Susan Bowen, President of Cogeco Peer 1, discusses the increasing importance of data-driven artificial intelligence solutions, and how to overcome barriers to its mass adoption.
Whether you consciously think of it or not, data is fast becoming critical to the efficient functioning of modern life. From simple everyday tasks, to complex management systems, in a relatively short amount of time, data technology has transformed our lives beyond recognition.
Data infrastructure is critically important to modern society, creating vast amounts of economic value. With recent developments in data technology, as well as advanced algorithms and super-fast processing, we now have artificial intelligence (AI) that is capable of rapidly learning and adapting from patterns in data.
This acceleration of smart technology has led to AI moving beyond the lab to generating an abundance of interest in the role it can play in mainstream business. However, while many organizations are waking up to the enormous potential of AI, there are barriers to overcome that are causing slow adoption.
For businesses, the promise of AI is the potential to unlock increased productivity, greater profitability and reduced costs. In fact, as AI systems become more sophisticated, research firm Gartner predicts that 70 percent of organizations will have integrated AI to support employee productivity by 2021.
As the demand for AI solutions grows across all industries, among the biggest challenges to adoption for many businesses is talent. Finding the best people, with the right combination of skills and knowledge to put AI to work in a specific industry can feel like a treasure hunt. And, this particular skills shortage further widens the already growing ‘digital skills gap’ within our society. It has been estimated that the digital skills gap alone could cost the US economy an estimated $2.5trn over the next ten years, with at least 2.4mn roles potentially left unfilled during that time.
Further exacerbating the problem is an additional barrier to AI adoption - risk aversion at the C- level. Whether through lack of understanding of the technology itself or an inability to link it with measurable short-term benefits, businesses leaders increasingly risk missing out on valuable opportunities. For many executives, it can be difficult to justify the investment in an experimental AI project, consequently other business opportunities can easily take priority.
Despite these barriers, few problems are intractable, and these roadblocks can certainly be overcome. The technology requirements and knowledge of AI implementation requires not only the right technology, but the right people and processes too.
Businesses should consider a technology partner who not only understands their immediate concerns but also their business objectives, overarching issues and the need for cost-effective technologies. By outsourcing crucial IT infrastructure requirements, businesses can not only reduce costs and avoid risks, but also bring in outside talent and expertise.
Moving forward, businesses should invest in building an AI mindset within the company by preparing employees with the necessary education, ownership, tools and processes they require. According to a research survey of 1,075 businesses across 12 industries, the more that companies embraced employee involvement in AI design and deployment, the better these initiatives performed.
In a recent article in the Harvard Business Review, AI experts warn about the perils to businesses who wait too long to adopt AI. They express by the time a late adopter has done all the necessary preparation, earlier adopters of AI will have taken considerable market share and will be able to operate at significantly lower costs with better performance.
As Charles Darwin once said, “it is not the strongest of the species that survives, it is the one most adaptable to change”.
New technologies will continue to emerge and develop at rapid rates, and as such, AI is inevitable and will consequently reveal its own winners and losers. Those inclined to champion AI and new technologies will enjoy the competitive advantages that they could only dream of today. This future is one of positivity, collaboration and innovation.