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Artificial Intelligence (AI) will be the single most important enabler of digital success. It will become the public face of an organisation’s digital brand and a key differentiator in an ever more crowded, complex and unpredictable business and social environment.

That is the view of leading global professional services company Accenture in its Technology Vision 2017 report, Technology for People: The Era of the Intelligent Enterprise.

Those organisations that effectively embrace AI will thrive, while late adopters will, almost certainly, fail, says Accenture. The report, however, is not about spreading fear, uncertainty and doubt. In marked contrast to the dystopian vision of many headline writers and commentators, who present a vision of an AI-driven future dominated by job losses and social disruption, Accenture believes people-focused AI can drive economic growth and enhance both corporate profitability and, more broadly, citizens’ well being.

“To realise its full potential, AI has to be guided by people, for people, to fit our needs and our goals,” explains Accenture’s Zahra Bahrololoumi, Managing Director, Accenture Technology UK and Ireland

If it is deployed in this way, AI can become an organisation’s new user interface, underpinning people’s natural and simple transactions and interactions with systems. AI, argues Accenture, can enable a “frictionless intelligence” that allows behind-the-scenes collaboration across experiences and channels, to accomplish tasks and guide actions towards the best outcomes. The outcome, according to Bahrololoumi, is that AI becomes the face, and key differentiator, of every digital brand.

“AI is making every interface both simple and smart – and setting a high bar for how future interactions will work. It is rapidly becoming a core competency, demanding C-level investment and strategy,” explains Bahrololoumi.

This view is shared by global business and technology leaders. Some 79 percent of the 5,400 IT and business executives surveyed for Accenture’s report agreed that AI will help accelerate technology adoption throughout their organisations, while 85 percent reported they plan to invest extensively in AI-related technologies over the next three years.

The report cites Elsevier CTO Dan Olley noting last year that, “If CIOs invested in machine learning three years ago, they would have wasted their money. But if they wait another three years, they will never catch up.”

AI technology has made enormous strides. Today we are all familiar with autonomous driving vehicles, live translations made possible by artificial neural networks and user interfaces such as Amazon’s Alexa, and this is just the beginning of the AI revolution.

One major strength of Accenture’s report is that it doesn’t just discuss trends. It also offers business and technology leaders high-level, but meaningful, 100- and 365-day plans for delivering business technology programmes to take advantage of new technical innovations and business opportunities.

The 100-day plan for AI sets out a scoping exercise to help you ensure all AI initiatives are prioritized around improving customer engagement with your organisation’s most important products and services.

This involves ranking your customer interactions by how critical they are to your current revenue and, crucially, your future growth. For the top three to five interactions, business technology leaders should work with service and product teams to streamline customer engagement for the most valued products and services. “This process will help identify areas where AI can improve future interactions,” the report states.

Accenture urges the development of AI personas that “that fit your brand and communicate your brand voice” and suggests organisations pilot AI in roles such as content curation (for personalisation) or interaction advisor (for intelligent automation). These new roles should accompany the end-customer along their various journeys.

The 365-day plan calls on organisations to deepen the sophistication of their AI personas, so that they not only curate and advise but also start orchestrating interactions among key stakeholders and customers. This approach offers a jumping-off point for the deeper use of analytics, focusing on front-end customer insights and back-end business intelligence to better understand key customer interactions.

These steps can provide crucial building blocks to a rearchitected organisation driven by analytics and AI, and delivering enhanced experiences and services to customers and employees, as well as secure and ongoing profitability in constantly changing markets.

For more on Artificial Intelligence and Accenture’s broader tech vision, download the full report below: