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Don’t leap to invest in AI—first, understand what it is truly capable of
September 20, 2017
With more than 23,000 people around the world, Publicis.Sapient, part of Publicis Group, is the world’s most advanced and largest digitally-centered platform focused exclusively on digital transformation and the dynamics of an always-on world.
Josh Sutton has been helping clients leverage advanced technologies to drive business transformation for the past twenty years. Most recently he has assumed leadership of Publicis.Sapient’s and SapientRazorfish’s Data and Artificial Intelligence Practice, helping companies leverage established and emerging artificial intelligence platforms to generate business insights, drive customer engagement, and accelerate business processes.
In a world where brands and users are in constant dialogue, the customer experience is more important than ever. In fact, a Gartner report from 2015 found that 89% of companies expected to compete mostly on the basis of customer experience by 2016, versus 36% four years prior.
It is in this customer-oriented landscape that AI becomes truly powerful—as well as necessary. “One of the most important components of any AI solution is understanding how it improves the customer experience,” Josh argues. He links this to the new interaction paradigms AI unlocks, such as voice-to-voice communication and machine vision, or the ability to extract information from images. “This is one of the areas that SapientRazorfish excels at, having literally thousands of experienced design experts that can ensure that the AI solutions of tomorrow are creating compelling experiences for every brand’s clients.”
With AI set to become the major disruptor within the next five years, Josh argues that firms would do well to implement AI solutions sooner rather than later. He says that “Nearly every organization in every industry is going to be disrupted as a result of AI”—a claim supported by a recent McKinsey report into economic and technological disruption. Josh goes on to argue that the best way to prepare is for companies to understand and analyse the potential ways AI might disrupt their industries, and then prioritize how the firm will compete in that landscape. “Once this is understood, it is a straightforward process to determine the data and technology platforms that you should invest in to stay ahead of the competition.”
The rate of technological change is faster than it has ever been, and Josh believes that, as a result, change management is going to be an exponential concern for enterprise companies. “Helping people adopt an inquisitive mindset that is open to the change that AI is bringing to the workplace will be one of the most important differentiators between tomorrow’s market leaders and those firms that underperform.”
Another major challenge he identifies is the need to educate people on what actually is and isn’t possible with AI today, calling for leaders to look beyond the hype surrounding AI and focus on what is actually achievable in the short-term. “While we are as passionate as anybody about the potential of AI, we believe that it is equally important to understand what isn’t possible (today) so that people can set their expectations accordingly and focus on building solutions that can create real value using today’s technologies.”
AI should be a priority not just because of the challenges and competition ahead, but because of its huge potential to boost growth. “There are already numerous reports that show that companies who are investing in AI are more profitable than their competitors and growing faster. This isn’t to say that business leaders should blindly leap to implement AI solutions, however. They should be measured in how they implement solutions.”
“One of the real benefits of AI is that solutions are data-driven. If implemented correctly, the business impacts can be measured. This allows companies to start small and ensure that they are delivering bottom line results from their implementation efforts. Generating real returns from AI solutions is something that can be realized in months rather than years.”
AI will not just transform markets and industries. Josh identifies three key areas in which AI is transforming the nature of work:
Insight generation – “We are able to use various AI platforms to extract information from more data sources than we have ever been able to access in the past. This will influence everything from individual interactions that a brand has with a customer, all the way to determining how to allocate a company’s capital as they make strategic decisions about product development, R&D, and even acquisitions.
Conversational technology – “As natural language [processing] becomes more and more integrated with daily life, we will rapidly approach a point where access to the technology becomes ubiquitous. Just as mobile phones changed the way that society approached communication, natural language technologies and physical devices that incorporate this technology will make access to information via conversation a natural part of how we live and work.”
The automation of rudimentary knowledge tasks—“A large portion of what we pay people to do can already be automated by existing technology—as much as 49% according to a recent study. The implications of this are profound in that nearly all jobs will change in some fashion and most will become more efficient. This doesn’t necessarily mean that there will be less work—just that the nature of the work that humans perform will change to be more complicated tasks or those that rely more heavily on creativity or human to human interactions.”
SapientRazorfish has been participating in the AI Summit since the event’s inception. “We view it as one of the most important gatherings of business leaders focused on the application of AI to solve real business problems. We look forward to engaging with our partners, clients, and fellow thought leaders to help educate each other on the various ways that AI can and will transform all of the industries that we work within.”
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