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Why Artificial Intelligence (AI) solutions seem like tech magic –

By Pankaj MathurAI technology has generated a tremendous amount of interest and discussions all around the world. The range of AI applications is so diverse that it means different things to different people. While everyone is wowed by what AI can achieve, only early adopters have so far gained by deploying this technology. As managers prepare to plan for the new world order, post-COVID, they will get time to take a pause to relook at the core of their businesses and operations and for technologies that can help them reduce costs and make their processes more efficient. Will they ignore the usual business inertia and accelerate the adoption of AI? Without a doubt. My close association and my experience with AI over the last two years compels me to demystify AI, and also share how this transformative technology can help businesses transition in this difficult period. Broadly, AI enables business in these three ways:Improvement and automation of business processesEnabling businesses to offer customers products and services which are more intelligent and adaptableBringing a profound change in the way they understand and interact with customersFor some new age tech-enabled businesses, data, and AI are at the center of strategy, as some of their core offerings and functions are powered by intelligence coming from AI. For others, AI enables managers with tools to magnify their business acumen and abilities exponentially so that they are able to take decisions closest to perfection, and this decision making gets progressively better as machines learn at every step. Data-driven AI-powered decision making also reduces uncertainty to a significant extent. In the current climate of uncertainty, this can be a boon for all kinds of businesses.Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning (ML) use historical data, data models, algorithms and automated dashboards to provide real-time recommendations for action. In the absence of data, managers need to make decisions based on gut feel or previous experiences and sometimes even use guesswork for taking critical business decisions. While there is no denying the value of experience, however, when this experience is coupled with suggestions from AI tools, the results are phenomenal and transformational.In sales processes AI helps automation, giving a huge boost to efficiencies, as the system continuously predicts demand and suitably optimizes resource planning on the fly. This optimizes tasks of the sales-force as the system informs them what prices the customer will buy at, what to cross-sell/ up-sell to the same customer. It enhances customer experience as businesses now know their customers much better and can tailor products and services to their individual desires. Buyers can find the optimum re-order levels for hundreds of thousands of Stock Keeping Units (SKUs) leading to saving huge inventory carrying costs.Businesses historically take IT as a huge cost – typically associated with Capex expenditure. Till a couple of decades back having an IT set-up meant buying IT infrastructure (servers/storages/networks) and equipping it with equally expensive proprietary software. The merger of AI and Cloud has created a situation where infrastructure and software are no more a Capex expense. Additionally, the software has gone Open Source and the flood-gates of research and innovation from around the world get available to software professionals at very low costs. Ironically this has meant that larger organizations that were so far creating fixed libraries of code and branding them (into boxes) cannot keep pace with smaller company’s set-ups which are lean, agile, much more adaptive to change and can incorporate the latest research on the fly. This is coupled with a sea-change in the pricing models from Capex to subscription. This combination has led to the emergence of strong new-age technology companies that are far more agile and far less expensive. They are ready to work and partner more strategically with organizations to help transform their businesses, disrupt and scale new businesses and stay ahead of the curve and their competition, perpetually.These organizations typically possess agile and integrated, open-source, state-of-the-art platforms which can work on business issues/ use-cases and provide scalable solutions in a short time-frame. The other critical assets of these set-ups are highly skilled data scientists, analysts and domain experts who work fiercely on data-sets – cleaning, wrangling voluminous data, incorporating relevant external data-sets which are often scraped from continuous feeds, working on multiple algorithms, incorporating the latest research, consulting domain experts to finally come up with a presentation that gives real-time data-driven suggestions for decision making. This involves huge dedication, effort and an untiring demonstration of skill and aptitude.Typically, organizations pay one-time customization fees for each use-case and then a periodic subscription charge (monthly/ quarterly) for maintenance, upgrades, updates, and cloud charges – over a 3-5-year period. We typically see one successful use-case leading to another and so on as the organization pays for what is useful and thereby gets the best ROI – truly what CXOs would dream their world to be like.In the effect, AI-powered business processes, and decisions have the potential to change the prospects of any business organization. Already, multiple industries and companies are seeing the benefits of incorporating AI processes in their organizations and this trend is sure to continue in the future. As businesses prepare for a new world order arising post-COVID, they would have to introspect on how to optimize costs and set priorities for their specific businesses. AI can enable them to get these insights, help them optimize their processes anew and make them ready to go out efficiently and win again!The author is Co-Founder, CogniTensorDISCLAIMER: The views expressed are solely of the author and does not necessarily subscribe to it. shall not be responsible for any damage caused to any person/organisation directly or indirectly.