Gartner has ranked AI as its most transformative trend for 2019. If you’re not already focusing on AI as part of your strategy, now is the time to start.
Forget about self-driving cars and Siri for a moment. AI’s immediate impact on your business comes from the ability to apply it to countless business processes, across startlingly different areas of workplace operations, from the office to the factory floor.
For example, at Cisco we’re already using it to optimise our procurement, and through our Mi-Idea innovation centre, we’ve shown how AI machine vision can verify whether employees are wearing the right safety gear in the industrial workplace.
As a CIO charged with bringing these kinds of applications to market in your business, you will have to get good at saying ‘no’. That’s because developing and deploying AI applications takes more than just the right technologies — it takes time, creativity, and specialist knowledge, and AI is one area where the IT skills shortage is most intense. You’ll have to shepherd such scarce resources carefully, evaluating the cost and potential reward of each project before committing.
Although there are countless applications for AI in the wider business, it’s also transforming your own backyard: IT operations. In fact, 42% of senior IT leaders we surveyed said that AI was the single most important innovation transforming their operations.
In many cases, these transformations are happening behind the scenes, as part of the products or services you’re buying from vendors already.
So today for example when your teams call Cisco technical support, the engineer they’re speaking to will be using AI-based tools to diagnose and fix issues faster. When your network teams use DNA’s Encrypted Traffic Analytics, it’s powered by AI. Your users will now find AI-based virtual assistants in our Webex collaboration products. Your data centre teams will benefit from AI insights when using management tools like AppDynamics. And the guys in your SOC will be relying on AI threat analysis in nearly every Cisco security product they touch.
Basically, anywhere that complex data needs turning into insight, we’re applying AI.
And this gets to the crux of the issue. Behind every application of AI is a store of data. The better (usually bigger) the data store, the better the AI can learn and perform. In some senses, your strategy for AI must start with a strategy for data, whether that’s related to a business process or to IT operations.
On the IT operations side, vendors can give you a shortcut to data volumes at a scale you could never attain internally. For example, at Cisco we have access to threat intelligence data from Talos that encompasses 20 billion security events each day, as well as 1 trillion application events from AppDynamics. And when it comes to managing elements of your infrastructure and understanding their performance, we can provide a benchmark based on data about how millions of other devices around the world are performing — giving you predictive insights that you can action. Just as one example, we’ve brought this to life in our Business Critical Services Fingerprinting feature.
AI has been a serious priority for Cisco for some years, and across cisco.com you’ll find a wealth of resources that you and your developer and operations teams can use to get up to speed.
For a simple introduction to the topic, check out our short paper. It defines what terms like AI and ML mean, explains why AI has become such a hot topic right now, and gives examples of how real businesses are already using it. We identify five main areas where AI can affect your organisation, too, from cybersecurity to HR performance, and summarise many of the ways Cisco is already embedding AI into the products your teams use every day.