The Day AI Freaked Me Out (It’s not what you think!)

Some would say I’ve had the pleasure of being at the forefront of the business-ready AI revolution. I’ve been gifted the opportunity to use bleeding-edge technology to support improved healthcare, to reduce waste in our food chain, to improve childhood education, to better manage our energy networks, to predict fashion trends, even to create smarter cities. I’ve never considered myself a data scientist by any means, but I am a data nerd of the obsessive variety – one that has that little voice in her head with a running commentary of how every day activities could be better, faster, smarter with a more intelligent use of data and insight.

Turns out – holding a conversation with a robot or a digital human does not freak me out.  Not in the slightest.

The fact that a computer can correctly analyse my personality from mindless social posts, does not freak me out.

Even watching my children converse freely with a robotic dinosaur, sharing jokes and giggles with an artificially intelligent toy, does not freak me out.

So what does?  What epic, mind-boggling, earth-shattering AI technology could possibly render me speechless?

Turns out, it’s far more subtle than I thought.  Here I was, going about my every day activities, reading email of all things, when it suddenly dawned on me…. there it was, seamlessly embedded in decisions I make each and every day as I work through my inbox… I had been using and learning from AI recommendations for over a week and I hadn’t even noticed!

Disappointed?  I’m not – quite the opposite 🙂

At the risk of sounding old, my career has pretty much followed the traditional process required to analyse and predict based on data. I started out in data warehousing, building the world’s first 32-node clustered database so my customers could analyse large volumes of data at scale, cost-effectively. I helped customers address their data quality challenges, spending months on end integrating, merging, cleansing and preparing data for analysis. I moved into the business intelligence space to help customers better understand how to visualise and effectively communicate results of that analysis. And I’ve worked with early AI systems, that required significant data prep, ingestion and system training just to get a model production ready, only then to have to work with development teams so we could get recommendations and insights into the hands of decision makers in time for them to make critical business decisions.

And then, I joined Salesforce.

Somehow during the past year, while I’ve been indulging in my passion for business value creation and commercial modeling, that complicated, convoluted, highly-frustrating process became as simple as turning on a feature in the Salesforce platform. Suddenly Einstein is whispering sweet nothings in my ear, only those “sweet nothings” are highly valuable recommendations that make my life a hell of a lot easier!

Just between you and me, Salesforce Einstein has been secretly helping me to:

  • Keep teams and business leaders updated on my activities by automatically logging calls and emails to customers accounts, saving me time entering data, and saving them time reminding me to enter data.
  • Keep data quality in top shape by automatically detecting and recommending new contacts.
  • Prioritise my work by knowing which opportunities to focus on based on trending and predictive win rates.
  • Keep up to date on news and information impacting my customers and the industries in which they operate.
  • Know who to connect with in our organisation that work on similar engagements and accounts.
  • Take action quickly and efficiently as emails enter (and rapidly exit) my inbox.
  • Do it all from my phone – so no matter whether I’m in an Uber, in a meeting, or in the bath tub, I can still be on top of things back at the office.

Just quietly, I know my customer service and marketing colleagues are also secretly benefiting from the productivity gains that Einstein offers as more features across all Salesforce clouds are turned on in our org.  Not to mention our business leaders who have an increasingly uncanny ability to spend less time questioning data, and more time coaching our business to success.

Of all the innovations in AI, this is the one that excites me the most. There will always be projects that require significant work to derive insights for complex challenges, but the vast majority of use cases will become a seamless blend of recommendations and automations that are embedded in the tasks we do each and every day.

Our decisions will become more intelligent – hard to imagine, I know 😉

Our processes will become more automated – and as a customer of my customers, I sincerely welcome that.

Our lives will become more productive – given time is the one resource I can’t get more of, this is the outcome I value most.

I’m already planning “the talk” I’ll have with my kids when they’re older – about the days when we had to learn how to understand and use computers, when computers didn’t know or understand us. I imagine they’ll think us crazy for filling out webforms, for extracting data to spreadsheets, for (gasp!) not knowing what our customers want when they call/tweet/poke/telepathically connect or whatever new medium we’ve invented by then.

And when I’m old and grey, I know I’ll greatly appreciate NOT having to learn technology, because I’ll be using technology that has learned how to serve me.