitates findings based on real observability.

So my message to all of those whose enterprises who have yet to work out a coherent AI strategy is that they should move fast. The commercial benefits have been proven. Just make sure you see through the hype and stick to a strategy that is founded on proper, trusted data.

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