walking past the hype
Too many of the promises of AI will disappoint us in the hear and now. But that doesn't mean it won't deliver down the line PHOTO: Big Ed Mustapha

The vast majority of us are living in an artificial intelligence (AI) bubble. Indeed, it seems like the very notion of AI has recently undergone something of a makeover.

It wasn’t too long ago that AI belonged to the realm of science fiction, whereas many have come to view it as a business imperative today. Now, consumer applications like Alexa and Siri hog the headlines, and people are falling over themselves to tell you how AI will forever change the way we work.

Overhyped or Underappreciated?

The truth, though, is that most of this AI bubble is overhyped. Many of the applications being discussed will turn out to be completely impractical when it comes to adding tangible business value. 

For example, new deep learning solutions may be the vanguard of a brand-new age of technical capability, but the reality is that right now, those solutions are simply touching the edge cases of business value

In fact, there are a number of proven AI use cases that have been in operation for many years now. However, many of them are under-hyped — and therefore, underappreciated — because we still tend to think of AI as something radical and new. In reality, Alan Turing’s work at Bletchley Park in the 1940s was all about making computers artificially intelligent, and computers have been able to automate simple tasks for decades.

Tying AI to Business Value

More recently, AI has been proven to deliver meaningful business value for leading organizations around the world. Traditionally, we’ve spoken about this as decision management software that combines data-driven analytics and human-configured rules to identify the next best available action to take. But by any definition, this is AI — because of the machine learning component that’s there.

For many years now, decision management has played an important part in helping blue-chip organizations of all descriptions forge stronger customer relationships and manage their resources more effectively to improve operational efficiency and increase profitability.

The Future Belongs to Pragmatic AI

This is what Forrester calls ‘pragmatic AI’. It might not have the wow factor of a robot butler, a talking toaster or even deep learning technology, but it nevertheless manages to cut through the AI hype to provide meaningful impacts for businesses in the here and now.

While it can be easy to get sidetracked by the latest shiny tech, businesses have to consider whether or not the technology is available to help them to extract business value. Of course, this value can come in numerous ways: one company could use pragmatic AI to retain existing customers, while another could use it to maximize resources by automating specific repetitive processes.

Think Business Outcomes, Not Technology

The fact remains that the technology itself is irrelevant because it’s only a means to an end, a tool that enables you to reach a business outcome. Of course, none of this is to say that some of the cutting-edge technology that currently resides in the AI hype bubble won’t have significant business applications in the years to come.

Clearly, voice and language recognition will have an important part to play for enterprises as they look to interact with customers. For example, more sophisticated chatbots that can support new channels and maintain conversations across a number of different platforms in natural, conversational ways, will only improve the customer experience.

Don't Believe the AI Hype

For now, though, it’s important not to buy into all of the AI hype we’re seeing today, while at the same time, appreciating the tried and tested aspects of AI technology that have already worked for so many.

AI is ready to add value to your business today, and the truth is that many organizations have been using it for years without even realizing it. So do yourself a favor and jump in — but be sure to tune out the hype before you do.