Artificial Intelligence – Is It Finally Here?

Anyone who has browsed Amazon, YouTube or Google recently might be totally unaware of the amount of artificial intelligence (AI)…

Anyone who has browsed Amazon, YouTube or Google recently might be totally unaware of the amount of artificial intelligence (AI) that they have just used, as they decide to pursue a recommended video or look at a recommended item to purchase. In these scenarios, the algorithms used to assess your past activity and influence or predict your future actions have blended into the background to become part of the experience. The same goes for consumers who use smart thermostats and alarm systems in their homes. These devices observe behavior, and build an understanding of the user, allowing for an improved experience with fewer errors or failures.

Key Fact #1: AI is already here. It is becoming cheaper and more available daily.

In truth, these technological achievements aren’t exclusive to AI. They are a hybrid of techniques whose abilities cross the boundaries to collectively serve their owners. These other techniques are machine learning (ML), which makes the observations and corrects actions accordingly, and the internet of things (IOT), which helps ensure communication between devices over the internet – something that up until now was restricted only to computers and smartphones.

Is It Intelligence or Just Fast Computing?

The term intelligence might be subject to debate and is influential in both the acceptance of and resistance to progress in this area. The true basis of AI is the capacity for high-speed, in depth computation. This is what makes facial recognition a reality, for example. Although humans are far better at recognizing a face in a crowd or inferring an emotion, AI-based facial recognition programs can compare millions of existing facial records in milliseconds, even accounting for variation in light and angle.

AI is not a single thing. It can be based on a combination of learning techniques such as:

  • Supervised learning, in which machine learning is guided by data such as a database of phonemes that would help a text-to-voice application learn how to better synthesize human speech.
  • Unsupervised learning, which lets computers detect patterns to build its own database of facts.
  • Reinforcement learning, which uses rewards and punishments, to help a computerized system learn essentially through trial and error.

Recently an AI-based art algorithm created a portrait, entitled the Edmond de Belamy, that it designed after observing over 15,000 portraits painted by humans over the past 600 years. It sold at Christies for almost half a million US dollars.

On a more pragmatic front, AI algorithms are being used for purposes such as predicting patient recovery based on medication interactions, family histories, and geographic location. Millions of AI applications already exist within a range of industries.

Jobs Are Not Disappearing, But They Are Changing

Even in the absence of true intelligence, AI is already changing the business landscape. Travel agents, for example, represent one line of business that has already been substantially impacted by AI-based travel sites that have access to far more real-time data about destinations, hotels and flights, and which can tailor the options based on data about each customer that it has already obtained from the customer or from a third party.

Key Fact #2: AI doesn’t eliminate jobs, but it does change them.

Jobs Are Not Really Disappearing
Jobs of all types will follow suit. This might mean the elimination of certain types of jobs, but that is not the same as destroying jobs. For example, many food store/supermarket chains now use self-checkout terminals, which use AI to help individual shoppers scan their groceries and cross-check the weight of these items against inventory and pricing databases. These devices appear to threaten the livelihoods of cashiers, however, each zone in which a self-checkout device is used requires human beings to take care of security (anti-shoplifting), helping customers with checkout problems, unjamming or overriding processing problems, and, further up the supply chain, designing, programming, delivering, installing, and maintaining the devices.
The jobs are not disappearing, but they are changing. Some will require additional training, but this has been the case in any industry for hundreds of years.

Jobs are Modularizing
AI also allows companies to modularize their hiring or team-management processes according to more accurate assessments of skills and availabilities. A new trend among large companies is to extend the concept of remote work by individuals to the use of remote teams. This consists of individuals, either employees or freelancers, who are pulled together as needed to work on a specific project for as long (or as short) as needed.

This dynamic team-based approach forms part of what is called the gig economy, which is best maintained and optimized through an AI interface that calculates the availability and productivity potential of freelancers as individuals and as part of the team. It is not new per se. Contractors and vendors have always been part of any economy. But it is the dynamic and highly mobile way in which it is now done that is different.

This changes the dynamic of hiring and employee retention, potentially reducing fixed payroll and benefit costs while ensuring access to qualified teams at short notice and on an as-needed basis.

The Rise of Predictive Analytics

One of the most beneficial outcomes of AI is the capacity for proactive services through predictive analytics. Sensors connected to the Internet of Things, paired with machine learning, allow for refined activities such as improved routing of trucks and ships, deployment of timely service calls for machinery, and the ordering and stocking of goods based on customer traffic and numerous other influencers. It is also better able to anticipate undesired events such as machine failures.

Key Fact #3: AI, paired with predictive analytics can change a customer’s future.

Predictive analytics helps move entire industries from reactive to proactive, ensuring that customers’ needs are met before any gap in service occurs.

How Can Organizations Embrace AI?

It is important that organizations avoid considering AI as one single event. It is equally important that the related concepts, machine learning, the Internet of Things, and predictive analytics are understood in the context of their individual abilities, but also in how they work together. Deployment of these techniques is ultimately more successful when approached as a continuous process.

Leaders and decision makers need to be able to observe their processes and their customers’ needs through the prism of innovation: How could we do this better? Where are the gaps? What are our customers doing with their time, actions and money? This, then needs to be applied to the second question – what can AI and related technologies do to improve things?

Currently, industry acceptance of AI is comparatively low, being in its early stages. Leaders and teams struggle to envision just how these technologies might fit into the status quo. In many situations, the business case is still not there – not enough information or vision is available to help paint a picture of how AI would service a business profitably in the coming years.

There is also a skills gap. Not enough people are sufficiently skilled in AI technology to reliably deliver and maintain a platform in-house.

