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How to Benefit from AI Without an Army of Experts

By Mark Hurd

Artificial intelligence is quickly becoming a key component of new technologies, from social media to self-driving cars. Yet there’s a shortage of people with AI skills and expertise, and it may be years before the talent pipeline fills up. Fortunately, organizations don’t have to hire their own AI teams to get started.

According to a report released by Chinese tech company Tencent, there are only 300,000 AI engineers on the planet, but the global tech industry will need millions. The report noted that Tencent would hire 200,000 AI professionals, if only they could find them.

The New York Times recently reported that Element AI and AI Lab in Montreal estimate that there are only 10,000 people in the world who are able to spearhead AI projects. As a frame of reference, Mensa, the worldwide genius club, has around 134,000 members.

The implication is that companies need to plan for AI with an understanding that the skill set remains scarce. It’s not necessary to fall into the “do it yourself” trap that many companies did 20 years ago when they built customized enterprise applications, only to spend 80 percent or more of their IT budgets on maintaining those systems.

Instead, companies should go with business apps that come with AI capabilities already built in. For example, if you want to respond to customer activity in real time, AI-based applications are available to do that. Likewise, intelligent bots can converse with customers using natural language, and ERP applications with AI embedded can analyze trends and risk data to recommend the best supplier terms.

Such AI-infused applications can be used immediately without extra development resources and effort. They’re tailored to specific use cases, and they come with the logic and decision science needed to support those requirements.

And there’s a big upside to this approach. Your employees will have more time to devote to business strategy: analyzing opportunities and developing innovative products and services. They’ll be able to spend their time applying their talents and creativity, with the insights that only a human being can provide.