Johannesburg, 04 Aug 2023
Tertius Zitzke, CEO of 4Sight, says the company is seeing huge interest in artificial intelligence (AI) from its customer base and 4Sight is already delivering these solutions incorporating AI to drive productivity as the ultimate goal for business.
“The launch of ChatGPT at the end of 2022 created huge excitement in the market because it brings us closer to artificial generative intelligence (AGI), where AI becomes much more like human intelligence,” he says. “But we are only at the beginning of a steep learning curve as companies start to integrate AI into the way they do business. My prediction is that the next big thing is role-based AI, in which the technology will truly begin to complement humans.
“AI’s business case centres on automation and efficiency, data analysis and insights, cost reduction and resource optimisation, predictive analytics and productivity – that’s the real benefit.”
Microsoft’s $10 million investment in OpenAI, the company that developed ChatGPT, was a key development, Zitzke believes, paving the way for the integration of AI into the globe’s most used software. Microsoft is already using the technology in Edge and Bing as an intelligent assistant; more ambitiously, it is previewing Copilot, which will integrate ChatGPT-4 technology into Microsoft 365 to assist in a variety of tasks, thus saving users significant amounts of time.
We have the three technology spheres to consider in order to deliver business AGI – the hybrid cloud world, data integration and cyber security. There will always be data in local storage, for instance, remote manufacturing sites will generate and store data in historians onsite but process in the cloud. Bidirectional integration is key here for processing in the cloud and delivering business-specific dashboards and AI. The security for containing specific domain data is the biggest driver today.
Automation and efficiency of the processes around people is the driver for business AI. As a veteran of data, I lived through the 80s, with mainframes, where the output was history – printed on paper. And then the 90s – connectivity of the world, WANs and LANs. In the 2000s, the internet explosion, followed by the 2010s, with mobility and apps. Initially, the 2020s was the automation decade, but COVID-19 changed this into the automation of processes around people in the hybrid workspace. What a beautiful world I am in now, at 60 years young.
However, in order to realise the full benefits of AI now, and to prepare for the emergence of role-based AI in the near future, companies need to embark on a multifaceted approach that encompasses various aspects of technology, workforce and organisational strategy. 4Sight can assist companies in defining and executing a carefully planned digital transformation journey to realise the benefits of AI. Businesses need to begin with digitising their data to make it accessible in a digital format, and then consider how best to apply this information to simplify specific operations.
Only then can the company implement true digital transformation, which makes it possible to devise new business applications. AI plays a role at each stage, but the goal is for it to become an agent for delivering business solutions.
“We’ve already seen organisations saving at least one-and-a-half hours a day, which, when multiplied across all their employees, creates an extraordinarily powerful business case,” Zitzke says.
In using AI to make their businesses more competitive, companies face a key challenge: security. Making the company’s data and processes digital is key, as noted, but it needs to be protected, especially given that the AI is likely to be supplied by a third party. For example, Microsoft’s Bing Chat Enterprise has commercial-grade security built into its design, to ensure that sensitive corporate information is encrypted in transit and is invisible to Microsoft, and as such, sensitive information is not used to train the large language models.
“AI has huge productivity benefits for companies in all sectors, but it is very important to get the basics right, and that means choosing a trusted partner with the right skills and, above all, a proven methodology,” Zitzke concludes. “As the day of true artificial generative intelligence approaches, only companies who have invested in laying the required groundwork will be in a position to keep up to serve all their pillars of digital transformation: people, customer, operations, finance and product innovation.”