Five big numbers for 2017
by: Edward Haigh of Source
61% -That’s the proportion of clients that we surveyed in the US recently who said that they were already involved with, or planning, initiatives related to artificial intelligence (AI), furthering the idea–currently being pushed by people from Silicon Valley to Washington and beyond– that we stand at the cusp of a new wave of automation.
The potential consequences of this are, of course, profound. And from the consulting industry’s perspective they represent both an opportunity and a threat. The most obvious opportunity today appears to relate to the technologies themselves, and to helping clients understand and integrate those technologies. But if the promise of AI–and the associated robotics market–is realised then there’s likely to be a wave of opportunity connected with the operational and human consequences of it, and that should be good news for consultants too.
The trouble is this: There’s a dirty great slice of the consulting market itself that increasingly looks ripe for automation. It’s a slice on which many consulting firms have come to depend in recent years, and it means that those firms now need to take a long, hard look at their businesses. Certainly, it emphasises the need for consulting firms to lay claim to the part of the value chain that’s less easy prey for AI and robots. But, perhaps more importantly, it also emphasises the need for them to figure out how they hold hands with, rather than run from, their digital counterparts. There are things that robots can already do that humans can’t, but however much the technology industry might try to convince us otherwise, there will always be things that humans can do that robots can’t. My sense is that the narrative about AI and robotics in the coming years will mainly focus on the battle between robot and human, essentially positioning it as a zero-sum game. For consultants, the key to success is likely to lie not only in their ability to re-imagine it as a collaboration rather than a battle–and bend the narrative in a different direction in the process–but also to find a way to make it manifestly collaborative within their own businesses.