BEST WAY TO REALIZE AI BENEFITS: DON’T SHOOT THE MOON
· By Aaron Ricadela ·
Businesses will reap more success from artificial intelligence projects by setting short-term, achievable goals instead of pursuing extremely ambitious ones, industry executives advise.
The hype around AI, the set of statistical techniques that teaches software to make decisions based on past data, pushes many companies to rush adoption and launch “moon shots” that are hard to bring to fruition, said Clive Swan, Oracle senior vice president of applications development, at the Oracle OpenWorld conference in September. Typical mistakes include not adequately preparing corporate data or failing to augment it with third-party information sources such as news stories, press releases, and financial or corporate information, Swan said.
Bill Briggs, chief technology officer at Deloitte Consulting, used a baseball metaphor, saying during another discussion at Oracle OpenWorld that businesses can do better playing “small ball.”
“Having AI as the hero of the story is a little misleading,” he said. Cloud computing and data analytics software often work with AI systems, for example.
The more modest projects tend to come from CIOs rather than CEOs, and include, for example, helping healthcare providers improve their patient billing rather than their treatments, wrote industry expert Irving Wladawsky-Berger in an article this month in The Wall Street Journal.
Writing in Harvard Business Review last year, Tom Davenport, a president’s distinguished professor of information technology at Babson College, cited a study of more than 150 AI projects which showed that “highly ambitious moon shots are less likely to be successful than ‘low-hanging fruit’ projects that enhance business processes.”
At OpenWorld, Oracle announced several new AI-imbued business software enhancements, including:
· A version of its AI-powered voice Digital Assistant for scheduling meetings has a more specialized vocabulary for sales reports.
· Oracle’s Digital Assistant now works with Microsoft Teams to query business applications for sales, project management, expense reports, and other tasks. That means users of Microsoft’s chat application for workgroups can query Oracle sales management and HR software automatically through the Teams screen.
· Oracle is also integrating the digital assistant with Slack, Facebook Messenger, and WeChat, as well as with Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa voice-command systems.
· A new assistant for Oracle Supply Chain Management Cloud that delivers information on suppliers culled from news and financial information sources lets users monitor and spot problems.
· An ERP feature for supplier management called “intelligent payment” can identify suppliers that provide the best savings in return for early payment.
· An AI capability built into Oracle HCM Cloud gives HR recruiters the ability to quickly sift through large numbers of resumes to identify the most promising job candidates.
Tracking AI Projects
Oracle OpenWorld also saw the return to the stage of industry veteran Vishal Sikka, founder and CEO of Vianai Systems, whose software for AI projects aims to make documentation more visual and collaborative.
Sikka, a former SAP management board member and Infosys CEO, showed how Vianai’s software could track dozens, even hundreds of AI experiments showing project objectives, team members, and the ability to add new features to experiments if a business analyst spots potentially significant information.
For example, a system that predicts which gym members are likely to cancel their subscriptions could quickly incorporate data points on members who joined in January, a possible predictor of a short-lived stay. Sikka, whose company this month announced a $50 million funding round, contrasted Vianai’s “visual editing” tools with conventional machine learning “notebook” software, such as the widely used open-source package Jupyter, which can include long pages filled with code and charts.
—Barbara Darrow, Oracle senior director for public relations, contributed to this story.
Aaron Ricadela is a director of strategic communications for Oracle.