Hype and "AI Washing" Is Creating Confusion, Obscuring the Real Benefits of the Technology
Market hype and growing interest in artificial intelligence (AI) are pushing established software vendors to introduce AI into their product strategy, creating considerable confusion in the process, according to Gartner, Inc. Analysts predict that by 2020, AI technologies will be virtually pervasive in almost every new software product and service.
In January 2016, the term "artificial intelligence" was not in the top 100 search terms on gartner.com. By May 2017, the term ranked at No. 7, indicating the popularity of the topic and interest from Gartner clients in understanding how AI can and should be used as part of their digital business strategy. Gartner predicts that by 2020, AI will be a top five investment priority for more than 30 percent of CIOs.
"As AI accelerates up the Hype Cycle, many software providers are looking to stake their claim in the biggest gold rush in recent years," said Jim Hare, research vice president at Gartner. "AI offers exciting possibilities, but unfortunately, most vendors are focused on the goal of simply building and marketing an AI-based product rather than first identifying needs, potential uses and the business value to customers."
AI refers to systems that change behaviors without being explicitly programmed, based on data collected, usage analysis and other observations. While there is a widely held fear that AI will replace humans, the reality is that today's AI and machine learning technologies can and do greatly augment human capabilities. Machines can actually do some things better and faster than humans, once trained; the combination of machines and humans can accomplish more together than separately.
To successfully exploit the AI opportunity, technology providers need to understand how to respond to three key issues:
1) Lack of differentiation is creating confusion and delaying purchase decisions
The huge increase in startups and established vendors all claiming to offer AI products without any real differentiation is confusing buyers. More than 1,000 vendors with applications and platforms describe themselves as AI vendors, or say they employ AI in their products.
Similar to greenwashing, in which companies exaggerate the environmental-friendliness of their products or practices for business benefit, many technology vendors are now "AI washing" by applying the AI label a little too indiscriminately, according to Gartner. This widespread use of "AI washing" is already having real consequences for investment in the technology.
To build trust with end-user organisations vendors should focus on building a collection of case studies with quantifiable results achieved using AI.
"Use the term 'AI' wisely in your sales and marketing materials," Mr. Hare said. "Be clear what differentiates your AI offering and what problem it solves."
2) Proven, less complex machine-learning capabilities can address many end-user needs
Advancements in AI, such as deep learning, are getting a lot of buzz but are obfuscating the value of more straightforward, proven approaches. Gartner recommends that vendors use the simplest approach that can do the job over cutting-edge AI techniques.
3) Organisations lack the skills to evaluate, build and deploy AI solutions
More than half the respondents to Gartner's 2017 AI development strategies survey* indicated that the lack of necessary staff skills was the top challenge to adopting AI in their organisation.
The survey found organisations are currently seeking AI solutions that can improve decision making and process automation. If they had a choice, most organisations would prefer to buy embedded or packaged AI solutions rather than trying to build a custom solution.
"Software vendors need to focus on offering solutions to business problems rather than just cutting-edge technology," said Mr. Hare. "Highlight how your AI solution helps address the skills shortage and how it can deliver value faster than trying to build a custom AI solution in-house."
Gartner clients can learn more in "How Enterprise Software Providers Should (and Should Not) Exploit the AI Disruption."
Visit Gartner's Applications hub for complimentary research and webinars.
AI and application trends will be discussed at the Gartner Application Architecture, Development & Integration Summit 2017, July 24-25 in Sydney. Follow news and updates from the event using #GartnerAADI.
Application, customer and employee trends will also be discussed at the Gartner Application Strategies & Solutions Summit 2017, December 4-6 in Las Vegas. Follow news and updates from this event on Twitter using #GartnerAPPS.
* Online survey from April 5-21, 2017 among Gartner Research Circle members, a Gartner-managed panel comprising IT and business leaders. In total, 83 members completed the survey.
Gartner, Inc. (NYSE: IT), is the world's leading research and advisory company and a member of the S&P 500. We equip business leaders with indispensable insights, advice and tools to achieve their mission-critical priorities and build the successful organizations of tomorrow.
Our unmatched combination of expert-led, practitioner-sourced and data-driven research steers clients toward the right decisions on the issues that matter most. We're trusted as an objective resource and critical partner by more than 12,000 organizations in more than 100 countries—across all major functions, in every industry and enterprise size.
To learn more about how we help decision makers fuel the future of business, visit www.gartner.com.
Comments or opinions expressed on this blog are those of the individual contributors only, and do not necessarily represent the views of Gartner, Inc. or its management. Readers may copy and redistribute blog postings on other blogs, or otherwise for private, non-commercial or journalistic purposes. This content may not be used for any other purposes in any other formats or media. The content on this blog is provided on an "as-is" basis. Gartner shall not be liable for any damages whatsoever arising out of the content or use of this blog.