Digital transformation has become an ongoing process rather than a one-time goal, with market-attuned companies continually on the hunt for the next big technology shift that gives them a competitive advantage.
That next big shift is the fusion of artificial intelligence and cloud computing, which promises to be both a source of innovation and a means to accelerate change. With pervasive AI and cognitive capabilities underpinned by the cloud, digital pioneers in today’s data-intensive world have the potential to harvest and build value from this unprecedented amount of data.
A new IBM study, “The cognitive advantage,” reveals that 65 percent of early adopters believe AI is very important to their organizational strategy and success. More than half say AI is essential to digital transformation. What’s more, they see it as a “must have” to remain competitive within the next few years.
As AI capabilities increase, so will the demand for cloud. IDC predicts the cognitive market will hit $31 billion by 2019. Coupled with Forrester’s prediction that the public cloud market will hit $146 billion in 2017, it’s clear that AI and cloud will be interdependent and essential.
AI enabled by cloud
The experiences of early adopters show that enabling technologies plays a significant role in AI adoption. Pervasive AI is underpinned by pervasive cloud. Ninety percent of early adopters say cloud will play an important role in their AI initiatives within two years. Fifty-five percent of users prefer cloud-based services and leverage both software as a service (SaaS) and platform as a service (PaaS) to develop and deliver AI-infused solutions. They’re also making heavy use of open source technology to support these initiatives.
The AI advantage
The AI future is one in which automation and intelligence are pervasive, even if users aren’t aware of it. For early adopters, differentiation with AI comes from the strategic use of key capabilities such as machine learning, pattern recognition and intelligent robotics. Applied to large volumes of data, these capabilities unlock new value from internal and external data, both structured and unstructured.
Organizations already use AI in high-value use cases that range from customer engagement to the data center. In fact, IT-focused use cases top the list of AI priorities for early adopters, with 77 percent of advanced users adopting it for product and service innovation, followed by IT automation and business process automation. The IT flavor of priority use cases echoes the market trend to infuse AI in every application, platform and process across the business.
Though organizations can start with a pilot or target a larger transformational project, the end goal is not simply about tacking AI on as a new capability within the organization. Rather, with the addition of new use cases and new technologies, AI is becoming an essential ingredient of business strategy and technology execution.
Early adopters also reveal that IT and data analytics are often the first functions to kickstart AI initiatives in their organization. As the center of the nervous system, using IT as a test bed for AI pilots is a natural starting point to inject intelligence into other business functions including marketing, HR and customer service.
Previously published on IBM Cloud Computing News, December 2016.