Business Success Requires Artificial Intelligence

By Greg Smiley, CIO, Florida Department of Transportation

Greg Smiley, CIO, Florida Department of TransportationGreg Smiley, CIO, Florida Department of Transportation

As consumers, we experience the benefits of artificial intelligence in our lives as it seamlessly integrates into our daily activities. We are aware of the potential for this technology to transform our organizations in a similar fashion, but still struggle to identify where and how we can use it to generate business value. This has certainly been the trend for some time, but artificial intelligence is now a fundamental requirement for the success of your organization. It is no longer an option. Those that can leverage it will survive and thrive, while those that are unable or unwilling will fall far behind.

Like cloud computing, the term itself is nebulous enough to elicit unrealistic expectations from executives. When they get past that, they encounter uncertainty at a level that is very uncomfortable. How can artificial intelligence support better business decisions when the decision maker can’t explain how the machine came to that answer? There aren’t too many leaders that are willing to make crucial decisions based on results from a magical black box. As the hype cycle predicts, the trough of disillusionment sets in after the initial peak of inflated expectations.

This rollercoaster isn’t new when it comes to artificial intelligence. Throughout recent history, AI has experienced several of these cycles. In the 1950s, the field of research experienced a significant boom when it received an influx of government spending. This was an AI “summer.” In the 1970s, it experienced a “winter” when funding dried up after hardware limitations were reached and government lost interest or patience in research. Artificial Intelligence, as a field of study, has continued to experience seasonal cycles throughout the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s. So what has changed? Why is this AI summer different, and why is it now imperative for business success?

The absolute best indicator for where government organizations are headed is by observing the consumer market. This drives customer expectations and forces functional areas within the organization to adapt. With artificial intelligence becoming more ubiquitous than it has ever been, this will drive expectations. More people are familiar and comfortable with it in their daily lives. Not only are they comfortable with it, they expect it.

Exponential improvements in storage, bandwidth, cloud, and edge computing bring transformative innovations within reach. The quality of AI is directly dependent on the amount of data that can be processed. These improvements allow us to make models that are actually capable of digesting the information. At the end of the day, artificial intelligence is mostly a healthy dose of statistics with some optimizations sprinkled in; it gets smarter with more data.

The speed of digital transformation in everything your organization does requires a new approach to keep up. The cadence of modern technology mandates a level of technical agility that is difficult to achieve and sustain without the use of algorithms designed for uncertainty, and it is only going to speed up.

It is this last point that will force organizations into a feedback loop. Digital transformation is fueling artificial intelligence through the need to support faster business decisions. Conversely, artificial intelligence is fueling the need for more data, which is a catalyst for digital transformation. This symbiotic relationship will fundamentally change how people work and ultimately lead to better business outcomes for those organizations who dare to embrace it.

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