I ran several roundtables over the past few weeks speaking to business and technology leaders about their AI investments – and one factor came up many times – that it is hard to build a business case for AI because 70% accuracy was not good enough…
What this means is that companies have thousands of things to automate. Most of those automations in the short-medium term will deliver 100% accuracy using RPA and other simple automation tools. Every time you run that process you know the outcome.
Along Comes AI and Machine Learning
These dumb processes can now learn – they can be smart. But originally they won’t deliver 100% accuracy. They might only deliver 60-70% to start with – climbing perhaps to 90%. The benefits of these smart, learning processes can amaze – costs can fall, processes can improve, outcomes can accelerate. But traditionally we have built technology business cases delivering 100% accuracy and outcomes.
So we need a new way to think about AI and a different language to use about the way it works. The people who sign off on the business cases might not understand AI – they will come to the business case with the same lens they use for all technology investments (and evidently – all business investments). We also need to be better at selling the benefits to our leaders. CEOs and Managing Directors in the roundtables are surprised to hear that AI won’t deliver 100% accuracy – they said unless they know more about the capability, savings and outcomes that the solution might drive, they are unlikely to fund it.
Make Your Dumb Processes Smart
I take this as good news. It means we have moved beyond the hype of AI – the need to “do AI in our business” that drove many of the poorer chatbots and machine learning projects. It means that businesses review AI investments in the same way as any business investment. But it also means we can’t over-promise or under-deliver on AI. Woodside did this with their initial foray into AI, and they are still playing catch up today.
While there are many opportunities to use “dumb automation” and save money, reduce or redeploy headcount – or have employees focus on higher value activities or make real differences to customer experiences – there are as many opportunities to make dumb processes smart. Being able to automatically read PDF or paper-based invoices – processes usually done by humans – could be a huge saving for your business. OK – maybe you can’t redeploy 100% of the staff, but 70% is still a big saving. Being able to take human error out of processes will often help to save money at two steps on the process – automating the human input function up front and also getting rid of the need to fix the mistake.
Start Your AI Journey With The Low Hanging Fruit
Ecosystm’s Global Ongoing AI study has shown that most businesses are focusing their AI investments on internal initiatives – on reducing process time, cost savings and driving productivity – which makes the most sense today. They are the easier business cases to build and the easiest benefits to explain.
Perhaps AI is also a chance for businesses to acknowledge that “efficient” does not always mean “good”. Many of the processes we automated or coded to ensure 100% compliance don’t give customers or employees what they are looking for. And maybe making the customer happy 70% of the time is better than not making them happy at all…
If you’d like to dig deeper into Ecosystm’s reports exploring the data from our ongoing AI study – check them out here (you’ll need to register if you have not already – it is free to register, but some content is premium):