There's no doubt that AI adoption is increasing, in fact, a recent article from Forbes stated that 80 percent of business are investing in AI. Oracle CEO Mark Hurd agrees and is betting the fortunes of Oracle on the fact that more than half of enterprise data will be managed autonomously by 2020. “The future is autonomous,” Hurd told the audience, during his keynote speech at Oracle CloudWorld in New York. 

If you like some, and are in the "AI isn't mature enough" or "we don't need it in our niche" category here are some thoughts from the experts and practitioners on why now is the time to be looking at how AI could impact your industry, disrupt your business or give you a leg up on the competition.

Increasing AI Adoption Across All Industries

What that means, Hurd said, is that Oracle will be using machine learning to make app and data integration, analytics and system and identity management autonomous. But it’s not the only company that has been doing that. New York-based IBM has also been building its AI capabilities. So has Salesforce, while M-Files bought Apprento to add muscle to its information management strategy last year. Microsoft, Google and Amazon, of course, have also been investing heavily.

In December, Tractia, a market intelligence firm that focuses on human interaction with technology released research into the value of the AI market over the coming years. Tractica’s report, “Artificial Intelligence Market Forecasts”, provides a quantitative assessment of the market opportunity for AI software, hardware, and services. The report includes market sizing, segmentation, and forecasts for 266 AI use cases distributed across 29 industries.

The report points out that the rising tide of AI adoption across multiple industries will drive significant growth during the next decade with AI software potential revenues increasing from $3.2 billion in 2016 to $89.8 billion by 2025. This forecast is a significant upgrade of Tractica’s previous projection for AI market revenue, which was published in the second quarter of 2017, due to an improved outlook for a number of specific use cases across multiple industries.

The report also points out that compared to a few years ago, the artificial intelligence (AI) market is starting to solidify around real-world applications with the pace of change being faster than it ever has been before, as startups and technology providers rush to create platforms and targeted niche solutions for solving specific enterprise problems. “Artificial intelligence is already key to how consumer internet companies operate today, allowing them to roll out hyper-personalized services by following an ‘AI first’ strategy. The rest of the market in the enterprise and government sectors is still catching up on adopting AI and has yet to fully understand its value, including the breadth and depth of use cases, the technology choices surrounding AI, and the implementation strategies,” said Aditya Kaulm, research director with Tractia. 

Related Article: 8 Examples of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the Workplace

AI Helping to Drive Customer Engagement

Andy Peart is Chief Strategy and Marketing Officer at Artificial Solutions, a multinational software company that develops and sells natural language interaction products for enterprise and consumer use. He says enterprises don’t really have a choice, but to deploy AI. “AI is no longer a future strategy for businesses. Businesses that act now and apply their own natural applications will not only have a closer interaction with their customers, but will remain in control of the future of their business,” he said. He cites a Narrative Science report that shows that just 38 percent of the companies surveyed used artificial intelligence in 2016 but by 2018, this percentage will increase to 62 percent

AI can be used to drive customer engagement and gather data for businesses to better understand their customers’ wants and predict their needs. Businesses can use AI for conversational marketing to drive customer engagement and build brand loyalty, that will positively impact the bottom line. “People are becoming very comfortable with virtual assistants. 66 percent are using voice assistants more now that when it first started.  Conversational platforms will shift the UX complexity. No longer do we as humans need to understand how to use technology. It will understand us, whatever our language, terminology or what we ask for, or about,” said Peart.

Learning Opportunities

AI Integrations Increasing

Every organizations tech stack is different so managing integrations of these different technologies will be increasingly important. Richard Smullen is founder and CEO of Pypestream, an organization that provides software that strengthens relationships with customers through the company's mobile messaging platform, says that companies that want to stay relevant will have to adopt AI in some form or another if they don’t want to be disrupted. 

The technology needs to be used wisely and the reality is that AI is just one component of a much bigger solution. “AI on its own can’t create any real value unless it’s fully integrated. Companies need to decide on the best use-cases for AI that will have the biggest impact.  [However] ultimately, using AI for the sake of being able to say you use AI will not," Smullen said.

Related Article: Why the Benefits of Artificial Intelligence Outweigh the Risks

Help With the Skills Shortages

AI, even in its current form, though, has the capability of compensating for significant deficiencies in the enterprise, particularly around skills shortages and providing top customer experiences. Mark Brewer is the global industry director for Service Management at IFS, a global enterprise applications company. He said that AI addresses the question of skill shortages and the AI-powered approach is going to get increasingly important not just in terms of the quality of service organizations can deliver, but in the context of growing skills shortages in industry.

In a recent global IFS Digital Change Survey of 150 decision makers in the service industry, “recruiting/training/retaining skilled technicians” was rated as the greatest inhibitor to growing service revenue, with over a quarter (28 percent) of organizations claiming to feel either slightly or totally unprepared to deal with the skills deficit. Additionally, AI can ease the burden of uncomplicated queries. “Many calls into a service helpdesk are uncomplicated queries, like establishing opening hours, or determining when an engineer is due to arrive, which means they are simple enough to be answered by a bot,” he said. This drives significant potential for companies to connect AI-powered voice assistants behind the scenes to enterprise software with capabilities such as self-service diagnostics or scheduling optimization engines, to automatically offer appointment slots. This can both make businesses more effective and lighten the load for a stretched contact center agent workforce.

As a final thought, the founder and CEO of eXalt Solutions, Leslie Swanson, says that the pace of today's business is many times faster than just a decade ago and there is only going to be the quick and the dead. She explains that one of her biggest challenges right now is helping customers understand that they don't have a couple of years to figure out how to use AI and digitally transform their business. “We have to get our customers to stop doing business as usual and act now. It is critical that companies take action this year to leverage AI to create frictionless customer experiences and agile back office processes. So, it’s not a matter of should we deploy AI, it’s a matter of why haven't we?” said Swanson.