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AI: Think big, start small, scale fast...

Or risk being left behind
Ant Tyler

“Artificial intelligence is poised to unleash the next wave of digital disruption, and companies should prepare for it now”.

This is the word from Craig Rodger, Microsoft’s Technical Solutions Professional for Data and AI. Speaking at the recent AI Summit VIC in Melbourne, he encouraged businesses to get started on their AI journey now and consider it an experiment initially. “Predict and forecast less. Don’t spend time trying to find all the answers,” he said, “just get started.”

This is a common theme nowadays from AI evangelists and futurists. Jade’s Head of Digital, Eduard Liebenberger, points out that AI-facilitated change is inescapable. He suggests it should be understood and embraced instead. “The only constant in life is change,” he says. “But change means uncertainty and uncertainty can be scary.”

 

AI augments human effort

He explains that AI is nothing more than pattern detection within a dataset. Feedback is taken on board each time. And, over time, this pool of understanding grows. But this doesn’t mean that AI is a big scary beast that will become so smart it’ll take over the world.

Eduard stresses that it’s here to help us and prefers to call it ‘Assisted Intelligence’. “It’s not about the technology, it’s about how it can improve our human experience,” he explains.

This sentiment is echoed by Andrew Littleford, Chief Technology Officer at Toll Group. Speaking in a panel discussion at the AI Summit VIC, he commented that businesses are redeploying staff as a result of the introduction of AI.

However, he pointed out this is more an augmentation of human effort rather than a replacement. It frees up capacity and allows people to be redeployed into other, more valuable, areas of a business.

So, how do you find where AI can augment or assist humans within the workplace? Craig Rodger said that businesses often approach this question from the wrong angle; by taking AI and seeing where they can apply it.

 

Technology has reduced the barriers to entry for AI

“However, this is the wrong goal,” he said. “You need to find the problem, identify someone to solve it and then find the right tool. Sometimes it will be AI, other times not.”

When an AI solution is appropriate though, he said a big barrier to entry is when a business case gets too large. “A high start-up cost is a barrier to entry. To experiment you need a low start-up cost. Thankfully, open-source software and accessibility via the cloud have reduced these barriers and made AI more accessible to businesses.”

This helps AI initiators within organisations get stakeholder buy-in and executive sign off for their initial forays into artificial intelligence. As Craig said: “Think big, start small, scale fast. It’s all about getting short-term wins and building on these.”

Eduard Liebenberger says it’s important to not get “analysis paralysis”. And, while it’s good to have big goals, it’s surprisingly quick and cost-effective to start harnessing the power of AI.



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