Artificial intelligence

Eight strategies to prepare for AI in your business

‘We believe that AI is poised to transform business in ways we have not seen since the impact of computer technology in the late 20th century’

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 15 July, 2017, 11:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 15 July, 2017, 11:00am

Hong Kong is positioning itself as a regional centre for innovation. We have become a hub for technology summits such as this week’s Rise conference and a base for fintech accelerators and start-ups, which house themselves in Cyberport.

Encouraging innovation makes good business sense. Consider artificial intelligence. New research from Accenture reveals that businesses that successfully apply AI could increase profitability by an average of 38 per cent by 2035.

AI is a shining example of innovation. Accenture defines artificial intelligence as a constellation of technologies that allow machines and systems to sense, comprehend, act and learn so that, when integrated together, they can create a highly adaptable, nimble business capability. It includes a combination of multiple technologies – including computer vision, natural language processing, machine learning, deep learning, knowledge representation, expert systems, biometrics and video analytics – and far beyond to things we, and the machines, have not even created yet. In fact, what is and is not AI is ever-changing. Once AI brings in a new technology and it becomes mainstream, people become accustomed to it. And then very quickly it stops being considered AI, and newer technology emerges.

That is the beauty of innovation – first it is breathtaking, sometimes bordering on appearing impossible. And then it is taken for granted.

We believe that AI is poised to transform business in ways we have not seen since the impact of computer technology in the late 20th century. The combinatorial effect of AI, cloud, sophisticated analytics and other technologies is already starting to change how work is done by humans and computers and how organisations interact with consumers in startling ways.

According to our findings, information and communication, manufacturing and financial services are the three sectors most likely to benefit from AI – and these are key industries in Hong Kong.

So how should organisations approach AI for growth, profitability and sustainability?

Regardless of industry, companies have a significant opportunity to apply AI and invent new business capabilities for growth, profitability and sustainability. To prepare for a successful future with AI, business leaders should consider the following eight strategies:

• AI strategy and leadership – attaining value from AI will demand recognition and action from the top of the company so the benefits must be made tangible to the C-suite and a roadmap is essential.

• Reinvent HR into HAIR – the chief human resources officer’s role will not only be about managing human employees, but will evolve to also manage the human-machine interaction, or human AI resources (HAIR).

• Learn with machines – to adapt their businesses to the changing nature of learning and employee training, business leaders must focus on the needs of their workforces, particularly in the area of agile skills development.

• Appoint a chief data supply chain officer – this position will be needed to construct an integrated, end-to-end data supply chain.

• Create an open AI culture – trust, openness and transparency are key for human and machine relationships to work well and business leaders must shape the corporate culture and guidelines to minimise the risks of a hybrid workforce while maximising the opportunities.

• Take the crowd into the cloud – the next phase of innovation will combine crowd-sourced data in the cloud with AI capabilities to create new and disruptive business opportunities.

• Step beyond automation – with recent strides in AI, companies need to take a step beyond to harness the intelligence of dynamic, self-learning and self-governing machines.

• Measure your return on algorithms – unlike traditional assets that depreciate over time, AI assets gain value as time passes so chief financial officers will need new financial metrics to properly assess the “return on AI”, which could include the value generated from each algorithm or a combination of initial outlay and ongoing costs.

Managers need to embrace innovative solutions such as AI to ensure their companies stay ahead – and up to speed with the innovation that Hong Kong is embracing.

Leo Ng is the managing director of Hong Kong Accenture’s office