Thus, awareness and training are key. Although AI itself is computer-based, it needs human beings in decision-making and deployment positions to ensure the system becomes a viable, going concern.

Enhanced Cognitive Skills Are Still Needed

In assessing the future of work over the coming 15 years, numerous think tanks point to an interesting parallel to AI, being the need for enhanced social and intellectual skills in the workforce. As the need for basic mechanical and functional skills is answered by intelligent automation, there will be a heightened demand for higher level cognitive abilities such as critical thinking, entrepreneurial skills and emotional intelligence.

As the intelligence of our computing machinery grows, so too will the intellectual capacities of the humans working alongside them. For example, an IT specialist who writes code has traditionally not been expected to excel in negotiation skills or organizational intelligence. A coding position has traditionally been seen as an engineering role, dealing with data, functionality and construction in a very objective manner. Yet as IT experts get called to the table to discuss security or strategy with senior management, their abilities in code writing must now be paired with the ability to discuss and influence at a much higher level.

This turns into a responsibility for companies to ensure they are delivering the types of education that will groom employees for these positions.

Building an AI platform ultimately demands that companies recognize the value of data as a dynamic, and not static, element of business, and that they set their companies and their people up to make the best use of it.

Key Impacts

  • Artificial intelligence is a combination of resources including high speed data processing, Internet of Things, machine learning, and predictive analytics
  • Jobs will change to address heightened technological and social skills
  • Embrace AI by observing customer need and questioning how it can be addressed.

Chatbots in business: the changing face of customer interaction

When we look back, even just a few years, options for using Artificial Intelligence were noticeably more limited than what is available today…

When we look back, even just a few years, options for using Artificial Intelligence were noticeably more limited than what is available today. If you were to have an online conversation with a computer five or ten years ago then the chances are you’d have found the experience more than a little underwhelming and probably not particularly effective in mimicking and effectively delivering human conversation.

Times have changed, as has the sophistication of the computing technology behind AI chatbots – it has come on in leaps and bounds. In such a relatively short period of time the technological world has been witness to significant advancements within AI due to the improved intelligence of machine learning algorithms. And so, as a result, we are now at an exciting technological AI crossroads where we find ourselves closer than ever to reaching a point whereby a customer will find it increasingly difficult to determine whether they are chatting to a bot or a human.

What is a chatbot?

A chatbbot is a piece of computing technology, a service that is powered by artificial intelligence. Chatbots enable us to connect and interact with a real-time chat interface – they are often, in business settings, used as a virtual customer service agent. A chatbot introduces a range of opportunities for an organization from saving money to improving customer care scores, which in turn helps to reinforce positive brand sentiment. Some bots may run on simpler automated answers to deal with only the most commonly asked questions, while others are developed to a higher level of sophistication.

Bots in business

Businesses worldwide are beginning to embrace and capitalize on this opportunity to more efficiently communicate, serve and advise their customer base – chatbot use in externally facing customer service functions has rocketed in recent months. However, chatbots are no longer used exclusively for external communications; bots are becoming increasingly more popular in the streamlining of internal processes and functions, and to help in the delivery and effectiveness of training.

Bots and brand

Use of chatbots, and the AI technology behind the bot, undeniably presents a range of pros – everything from improved response rates to slicker processes – but we must remember that bots also pose a few potential cons that every tech-savvy business chief really should consider before investing in new chatbot technology.

Without doubt, the single biggest consideration is the big ‘B’: brand. How does the use of a bot pose a risk to the brand you’ve established, a brand your customers have become connected to, a brand that has developed well-earned respect in its industry? Well, the use of AI intrinsically changes the provision of services. It shifts how sale processes happen – from beginning to end – and impacts how a business markets its products or services. That’s a wide scope of impact making it absolutely vital that organizations invest time and money wisely to fine-tune their chatbots before embarking on their latest AI-driven project.

Though, it is a fine line. AI is essential to developing a comprehensive understanding about brand perception and insights into how your marketing campaigns are being received by your target markets – this is particularly true of AI use on social media. But as your customer, am I happy to talk to a computer? For some, the prospect of talking to a computer rather than a fellow human feels impersonal and uncaring. Say you’ve established a brand with an ethos that centers on personal service – perhaps your personal touch has been your unique selling point? It’s understandable that your customers may feel suddenly detached from the brand they’ve previously felt connected with.

From a business perspective, you’d be missing a trick if you overlooked the capabilities and cost saving opportunities that AI presents. After all, with your chatbot you could very easily and successfully handle hundreds, if not thousands, of customer service queries at the same time, and all without the need for a large call center set-up and the associated running costs. The saving is more than significant, it’s game-changing. So the gains from a business perspective are impressive but from the perspective of a customer it’s not clear what I gain by chatting to a bot. Do I receive a faster response? Is the bot conversation more useful to me? Do I find out more? The answer is possibly but not definitely – depending on the sophistication of the chatbot you’re working with – and herein lays one of the main obstacles to effective chatbot deployment in business today.

Top five benefits of using a Chatbot

  1. Cost saving –reduces the need for a large customer service focused workforce
  2. Improves productivity –bots can handle thousands of conversations simultaneously
  3. Increases customer satisfaction –shorter waiting times and a fast response keep customers happy
  4. Strengthens brand perception -bots help you place a great customer experience back into the heart of your business, which reflects very well on your brand
  5. Accessibility –bots work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year.

