​The Intelligent Channel - Why partners must think outside the box

​The Intelligent Channel - Why partners must think outside the box

Organisations recognise the disruptive power of artificial intelligence, and partners can profit from its potential.

Perhaps in the future, artificial intelligence will intervene and write this article.

Perhaps in the future, the editorial team will become redundant and ARN will embrace a form a robo-journalism.

Perhaps in the future, it even won’t matter, because the entire channel will also be unemployed.

And what a different world it would be. For the rise of AI - as the world likes to categorise it - is storming along like a tech freight train, charging through barriers and racing towards a new world.

Within this new world, will naturally be new ways to engage, conduct business and make money, creating opportunities and challenges for the channel in parallel.

For some organisations in Australia, AI already plays an integral part of the wider business strategy.

Yet for others, the notion of the supercomputer is viewed dismissively, suspiciously and in some cases, worryingly.

Somewhere in between is the true indicator of AI enthusiasm.

“These days it seems like you can't open a newspaper (ok, web browser) without coming across an article on artificial intelligence,” Forrester Research Senior Analyst, Brandon Purcell, observed.

“Well publicised breakthroughs like Google AlphaGo's unprecedented victories over human Go champions have heralded the promise of a new golden age for AI.

“Add to that the personification of personal assistants in Apple's Siri and Amazon's Alexa coupled with Salesforce's “resurrection” of Albert Einstein and the rampant proliferation of AI-related start-ups - and the AI buzz becomes more of a cacophonous clamour.

“To put it mildly, this is confusing for businesses, who are trying to determine what is real and what is mere snake oil.”

As Purcell puts it, will AI achieve its transformational promise, or will it join the trash heap of over-hyped technologies?

But before the partner community takes a stance, a clear definition of what an intelligent channel will look like is required.

Despite interpretations varying slightly, AI is best described as a branch of computer science dealing with the “simulation of intelligent behaviour” in computers, alongside the capability of a machine to “imitate intelligent human behaviour”.

Delving deeper into the AI phenomenon, such technology can be used when building applications, developing cloud platforms, maximising the Internet of the Things or incorporating machine learning and cognitive capabilities.

The arrival of AI

While it remains difficult to pinpoint the exact path that intelligent technology will take in the future, vendors such as Amazon, Google, IBM and Microsoft are currently driving the AI economy, doubling down on investment in a bid to steal a march on industry rivals.

For the time being, AI will be fought in traditional vendor heartlands, by tech giants capable of gobbling up the competition.

By 2019 however, partners must be prepared to pivot, with start-ups widely expected to overtake the old pros with disruptive business solutions and fresh ideas.

But before a changing of the guard takes place, chip manufacturers, software firms and the automobile industry will no doubt chase such machine learning start-ups during the coming years, with AI the top acquisition target of 2017.

“Many AI start-ups are owned by former employees of large vendors who leave and form a company focused on AI in a specific industry, or academics who have discovered their discipline is suddenly lucrative and exciting,” Gartner Vice President and Analyst, Whit Andrews, observed.

“This means there are many packaged AI solutions that should be considered before an organisation considers building a custom AI solution in-house. The packaged options require fewer resources and can be deployed faster.”

Consequently, Andrews advised CIOs - and the partners providing consultancy services - to look to niche vendors to lead the trends in AI.

In the February issue of ARN Magazine, we profiled 12 emerging smart bot start-ups innovating around the world, spanning India, Russia, Canada, France among many other regions.

End-user engagement

For partners seeking new revenue streams, any industry with very large amounts of data - so much that humans can’t possibly analyse or understand it - can utilise AI.

Some, such as healthcare, are ripe for disruption.

“As the amount of available data increases, there will be few jobs requiring decisions in real time where humans will be able to match smart machines,” Andrews explained.

“This includes the breast cancer example, but also extends to decisions being made in marketing departments.”

However, there are limits to the powers of AI, and for partners offering insight and guidance, Andrews advised that CIOs must aid in combining human thinking and machine analysis.

“If there isn’t enough data available, or if the data is of poor quality in content or structure, smart machines won’t be able to make a reliable decision,” he cautioned.

Consequently, partners should help CIOs evaluate business processes to identify where AI could be beneficial for each enterprise.

“Look specifically at underserved areas of the company that have very large amounts of data but lack access to analytics,” Andrews advised.

“These areas could benefit from the ability to augment and improve human decision making.”

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