From its presence in our daily apps to larger business applications, AI impacts our everyday lives in varying degrees — even if we’re not always aware of it. In the field of business intelligence, however, AI has a more visible impact. Business professionals are aware of the changing nature of business intelligence, largely due to the disruption caused by AI. As stated in an article on GoodData, “Artificial intelligence in business intelligence helps democratize data and improve analytics adoption. Radical advances in computing power, predictive analytics, machine learning, and AI have opened the door to a new generation of BI tools.”
Today, traditional analytics as a component of business intelligence is becoming a thing of the past. The way forward seems to be rooted in AI applications. Here, we will explore how AI is changing the nature of business intelligence processes, and what these changes mean for us as humans.
AI and Business Intelligence
Data analysis, namely prescriptive analysis, and predictive modeling are central to business intelligence. Both are essential in decision-making processes and developing future business plans. Today, professionals can combine these methods with AI and machine learning to gain more detailed insights. In fact, Gartner’s Top 10 Data and Analytics Technology Trends for 2019puts augmented analytics as one of the top trends this year. Augmented analytics is based on using machine learning and AI processes to change how analytics content is created, utilized, and shared. Gartner predicts that by 2020, augmented analytics will be a powerful force in the realm of business intelligence.
Secondly, Gartner believes that continuous intelligence will soon be widespread. Continuous intelligence integrates real-time analytics with business operations, resulting in decision automation. According to Rita Sallam, research vice president at Gartner, “Continuous intelligence represents a major change in the job of the data and analytics team. It could be seen as the ultimate in operational BI.”
Explainable AI too will gain popularity. Current AI used in business intelligence is often a “complex black box”, which isn’t able to adequately explain how a recommendation was reached. Using explainable AI negates the “trust problem” by autogenerating an explanation of suggestions, in regards to accuracy, attributes, and model statistics. AI is already improving at identifying trends and extracting insights. So much so that AI as used in smart consumer devices allows for technology to gauge human emotions. Known as empathetic technology, and defined as “technology that is using our internal state to decide how it will respond and make decisions,” there are many applications of this sort of AI in consumer research. Integrating empathetic technology into business intelligence procedures, especially in terms of sales and marketing, can revolutionize the accuracy of data gleaned from human interactions.
The applications of AI in the future of business intelligence are numerous. One of the general benefits of utilizing AI is its ability to bridge the gap for users who aren’t as technologically knowledgeable. As mentioned by GoodData, “Where a sharp divide once existed between two groups of users — those familiar enough with data science to glean value from the data themselves, and those who are not — AI bridges that gap and delivers insights in a digestible format.”
While AI continues to reshape the face of business intelligence, it is important to consider external implications as a result of this age of technology. From threats to data privacy, cybersecurity concerns, and limits on technical capacity, complete AI adaptation has consequences. Perhaps most importantly, the rise of AI and increased automation means that human roles need to be redefined, especially in cases where Continuous AI, as defined above, becomes mainstream.
Consider the use of AI in tax and accounting procedures as an example. Accounting procedures today are more automated than ever before, with reduced dependence on human intervention. Based on this, an article by Villanova University states that accounting professionals now have various new options available to them that might have been previously overlooked. These include judicial clerks, financial planning consultants, lawyers, and tax law associates.
Increased dependence on AI is bound to result in a complete restructure of job requirements and responsibilities. Due to this, it is essential for professionals to remain relevant, so as to not be displaced by new technology. It is wise for businesses to consider how to remain relevant, whether through compulsory learning or targeted focus groups. This advice is applicable to any industry, especially those where AI is actively taking over business intelligence procedures.
Another relatively indirect concern is the effect of AI on human cognition. In an article on Medical News Today, Dr. Adam Gazzaley, Ph.D., professor of Neurology and Psychiatry Physiology, states that we are going through what is known as a “cognition crisis.” To quote Gazzaley: “There is strong evidence of the negative toll technology can take — from emotional regulation; the association with depression, anxiety, and attention deficit; and the impact on productivity, performance, relationships, compassion, empathy, and a number of other aspects.” The cognition crisis is a definite concern for today’s generation, with increasingly negative effects on one’s mindset, productivity, and more.
According to Gazzaley’s research, the solution to this problem entails taking control of the way we use technology. For instance, Gazzaley believes that in this new era of AI and automation, there is much potential for new technological developments that are designed “not to harm us, but to help us — to improve how we pay attention and regulate our emotions, how we make decisions, how we build empathy and compassion.” However, we have yet to see these developments, and if we continue on the same path that we’re on, Gazzaley believes we’re likely to later regret our innovations. The chance that AI, as used for business intelligence, will have similar effects on humans is unlikely, but not impossible. After all, most of the technology referred to by Gazzaley is powered by some form of AI — whether users know it or not. As AI permeates routine areas of our lives, the question of a complete automation takeover starts to seem less and less far-fetched.
There’s no doubt that AI provides much value in the field of business intelligence. In the coming years, AI has the potential to significantly disrupt business intelligence practices as we know them. However, the indirect implications of disruption should not be overlooked. As we enter an age where AI becomes commonplace, we need to ensure that the technology of tomorrow will aid, not destroy, us as humans.