Do IT Managers Really Need Artificial Intelligence?

More intelligence is always better, even if it is artificial
More intelligence is always better, even if it is artificial
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Pick up just about any trade rag these days and you are going to run into a story talking about the fantastic new things that are going to be possible very soon because of the arrival of new artificial intelligence technology. There are all sorts of startup firms out there that are raising a lot of money because they say that they are getting ready to do the next big thing with artificial intelligence. Over 140 artificial intelligence companies have been bought by other companies over the past five years and 40 such companies have been bought this year alone. What does this explosion of AI mean for IT managers?

The Challenge Of Artificial Intelligence

Even if you don’t use your IT manager skills to work with artificial intelligence on an everyday basis, it is still starting to show up in your life. We all have AI driven voice recognition technology in our mobile phones that we can use every day. When we use our Facebook and Google accounts to upload photos, AI facial recognition software kicks in and recognizes our friends and family. Both Amazon and Google are now renting out their AI technology to any company that wants to create a device that can respond to voice commands using its own “voice”.

This is all well and good, but it turns out that it can be quite difficult to get true value out of any AI technology even with some IT manager training. The reason for this is that any AI application needs to be fed three things that a lot of companies don’t have sitting around. The first of these is, somewhat unsurprisingly, a great deal of data. You need to harvest a lot of data to feed your AI beast. Next, you are going to need the type of problem where if you make even a small difference it can justify the time, effort, and money that went into creating an AI system. Think about changes like 1% or so and then decide if the gain is going to be worth the pain.

The final part of the puzzle may be the biggest deal for IT managers. It takes people to build these things. There are very few people who have the ability to create an AI application that will be able to deliver what the company is looking for. Getting your hands on one of these people and convincing them to join your team can be quite challenging to do.

What Artificial Intelligence Can Really Do

What IT managers need to realize is that we are just on the leading edge of the AI revolution. What this means is that we don’t want to think that today’s AI programs can do more than they really can. What companies are currently able to deliver are “pre-trained” systems that they have used the data that they have (such as photos to create image recognition applications) to create niche solutions.

New firms are starting to use AI in ways that are more novel than today’s AI applications. A great example of what may be possible in the future comes from a company that has created an AI application that can watch an assembly line. With no pre-training this system learns how the line is supposed to act and then it has the ability to trigger an alarm if something goes wrong. When this happens, a human can step in and make a determination if the was a real event that needs to be fixed.

What IT managers need to realize is that although AI has the ability to do some impressive things today, we are still very early on in this process. The AI systems that we see in movies do not yet exist. We still have potentially decades of research and experimentation to work our way through before we’ll have the smart thinking machines that we have all been dreaming about. That day will come, it’s just not here yet.

What All Of This Means For You

The world is currently abuzz about the arrival of new artificial intelligence (AI) technology. Since we can now buy devices for our homes that allow us to talk to them and ask them questions, it sure looks like AI will soon be taking over everything (except for IT team building). IT managers need to know where things stand.

It turns out that AI systems are complex to design and they all need three things in order to operate correctly. The first is data, lots and lots of data. The second is a problem where the application of an AI system to create a 1% better solution makes good economic sense. Finally, these systems don’t build themselves and so you need to be able to attract the right AI talent to join your IT team.

Artificial intelligence does open a number of new doors for IT teams. We now have the ability to embed more intelligence into our applications and make interaction with end users easier. However, we need to understand the limitations of AI as it stands right now and don’t oversell what it can do. Be patient, great things are coming our way in the world of AI!

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Management Skills™

Question For You: Do you think that working AI into every program is a good idea or are there some areas that should not be touched by AI?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

As an IT manager, you by necessity meet a lot of people. Many of these people are on your team and so it’s important that you use your IT manager skills to remember who they are. Just because it’s important does not make this any easier to do. We have all developed a coping mechanism for dealing with this challenge: when we meet someone, we put them in a box.