By Tim Hipperson. Published on 30 March 2017
Tim Hipperson is a technology and digital transformation expert. Previously the CEO at WPP UK, then interim CEO of Weve – a joint venture between Vodafone, O2 and EE – Tim is currently a board member of numerous disruptive digital start-ups. He is also Chairman of innovation consultancy, Fearlessly Frank, and founder of Morph Management – a business transformation consultancy for the digital economy. Here, he discusses the growth of artificial intelligence and machine learning in business.
Not too long ago, robots were considered a possible but surreal feature of a distant future. But take stock for a moment and it’s clear that artificial intelligence and machine learning has already pervaded our lives. From high-frequency trading in financial markets to customised playlists on Spotify, machines are able to receive, process and act upon data intelligently.
The artificial intelligence revolution
Machine learning and artificial intelligence are at the forefront of drastic change, and the world’s largest technology companies, from Google and Amazon to Dyson, are focussed on harnessing artificial intelligence to revolutionise business and consumer services.
Recognising its sea-change capabilities, the British Government is also committed to advancing artificial intelligence, predicting it could add £654 billion to the UK economy by 2035. Already home to some of the world’s most innovative artificial intelligence companies, the UK has a rich ecosystem of investors, employers, developers and clients. The Government’s recently released Digital Strategy aims to compound this competitive advantage through research, investment and a supportive infrastructure. Indeed, its £42 million investment in the Alan Turing Institute aims to promote growth in the digital economy and capitalise on big data’s potential for innovation. Virtually every product or service line is experiencing technology-based disruption, and data is the glue.
Using big data intelligently
Technological advancements have made big data ubiquitous. From health data collected on wearable tech devices to consumer behaviour captured on social media and travel patterns generated by vehicle tracking, our online connectivity is producing data sets of unprecedented size. These data sets can then be processed to create algorithms to drive machine learning – enabling computers to interpret data, predict outcomes and deliver solutions autonomously. Businesses are using this information to transform their product and service lines – and those lacking agility or the ability to innovate will be left by the wayside.
Having access to big data isn’t enough; the key lies in applying data strategically. Businesses must gather the right data, format it and then interpret it intelligently before creating algorithms to drive service or product lines and deliver solutions.
The intelligent application of big data will see machine learning accelerate rapidly – leading to more centralised functions. Indeed, technology is already moving away from the app-based economy, where each app has a singular functionality, towards central artificial intelligence, such as Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa. It’s unsurprising that this shift coincides with consumers’ increasing weariness of the proliferation of apps. Our future landscape is one where more products and services are delivered by, and evolve around, artificial intelligence.
How businesses can utilise artificial intelligence
Large businesses can find it challenging to implement artificial intelligence solutions. Their complex operational and technological infrastructures create inflexibility, leaving them unable to respond swiftly to consumer trends.
However, some large businesses have found ways around this. One method of achieving agility is to outsource innovation to a consultancy businesses, using external vendors to build innovation labs outside their existing infrastructure. For example, I chair an innovation consultancy business called Fearlessly Frank, where we run projects outside of core businesses, and construct and manage labs within other companies’ operations.
Alternatively, large businesses can establish an innovation offshoot completely separate to their mainstay business, such as Jaguar Land Rover’s InMotion business. InMotion explores new ways to get products to market and innovate in the sharing economy and clean energy spaces.
Conversely, while small businesses and start-ups can change direction more swiftly, and test and apply insight, they often lack the budgets of their larger counterparts. This shouldn’t be a hindrance, however, as it’s the utilisation of smart algorithms and big data that’s key to advancing machine learning. The same principles of formatting data, gathering insight and applying it strategically are as relevant to small data sets as big ones. Success is determined by the way in which that extracted intelligence is used to inform and drive your business product or service line.
Embedding digital talent in your business
I’m often surprised that businesses seeking to implement digital transformation strive to do this simply by hiring one or two people. Digital transformation requires a shift in behaviour and an entirely new operational methodology. For companies with the hiring budget to tackle this, it’s important to choose a recruitment firm that takes time to understand your needs and identify the skills required to help you grow.
For embryonic businesses looking to harvest data intelligence and machine learning, yet lacking the necessary expertise, it’s important to find a search firm that understands this field and offers a mature network of talent. If your budget is restricted, it may be more resourceful to hire in specific skill sets incrementally, taking a strategic approach while you evolve this aspect of your business.
The technological landscape is progressing rapidly. For businesses to innovate, products and service lines will need to evolve to become more data-orientated than product-led; and keeping pace with this development requires the best talent.
Tim Hipperson, Founder, Morph Management Ltd
To ensure your business keeps pace with the unprecedented speed of digital transformation taking place industry-wide, speak to one of our partners at Eton Bridge Partners to find out how we can help. With established expertise in this burgeoning area and a well-developed network of specialists, we can identify where your business needs to grow and source the right talent to do this.
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