Is the AI juice worth the squeeze?

Published on the 03/10/2017 | Written by Donovan Jackson

Artificial intelligence_bluewolf report

The promises of AI are likely to exceed delivery – but a third will spend more…

New research by global Salesforce consulting agency Bluewolf has found that businesses in Australia and overseas are encouraged by the early results of artificial intelligence (AI) investments. However, only one third (33 percent) of Australian companies already using AI expect to increase their investment over the next 12 months. When compared with the 77 percent of global companies ratcheting up AI investment, Bluewolf said in a statement that this ‘demonstrat [es] that the nation is lagging the rest of the world when it comes to projected AI uptake’.

That is one viewpoint; quite another is that with the promises of AI likely to exceed the likely returns (and with the term ‘AI’ being such a catch-all that its meaning is uncertain) an argument could be made that Australian (and, although they weren’t mentioned, potentially New Zealand) businesses are simply exercising due diligence and warranted caution.

Bluewolf said it’s The State of Salesforce report is based on insights from some 1,800 Salesforce customers worldwide including respondents in Australia.

According to the report, 67 percent of Australian respondents investing in AI within the next 12 months expect it to have the biggest impact on customer satisfaction.

By industry, 39 percent percent of Australian service professionals (and 59 percent globally) expect AI to have the greatest impact on customer experience. The growing demand for high quality interactions between business and consumer is making it necessary for companies to leverage AI-enhanced capabilities to deliver customer experiences across all channels, said Bluewolf.

Bluewolf ANZ MD Aniqa Tariq said, “Customer expectations are changing rapidly. The power is undoubtedly in the hands of the consumer because they can demand better experiences. While Australia still has a way to go in matching the global uptake of AI, we expect this will grow quickly given that the competitive pressure of staying still is becoming more of a concern as innovative new companies, both local and global, enter the market.”

Salesforce’s most recent iteration, ‘Lightning’, said Bluewolf, is the gateway to artificial intelligence and Australian companies clearly understand the benefits. ‘Some of the best companies are prioritising the transition from Salesforce Classic to Lightning, not only for the immediate benefit to the employee experience with an enhanced UI, but also to improve usability and productivity’, it said.

The report showed that 45 percent of Australian companies have transitioned to Salesforce Lightning, against 36 percent making the transition globally. Furthermore, 38 percent of Australian companies that have transitioned to Salesforce Lightning cite accessing information as the most useful functionality gained.

In Australia, 76 percent of sales leaders report that having a 360-degree view of the customer is the most critical factor in driving sales effectiveness, compared to 51 percent globally. However, only 27 percent of Australian salespeople believe they have that clear view. Analysis of unstructured data has become too important to ignore and companies of all sizes are recognising the need for advanced analytics.

“The pressure to deliver experiences that customers demand requires technology that unlocks the value of data, enables employees to make smarter decisions faster, and grows with the business” said Bluewolf CEO Eric Berridge. “Artificial intelligence is a vehicle that can allow businesses to use data at scale to connect more deeply than ever before. This year’s The State of Salesforce report shows that those already investing in advanced technologies are reaping its early rewards and bringing real business outcomes – now.”

But whether or not AI is understood, appreciated and applied in business well or even at all is something which is up for question. The Atlantic memorably pointed out that ‘Artificial Intelligence has become meaningless’. Quartz has an excellent article titled Stop pretending you really know what AI is and read this instead’. And, of course, in a recent interview with iStart, ServiceNow honcho Dave Wright confirmed that expectations are probably way ahead of AI’s ability to deliver.

Access The State of Salesforce report here.

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