Refocus customer thinking

How to overcome this issue of brand detachment? Organizations need to take the lead in pioneering a new way of thinking for a new era of business technology. The solution rests in effective communication. We know that the average customer simply wants good customer service. They want to connect with a business, ask a question and get an answer – the right answer – quickly. Your customers are likely to assume that a bot-led customer service function will offer inferior advice and present limited opportunity to ask additional follow-on questions, should they need to. By communicating to customers that your new chatbot is perfectly positioned to help answer queries quickly and concisely, that by using the chatbot they can expect to skip long queues and frustrating menu options, your transition from human to bot is simpler and less susceptible to poor uptake on roll-out.

Bots are smart

Central to the effective use of AI technology are aggregation and augmentation: concepts that introduce a degree of flexibility in how this technology is used. Instead of assuming a conversation can only take place between a human or a computer, AI and chatbots are used in unison to pull information from multiple conversations and actively learn from the insights they gain, ultimately improving their performance each and every time they operate.

And via augmentation we are able to utilize both human and bot to achieve the ultimate in customer service. Chatbots can be set-up to conduct routine conversations, answer simple, frequently asked questions and take electronic payments. A human customer service agent can then be available to handle only the most complex of customer queries. Similarly, thanks to the development of advanced sentiment analytics, bots are also able to identify when a customer becomes frustrated or angry, at which point the bot notifies its human equivalent to ensure a personal handling of the situation. Cost savings are still impressive and the balance between bot and human can help keep customer satisfaction high.

AI also allows for something called summarization – a function that enables bots to obtain, collate and utilize information quickly, such as business data and insights for internal-facing bots, and allows external-facing bots to prepare summarized information about products and services to keep the help function fast and efficient.

Every business needs a bot

Benefits to using chatbots are plentiful but among the more advanced capabilities that make bots appealing to businesses we find a host of logistical and operational benefits that make the day-to-day running of a business more effective. These benefits include a customer service function that is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year. There is no down time, no need to activate a ‘please call back’ message, and so there are no unhappy or disgruntled customers. And, secondly, unrivalled handling. Humans are great at many things but multi-tasking isn’t necessarily our strongest point. It is suggested that a human can concentrate on a maximum of four things at any one time, making call handling in a customer service center challenging. A bot, on the other hand, can hold conversations with hundreds or thousands of customers at the same time.

AI: growing in popularity

AI chatbots are becoming a popular feature in organizations large and small with recent research indicating that by early 2019 it is anticipated that a staggering 40% of organizations with over 500 employees will introduce chatbot technology to one or more business functions. This figure drops to 25% and 27% of mid and small size companies respectively, with one in four organizations planning to use bots to support team collaboration. Other uses indicated include voice to text dictation (46%), customer service (14%), and data analytics (10%). Impressive statistics that suggest the uptake of AI chatbots is beginning to accelerate simultaneously across a number of industries, irrespective of the size of the organization.

Chatbots of the future

With such advancements to chatbots in the space of just a few years, the future of the bot is open to immense possibility. Intricate and progressive algorithms currently being developed and tested bring to the fore the potential for a new level of artificial intelligence: bots that can be used in business settings to analyse and subsequently propose strategic moves to boost business performance and help tackle obstacles the business may be facing.

The sky is very much the limit when it comes to bots of the future. Many industry insiders are speculating at the vast potential of AI in the near future citing they expect bots to be advanced enough to help create and define not only marketing campaigns but the marketing messages that campaigns deliver, essentially uniting core strategy and hands-on delivery for the ultimate AI business assistant.

Others anticipate customer service bots being developed into what we could reasonably compare to management: bots that have the ability to assess and review requirements in real time, allocate resources to different business areas depending on current need, deal with and escalate customer issues accordingly and generally utilize sentiment analysis to a greater extent for optimum business results.

Okay, this is not where AI technology is just yet, but it’s on the horizon and the possibilities are beginning to seem impressive, exciting and, frankly, endless. AI chatbots and technology have such impressive scope to reinvent how we do business, how we communicate internally and externally, and how we reduce spend while improving customer service and internal processes, that business operations as we know it will change forever.

Making smart tech work for you

Research carried out by Gartner suggests that by 2020 85% of customer interactions will be managed by a bot as businesses rapidly prioritize an exploration of AI chatbots and how they could benefit them. Furthermore, Gartner’s latest CIO survey of 3160 CIOs identified that AI initiatives are one of their top five priorities fir 2018. And, with such a large scale uptake of bots it is sensible to anticipate that customers will soon grow to expect a bot interaction when they contact a company. Any organizations not prepared for rise of the bot ahead of time are likely to quickly look outdated and risk being perceived as a company that doesn’t take customer interaction seriously enough.

This new era of customer interaction will see organizations investing heavily in the research, creation and implementation of chatbot strategy – a strategy bespoke to their organization giving clear direction as to what their very own chatbot capabilities should be. With bots already placed in mainstream platforms such as Facebook Messenger and Slack, as well as in SMS, the scope for an organization to reach a new, bigger market is unprecedented.

Actioning your own chatbot project

Step one is to remember that AI chatbots are no longer just for the largest international organizations; they are accessible to businesses of all sizes. If you have the desire to introduce a bot into your organization, whether that is internal or external facing, it is achievable. The most ambitious organizations take the introduction of a chatbot system as an opportunity to redefine their communications offering, using their new bot as a way to better connect with customers and, let’s not forget, lower costs. But at the true heart of all chatbot implementation projects is innovation, exploration and an ambition to drive forward how your organization connects and utilizes technology on a daily basis. Will you use your bot to improve open rates? Maybe you are striving to achieve greater rates of engagement via your core communications avenues?  Or maybe you’re motivated by a need to bring better insight and data into, and extract from, your customer interactions?

