Artificial intelligence: must-consider for CEOs or simply SciFi?

When people hear about artificial intelligence( AI), the natural reflex is to think about humanoids as found in SciFi movies and consequently, something for the movie or gaming industry, not for the business world that many of us live in.

But there is more than one AI, and some of its applications are really low-cost. So, yes, AI is something to consider. And something that we should consider today. Not tomorrow.

What is AI?

AI refers to computer systems that can interact with their environment, sensing the environment as well as acting on it, for which the actions are adapted to what they’re sensing and that can learn from its experience.

We see four maturity levels of AI:

Defining Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Why now?

Since its inception in the 1950’s artificial intelligence (AI) has gone a long and bumpy way. From the AI winter, a period when limitations in processing power and data availability brought loss of faith in AI, we’re experiencing today the beginning of the AI revolution, often seen as the fourth industrial revolution.

So, why now? First, to solve business challenges, like helping you figure out why you’re losing customers, personalising services or assessing the risk of a credit applicant, AI depends on machine learning methods and requires large volumes of data for training and testing them. Digital services and operations, and more recently, IoT (Internet of Things) devices are generating an incredibly high amount of data.

The processing of large volumes of data is no longer a problem as high performance computing has become widely available, cheap and very easy to use. In addition to the availability of data, technology and infrastructure, we observe today an increasing global awareness of AI both in industries and societies, which contributes further to its rapid growth.

The impact of AI in global industries

According to PwC’s Global Artificial Intelligence study, it is expected that by 2030, AI could boost the global economy by $15.7 trillion, which is more than the joint output of China and India. $6.6 billion would be generated through a productivity boost and $9.1 billion by increased consumption thanks to products and services of higher quality.

AI is promising improved personalisation of products and services, time savings in various process already in place in the industries resulting in productivity gains, and quality improvements in product and service offerings. Every industry can benefit and transform itself through AI. Health Care for example sees great potential in medical diagnosis through AI. Retail on the other hand is looking beyond product suggestion based on consumer habits towards real personalized design and production.

The impact of AI in Belgium

Belgian service providers should see AI as an addition to their existing automation projects with a view to reducing the impact of the high labour costs in our country. AI is now within reach of many organisations, so Belgian businesses will soon be able to enjoy all of its advantages.We found that AI can greatly benefit the services sector, which is strongly represented in Belgium. Moreover, the cost of labour in our country is one of the highest in the world, which means AI offers significant opportunities for cost reduction. Belgian service providers are already working on far-reaching automation.

In addition, they’re increasingly turning to robotic process automation (RPA) to merge data from various systems. In the past, human intervention was a must, but RPA has allowed us to automate the process, and thus to shave dozens of percentage points off administrative wage costs. These companies are definitely open to further boosting their efficiency through AI, which could allow them to achieve combined cost reductions of as much as 50%.”

PwC has found that companies choose to make use of AI in their back-office processes in the first instance, on the assumption that major improvements can be made there, while the commercial risks in case of failure remain limited. That being said, I’m convinced the main advantages of AI can actually be realised by using it in processes that do call for direct contact with customers. Labour intensive helpdesks, for example, will benefit from automated systems that answer customers’ questions.

Since customers often have queries about the same topics, chatbots could quickly provide satisfactory answers. Commercial processes for banking products for example will also be increasingly automated and efficient. Initially they’ll be supervised by staff, but as the systems become smarter, human supervision will be scaled back..

How to prepare for AI?

The question that business decision makers should ask themselves now is “What should I think about and focus on to be prepared for AI?”

To answer this, there are four key questions that are worth to reflect on when defining your way forward:

  • How vulnerable is your business model to AI disruption? How soon will the change arrive? (but do not fool yourself, it will arrive)

  • Are there game-changing openings within your market and, if so, how can you take advantage?

  • Do you have the right talent, data and technology to help understand and execute on the AI opportunities?

  • How can you build trust and transparency into your AI platforms and applications?

Contact us

Floris Ampe

Floris Ampe

Partner, PwC Belgium

Tel: +32 477 61 79 91

Xavier Verhaeghe

Xavier Verhaeghe

Partner, Technology Consulting, PwC Belgium

Tel: +32 49 559 0840

Connect with PwC Belgium