CEO of Pryon, an AI company focused on augmented intelligence for the enterprise.
From my position at the front line of AI development, I have seen companies beginning to reshape their perceptions and their plans for bringing AI into the workplace — so much so that I believe AI is poised to become more accessible and more productive than ever in the coming year.
First, let’s look at the employment climate: The continuation of the Great Resignation will force companies to accommodate new boundaries while accelerating digital transformation and productivity. From August to November 2021, U.S. job quit rates ranged from 2.8% to a record 3%. Research from HR analytics firm Visier reported that employees between 30 and 45 — the core of most management teams — increased their resignation rate more than 20% between 2020 and 2021. That’s a lot of institutional knowledge and experience walking out the door.
With low unemployment and access to talent limited, employers will look to train, retrain and adapt talent to address skill gaps. In an inflationary market, the situation will get more challenging as the cost of hiring and compensation increases.
I see two complementary effects from this where AI has a role to play:
One, companies may be pressured to accelerate digital transformation efforts that compensate for disruptions in productivity. Two, workers are no longer just looking for a job — they’re feeling empowered to seek a balanced, more holistic work-life experience. The kneejerk reaction to the Great Resignation is the same that it has been for any kind of attrition: Focus on retention. It is less disruptive, more productive and costs far less to invest in current employees than to onboard and train new ones. Adobe’s Future of Time study found that half of enterprise workers surveyed would switch jobs if it gave them access to better tools that made them more efficient at work.MORE FROMFORBES ADVISOR
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It’s a cliché whose time has come again: We want to work smarter, not harder.
At a macro level, companies are only increasing in complexity, amassing supply chains of more than 100,000 entities, millions of employees and operations that are more geographically distributed than ever. Picture the amount and diversity of information coursing through the virtual veins of those companies in the context of the current employment climate. The risks to productivity — and retention — are staggering if the health of this critical corporate asset isn’t fully optimized.
This is where AI applications can shine and optimize both employer and employee experiences. In particular, augmented intelligence — in which AI provides actionable information for human decision-making — can provide intelligent access to the information that propels peoples’ everyday work.
Forward-leaning organizations are selecting specific business functions to pilot natural language-based, AI-assisted access to critical company resources and have mapped out how to expand the experience more broadly to create what I refer to as their knowledge fabric.
Companies wanting to dip their toes in AI will look for lower-risk, more contained applications as AI ethics issues continue to swirl. While the world wrestles with the very real issues of transparency and bias in artificial intelligence applications, there are less controversial — and more practical — uses of AI and natural language processing that the world needs now. Knowledge management applications have appeal for large enterprises because of the productivity gains, compliance benefits and the possibilities of accelerating research and innovation. By layering on a natural language interface, allowing workers to access specific information using conversational queries, AI can democratize the access to knowledge for everyone from field service experts to commercial sales forces and clinical researchers.
And because these applications are trained on fact-based business documents within a corporate “walled garden,” even the most risk-averse organizations will find opportunities to experiment and pilot AI technology with these types of applications.
Companies looking to differentiate themselves using AI technology will turn away from commoditized public cloud AI providers. While good for rapid prototyping, public cloud AI offerings have risks that are too costly to take. Most notably, it’s difficult, if not impossible, to create a competitive advantage through these offerings since everyone is accessing the same technology — and the big-tech vendors in the space may, in the end, be competing with you, too. AI development in large corporations can take years to productize and make generally available; in the meantime, those vendors are likely applying the most advanced of their IP to their own offerings.
In looking to assert more control over the crown jewels of intellectual property, more companies are joining what I call the “farm-to-table” AI movement as they prioritize working with specialized vendors that will also provide them with a greater competitive edge, higher levels of accuracy and a greater range of bespoke capabilities.
We will see new levels of coordination between the private and public sectors in AI, which is essential for the protection of critical infrastructure and IP. From the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence to Eric Schmidt and Henry Kissinger’s new book, The Age of AI, the movement for greater public and private sector collaboration in AI has been rightfully ignited with new urgency. In the move to secure and advance AI development and adoption and boost the U.S. competitive advantage, the commission has made bold proposals for new investments in AI R&D to “democratize access to the resources that fuel AI development across the nation.”
The commission is also tackling the issues that are acting as unnecessary governors on the U.S. acceleration of AI development and adoption such as revising patent policies in order to both protect innovation and contribute it thoughtfully into the public domain.
As a humble player in the history and future of AI development, I applaud these efforts, from both national security and commercial perspectives. The commission members are right: AI is going to reorganize the world.
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