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Busy business executives rarely have time to waste. And, for many, discussions of advanced new technology, ranging from artificial intelligence to blockchain are simply not practical matters for people who run businesses and are responsible for monthly, quarterly and annual financial results. We seem to be at a point where “everybody” thinks 5G could be a practical matter, soon. We are not yet at the point that the typical business leader believes AI is something to worry about in a concrete sense, today.

We might as well recognize that hopes for 5G in the near term will soon begin to disappoint some business leaders, even as AI remains something for technical staffs to ponder, but not something business strategy will soon reflect.

With the caveat that most people conflate any number of related developments with “5G,” and that many see artificial intelligence as a product rather than a capability, the Gartner hype cycle suggests we should soon begin hearing about 5G disappointments and dashed hopes. Gartner believes a period of disillusionment happens with most new technologies, and 5G is about at the peak of such expectations.

source: Gartner

Hype around various forms of artificial intelligence continues to build and will likely be even harder to comprehend than 5G, as AI represents different ways of using computing to derive insights, but also is not a “product” one buys.

People can buy 5G service, 5G phones and devices; they cannot purchase “AI” off the shelf as a product they consume and use directly. Instead, AI will enhance the performance of all sorts of devices, software, apps and networks.

That can make conversations about “AI” quite difficult. A better way to approach matters is to view any number of emerging capabilities and technologies as ways to reduce business friction, allowing firms to understand and target customer needs; improve the quality of their experiences with a product; reduce the cost of creating and providing products; increase sales; boost profit margins and heighten customer delight.

The more practical the setting, the less likely it is that people, executives or firms will want to spend too much time hearing about AI. But any number of emerging and new technologies have value because they promise to take friction out of any business process. Friction can take almost any form in a business: wasted investment, inefficient operating procedures, ineffective marketing, higher than necessary operating costs or any other form of inefficiency that wastes resources and effort.

So friction means cost, waste, delay, customers less happy than they might otherwise be, less precise satisfaction of customer wants and needs. Basically, all advanced information technology processes should reduce friction, allowing the organization to function more nearly “frictionless.”

As so often is the good advice, proponents need to emphasize the business value of technology, not the sexiness of new technology for its own sake. Creating operations that are more frictionless–and therefore more profitable–should always win out over talk of “cool new technology.”

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