Optimizing Business Processes with Artificial Intelligence

Last week I took a webinar on how to use Artificial Intelligence (AI) to enhance business operations, organized by MIT Sloan Management Review, a research-based magazine published at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The speaker was Monideepa Tarafdar, a professor at Lancaster UniversityManagement School, based on the results of her recent research on the topic.

Artificial Intelligence may be used in products (e.g., Siri, Netflix) or to improve business processes.

In the latter case, the business may use AI algorithms to identify patterns in the business data that can form the basis for automated business rules. These rules are embedded in the relevant process through an Enterprise Cognitive Computing (ECC) application, allowing businesses to automate repetitive operational tasks, freeing humans for more complex tasks needing creativity.

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Monideepa Tarafdar covered the capabilities that are needed to implement an ECC strategy, namely: Data Science Competence; Domain Expertise; Business Architecture Expertise; Operational Information Technology Backbone and Digital Inquisitiveness.

She mentioned four ECC practices that were identified as part of the research: Develop and leverage clear and realistic use cases; Manage the learning; Co-create solutions; and Think Cognitive. She emphasized the need to develop all capabilities and periodically enhance them, based on the data identified through the ECC practices, as part of a virtual cycle.

Participants responded poll questions throughout the webinar. Monideepa Tarafdar highlighted the fact that most of the top and bottom options were consistent with her research results and showed that:

  • Change the way employees think about and use data has been the hardest task from the company’s AI strategy (31%), while getting the right experts has been the easiest one (6%).
  • The ECC capability/ competence in which the company was furthest along was Domain Expertise or process proficiency (29%); the ones presenting the smallest progress were Digital Inquisitiveness (how to use the data), with 13%, very close to Business Architecture Expertise (rationalizing process and creating new roles), with 14%.
  • When asked about the most predominant ECC practice being used in your company, the majority (34%) said that the training of the ECC apps was managed by a cross-functional team. 26% and 23% said that the IT experts and the data scientists, respectively, were managing the ECC training. The least voted practices were the existence of an ECC app training strategy (9%) and the availability of an ECC app with self-reporting error alerts functionality (6%).

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