Whatever your reasoning, whether it’s more important to your business to improve internal processes and functions or streamline the customer experience, take the time to define your goals, choose your channel for connecting the bot with customers or staff, and decide if you want to have your bot built from scratch. If you have the skillset in-house among your staff, then make the most of the understanding they have of your business. If not, call in experts who will guide you through each element and create something tailored to your needs. Begin your exploration and map out what your version of a chatbot looks like: before you know it you’ll be moving towards realizing your new – chatbot driven – future.

AI: the future of profitability?

One of the most talked-about technologies today is artificial intelligence (AI)…

One of the most talked-about technologies today is artificial intelligence (AI). Although much of the discussion is still theoretical, the technology is developing rapidly, and it has already begun to transform how some industries operate. In the past, capital investment and labour have been used to increase production and profitability. These tools have become significantly less effective over time, raising the question of whether our economic system should change, and how. Some believe that AI will be the innovation which kicks off a new industrial revolution. A forecast by Accenture suggests that AI could boost overall profitability by 38%, adding US$14 trillion in gross value added by 2025. The rise in profitability could be as much as 50% ten years later. And, although predictions are never certain, many business leaders seem to agree. The BCG and MIT Sloan Management Review has reported that 85% of global executives believe AI will give them an advantage in the marketplace. In this article, we’ll discuss exactly what AI is, and what possibilities it offers. We’ll also review who stands to benefit, how to prepare your business, and some of the emerging ethical and legal issues around AI.
What is AI? The essential goal of AI research is to create devices which can think and adapt. Traditional automation meant building a machine which could complete specific tasks. What makes AI different is that the machines and software involved are capable of learning by themselves. They have the potential not just to automate processes, but to improve, develop and even redesign them.

Insight: AI business boom

  • AI will be responsible for 85% of customer service interactions by 2020, driving up to US$33 trillion of annual economic growth.
  • Information and communications, manufacturing, and financial services will all see the biggest real-terms growth as AI becomes more integrated into their day-to-day processes.
  • Education, construction, and accommodation and food services will earn the greatest relative profit increases.

Most researchers talk about two different kinds of AI: narrow and general, also known as weak and strong. Weak AI is designed to complete a single task, such as automating a factory process, or understanding and responding to voice commands. Some tasks which used to be considered weak AI – such as computers recognizing and recording text – are now so commonplace that they are not really a part of AI research. Strong, or general, AI would be able to learn and think in a holistic way. It would not be restricted to single tasks. There is a wide range of estimates about how long it will take to develop this technology: some researchers expect general AI to exist by 2060, while others predict that it will take hundreds of years.
How can AI boost profits? According to a recent Accenture report, AI can transform industries in three ways. There’s intelligent automation, as we’ve discussed briefly above. Better automation frees up time and money – this is described as labour and capital augmentation. And finally, AI makes innovation faster and easier to implement. Automation has long been used as a way to increase profits. It can save on time and labour, helping to reduce overheads and increase productivity. Intelligent automation builds on these benefits and takes them even further. AI makes it possible to automate more and more complex processes – even in tasks which we once thought could only be performed by humans, such as teaching or customer service. It also offers the opportunity to improve automation where it is already in use, by harnessing the power of new AI technology to learn and adapt. Labour and capital augmentation is a more subtle benefit of AI, but it could still have a large impact. More and more tasks can be delegated to intelligent automation, freeing up human workers to work on more interesting and innovative projects – and increase profits overall. Thirdly, the innovative potential of AI could lead to a wave of new products, capabilities and revenue streams. By integrating AI into research and development, all industries have the opportunity to speed up change in how they operate.
Who will the big winners be?

“AI has significant implications for business managers and leaders, too. To succeed in the AI economy, businesses will need a clear, future-proof AI strategy. With new modes of working, new roles in the workplace, and new innovations powered by AI, businesses will need new ways to measure their performance. AI is going to require a fundamental change of mind-set and smart businesses will monitor its progress and think creatively.”

Although applications of AI are almost endless, some industries will reap bigger benefits than others. In addition, some countries will enjoy the advantages of AI more than others. Information and communications, manufacturing, and financial services will all see the biggest real-terms growth as AI becomes more integrated into their day-to-day processes. The benefits of augmented labour and capital, as well as innovation, will be felt strongly in these industries. Education, construction, and accommodation and food services will earn the greatest relative profit increases, as intelligent automation reduces the overheads traditionally required to operate. According to one prediction, AI will be responsible for 85% of customer service interactions by 2020, driving up to US$33 trillion of annual economic growth. The national economies with the most to gain from AI are all in North America or Northern Europe, with the notable exception of Japan. The United States, Finland and Sweden are predicted to have the biggest increases in gross value added and labour productivity with AI.
New ideas, new problems Transparency and data The development of AI goes hand in hand with the revolution in big data. Many AI programmes use a technique called “deep learning”, where they are shown a huge library of data, and taught to recognize and reproduce patterns. For example, some famous AI computers have learnt to play chess by reviewing hundreds of thousands of games. Another AI, known as Aiva, has learnt to compose music after listening to many hours of classical music. Although these might sound like party-piece demonstrations, the deep learning method can be applied in very practical ways. Collecting data about customer service interactions can teach AI how to talk to customers or predict what choices they are likely to make. Crowdsourced data and customer data could be used to super-power deep learning for specific industries and even individual businesses. However, the use of data instantly raises issues of transparency and privacy. Legislation around the world is slowly beginning to catch up to modern technologies – as with the recent introduction of General Data Protection Legislation in the European Union. It remains to be seen whether AI and data usage for AI will be covered by existing laws, or require new legislation. As well as the legal aspects, businesses must also be ready to explain their data usage and AI strategies to customers.
Jobs for people, jobs for AI Many people have raised concerns about AI replacing human workers in the economy. In the past, automation has led to job losses; intelligent automation could lead to many more. However, there are many different opinions about how significant the real impact will be. Some observers point out that after the first Industrial Revolution, new jobs developed which could not have been imagined in the days before factories. Later, the same advances in technology which made widespread automation possible also created new fields, industries and roles for workers. It seems likely that intelligent automation – and the innovation and augmentation which it brings – could deliver new opportunities for human workers. It must be said that not all forecasts are so optimistic. Some well-known figures in the world of technology, such as the computer scientist and philosopher Jaron Lanier, have warned that AI could transform our current model of employment beyond recognition. Some industry leaders and experts have suggested that governments may need to introduce a Universal Basic Income to support people whose roles have been filled by AI. Another suggestion has been Bill Gates’ so-called “robot tax”, a levy on companies using AI which would be used to fund social care.
The sci-fi scenario The final question on many people’s minds is safety. If AI is intelligent, can it be trusted? While science-fiction writers love the idea of a malevolent, all-powerful AI, most researchers think that’s an unlikely scenario. Instead, there may be in a risk from AI which is programmed to do something destructive, or which develops a destructive way to complete a task. For example, some experts have warned of a potential new arms race in “smart weapons”, such as autonomous drones which could use AI. However, other ethical problems in AI could be more subtle and mundane. In a recent experiment, a Google AI chatbot, which was using Twitter to learn about language, began to produce violent and offensive content within 24 hours. (Google has already released its own AI ethics guidelines, and the bot was quickly shut down.) Microsoft has taken the lead in discussing diversity in AI. If AI is taught to recognize faces and voices, it’s important to make sure that all faces and voices are treated equally. The risk of deep learning built on data from people is that it could reproduce biases which people have, such as racism or sexism.

