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5 trends that will shape AI investments in 2020

I’m no fortune teller. And trying to predict anything in the AI space is near impossible given the astounding rate at which it’s evolving. But that’s not to say there aren’t trends and patterns today that have led me to think about what might be next for AI.

Today, AI means so many different things to different people. It’s an extremely broad category that includes everything from playing games, to face recognition and self-driving cars. Most people don’t even realize how often AI works behind the scenes to improve processes, efficiencies, and experiences.

Typically, people only know after something has gone terribly wrong – like just recently, when Apple was embarrassed when their Apple Card appeared sexist. It’s up to business leaders to avoid these issues if they want to maintain trust with their customers and continue to reap the benefits AI brings, particularly in customer engagement.

So, what do business leaders need to watch out for in 2020? Despite my earlier caveats, let’s try to predict how AI might impact your business in the year ahead.

  • Everyone will need an “AI empathy” strategy

Consumers are moving fast and expect their interactions with businesses to be just as quick and relevant. But in 2020, customer expectations will evolve even more as real-time AI becomes more ubiquitous, and speed and relevancy start to become table stakes. To gain an advantage, cutting edge organizations will look to infuse empathy in their customer engagements to better connect with customers at a deeper level. This will set a high new standard for 1:1 personalization that first movers are already using successfully in pockets today while the rest of the market will follow closely behind.

  • “AI-washing” will run its course

As AI hype went into overdrive over the last few years, many software businesses labeled anything remotely associated with analytics and intelligence as “AI” – often to the point of major truth stretching. But as “AI” gains more acceptance, businesspeople are more educated on how to scrutinize what AI is and what it isn’t. In 2020, you’ll hear less talk of AI in the enterprise as a nebulous term and more talk of AI’s distinct disciplines, such as machine learning, decisioning, or Natural Language Processing – to be more precise in labeling and to further distinguish them from questionable AI claims.

  • Machine Learning marketplaces will come of age

Machine learning is finding more success in the enterprise, but most organizations still lack the skills needed to take advantage of it. This year we’ll see the rise of AI marketplaces “As a Service” such as Amazon SageMaker and the Google Cloud Machine Learning Engine. This will enable businesses to plug in prebuilt AI models into their architecture as needed without having to hire an army of data scientists. This makes AI more cost effective while bringing these services to market faster.

  • Trust in Enterprise AI is on the rise

Thanks to pockets of early success, AI engendered more trust with businesspeople as it becomes more commonplace. After intermittent failures, AI has become more predictable, and the quality of the output is reaching new highs. In 2020, we’ll see organizations better understand AI best practices, and as a result, they will incorporate AI more broadly across the enterprise as they scratch the surface of the value it can bring them.

  • Employees will start to accept their AI overlords

Employees fear that AI and bots will steal their jobs, but this fear will start to slowly fall by the wayside in 2020. People have become more comfortable with AI in the workplace and are just now understanding its benefits – not just benefits to the business, but to them as employees as well. The narrative will change from ‘how do we stop the robots’ to ‘how do I better work with robots to enhance my career.’ The workers that don’t or can’t embrace this mindset will be the ones in the most danger of losing their jobs.

Will these all come to fruition? Probably not. This is a fast-moving space. Breakthroughs, scandals, legislation, or a change in public sentiment can happen anytime. Not even AI can tell us what’s next (which makes this harder than playing Go). But here’s one prediction you can take to the bank: your customers will want better brand experiences next year.

AI is making this possible today behind the scenes at the world’s leading companies. Companies that lack the right foresight risk losing business to competitors who manage to stay a step ahead of the current AI trends. No matter how you feel about AI, there’s no denying its tremendous power in driving better customer engagement.

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