AI is becoming an integral part of a company’s day-to-day operations, so much so that Norm Judah, CTO of worldwide services at Microsoft, says all companies will eventually become AI companies.

He said this was the same when Microsoft declared “every company will be a software company,” which nowadays is mostly true.

Judah explained, “The same thing is happening to AI, particular to those which are data-rich — not necessarily banks but insurance companies — either is or will become an AI company to some degree.

“Building that core competency is incredibly important — how to actually build the technical competency. Do you have the right people? How do you build out a centre of excellence? How do you pick the portfolio?”

Judah noted that when companies ask him whether or not everything needs to be centralised or distributed to the business units, he tells them it is a pendulum and will go back and forth.

He said he is finding many companies experimenting with AI as they are trying to understand what is possible.

However, Judah notes there is something absent from the experimentation. “The missing element is the business hypothesis, somebody from sales saying how can I get more customers? How can I stay in tune? Will this product be effective in the marketplace? How do we interact with the customer in this circumstance?

“That business hypothesis in many cases is what is missing today. So what AI does is it’s part of a technology but a big part of it is an understanding of the business problem set and the hypothesis that could be solved. AI just gives you another rich set of tools to solve a set of problems that weren’t necessarily solvable before.”

To achieve that, an understanding of AI needs to be widespread across the business to identify which problems it can be applied to.

“There has to be AI competency in each one of the businesses to help define the hypothesis.

“There are two things that come from it. Maybe you can solve it, maybe not, but at least you know that it’s not possible and that has to come from inside the business unit, which means every company is an AI company, every senior VP needs to understand how AI can contribute into their business. So it’s not a technical conversation at all.

“The technology at this point is ahead of the consumption possibilities and what’s missing is the understanding of how I can help.”

Ethics and AI

As AI becomes more commonplace, companies will need to turn their attention to the ethical considerations and, eventually Judah expects companies will have to write their own ethics manifesto.

Every company in some way is going to have to frame their ethical construct and ultimately this could be something that goes through the board, through the audit committee that can audit the behaviour as much as it orders compliance in a bank.

“It is going to audit ethical behaviour because brands can be deprecated super quickly if there is some sort of ethical failure. We’ve seen that with GDPR and privacy.

“Establishing every company’s starting position with AI is going to be important.”

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