Adapting to the AI reality

New leaders The advent of AI won’t just change life for ordinary workers: it has significant implications for business managers and leaders, too. To succeed in the AI economy, businesses will need a clear, future-proof AI strategy. Senior roles will change to include both managing humans and supervising AI – and this will require a mix of communication and technical skills. Finally, the data needed for effective AI makes a whole new role necessary. Accenture describes this as the “chief data supply officer”, responsible for providing, securing and monitoring data.
New metrics With new modes of working, new roles in the workplace, and new innovations powered by AI, businesses will need new ways to measure their performance. For example, processes operated by intelligent automation will still need to be supervised. Workers who are freed up for different roles by labour augmentation will have different needs in terms of supervision, evaluation, and training and development. Of course, navigating all these complex changes is justified by the potential financial benefits of using AI. Smart businesses will develop metrics to measure just exactly what those benefits are, compared to the profits and growth that would have been achieved without the introduction of AI.
New methods AI is going to require a fundamental change of mind-set. Its power to disrupt traditional ways of working means that we have to look at labour and capital assets with fresh eyes, and be ready to exploit them in unexpected ways. Technologies which allow businesses to collect and manage data on a huge scale have already transformed many industries, enabling them to target strategies and streamline operations. AI can speed up or even automate the process of interpreting data. It has the potential to work alongside humans in analysis and planning. It can also be used to take care of more mechanical tasks, freeing up human brain power and communication skills for where it is really needed. As AI develops, smart businesses will monitor its progress and think creatively about how each innovation could be applied to their own work. They will be prepared to consider original or unexpected changes to their business strategies, and they will be conscious of the balance between AI and human skills.

Welcome to Blockchain: A new era of technology

Blockchain is a technology designed to allow the movement of digital currency or assets from one person to another…

What is Blockchain?

Blockchain is a technology designed to allow the movement of digital currency or assets from one person to another. Known as a ‘chain’ due to the chain of transactions created during the process, Blockchain works to create a string of transactions that are open and public via copies of a live and synchronized open ledger, meaning everyone on the network can access the required information. This eliminates the need for a central transaction hub and instead ensures everyone can simultaneously see and validate transactions at any time.

How does Blockchain work?

It’s fair to say that you don’t need to understand how Blockchain works to be able to use it, but with Blockchain presenting arevolution in internet-based technology now’s the time to learn about the concept on which it is founded and operates, and begin to consider how it might benefit your organization.

Essentially acting as a method to record data, Blockchain relies on an open ledger – held digitally – that can be programed to record transactions. Capable of managing transactions for almost anything from contracts and agreements through to currency, the general rule is that Blockchain can be used to hold any form of data that would ordinarily need to be independently recorded.

But what makes Blockchain different to the existing methods used for transaction management is that Blockchain doesn’t rely on a virtual ledger that is stored in just one centralized place; instead it distributes the information it holds about each and every transaction to thousands of users on that same network worldwide.

Taking digital records and collating them, Blockchain bindsinformation and records together into blocks before using a process called ‘hashing’ to link – or chain – them together using sophisticated algorithms. It is during the hashing process that encryption takes places.

What are the benefits to using Blockchain?

Ultimately, for many organizations one of the biggest attractions of Blockchain is that by design it makes it more difficult for hackers to attack it. Because it is designed using a distributed model, rather than working with a centre hub of information, any potential hacker would need to be able to infiltrate every copy of the live Blockchain – of which there are thousands – at the same time in order to successfully break into the system. Given the vast and complex distribution across a worldwide network, that’s not easy to do.

From a privacy perspective, Blockchain works to ensure that all data is kept totally secure. It can achieve this because it creates a chain of transactions that can only ever be a one way process – making it impossible to convert back into its original, raw data form.

