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Artificial intelligence

What’s your artificial intelligence story?

Bill Keenan  Senior Director, Research & Development

Bill Keenan  Senior Director, Research & Development

What plot might artificial intelligence play in your customer's story? Read a preview with Jerry the Generalist.

It’s almost five o’clock and you’re anxious to start the weekend. You log off your machine, grab your coat and jump in the elevator. Just before the doors close you hear, “Hold that elevator!” and see your boss hurrying down the hall.

Uh oh. Your boss just got back from a conference where a keynote was given about the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) in your industry. Your boss has been sending you links to stories about AI, and has scheduled a staff meeting to discuss that topic next week. A bead of sweat starts to roll down your back.

So, what’s your AI story?

You’ve been inundated by the hype surrounding AI and how it will make everyone obsolete. You’ve read how AI beat chess, Jeopardy, Go and now poker. You’ve heard the predictions about how it will transform how you and your customers work.

But what’s your take? Do you understand how AI will help you develop products that are smarter, better? Can you articulate the road map for your team? Will you have an AI story for your boss?

Fortunately, there is a formula for storytelling. First you need a hero. That should be easy, the hero is probably your customer. You know what they do and the problems they face.

Next, you need to create conflict and tension. What forces are going to affect your hero? Maybe your hero is “Jerry the Generalist,” a tax professional at a small firm. Jerry has been under increasing pressure to grow revenue even as profit margins shrink. His clients are expecting faster service, including nights and weekends. Those same clients are using online tools to do things they used to ask Jerry to do. He knows he needs to move up the value chain and provide new services. Bottom line, Jerry needs to be more productive if he wants to be competitive.

This is where AI enters stage left.

To be more productive, Jerry needs to automate lower-value tasks that take up too much time. Sometimes this can be accomplished using Robotic Process Automation and a set of scripted rules. Other tasks may require a more intelligent and dynamic process that must be learned by an AI (machine learning) algorithm using heaps of usage logs. To provide better customer service, Jerry needs to provide self-service tools his clients can use anytime, anywhere. These could be simple web forms and apps, but maybe an intelligent chatbot enables a better user experience.

To be even more competitive and productive, Jerry could “hire” a virtual, intelligent assistant. The next generation system could act as an expert researcher with deep domain knowledge. It will be able to converse with Jerry using natural language. It will answer questions, analyze the client’s tax situation and make recommendations. With this AI-powered assistant, Jerry has the time and means to offer more complex services. AI saves the day! Jerry truly is a hero!

Of course, the comic book version of the story may work in the elevator, but you will soon need the Tom Clancy techno-style thriller with all of the details.

It turns out that there is no such thing as an off-the-shelf AI solution. It takes a lot of hard work and requires the right combination of content, domain expertise and technology.

So a word to the wise: If the story someone else tells you seems too good to be true, it probably isn’t. You will need many chapters, where each builds on the previous one. There will be ups and downs, but that’s true of any good plot.

It’s time to write your AI story. The boss is coming down the hall.

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