Preparing for change

Autonomous AI, the new necessity

Abhishek Bhattacharya
© Shutterstock / Billion Photos

Not implementing AI in some form could mean literally the end of your business as competitors pass you by. AI isn’t taking jobs away; in fact it actually might increase job satisfaction by taking over redundant, mundane tasks.

Autonomous IT processes are attractive for their ability to save money and create greater efficiencies. However, as issues with self-driving cars have made clear, automated technologies still need work.

Organizations may want to reap the benefits of such technology but are wary of implementing it for fear that it will hinder rather than help. In this light, there are several important elements to consider.

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The benefits of autonomous AI

The data deluge continues to hit organizations hard. Data complexity is mushrooming while hiring or reskilling workers to manage it has essentially flatlined. IT departments are grappling with many issues, all at the same time, along with outages and hacks.

So naturally, smaller issues get pushed down to the “things to deal with later” list and often get lost in all the noise. These smaller issues or symptoms are typically indicative of a larger problem not much different than a tumor growing inside an organization’s network. The tumor could be manageable if detected early but often escapes detection by tired and overworked eyes and causes systemic and irreversible damage once it turns cancerous.

This results in data or business loss such as an eCommerce outage, a payment gateway failure, stock-outs in retail stores, and so on.

In addition, the number of skilled analysts you would need to examine every signal coming from your IT system simply does not exist. IDC predicts that the sum of the world’s data will grow to 175 zettabytes in 2025 – a compounded annual growth rate of 61%. It’s practically impossible for humans to tackle this on their own, all of the time and with 100% accuracy and speed. Organizations of almost any size will have to implement some kind of automated system to deal with this mass volume of data and signals.

It could be as simple as a bot (short for Robotic Process Automation – RPA) or an upscaled, state-of-the-art AI system. Today’s cutting-edge systems include self-healing AI, which manages itself and only approaches an IT admin when it needs guidance or a decision has to be made.

Automation doesn’t come without controversy; some fear that autonomous technologies will take away jobs. While it’s no secret that CFOs and CIOs are very interested in how automation will help save them money, it’s often complex to evaluate a return on investment from an AI technology.

However, if history is any guide, most new technologies that might seem farfetched, even impractical at launch, become mainstream after a period of time. The first industrial revolution in the late 1700s was met with the same skepticism and with dire predictions of massive job losses at the hands of machines. However, in hindsight, those innovations created a lot more jobs than they took away, improved living conditions of the workers, and freed up people to work on more meaningful tasks instead of rote manual labor.

This is consistent with the second, third, and likely the fourth industrial revolution as well which many believe is upon us already. Automation and AI will be the defining trends of what I like to call the “Automation and AI revolution”. A Gartner report has already predicted that this year, 2020, is going to be the tipping point when AI starts creating more jobs than it takes away.

While automation may not be a big source of unemployment in the mid – long term, it is true however, that many job roles will undergo a drastic transformation. AI is introducing a new, smart colleague that frees IT staff to work on more meaningful, complex issues that truly require the ingenuity of a human mind. Whether you treat this as a friend or a foe will likely define your next role!

Start slowly

Currently, the majority of autonomous vehicles still have a human present, either in the driver’s or passenger’s seat, ready to take over if needed. However, that’s not as easy to replicate with today’s automated or AI-enabled technologies.

Today, the best way to proceed with automation is via a controlled trust-building exercise, deploying AI capabilities one application at a time, ideally starting with one that is not business-critical and then moving up that ladder. As you get a better understanding of how the technology works, you can extend autonomous AI to more applications, course correcting when needed. This way, you can see what insights it delivers and make sure you’re comfortable with it before enabling automated actions and expanding it to other business segments.

Make a plan

AI and related technologies will replace almost 69% of the manager’s workload by 2024, according to Gartner. And that companies that aren’t using AI and automation in some form by 2022 will fall behind their competitors. Every organization may have a different appetite for AI-driven technologies based on their size, the industry they’re in, how up to date their IT is, and other factors specific to their circumstances. But the question when it comes to adopting AI is no longer ‘if’ or ‘when’ but ‘how’.

To implement autonomous AI successfully, use these two best practices:

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Go for small wins

Stakeholders need trust and visibility before they will buy into any endeavor, and that is certainly the case for AI adoption. Most organizations are wary of the “big bang” approach – they don’t want to put all their eggs in the same basket. Starting small in one area is often a wise approach. Go for the small wins, don’t expect a return on investment in the first year, and plan to expand into high-value use cases.

Prepare for change management

When it comes to automation and AI, IT professionals may feel like they’re being asked to give away the keys to the kingdom, even handing over their jobs to an AI. As noted earlier with the example of the industrial revolution, that’s often not the case. But to allay fears, it is a good idea to put change management in motion.

Slow and steady wins the race

Not every AI endeavor is instantly successful, as self-driving cars have already demonstrated for us. The nature of AI is that it learns and gets better over time, so organizations must give their autonomous AI initiatives time to prove their worth.

Not implementing AI in some form on the other hand could mean literally the end of your business as competitors pass you by. AI isn’t taking jobs away; in fact it actually might increase job satisfaction by taking over redundant, mundane tasks.

If you haven’t already, the time to begin your AI initiatives is now. As you move from small pilots to autonomous systems, look for long term results to create greater efficiencies so you can focus on achieving your business goals.

Autonomous AI is a friend and is here to stay.


Abhishek Bhattacharya

Abhishek Bhattacharya Heads Strategy and Operations for Digitate, a software venture of Tata Consultancy Services. He is responsible for strategic planning & forecasting, business operations, enterprise risk management and select key program initiatives. He has been part of Digitate since inception and has played various customer facing roles before assuming his current responsibilities. Prior to Digitate, Abhishek worked in the System Integration business playing various different roles across geographies. Abhishek has an MBA from IE Business School, Spain and loves to travel in his spare time.

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