/ Leader guide

AI & bots - A guide for business leaders: Part 3 - Do they work?

Is The Technology Fit for Purpose? Software is notoriously difficult to assess when it comes to state of development. It is almost never fault free, constantly evolving and both demonstrations and case studies avoid difficult real world problems. What you see may not be what you are can reliably achieve in your own organisation.

Generally speaking, for early adopters there are two key questions:

  1. Will adoption generate the level of competitive advantage to warrant the investments
  2. How much of a head start will be achieved by starting now versus postponing

For the early majority (those people that like to implement new technology quickly once it is proven) by definition the key is more blunt: ‘Does this actually work? Where is the proof?’.

Analyst opinion is consistent. Smart machines will create huge disruption in the way businesses do things. However, some of the more glamorous claims of capability are not supported by the current actual state of technology.

What does that mean for the SME? In a nutshell, if you are realistic about what you are trying to achieve and how you are going to do it, then there is some good stuff out there now. If you want all singing all dancing you will probably be disappointed. Beware the grand claims!

Gartner’s well respected technology hype cycle for 2016 comments:

Smart machine technologies will be the most disruptive class of technologies over the next 10 years due to radical computational power, near-endless amounts of data, and unprecedented advances in deep neural networks that will allow organizations with smart machine technologies to harness data in order to adapt to new situations and solve problems that no one has encountered previously

Forrester also reported on this question in October 2016. The conclusions were mixed. My takeaways from their report were:

  • Conversational dialogue is the direction of travel for consumer interaction
  • Pure natural language interaction has a way to go before maturity
  • Despite the shortcomings, the trends and opportunities entice beginning a bot journey

In business language this technology offers some significant opportunities (and potential threats for the non-believers). SME's should start implementing now. However, stay pragmatic in terms of what can be achieved given the level of investment of time and money you are willing to make. The technology is good but it will still need to be trained to a greater or lesser extent. Development of the knowledge base of process, product and language is a key foundation for this technology.