AI 20/20 – a vision for your external engagement?


Karthik Venkataraman | Head of Artificial Intelligence and Intelligent Automation | Accenture Technology in Africa | mail me |

Artificial intelligence (AI) is one of the key pillars of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which is transforming and digitizing everything from backend customer service centres to procurement and supply chain management.

In fact, AI capabilities are increasingly being embedded throughout organisational structures, opening up a new digital frontier that most companies, both large and small, are still grappling with on a day-to-day basis. Given the daunting nature of this new wave of technological change sweeping the world, it is tempting for organisations to seek a one-size-fits-all approach to solving their digitization and AI needs. However, the exact opposite holds true.

The rapidity with which technological change is occurring requires companies to adopt a highly flexible, agile and creative approach to integrating these capabilities within their organisation. Nowhere is this more relevant than AI, where the complexity of the technology coupled with the dearth of requisite skills, makes it increasingly difficult to simply implement a one-size-fits-all, off-the-shelf solution.

Of the organisations that have embraced AI, the vast majority have focused their efforts on investing in internal organisational AI capabilities. However, not all have paid attention to finding solutions for how their own internal AI capabilities will engage with stakeholders outside of their organisation.

This also includes how their internal AI capabilities might engage with external AI capabilities, whether they be from outside organisations or merely navigating the increasingly digital commercial environment.

Procurement and supply chain

An obvious area for external AI engagement is in the area of procurement and the digitization of supply chains.

Technologies like Robotic Process Automation (RPA) are already playing a very powerful role here by helping many firms become truly digital and cognitive enterprises.With automation increasingly becoming a key area of focus for organisations, it is critical that an organisation’s internal AI capabilities are able to engage with external AI infrastructure.

This is particularly important when one considers that we are living in the age of the smart factory and the Internet of Things (IoT).


In today’s world it is no longer necessary to even own a factory in order to be a manufacturer. Production can be outsourced to external vendors using the power of the internet to connect with appropriate vendors in the right location.

For instance, if you need a particular component manufactured for a client in Bangkok, you can use the power of the internet to connect with a local manufacturer near the point of delivery and have it produced there and delivered far sooner than if you were to produce it in your home country and ship it across the world. AI can play an incredibly powerful role in this by scouring the internet to connect with the appropriate manufacturers to meet your specific needs. This could eliminate dozens of man hours spent searching for the correct vendor.

Asset management

Another industry where AI is playing an increasingly important role in external engagement is that of asset management. Many asset management firms have employed so-called Robo Advisors to interact with clients, assess their long-term savings needs and then select the appropriate savings solution that meets their criteria.

The next step in this evolution of the asset management industry could be actual portfolio construction itself, where the asset management process right at the fund level gets done by AI programs instead of humans. What better way to remove emotion from the world of investing?

The massive uptake of passive funds, which track the performance of specific indexes rather than create their own portfolios which can be influenced by human biases, proves that integrating AI capabilities within the asset management process is a truly viable proposition.

Companies like Sanlam are already using AI and Machine Learning (ML) investment engines to help oversee their investment solutions as they have the benefit to pro-actively adapt to rapidly changing market conditions in a way that reduces the risk of capital loss and maximises the potential for improved investment returns.

Data collection, interpretation and prediction

One of the biggest areas where AI has the potential to spark massive change is in the field of …

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Read the full article by Karthik Venkataraman, Head of Artificial Intelligence and Intelligent Automation, Accenture Technology in Africa, as well as a host of other topical management articles written by professionals, consultants and academics in the August/September 2019 edition of BusinessBrief.

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