Artificial Intelligence

An AI Guide For Actual Business People

That’s the question Information Management industry influencer Alan Pelz-Sharpe thinks he may have answered in his new book, Practical Artificial Intelligence – An Enterprise Playbook (co-authored with Kashyap Kompella. We sat down with Alan recently to find out more.

Practical Artificial Intelligence

Hi Alan, and thanks for agreeing to talk to thedmcollaborators about Practical Artificial Intelligence – An Enterprise Playbook. I guess our first question would be, why did you and Kashyap write this now?

I have been involved to some degree or other in the world of AI for many years, but I was very frustrated at the overly technical and academic nature of the work that tends to get published on the topic; essentially, it was all for tech insiders – yet AI is for business, and needs to be owned, and run, by business people.

Add to that the ridiculous hype that AI marketing has generated, and I really wanted to be a counterbalance to that craziness. So, my book aims to fulfil the need to make AI accessible to anyone in business thinking of using it… free of advanced mathematics and unnecessary technical explanations – something practical, pragmatic and down to Earth. Equally, if not more importantly, something that also pointed out the many potential pitfalls of using AI.

Interesting, and I am sure many of us agree there’s a need for such a tool. You say it’s a practical guide – which is great, but who is your ideal reader here… Is this for the Information Manager, or a different part of the leadership function in an organisation?

It’s for the Executive, the Project Manager, or the project team member – though I would like to think it is also of value to the Data Scientist! So the book takes you through the process of forming a strategy, running and staffing a project, etc. – but it also explains, in the simplest of terms, the various technical models used for AI.

The goal really is to empower you to have a constructive and informed role in the technical selection of products and methods. And a big message I’m trying to deliver is that there is no one AI; ‘AI’ is just a blanket term for many different approaches, some of which are a fit for your needs, and others will not be.

OK. On that practical basis, Alan, can you pick out 2 of the most compelling case studies you looked at to tell us how AI can really make a difference?

Its content and structure is all derived from real life projects. I guess if there are two to highlight, there is the disaster of the Microsoft Tay chatbot that had to be taken offline for being tricked into displaying racist answers. Tay should be a warning to anyone thinking AI is the answer to all their dreams! The second, I’d say, is the use of AI to be highly effective in handling mundane but essential back office tasks, like the capture of multiple different forms, documents, styles and formats.

Thanks. I do have to say, Alan, we are in a time of constrained budgets in many organisations. What is the ‘Minimum Viable Product’ approach to doing AI right that can get a thedmcollaborators community member some early successes?

Start small – but start now. Target AI at error-ridden, messy, manual information activities. AI gets better over time, it learns and improves. That’s in direct contrast to almost any other business software product that tend to decrease in value and accuracy over time. So if you start early and plan carefully, you can actually do a lot on a very limited budget.

Great stuff! Final question: how do I know when I have made a difference with AI in my environment?

Great question! If you implement AI in your organisation, trust me on this, you will make an obvious difference very quickly! But if you don’t implement/plan correctly for AI, the difference could be complete and utter disaster.

AI is very powerful – and, in the words of Uncle Ben from Spider-Man,“With great power comes great responsibility”!

Thank you for your time today, Alan, and good luck with the book.

Alan Pelz-Sharpe is the founder of Deep Analysis, an advisory firm focused on disruption and innovation in Information Management. Deep Analysis provides research and guidance to firms looking to leverage new technologies and to make a digital transformation.

Alan has over 25 years of experience in the IT industry, working with a wide variety of end-user organisations and suppliers around the world. He was formerly Research Director for Business Applications at 451 Research, a partner at The Real Story Group, ECM Consulting Director at IT outsourcing services firm Wipro and VP for North America at industry analyst firm Ovum.

He is regularly quoted in both national and business & technology press including TechCrunch, The Wall Street Journal and The Guardian, and Alan is a regular expert guess on the BBC, CNBC and ABC.

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