Solving vertical business challenges with AI

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Artificial intelligence (AI) can deliver significant business value. But to maximize the benefits of AI, you need to focus on creating solutions to real business challenges rather than on the technology itself.

AI can help you solve business challenges in virtually every industry. At the recent Gartner ITXpo, my colleague Anne-Sophie Lotgering, Orange Business Services CMDO, talked about how the most successful companies will augment human workforces with AI. In fact, Gartner predicts that AI augmentation will generate $2.9 trillion in business value and recover 6.2 billion hours of worker productivity by 2021. It estimates that 37% of large enterprises have already dipped their toe in the water and are using AI to some extent.

AI and humans need to complement one another. Algorithms excel at big data analysis, logic and objective decision making, but they need to be driven by people who are uniquely able to empathize with the end consumer, to anticipate the challenges they face and think creatively of a solution and ensure data insights are used ethically in an unbiased and fair way. The blend of the two can make customer interactions faster and more personalized, freeing up vital resources for more productive use elsewhere. Here are five examples in vertical industries where AI can complement human endeavor to deliver business benefits.

Retail

Keeping customers satisfied – and coming back for more – is a universal business challenge but applies particularly to retail. AI can really help here. According to Gartner, around 50 percent of customer service contact center inquiries are routine or repetitive requests that could be handled by AI-enabled chatbots. Sixty-three percent of consumers say they are content to communicate with a company via a bot. At the same time, AI frees up human contact center agents to answer more complex tasks or high-priority inquiries.

Healthcare

Providing cutting-edge medical services to patients at affordable rates has always been a key challenge in medicine. AI tools enable huge numbers of CT and MRI scans to be assessed automatically for signs of cancer, for example, to aid clinical decision making. With growing and aging populations and the fact that one in two people today will get cancer at some point in their lifetimes, AI is vital. It can say categorically that someone has a suspected tumor and pass borderline images over to a consultant for analysis.

AI has also become a valuable tool for extracting insights from high volumes of previously inaccessible, unstructured data assets, for example in molecular medicine. But here again, a human diagnostician is needed to work alongside the AI, with the AI augmenting rather than replacing human work. An Intel survey found that 37% of U.S. healthcare companies are already using AI in some form, while 54 percent of healthcare professionals expect AI adoption to be widespread by 2023.

Financial services

Security is naturally a key concern in the financial services industry, but according to the Global Banking and Finance Review, ransomware and other cyberattacks cost nearly $360 billion per year in losses in each of the last three years. IDC forecasted that the financial services industry would spend around $4 billion on AI in 2018, with companies investing in automated threat intelligence and prevention systems, fraud analysis and investigation and program advisors and recommendation systems.

Machine learning (ML) tools can be used to baseline a customer’s spending patterns, for example the countries they typically visit, and flag suspicious transactions.

Logistics

AI is bringing benefits to industries as traditional as logistics, too. With customers wanting a more personalized experience, DHL Parcel has worked with Amazon to implement an AI-powered, voice-based service that tracks parcels and gets shipment information using Amazon’s Alexa-powered Echo. Customers can just speak to their home Alexa to find out current whereabouts of their deliveries. If there is an issue, Alexa will even connect the shopper with the customer services department of the retailer. According to Forbes Insights, 65 percent of transportation-focused executives believe the logistics and supply chain sector is undergoing extraordinary transformation with AI central to that.

Transport

Fully autonomous passenger cars are now a reality on our roads, as are autonomous freight trucks, and a growing number of new vehicles are now leaving the production line with AI elements built in. Sensors tell drivers if they are approaching an obstacle, course correct tools keep cars in the right lane and can even stop a car completely if there is the prospect of a collision. Sweden and Germany have already piloted driverless public buses, and there are even prototypes of larger autonomous vehicles like snow ploughs and garbage collection trucks. The implications for safety are huge: over 90 percent of road accidents in the U.S. are due to driver error. AI in autonomous vehicles, married to smart highways and traffic management solutions, will revolutionize the transport industry.

AI, cultural shift and the human factor

These examples underline the role of AI in augmenting human efforts to overcome business challenges and also demonstrate the importance of employees who can understand the data that an enterprise holds. At the same time, access to AI talent is vital too, and according to job search website Indeed, companies are increasingly searching for top talent, with demand for AI positions and skills having more than doubled between 2015 and 2018.

The skills being sought most urgently are machine learning, Python, data science, Hadoop, big data and data mining. These key technical skills – married to human traits like computational thinking, cognitive thinking, data modeling and evaluation – are the way to balance and blend human and digital talent and technologies. LinkedIn committed recently to teaching all its engineers the basics of AI, launching an AI academy designed to help them deploy intelligent models in the company’s products and leverage all the user data they generate.

But to maximize the success of your AI initiatives requires a cultural shift in your organization. In the era of automation and AI, the most successful companies will be those that reshape their working environments and cultures around harnessing the cognitive capabilities of machines, not using them to replace human workers. At Orange Business Services, many of our staff have participated in AI training at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), in the course “Artificial Intelligence: Implications for Business Strategy,” and we have 130 dedicated experts working on AI in our research and development teams. AI has a huge part to play in the future of business.

To find out more about AI, watch our keynote at Gartner ITXpo or download our ebook.

Fabrice de Windt

Fabrice de Windt is Senior Vice President Europe at Orange Business Services.

With 17 years’ experience in ICT in sales functions, Fabrice’s responsibilities include defining the regional partner strategy, managing presales functions and practices, and ensuring the organization is geared to providing the best customer experience. He is also executive sponsor on key new logo opportunities and existing customers.

Fabrice has held senior positions in sales functions across several companies in the telecom and IT industry.

Fabrice speaks English, Dutch and French fluently and is the proud father of three children. In his spare time Fabrice likes to play tennis and golf.