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December 12, 2017

From being a technology on the R&D drawing board to becoming an integral part of products and processes of leading businesses, artificial intelligence (AI) has come a long way. Today’s businesses are using AI to build smarter systems that study user behavior, optimize business functions behind the scenes, and deliver a great buying and product usage experience for customers.

Saying AI is making the life of companies and their customers simpler is an understatement. It’s beginning to revolutionize how we live and work. For example, we now have driverless cars in some parts of the world, and constant monitoring of critical machinery (to predict and prevent failures). And companies are increasingly taking low-value, repetitive tasks – also known as drudge work – and assigning them to intelligent software.

Companies understand that they need to quickly adopt AI and use it to re-imagine business processes and possibly their entire business model. However, doing so is a huge challenge. Many companies are struggling to determine precisely where to focus their AI investments.

Here are three traps we’ve seen companies fall into in evaluating AI project proposals:

  1. Every department has a technology budget, a part of which can be used for AI projects. In most companies, the lion’s share of the technology budget is allocated to the IT department, however, that’s not always where AI can make the biggest difference. Managers should evaluate the projected ROI of proposals across departments, even if their IT budgets might not be big enough.
  2. Glamorous AI projects, such as those involving robots, can seem like a great investment because of all the attention they attract. However, AI projects with less “physical” outcomes – e.g., those that work behind the scenes to curb fraudulent transactions or boost sales by tailoring product recommendations to customers – may have greater ROI than a bunch of robots. Steer clear of investments that are glamorous but deliver small results.
  3. Remember that when AI is used as a tool to provide managers and workers with insights, it’s still up to those people to use the tool. Simply ignoring the advice that AI is giving them because it doesn’t seem right on the surface is a waste of money.

If you steer clear of the three traps above, you will be ahead of many organizations that invest aggressively but haphazardly in AI. To learn more about how to determine where to use AI in your organization, read my article Where to Turn AI and Automation Loose in Your Company, in the latest edition of our management journal Perspectives.

Ashok is Vice President & Global Head of Cognitive Business Operations at TCS. He helps organizations leverage digital technologies to reimagine their business models, products, processes, and services. He specializes in helping enterprises make major cost and operational improvements through digital transformation initiatives. Prior to this role, he headed TCS’ Business Process Services team and was responsible for more than 100 customers in North America, Asia Pacific, and other regions. He joined TCS more than 25 years ago, right after earning his Master’s degree from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Mumbai.


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