The next frontier for AI-driven business-results lies in identifying the new business process patterns that will condense into new application categories that will generate the next wave of productivity-improving applications.

It hasn’t happened yet.

I’m still waiting. So are most enterprises, whether they realize it or not. This is why AI hasn’t progressed from a large number of proofs-of-concept and prototypes to broad penetration of new AI-enhanced applications implemented at enterprise scale.

History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes

A similar dynamic existed in the early 1990s before ERP become the modus vivendi for large numbers of BPM and enterprise reengineering projects.

AI won’t achieve the lofty goals that many – including IBM – have had for the technology until the tidal wave of new application categories lands on the shores of business.

IBM Think 2020

IBM Think 2020 last week was a breath of fresh air, a solid dose of reality, and a focus on two specific and major AI-related initiatives. I applaud that.

The IBM of old stressed the momentum that was building in the marketplace for whatever they were selling you. If you didn’t get on board, you’d be destroyed by competitors that were on board with the latest IBM pronouncement (IBM was certainly not the only entity saying that!)

To prove their mettle, IBM used to parade non-IBM CEOs on stage with IBM execs, committing to future joint activity to give proof to the big momentum sell.

Typically, this effusive commitment between firms was over future intentions, not real accomplishments already done and observable, at scale, in production, and delivering transformations of the fundamental nature of business. Rare was the return visit where the non-IBM CEO recounted real accomplishments from the last joint plan that they promoted together on stage.

Fresh Air

The IBM I saw last week appears to have changed its stripes. They’re focused on working with clients and prospects on realistic, observable accomplishments. Bravo.

“AI at Scale” is how IBM encapsulates the value of initiatives that deliver enterprise-scale business value instead of the corporate science experiments and medical long-shots of the old IBM.

The new IBM gets it that the future for enterprise AI use must be new, AI-enabled, AI-powered, or AI-enhanced processes that can scale across the division, the enterprise, and the industry.

IBM’s announcements around AI that resonated with me are AI Ops and IoT and the Edge. Both build on key strengths IBM has invested in over the years, and both help to round out a series of practical Watson offerings, particularly the NLP-related ones.

Yes, there’s plenty of competition in all these areas. But it’s a far sounder course for IBM than persisting in its behaviors of old.

The future

The future for AI in the enterprise is not to fall back to an “analytics is the answer” baseline. Too much of a focus on data sciences and analytics puts too much emphasis on the 1980s MIS view of the world and the 1990s BI view of the world.  Data sciences and analytics are essential! But there will be a broader mandate for technology to

    • Advise people at any level of the organization about material changes they should attend to and assist them in identifying potential follow-on consequences
    • Augment the intelligence of those people
    • Automate processes with the permission of those people

The next frontier is identifying the new business process patterns that will condense into new application categories that will generate the next wave of productivity-improving applications.

Like I said in the opening, I’m still waiting. How about you? If you’d like to discuss this article with me, book a call with me at a time convenient to both of us using https://www.calendly.com/tom-austin.