In addition to heightened fraud prevention and data protection, Blockchain also outperforms other designs by working in real-time: all information available on a Blockchain is not only available on a vast shared database but it’s updated continually to ensure every link within that chain is current, verifiable, open and wholly public.

Blockchain as the future

Thanks to its use of advanced technology and premier security features, Blockchain is fast becoming the go-to choice for organizations worldwide. Transactions are becoming lower cost, faster and more reliable thanks to Blockchain so if you’ve yet to fully explore what Blockchain can do for you and your company, now is most definitely the time to delve a little deeper into this impressive, growing and revolutionary new technology.

Taking digital capabilities to the next level

Digital technology is at the heart of everything we do. Our international client base, cross-industry…

Digital technology is at the heart of everything we do. Our international client base, cross-industry experience and established relationships with leading organizations and innovative new start-ups alike position us uniquely to consult on a myriad of digital technology projects.

We have built a reputation as one of the leading independent providers of digital transformation capabilities. Our clients come to us for the delivery of cutting-edge capabilities that fully meet their specification and timeline – without compromise.

Redefining digital

Now is the time to redefine how your business connects with key stakeholders and customers, but how do you achieve that? We work across multiple industries to help governments – local, regional and national, as well as organizations and private businesses, to rethink how they approach digital.

Our expert teams produce bespoke, integrated and sophisticated new technology solutions covering everything from analytics and strategy development to digital marketing, digital process and procedure, and mobility. With our help organizations worldwide have seen impressive improvements and proven results for their digital operations.

What digital means to us

Using our digital expertise we are able to provide consultancy on a range of current and progressive digital issues. This means we are able to assist clients across a full spectrum of digital priorities. We know that every organization is unique with individual needs and requirements and it’s why we never use a ‘one size fits all’ approach. To us, your digital journey should be as unique as the business you operate. So, wherever you are on your digital journey our team of experts can tailor a solution to ensure all aspects of your digital presence are not only covered but performing as well as they possibly can, including: how you connect with your digital customers, channels and market, as well as helping you establish your very own digital enterprise.

How we can help you

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Intelligent tech: what the Internet of Things can do for you

The Internet of Things (IoT) is essentially a huge network of intelligent ‘things’ – including devices that you might immediately…

What is the Internet of Things?

The Internet of Things (IoT) is essentially a huge network of intelligent ‘things’ – including devices that you might immediately associate with technology,such as phones and computers, but also people and more abstract or unexpected objects such as lamps, headphones, washing machines, and coffee makers. In fact, the list goes on and has the scope to incorporate almost any other type of device you can think of, including components of machines, both large and small.

But what makes these individual things part of IoT? They are connected in some way; they have forged relationships that see them communicate in ways that serve a technological purpose. That might be a connection between another thing (thing to thing) orperhaps a person (person to thing or person to person), it depends on what we want to achieve.

That’s what makes IoT such an exciting prospect – the possibilities are endless. IoT quite simply has the potential to reinvent how we use things, to transform what we can achieve with existing technology and to change the way in which we choose to do things. IoT is a force to be reckoned with and has immeasurable potential to directly impact on how we live our daily lives and conduct business.

IoT in life and business

The opportunities with IoT appear to be endless, with its full potential still currently being scoped out and explored internationally, right now. It is said that during the next few years IoT will have become so advanced that it will not only enhance the products we buy and the services we use but it will also help businesses identify and develop new streams of revenue, develop intelligent and refined production processes, improve employee productivity and streamline supply chains.

One important aspect, or rather consequence, of IoT that organizations and businesses worldwide must think about is the vast quantities of data that all ‘things’ within the IoT will generate. How will your organization collate, store, manage and analyze this new and plentiful data?

How we can help you

At ITCL we can help your organization embrace IoT by improving – or introducing – a new way to conduct business with connected devices. By doing this, your organization will be positioned, ready and able, to process data and transactions as well as realize a remarkable scope to improve essential business functions and make profit from connected IoT inspired solutions.As we continue to witness the rise of IoT and with significant growth anticipated, now is the time to get on-board and explore what IoT could mean for your business.

Using our exclusively developed ITCL proprietary tools we can offer capabilities that will take your IoT ambitions from the ordinary to the cutting-edge, as well as significantly accelerating the deployment and realization of your bespoke IoT solutions.

We have an expert team ready to help you begin your own IoT exploration and with our well-established ecosystem of industry leading partnerships we can guide and advise you on all aspects of IoT including the development of business cases, alignment of existing operational technology, managing the cultural and skill change requirements of your workforce, and creating robust, efficient and effective security solutions to ensure your IoT ambitions are successful.

We can take care of everything from creating and managing new data supply chains to the development of new analytical programmes and applications. Working across both shorter and longer-term IoT initiatives, we can help improve your operational efficiency, develop and realize new products and services, and develop outcome-based and autonomous pull economies. Our team can also develop advanced data collection tools to ensure your IoT analytics are accurate and useful to help you achieve your ambitious business plans.

Get in touch with us today to find out how we can help your organization realize its IoT ambitions.

Digital transformers: creating a new future for digital

Digital transformation is no longer a tool considered as simply existing to improve efficiency within a business…

Digital transformation is no longer a tool considered as simply existing to improve efficiency within a business, it has become something central to strategic planning and execution as businesses worldwide are investing time and money into driving their own digital transformation agenda forward at a rate faster than their peers and with vision and ambition greater than elsewhere within their industry.

Are you a digital transformer?

Typically, digital transformers:

  • Set aside up to two times the amount of digital investment for future growth than their business competitors.
  • Exceed their competitors in multiple aspects of growth indicator including sales, new products and services, and customer experience.
  • Experiment with a wider range of digital technologies to achieve their growth goals and proactively plan for greater investment to accommodate such technology.
  • Have an expectation that investment in digital technology has the power and capability to deliver significant business transformation.

