From automating mundane and repetitive tasks to optimizing business processes, AI is already having an impact on many workplaces. Generally, users are able to reclaim time, focus on high-value activities and unearth opportunities that would otherwise lay dormant in massive data repositories.
But there's more to AI than efficiency gains and fatter profit margins. Properly harnessed, AI can make the lives of IT professionals less stressful and help office workers navigate the workday with greater ease. AI can also help create compelling and more empowering app experiences that enhance worker productivity and make getting the job done feel less like a chore.
What roles can AI help your organization? Datamation gathered some insights of technology leaders and professionals on how AI can contribute to the workplace. Here's what they had to say.
AI for Automated Cloud Management and Cost Containment
Buoyed by surging business demand, the cloud computing market is growing by leaps and bounds. Although most enterprises are lured in by the promise of low-cost, on-demand IT services, many quickly discover that managing their cloud-enabled environments can be just as challenging and costly as their on-premises systems, if not more so.
Vijay Rayapati, CEO and co-founder of cloud cost management firm Botmetric, champions the use of machine learning (ML) and other AI technologies to wrangle hybrid clouds IT workloads.
"AI-enabled cloud management uses analytics and machine learning in order to analyze big data from various IT operation tools and devices. As a result, it is able to automatically spot, and more importantly react, to issues in real time. Think of AIOps [Algorithmic IT Operations] as continuous integration and continuous deployment for core IT functions," said Rayapati.
"AI-enabled cloud management is not just an option anymore but a necessity for businesses with dynamic and complex IT environments. With the rise of cloud, distributed architectures, containers, and microservices, a rise in data overload is the end result," continued the executive. "The only way to help CIOs and IT managers reduce their cloud costs, improve cloud security compliance, and reduce alerts fatigue is by bringing intelligent machine operations online."
AI for Cybersecurity
The bad news: Cyber-attackers are adding AI tools to their arsenals in 2018, predict top executives at data security and compliance solutions vendor Semafone.
"Cyber criminals will increasingly use artificial intelligence and machine learning to create automated attack systems that learn how to defeat security barriers as they spread," warned Semafone's CEO, Tim Critchley, Global Solutions director, Ben Rafferty, and head of Information Security, Shane Lewis.
The good news: AI can also serve as an eagle-eyed sentry for IT teams. Apart from the sheer amount of threat information that AI-enabled products analyze in near real-time, AI doesn't fall victim to hubris and other human foibles that diminish security, according to Hansang Bae, CTO of Riverbed Technology.
"Network security will ultimately be driven by machine learning and artificial intelligence. Machine learning and artificial intelligence technologies at the security layer are going to be extremely dependable sentinels. Unlike todays network security systems which are largely human administered and maintained, ML and AI will be constantly vigilant against threats and vulnerabilities and will allow us to use the 'P' (prevention) in IPS [Instrusion Prevention System] with confidence," stated Bae.
"The current thinking as a security professional is that if you have an updated database, secure firewall, patched OpenSSL, etc., you're secure – but this presents a false sense of confidence that can be fatal to the security of the network," cautioned Bae. "Machine learning and AI technology don't suffer from over confidence and preconceived notions of security. It will simply do the job of identifying anomalies and mitigating threats, but far faster and better than today’s, largely human latency bound, security posture model."
AI for Engaging App Experiences
In the past, using business applications involved staring into interfaces littered with arcane menus, countless keyboard shortcuts and an ever-growing mental list of do's and don'ts. Now, thanks to smartphones, cloud applications, the consumerization of IT and other recent technology trends, folks expect user-friendly interfaces that get the job done with a minimum of fuss, both at home and at the office.
Businesses may balk at the effort and expense required to drag their pre-internet and 90s-era applications into the modern day. Luckily, AI is here to shoulder some of that burden.
"Artificial Intelligence has without a doubt been a hot topic of 2017. In most cases, AI is discussed in a long-term capacity, but in 2018 we expect to see AI leveraged to help drive application efficiency and adoption by optimizing the user experience," predicted John Carione, strategy and product marketing leader at low-code application development firm Quick Base.
"For low- and no-code applications, this means using AI to help app development tools understand usage patterns in order to automatically adapt to their specific role," Carione added. "This creates a more fluid experience for the end-user and helps automatically tailor the right set of functionality for the right role, ultimately improving productivity and reducing security or compliance risks."
AI for Better Meetings
In today's workplaces, there are many reasons why projects stall and things fall through the crack, but few are as reviled and morale-deflating as office meetings.
Instead of enlightening employees and getting everyone on the same page, meetings often become productivity-killing time sinks. Agendas meander, topics become unfocused, urgent emails pile up and the path forward becomes murkier than when attendees first file into a conference room.
AI can help keep meetings on-track, and perhaps, turn meetings into one of the office rituals workers really look forward to.
"Cloud-based video conferencing solutions give us access to huge amounts of data about meeting habits. This data, aided by artificial intelligence and machine learning, could allow us to optimize the use of the platform and increase the effectiveness of meetings – many of the other trends (e.g. virtual assistants, facial recognition) are, in effect, powered by AI," stated Bobby Beckmann, CTO of enterprise video conferencing specialist Lifesize.
"At a basic level, AI could enable us to determine optimal meeting length, ideal number of participants, or best time of the day to hold a meeting to improve productivity," Beckmann added. "Voice recognition could analyze the content of meetings, compare against other meetings in the same organization, and make suggestions as to connections between people with complementary skills or knowledge."
AI for Improved (and More Profitable) Professional Relationships
As workforces grow ever more distributed and folks come to rely on collaboration apps to connect with far-flung team members, a lot of the unspoken information and nuances of face-to-face interactions wind up lost between the ones and zeroes that comprise text chats and video calls.
AI can help fill in those gaps, picking up behavioral cues and helping users better connect with colleagues on the other side of the screen. AI will bridge virtual experiences with the emotional and conventional intelligence that people use to instinctually navigate new introductions, intense negotiations and other facets of business life, according to Jim Somers, vice president of Marketing at LogMeIn's Collaboration unit.
"It's been proven that face-to-face interactions improve relationships – both in business and personal life," said Somers. "In 2018 and beyond, we'll start to see artificial intelligence play a larger role in the process of relationship building among colleagues, customers and partners."
Thanks to AI, cameras can pull double duty. Not only do they capture visuals, they provide AI systems with data that can be turned into insights about users state of mind. "Facial recognition technology will be built into remote collaboration tools to read visual cues," Somers said.
"Why does this matter? It will enable a meeting host to pivot their conversation if needed, and inform more effective post-meeting follow-up. For instance, a salesperson will know the likelihood that they closed a deal or an advertising executive will be informed that the idea they are presenting to clients is falling flat," continued Somers.
"This 'meta meeting,' which focuses more on the feeling of the meeting (body language, tone, etc.) rather than the actual conversation, will gather insights and learnings that help the meeting host facilitate better human connections and drive positive results," Somers concluded.
Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at Datamation. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.