New circumstances require that we find new ways of doing things. Because of the current global health crisis, I had to do something I’ve never done before: deliver a full keynote from a spare, upstairs bedroom in my house. It occurred to me that a fitting start to my speech would be to welcome everyone to my home!
I have to say it was quite a different experience speaking to an audience of industry leaders without having actual people in the room. I love the energy that flows from connecting with live audiences – although I have to say the unconditional acceptance from my dog Buddy, who attended from start to finish, was a welcome morale boost! The keynote I gave, “Building an AI-Powered Organization,” was a part of today’s Imagining the Future virtual summit about AI.
Circumstances in the world over the past few months have forced all of us to try things we’ve never done before. Life and business, as we know it, have been disrupted. Now is the time to think through how we can innovate and transform our way of doing business going forward. The next 12 to 18 months will be a critical defining period for many businesses, and artificial intelligence will most certainly will be a catalyst.
Right now, helping your business survive may be top of mind, as you focus on process optimization, cost efficiencies, safeguarding your customer base and mitigating risk. AI technologies available today can bolster your efforts in each of these areas. Yet, as you work to find your organization’s new normal amid economic uncertainty, you have the potential to redefine your business – and to transform your organization’s potential.
To transform is to embrace the potential of “what if.” As you respond to the challenges your business is now facing, let yourself also reimagine what’s possible. Consider how you can tailor innovation to your organization’s unique value – and how incorporating AI into your solutions and your strategy can enable every person in your organization to use technology in meaningful and relevant ways.
Solving today’s problems
Starting right now, you can find and cultivate market-making opportunities that will help you overcome today’s tremendous disruption and challenges, setting you on a path toward becoming an AI-powered organization. Through our work with customers, we have seen many ways in which AI can make a meaningful impact. We see it as particularly useful at this time in three key areas:
The integration of AI technologies can help optimize business processes, which can find efficiencies, reduce costs and ultimately generate new revenue. That’s what it did for Piramal Glass, which used AI models for real-time monitoring and insights to detect product anomalies and defects, ultimately improving production efficiency and product quality.
AI can help empower employees and increase productivity by reducing the time spent on repetitive tasks, as well as facilitating machine teaching and reinforcement learning. In early trials with Microsoft autonomous systems solution Project Bonsai, National Oilwell Varco (NOV) reduced machine downtime and costs. Experienced machinists trained industrial control systems using machine teaching, optimizing the workflow – and the time – of both experienced machinists and less-skilled operators.
And AI tools can improve customer service with end-to-end customer management, proper lead routing and triage and real-time behavior prediction and data monitoring. Australian Red Cross began work early this year on a system to connect volunteers with vulnerable individuals, and was able to quickly shift focus to connect volunteers with individuals who are self-isolating during the COVID-19 pandemic.
As the Red Cross example shows, the potential for AI is particularly relevant now in healthcare. Business process optimization can help ensure critical medical supplies are available where they’re needed and when, and tools to increase productivity mean healthcare workers and researchers can augment their expertise to help them solve the biggest challenges of this pandemic while they make the most efficient use of their time and skills.
In customer service, Microsoft’s Healthcare Bot service has been used by public service and health organizations on the frontlines of the COVID-19 response, reaching more than 39 million people.
I am impressed by the agility and speed with which so many organizations have risen to the current challenges and have adapted their existing business practices to accommodate new requirements. It’s fascinating to see how technology has been fundamental to the changes and ways they are innovating to meet the needs of doing business differently today.