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Friday, May 12, 2017

Compelling Economics of AI and Machine Learning Apps

Are you ready for the Cognitive Systems era? If not, have you at least updated your business technology plan? Evolving the CIO role, and preparing a company for the impact of artificial intelligence (AI), is a high priority at many forward-looking enterprises.

By 2022, intelligent machines and robots may replace some trained professionals for basic tasks within the healthcare, law and information technology (IT) sectors, according to the latest worldwide market study by Gartner.

Artificial Intelligence Market Development

"The economics of AI and machine learning will lead to many tasks performed by professionals today becoming low-cost utilities," said Stephen Prentice, vice president at Gartner.

The effects that AI will have on the enterprise will depend on its industry, business, organization and customers. Mr. Prentice cited the example of a lawyer who undergoes a long, expensive period of education and training. Law firms must pay salary and benefits for each lawyer it hires.

On the other hand, a smart machine that substitutes for a lawyer does requires a long, expensive period of initial training. But after the first smart machine has learned the key tasks, then the law firm can simply add as many more as it wants.

Financial services is an industry where routine jobs, such as loan origination and insurance claims adjustment, could be easily automated. However, while AI will diminish employment in some industries, many others will benefit as cognitive systems and automation handle more routine and repetitive tasks.

Thereby, leaving more time for the existing human workforce to improve service levels, handle more challenging aspects of the role and even ease stress levels in some high-pressure environments.

"Ultimately, AI and humans will differentiate themselves from each other," said Mr. Prentice. "AI is most successful in addressing problems that are reasonably well-defined and narrow in scope, whereas humans excel at defining problems that need to be solved and at solving complex problems."

Outlook for Commercial AI Application Growth

According to the Gartner assessment, CIOs should use the enterprise's five-year vision to develop a plan for achieving the right balance of AI and human skills. Too much AI-driven automation could leave the enterprise less flexible and less able to adjust to a changing competitive landscape.

Ironically, AI will eventually replace many routine functions within the traditional IT organization -- particularly on the operations side, such as in system administration, help desk, project management and application support.

Some roles will disappear altogether, but AI will likely help to improve some skills shortages, and the IT organization as a whole will increasingly focus on more creative work. That's a good outcome.