It might be me, but it seems like Artificial Intelligence (AI) is one of the most talked about subjects in business yet there's a lack of clarity about what it is/isn't, implications, the "so what?" etc.

Given what we do, I thought it might be useful to put together this quick overview to level my oversimplified way (of course)!

"Don't bring a knife to a gun fight"

AI isn't another "tech tool", it's a foundational part of the 4th Industrial Revolution. AI is technological infrastructure / a system that all Fortune 1000 companies are / will rely upon going forward. It’s not an “if” but a “when” and the competitive advantage established by those that are embracing it today is significant. 

If two companies are out there fighting the good fight and one is embracing AI and the other isn’t…well, I’m pretty sure you know who has “the gun”, who has “the knife” and who’s going to win?

“Got it…so what exactly is AI?”

In nerdy Alec terms, it’s a “Category of Computer Science dedicated to simulating intelligent behavior in computers”. 

Said differently, in a world where “we create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data – so much that 90% of the data in the world has been created in the last 2 years alone”, AI is an umbrella category describing efforts to systematize the way companies collect and extract value from “Big Data” through a combination of Technology, Algorithms, People, Process etc. 

In doing so, companies are able to “see around corners”, increase their focus on stuff that really matters, reduce costs, increase efficiencies, unlock innovation, make better/smarter decisions about the next best action and ultimately “future proof” their businesses.

“So what?”

More specifically, embracing AI creates value for organizations across 6 key categories that we bucket into the “AI Value Pyramid” (clever name right?).

Cost Reduction: Automating tedious, manual tasks such as data entry (i.e. converting analog information into digital formats such as converting a catalog into a digital format).

Increasing Efficiency: Enabling real-time personalization of content in digital environments based on a combination of historical and real-time digital behavior data (i.e. moving from knowing your customer audience is "Millennial Moms" to "Millennial Moms are on your site right now, they just reviewed X, Y, Z spending a total of 3 minutes interacting with A, B, C which has a 94% correlation with incremental growth of 17% per transaction when the following offer is presented...across each unique visitor).

Enhanced Insights: Automate analysis of exponentially larger amounts of public/private content/articles per day to extract entities, sentiment, underlying trends/themes otherwise impossible to see (i.e. Use this system/approach to uncover deep/personal audience connections that create an award winning campaign connecting with people around the world establishing priceless brand equity/lift).

Customer Engagement: Leverage "Intelligent Personal Assistants" to build highly differentiated, new ways to interact with customers (i.e. "Patron turns Amazon's Alexa into customer's own personal bartender")

Business Automation: Identify recurring customer journeys and automate them (i.e. empower loyal customers not to have to remember to re-order the same items from you weekly and surprise and delight them with customized recommendations based on connections between known purchases and relevant/complimentary/thoughtful items).

New Business: Build differentiated, new businesses/ventures through uncovering insights previously hidden in immense pools of big data (i.e. capitalize on latent consumer demand to create a new revenue stream via purpose built innovation to extend your core business).


What a business does and the experience it creates for its consumers/customers has quickly become one of the top if not the top priority in the C-suite for growth, success etc. Customizing these experiences in a way that approaches 1:1 and is as consistent online vs. offline vs. offline with a connected device is where all of this is headed. 

Goes without saying but this is where AI takes everything to the next level.

This is about building a business of connected intelligence through a set of principles and methods referred to as “Service Design” tied to customer journeys. 

It’s basically an approach that maps all the different ways a human interacts with a business and evaluates how the business, both “Front Stage” and “Back Stage”, can be reconfigured/designed to create more value for the consumer/customer.

User Experience: Experience on the screen.

Customer + Colleague Experience: Any touch point, physical or digital across time and place.

Colleague + Colleague Experience: Any touch point, physical or digital, includes partners and 3rd parties.

Portfolio + Operations: Anything with indirect impact (i.e. the back-end tech infrastructure) on the service portfolio and ultimately the front-end User Experience.

“Make it Real?”

Super low hanging fruit examples of all of this in action but…

Have you seen the movie “Her” starring Joaquin Phoenix?

Have you interfaced with a chat bot or virtual assistant when trying to get a banking, travel etc related question answered online?

Have you experienced Amazon's Alexa in action?

Did you see today's launch by Amazon of "Echo Look", its new fashion tool/product helping users pick their outfits (pretty sure my girlfriend is going to "recommend" I get one as it "might" help me out a bit... ;)?

So there you have it, that's AI and that's why you don't bring "a knife to a gun fight" as the future arrived yesterday!

So be sure and update your business model and approach when you get a minute... ;)

E:; T/IG: @Alec_Coughlin