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PROS 2021 Predictions: The Future of Business AI and What to Expect in 2021

vmblog 2021 prediction series 

Industry executives and experts share their predictions for 2021.  Read them in this 13th annual VMblog.com series exclusive.

The Future of Business AI and What to Expect in 2021

By Justin Silver, PhD, Manager of Data Science & AI Strategist, PROS

As digitization in our world accelerates dramatically, organizations are moving faster than ever before to rework business processes. A growing priority for business leaders is determining how to best utilize AI to increase the efficiency of those processes and drive maximal value for their organizations. However, it's important to note that implementing AI is not just a matter of tacking on another solution to existing business processes. Instead, business leaders need to work on identifying the most strategic ways to implement AI and make sure buy-in is felt across all members of the organization. Here are some advancements in business-focused AI we can look forward to in 2021.

Beyond automating, AI will improve how we work

We expect to see more organizations implement automated pipelines built on AI platforms. The tasks that keep data scientists busy day-to-day, such as data preparation, feature engineering, and modeling, are being further augmented by tools that help automate these steps. We expect to see more systematic implementations of business AI solutions to make ad-hoc analyses more efficiently repeatable.

Increased need for transparency in "black box" AI models

As AI continues to gain traction in the business world, there has been significant attention given to model interpretability in order to support change management and organizational adoption of AI. Say that I am a sales rep, and I am using an AI system that recommends sales opportunities for me to pursue. Even if I don't know all the details of the underlying model that is producing these opportunity recommendations, i.e. it is a "black box" to me, I will certainly want to know why the system thinks that opportunity will be fruitful for me to spend time on. Model interpretability enables this understanding and will continue to be a major trend in AI in 2021.

Accelerated digital transformation supported by AI

As businesses leverage AI to make business processes smarter, I expect to see an accelerated move to digitize operations. Retailers have been utilizing online sales channels for many years now, and we are already seeing B2B companies make that same transition. As COVID-19 continues to revolutionize how people buy and sell, we will continue to see a shift to digital commerce in industries where human interaction and negotiation still drive a significant portion of sales transactions.

Beyond improved revenue, customer conversion rates, and other visible benefits of AI for a business,

there are some less tangible benefits and costs that can come with implementing an AI system. Having a people-focused company culture can go a long way in driving the success of an AI system. Retention of employees who have the skillset and experience working with AI systems can yield positive returns, though in the shorter term that could manifest as an unexpected additional cost taken on by the business. The business analyst whose time has been freed from doing the more mundane tasks, which are now being done by the AI system, will likely be glad to be able to spend their time doing more cerebral analysis.

The benefits and costs of implementing an AI system may evolve over the longer term as the solution is re-tuned or adapts based on automated feedback. Businesses that adopt AI systems which learn from continuous feedback, driven by real user and customer interactions, will be better able to deliver on the buying, selling, and operational experiences their customers and employees are increasingly expecting. In turn, these businesses will be better positioned to see ROI from their AI solutions.

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About the Author

Justin Silver, PhD, Manager of Data Science & AI Strategist, PROS

Justin Silver 

Justin Silver, Ph.D. is a senior data scientist at PROS. He specializes in the development and implementation of machine learning systems and processes that enable businesses to achieve pricing and sales excellence. His innovative contributions to the PROS solutions suite have helped customers to achieve substantial ROI improvement through a scientific approach to commerce. Dr. Silver has a Ph.D. from Rice University.

Published Thursday, January 07, 2021 7:46 AM by David Marshall
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