Now’s the time to transform

In today’s business world it’s fair to say that every organization, irrespective of industry, is fast becoming a digital business through a combination of two things: a desire to lead rather than follow and through pure necessity.

The difference in performance and success between those that choose to lead – the transformers – and those that don’t – the followers – is that digital transformers have developed an intrinsic understanding of the importance of centering growth as the firm focus of their digital strategy: they are the strategists placing growth at the center of their investment planning. To have such an understanding is invaluable. It enables an organization to perceive the full potential and impact of digital within their business setting.

Irrespective of industry or where in the world they are based, digital transformers are working hard to realize their digital growth and investment plans. They are pace-setters and digital explorers with the confidence to deliver on their brave new digitally driven business strategies.

How we can help

By offering expert advice and guidance throughout a digital transformation initiative we work with clients to help them achieve the required repositioning of digital within their organization. It is always our recommendation that digital transformation be introduced, or realigned, to be integrated within the central business strategy. This helps to unify different strands of business priority and approaches and deliver greater clarity as to how to realize the digital transformation vision.

We encourage you to think about four key aspects related to your current business operations and the emphasis your organization currently places on digital. This will enable a more thorough and targeted exploration of transformation solutions. The four key aspects to consider are:

Your competitors

  • Are they digital transformers or followers?
  • How do they perceive and prioritise a digital approach?
  • Does digital pose any apparent threats to your business activity or reputation?
  • How could digital capabilities pull us ahead of our competitors?
  • Which of your competitors are digital successes, and why?
  • What digital technology opportunities can you identify within your organization?

Your place in the business world

  • Can you identify any new business trends and technologies that represent potential opportunity for your organization?
  • What scope and flexibility do you have regarding digital investment?
  • Consider how you manage and benefit from external partnerships that might enhance your transformation plans.

Your customers

  • Do you prefer to see your digital strategy as a way to further develop your marketing initiatives?
  • How do you identify new markets and value, specific to your industry?

Leadership and planning

  • Within your management team who should take responsibility for digital development and how will you distribute that responsibility?
  • How and who will liaise with internal and external parties regarding your new digital transformation ambitions?

Get in touch with a member of our team today to begin a discussion about how we can help you begin your own digital transformation

Investing in data foundation

For an organization to become truly data-driven it must take a step back, deconstruct and analyze existing processes and procedures…

Taking a building block approach to data

For an organization to become truly data-driven it must take a step back, deconstruct and analyze existing processes and procedures, and take the time to explore what they do and how they do it – essentially building from the ground up. It is only by working in this way that an organization can fully comprehend the steps it needs to take in order to fix data-related issues because it’s the only way to guarantee you’re working with accurate and reliable data insights that will subsequently open up a new world of opportunity; a world in which data is center to business performance – both current and future.

Data as an investment

We work with our clients to help them transform the way they use data and insights, enabling them to create opportunities to streamline data processes and embark on ambitious data monetization initiatives. This includes:

  • An assessment of the internal and external data a client currently holds and an evaluation of the data actually needed.
  • The reorganization of data to ensure all data is handled and processed correctly and sensitively.
  • Improving the ways in which internal data sources and technologies are organized – this can encompass everything from data clouds and lakes through to the very newest technologies on the market.
  • Working to data best practice by instilling a culture of trust, transparency and high standards across all elements of the data improvement project. This includes maintaining exceptional governance processes and ensuring we only work with the highest quality of data.

How we can help you

From developing a new and bespoke data analytics strategy to architecture, assurance, monetization, visualization and everything in-between we can advise, guide and collaborate with you to achieve the very best results.

  • Data discovery
  • Discovery is the audit phase of data improvement, an opportunity to identify significant business patterns and pool relevant data from organization-wide sources. We can then work from the select data, focusing on the most important data strands and begin to apply new analytical approaches. This is the first step towards creating an analytical infrastructure that will actively help you identify trends and anomalies to helpyou make informed and confident business decisions based upon solid and reliable factual insight.
  • Strategize your data approach
  • Without a clear and well-defined strategy even the most well-intentioned projects can quickly grind to a halt. We don’t conduct business without relevant strategies: sales, marketing and growth, so it doesn’t make business sense to attempt to build a new data foundation without having mapped out strategic goals and objectives, logistics, and business forecasts.
  • Our work on strategic development has seen us work with a wide range of clients to help them realize their business ambitions through tailored strategic planning. Our team brings a wealth of experience from a multitude of industries meaning we can offer incomparable insight and guidance to you and your team.
  • Achieving a data-centric culture
  • An integral part of every data strategy is to nurture a strong and accepted data culture. Working together, we will redefine your organizational approach and perspective of what data means, why it’s important and how to establish data as a core element of your business-wide strategy.
  • Effective data visualization
  • By investing in data visualization you are able to make data processes all the more efficient. Visualizations help make complex data easier to understand resulting in faster turnaround times and timely decision making. Trends and potential issues are visually highlighted to make all aspects of data review and examination more purposeful and lower risk. Visualizations help bring data to life, simplify the analysis stage and contribute significantly towards the trialling of new ideas.
  • Data architecture
  • Our clients are often looking for progressive approaches to data architecture, finding new and impressive ways to take the advancements of today one step further. For architecture that pushes the boundaries, improves data processing functionality, can handle a range of complex data components and lowers costs it is vital to fully explore how to store and share your data and how your teams utilize and access the data.
  • Data quality, assurance and governance
  • Do you know where all of your data originates from? Are you sure of its accuracy? Perhaps you aren’t even sure what data you currently hold. Where do you store your data?
  • By collating and reviewing your existing data we can create a new and improved analytics function for your organization. Our work also ensures we meet and maintain all data governance requirements, assessing risk and managing it appropriately. We firmly believe that by implementing solid data governance practice within your organization you not only protect the data but you establish your business as trustworthy and proactive.
  • Data monetization
  • You’ve created an impressive new asset: your data. And you know how to utilize it for maximum benefit, but have you taken the next step, a step towards data monetization?
  • Good quality data brings a world of opportunity. We can lead you through the data monetization process, identifying the value of data and taking the necessary steps to introduce cloud technologies to enhance your data management and integrate algorithms and AI to maximize profit and performance. New revenue streams will be identified and, with our expertise, can be put into action with great effectiveness.

Make data and analytics work for your business

We all need – and want – data to do more for us. We want it to be an enabler; to help us make speedy decisions, reduce our overall spend…

We all need – and want – data to do more for us. We want it to be an enabler; to help us make speedy decisions, reduce our overall spend, and help us to become more productive. And your data should be doing all those things. Data should be identifying opportunities missed, highlighting new sources of revenue, and helping you refine the ways in which you already conduct business.

Data as core strength

By using data in the right ways you are able to gain invaluable insight into all areas of your business – from the turning cogs of your supply chain to customer engagement and point of sale transactions 24 hours a day, seven days a week, wherever you are in the world.

This same data has the ability to generate a wealth of information, specific to your business; information that is immediately available and can be used to identify and implement real change – improvements to your customer service, faster production, and sophisticated fraud detection.

Data is the stronghold at the centre of your business, it holds endless possibilities to prepare for the future and develop opportunities and initiate innovation before your competitors.

So how do you use your data to make the most of this new world of opportunity? Let us help. We’ll capture, analyze and bring to the forefront the hidden potential within your business – real progress with astounding results.

What we can do for you

  • Start strong
  • It’s near impossible to develop high quality analytics if you don’t have complete trust in your data. Your data is the sole driver in you making important business decisions, so it’s vital that the data used is accurate and complete. What does good data look like? It’s tailored to your needs, well managed, organized, and detailed. We are on-hand to help you develop bespoke strategies, improve your in-house processes, and reposition you as a data-centric organization.
  • Data as identifier
  • The incredible thing about data is its potential to change our business behaviour. By its very nature, data empowers us to become proactive rather than reactive. It helps us identify threats to our business before they happen, and allows us to collate are review trends within our business so we can streamline our processes and planning for maximum optimization. Together, we can help you adjust the way in which you use data and turn it into a powerful business tool.
  • Become more data efficient
  • When we use data efficiently we use data more effectively. Not only can operations be managed with more targeted purpose but we can grow our business at an accelerated rate by developing industry-leading business practice across the board from marketing to production and sales. Improved efficiency will only ever help drive profits up, and who doesn’t want that?
  • A world of new opportunity
  • The unique and brilliant thing about data is that it has unrivalled potential to always drive new opportunity. Whether we use data to inform innovation or develop a new technology, we can work with you to identify, test and trial the most exciting innovative ideas out there.

A future of data innovation

Data and analytics have proven themselves to be continually progressive and in every way one of the most exciting and thriving areas…

Think outside the box to discover a new world of innovation
Data and analytics have proven themselves to be continually progressive and in every way one of the most exciting and thriving areas driving the acceleration in technology advancement. Every day we see the thinking behind data and analytics changing; it’s new thinking and it’s paving the way for new trends and innovativeapproaches.

The future of data is just around the corner as new thinking takes hold. Within the next few months, and throughout the next few years, the data landscape will begin to look impressively different as innovation sees businesses use data and analytics in ways we can currently only imagine.

That’s where we come in. Our clients want and need to be at the forefront of the newest data-driven advancements so we work to identify the most suitable opportunities out there, sifting out the irrelevant and prioritising only the most beneficial. Put simply, we find innovation that’s the right fit for your business.

What we can do for you

  • Analysis and planning
  • Our experienced team can help you plan, manage and deliver your innovation project. Using our industry expertise we can connect you with the right people to ensure your project gains and maintains the momentum it needs to succeed.
  • By staying on top of the very latest developments and trends we gain an unparalleled understanding of the newest data thinking, we invest time into establishing partner relationships, and stay updated on all cutting-edge technologies to ensure your innovation project is fully tailored to meet your needs.
  • Experimentation and trialling
  • Exploration is at the heart of everything we do: if you don’t take time to explore you’ll never know the full extent of what’s possible. We work with our clients – from a number of industries worldwide – to push boundaries and take an idea from concept to laboratory to reality. We explore, test, and deliver proof of concept so our clients are confident in their idea before taking it to the next level.
  • Developing a solution
  • We know that sometimes you need to make immediate improvements to help your business progress. It’s why we actively develop practical solutions – including apps and platforms – that can quickly and effectively resolve some of the most common problems our clients identify.
  • Turning data into commercial enterprise
  • Many of our clients ask us for help in realizing the commercial value of their data and analytics. In doing this, we identify new revenue streams and find practical and profitable ways to put them into action. With our expertise we can help you make the most of your data-centric business opportunities.
  • Innovation Pulse Point
  • We’ve helped you make your innovative idea a reality, but what next? How do you ensure you keep your innovative thinking fresh and on-trend?
  • With our help your business can have its very own in-house laboratory to ensure the continuation of new thinking, experimentation and innovation. Our team can help develop and establish your laboratory and implement the necessary processes, skills and governance needed to make your Innovation Pulse Point a significant asset to your business activity.