From personal assistants like Amazon’s Alexa to movie suggestions on Netflix, artificial intelligence (AI) is becoming a permanent fixture in our lives. The highly talked about technology has generated a huge amount of hype – and rightly so. Artificial intelligence allows us to perform tasks that, until now, have required a human touch such as speech and image recognition and complex decision-making. Essentially, this makes it a valuable tool for almost any industry vertical. Many businesses seem to agree and are putting their wallets behind the innovation. In fact, IDC forecasts that worldwide spending on AI systems will reach a whopping $25.8bn in 2019, up 44% from the year before.
Capgemini has also sung the praises of AI; in its 2017 research, the firm found that seven out of ten organisations surveyed are gleaning significant benefits including increased operation efficiency (78%) and enhanced employee productivity (77%). “AI has increasingly been considered as a major disruptor,” poses Lanny Cohen, Chief Innovation Officer of Capgemini. “The pervasiveness and the impact of AI is something greater than we’ve seen with any other technology introduction. It’s going to be ubiquitous and it’s really going to affect the fundamentals of businesses whether that’s their culture, processes, talent or partner ecosystem.”
Not everyone has tackled the challenge of AI with gusto though. Cohen contends that some people “are a little bit in denial and think AI may just be another fad” whereas others are holding out to see where the market goes and hoping to “jump on the bandwagon when the time comes”. Then there’s another chunk of the market which may be at the prototyping stage or even seriously attempting AI at scale. Regardless of the tactic though, many are facing the same difficult questions: what kind of skills do I need, what business outcomes should I focus on and, perhaps most importantly, am I prepared for an AI-enabled future?
“My one piece of advice would be to start now,” asserts Cohen. “We certainly advocate experimentation but I think if you focus on various solutions you could create siloes and forget about the robust foundation that is going to be instrumental to your business in the future.” Amidst warnings about the ‘war for talent’, Cohen also underscores the importance of making your business attract to data scientists. “Their skills are highly coveted and there’s not a lot of them in the world,” he observes. “Their first stop will likely be the Google’s and Amazon’s of the world and then startups which are doing innovative projects with AI. Finally their third stop will be global traditional enterprises. Therefore, it’s important traditional companies make themselves attractive to data scientists or that they figure out where they’re going to get that skill set from.”
As headlines about AI ethics splash across the front pages of the newspapers, Cohen also highlights how companies will have to take a more ethical and responsible approach to AI. To do this, they’ll need to safeguard their confidential high-profile data and in an age of GDPR and privacy — the stakes are high. “It’s not something a CTO or CIO alone can answer,” he says. “I think you’re going to see the rise of Chief Ethics Officers or Chief Trust Officers emerging because these topics are enterprise-wide. I think more and more customers and employees are going to want to work for trusted brands and enterprises and as AI starts to become the norm, it’s going to become an even bigger discussion point.”
This year, Capgemini made its own foray into the world of AI with the launch of Perform AI, a portfolio of solutions which aids businesses as they try to exploit the opportunities of the up-and-coming technology. The portfolio has three different dimensions: the first is called AI Transform and “revolves around solving problems in any industry or use case whether that’s improve customer service in the financial services sector or improving clinical trials in life sciences,” says Cohen. Elsewhere, Capgemini’s AI Reimagine solutions aim to “reimagine a businesses’ product, services, business models, processes or experiences to help them imagine a different kind of future.” Last but not least, Cohen outlines AI Activate. “This is the one that really excites us because it’s quite different to what others are doing in the market,” he says. “This solution is helping companies come up with an AI strategy and preparing them for an AI future. It’s helping companies build their technology infrastructure for AI and it’s also look at issues like talent. As well as this, it’s also looking at how businesses can partner and engage with startups and how the technology may impact the company culture.”
A recent study from the Capgemini Research Institute pointed out how a mix of anxiety and ill-informed opinion is obscuring the risks and opportunities of implementing AI, however, with its latest portfolio of solutions Cohen believes Capgemini is well-equipped to offer a helping hand. “I think with its capabilities in strategy and consulting all the way through to managed services, Capgemini is uniquely positioned to help companies ready themselves for AI. We have a strong ecosystem of partners and startups, but I think the secret sauce is that our culture and legacy is deeply rooted in technology and innovation. One consistent piece of feedback that we always get is that, when it comes spotting and responding to trends, Capgemini tends to be one of the first movers.”
When it comes to research, consultancy or digital transformation, it’s clear Capgemini is on the top of its game, reporting global revenues of €13.2bn ($14.8bn) in 2018. Looking forward, as AI continues to dominate the conversation, the firm is aligning itself to lead the charge. “We believe in an AI-first world,” reflects Cohen. “We don't believe AI is just a myriad of solutions; we believe it's a way of doing business. It's pervasive, it's ubiquitous and with our solutions we’re helping companies really implement AI into the fabric of their enterprise.”