(L-R) Forrester CMO Victor Milligan with Principal Analysts Michele Goetz and
In the fourth of our sequence of digests on Forrester’s 2019 findings and forecasts looking ahead in 2019, Principal Analysts Michele Goetz and JP Gownder were in the hot seat for the AI and automation session with #Forrester CMO Chair, Victor Milligan.
Asked about the current status of AI and Automation, Michele Goetz observed that AI was becoming more interesting to companies. Activity remains principally on pilots and Proof of Concepts, with the main focus on what analytics can offer. But it was the automation aspects that were identified as having the most traction because of the opportunity for business benefit outcomes.
JP Gownder added that business values were starting to be seen in ‘Robotic Process Automation’ (RPA), whereby repetitive tasks get automated, freeing up people to spend time on more strategic tasks. Through automation he said, businesses can identify the seeds of opportunity in AI with connections starting to be made and APIs connected and the starting steps of value to the change in process.
Victor Milligan asked how businesses were addressing the issue of (high) risk and (high) reward with AI (where machines replace people) but what were the ‘consequences’.
To evaluate this, Michele Goetz recommended that if an organisation broke down its ‘business processes’ and ‘automated processes’, you could get a ‘horizon view’ of business activities, business behaviours and customer behaviours. Then, through Machine Learning providing pattern analysis, organisations would be able to spot the ‘digital twin’ in order to make simulations that could support strategic decisions about a company’s AI road map. This would enable organisations to:
• Determine where they wanted to go
• Redesign their processes
• Create new products as required
• Create new experiences and engagement with customers
By committing to AI, organisations would be positioned to change the way they operate, to better manage the day-to-day and oversee outputs. Then if things went awry, managers could act quickly and de-risk any aspects, whilst still looking ahead at new opportunities by virtue of having deep operational knowledge and how customers engage, plus a holistic view of the business.
Victor Milligan wanted to know what AI could improve in business today, against what it will create for a business net new? Michelle Goetz felt there was great opportunity for the new opportunities arising from AI. However, most organisations are still getting to grips with the basics. To get to this next stage, organisations would need to review some key aspects and remove old and inefficient processes. This approach includes:
• How we look at data
• Changes in how we approach and utilise analytics and algorithms
• How we see and understand our businesses
In looking at the changes on how employees work (or not) JP Gownder advised that with RPA, for legacy systems that are disconnected – automation can be a game changer. In retail shops (eg. Wallmart), robotic scanners were now deployed to look for product/shelving or price errors, so clear example in retail where robotics were driving value and adding efficiencies. Elsewhere physical robots are starting to be seen in factories working alongside humans.
Victor Milligan questioned what pragmatic aspects people should think about doing or avoiding. Goetz reflected that people should think big and re-imagine their approach to business, production and what the experience looks like through a customer’s eyes – and stop testing algorithms.
JP Gownder believed that there were opportunities at both ends of the business spectrum, not just driving costs down. He advocated that part of the solution lies in cleaning up shared IT operations to use automation – and secondly to make new money solving customer problems.
The traditional role of operations and the new role of digital were not consistently hand-in-hand today, but Gownder said would need to blend together to create commercial success. Using automation technology could bring about greater clarity through rationalisation, but also be a means to drive profit ultimately for businesses.
Amicus ITS Sales Director Les Keen commented: “The evolution of cloud technology with AI and automation is putting B2B and B2C organisations at a crossroads, both developmentally in tech terms as well as the commercial opportunities on the horizon in the longer term”.
“Whatever the industry, the key to realising the benefits of AI and automation will be for organisations to review their business processes against existing infrastructure to understand their direct needs and priorities. Modernisation is key throughout, however looking at the processes that should be targeted to create the greatest improvements and efficiencies is a starting point”.
“I would agree with Michele Goetz that introduction of AI has to start with a clear business plan to direct the vision, strategy and drivers required (technical or human resource). Re-imagining an organisation would be a highly invigorating exercise for all companies as it would free you up from thinking about how you have done things before. AI and automation are still largely in their infancy, but will mark a leap in the way a lot of organisations can and will operate and interact with people in the future”.
“Having a sensitivity and regard for humans in the workplace must be a focus to ensure the humans do the intelligent and creative work to distinguish from the repetitive and mundane. Mapping this journey successfully is also greatly about the messaging within an organisation to ensure everyone understands what the advantages will bring for them, as much as any business benefit”.
“For the public sector in the UK, despite a Cloud First Government directive, budgets are increasingly under pressure to maintain legacy IT estates, so ‘re-imagining’ could remain just a dream for many. However, in the short term it may well be that the greatest initial changes we see are in the clinical environment, rather than with core business IT”.
What are your thoughts on AI in the workplace? Do you consider it a threat or an advance that’s overdue? Leave your comment here