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The modern history of most industries shows winners and losers have been set apart in many cases by their faith in the ever-going race of efficiency. Enterprises have become more efficient through time in various ways such as adopting new technology, smarter processes or simply by being better at scale.
AI has been a poster child for larger businesses gaining efficiency in the past ten years. AI models that direct the sales teams to contact more valuable clients first, or how to spend precious marketing credits more efficiently.
Efficiency was and still is the most significant selling point of AI services to big business, delivering excellent outcomes with a substantial entry cost.
The recent wave of achievements in AI landscape has led to a new phenomenon which I call 'semi Plug & Play AI'. These are a wide range of easy-to-use, simple to maintain and relatively low-cost suite of AI services which are becoming more available every day.
All those businesses which previously could not afford an AI team now can get their hands on these new AI services at reasonable starting prices.
Data Robot, Qubole, IBM Watson ML, GCP AutoML are just a few names (of many) in this family of AI services. They have been designed, amongst their many other purposes, to make AI-based efficiency available to the less tech-savvy business.
With no need to assemble large, expensive data-science teams, even a small group of lightly-trained data analysts can leverage these family of semi Plug and Play AI services. Most of these new services are also fully managed which inaction means, the marketing department of a mid-size business can set up an AI-based audience segmentation model and saves thousands in online marketing spend with minimum support from IT departments.
Semi Plug and Play AI can also be a gamechanger for small businesses. A reasonably simple propensity to buy model, produced and served on these fully managed AI platforms, can guide the sales team to prioritise their conversations and spend more time with those clients who are more likely to convert.
All these can be achieved in a matter of weeks, with minimum dependency on other highly indemand business functions or need to hire expensive data scientists.
The availability of affordable AI as service also has coincided with a new wave of data science & AI literate workforce who are coming out of University doors in upcoming years. This wave will put a damper on the current shortage of skilled workforce in the market and makes entering to AI space even more affordable.
Leveraging the full potential of AI solutions in a business is a long process, and more substantial investment can not do much to shorten the journey to success. I believe those businesses who underestimate the effect of this new phenomenon are going to face a difficult time to catch up with their more efficient competitors.