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Demystifying AI for business

Demystifying AI for business

Alexander Linden, research vice president at Gartner, says there are plenty of myths surrounding artificial intelligence (AI), and believes business leaders shouldn't trust any of the myths and hype around the technology, but rather become centres of expertise.

Speaking ahead of his presentation at the Gartner Symposium/ ITxpo in Cape Town next week, Linden said enterprise architecture and technology innovation leaders must walk a fine line between embracing and overplaying AI technologies' role in delivering business value for digital businesses.

"Leaders shouldn't trust any of the myths and hype around AI. Instead, they must become centres of expertise if they are going to educate senior business executives on the real benefits — and shortcomings — of AI," added Linden.

Linden identified and expounded on several myths around AI, including: -

Myth 1: Buy an AI to solve your problems

Reality: There is no such thing as "an AI." Enterprises don't need an "AI." They need business results in which AI technologies may play a role.

"AI is a collection of technologies that can be used in applications, systems and solutions to add specific functional capabilities. Organisations should select best-fit, best-of-breed AI technologies to meet targeted business needs," Linden added.

Myth 2: Everyone needs an AI strategy or a chief AI officer

Reality: AI is a loose collection of many technologies, and although they will become pervasive and increase in capabilities for the foreseeable future, focus instead on business results that these emerging technologies can enhance. AI will affect all C-level roles.

Myth 3: Artificial intelligence is real

Reality: "AI" has become a generalised marketing term, often with little substance or value. Very useful, specific functions have been created (such as speech and image recognition, game playing, fraud and failure prediction), but no general intelligence is in sight. The concept of "intelligence" is an overrated generalisation that leads to imprecise thinking. Be specific. Look for specific functional capabilities that drive a desired business result.

Myth 4: AI technologies define their own goals

Reality: People define goals; technologies execute them. Technologies (whether AI or not) do not have their own goals that they seek to achieve. Machines execute the programs they have been fed, whether the programs consist of code, data or both. In AI, goal-seeking is an illusion programmed in by people.

Myth 5: AI has human characteristics

Reality: AI developers use advanced analytics, special algorithms and large bodies of data to deceive people into believing that their product learns on its own and understands, thinks and empathises with the user. Management (and others) will continue to unconsciously anthropomorphise technologies. Don't be fooled into believing the technologies are more capable than they really are. Investing under deceptive pretences can lead to unsatisfactory results and, worst case, career failures.

Proceed with caution

According to Forrester CIOs are still unsure of how they can apply AI for long-term success.

Research from the company states that 57% of businesses and technology professionals expect that AI will help improve customer experience and support, with 37% implementing or planning to implement intelligent assistants and 35% doing the same with cognitive products for customers.

Despite all it has to offer, AI implementations should proceed with caution, says Forrester.

The report highlights that it's easy to overlook just how much work goes into getting a computer system to the point required to deliver the promised results.

"Sentient systems capable of true cognition remain a dream for the future. But many AI techniques and building blocks are available today, and you can leverage them as part of your process optimisation programs and customer facing applications," reads an excerpt from a Report by Forrester Principal Analyst Martha Bennett. "Forrester surveyed business and technology professionals and found that, while only a comparatively small number of organisations have already implemented AI and are expanding their use, over half of companies expressed their intention to invest in AI in the next 12 months."

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