Artificial intelligence is transforming enterprise software in a profound way

AI and machine learning are bringing enterprise software developers and operations teams much, much closer to where the front-line customer action takes place.

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The next wave of IT innovation will be powered by artificial intelligence and machine learning. We look at the ways companies can take advantage of it and how to get started.

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Amazon Web Services wants to make AI and machine learning available to every organization, even those who don't have expertise in-house. That's a key takeaway from a talk by Jeff Bezos at the Internet Association's latest confab.

Bezos' goal is to make AI and machine learning readily available to all enterprises through AWS -- "even if they don't have the current class of expertise that's required." He acknowledged that "right now, deploying these techniques for your particular institution's problems is difficult. It takes a lot of expertise, and so you have to go compete for the very best PhDs in machine learning and it's difficult for a lot of organizations to win those competitions."

(Thanks to GeekWire's Todd Bishop for surfacing Bezos' talk.)

Also: What it takes to build artificial intelligence skills | Apple's to-do list needs to include a dose of AI | Artificial intelligence and machine learning: How to invest for the enterprise

Bezos noted that AI is changing the nature of enterprise software itself. He sees AI and machine learning as "a horizontal enabling layer" for his businesses, as well as every other business on the planet. Amazon's Alexa and Echo are more visible examples of services that "use a tremendous amount of machine learning, machine vision systems, natural language understanding and a bunch of other techniques."

The real value of AI and machine learning is "actually happening beneath the surface," he continued. "It is things like improved search results. Improved product recommendations for customers. Improved forecasting for inventory management. Literally hundreds of other things beneath the surface."

How impactful will AI and machine learning be on today's and tomorrow's enterprises and the software they use? Louis Columbus recently explored this surging evolution in Forbes, noting that AI is poised to transform enterprise software as we know it. He channels some details from a new proprietary study out of Cowen and Company, which, for starters, finds 81% of IT leaders already have plans to invest in AI.

Areas of the enterprise to be impacted first by AI include digital marketing/marketing automation, salesforce automation, CRM and data analytics, the Cowen study, based on interviews with 146 leading AI researchers, entrepreneurs and VC executives, finds. "The potential exists for enterprise apps to change selling and buying behavior, tailoring specific responses based on real-time data to optimize discounting, pricing, proposal and quoting decisions."

Put another way, AI and machine learning are bringing enterprise software developers and operations teams much, much closer to where the front-line customer action takes place. Other enterprise areas likely to transformed early on include customer self-service, enterprise resource planning, human resource management and e-commerce. (Bezos is already demonstrating how AI is enhancing e-commerce.)

The rise of AI will be seen in the arrival of an "intelligent app stack" that "will gain rapid adoption in enterprises as IT departments shift from system-of-record to system-of-intelligence apps, platforms, and priorities," the Cowen report states. Machine-learning algorithms will become an integral part of enterprise apps from this point forward, capable of providing "predictive insights across a broad base of scenarios encompassing a company's entire value chain."

(Disclosure: I am a regular contributor to Forbes, mentioned in this post.)

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