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Is Artificial Intelligence Nearing Its Third Winter? Does It Matter to Your SMB?

· Small Business,Automation

Gartner yesterday released a survey detailing a pull back in planned Big Data investments and an unfortunate reality that only 15% of projects have deployed to production from pilot. Scuttlebutt suggests that this report has sent shock waves through the Big Data industry. And it got us pondering two questions:

  1. Big Data is in many ways what powers the realization of artificial intelligence (AI). Both of which are very hyped right now, including among sales-related software. However, AI has a boom and bust history so what are the chances that this report hints at a coming bust?
  2. Does it matter to you, the small to medium business trying to grow your business and focus on profits?

Is AI Nearing Its Third Winter?

Wikipedia does a great job of explaining the history of AI from its founding in 1956 up through the early 2000s. Since then the paths to an end goal of "a machine with intellectual capabilities that exceed the abilities of human beings" have expanded into a variety of means to achieve it a la Big Data, machine learning, deep learning, etc.

There are key three data points influencing our current opinion of whether or not this technology will benefit small and medium business owners.

First, the preceding two "winters" for AI were caused by issues with perception and criticisms of the technology, which ultimately led to significant cuts in funding. We believe the Gartner report highlights exactly these two issues. If executives are reducing their Big Data investments and not pushing existing pilots into production, they are not seeing the value. It's that simple. There are many potential reasons for them not to see the value, for example, maybe the industry of Big Data has yet again underestimated how big of a challenge projects of this magnitude really are. Gartner itself hints that existing pilots are comprised of ad-hoc technologies.

Second is the hype itself. Salesforce.com, one of the best marketing juggernauts in the world, is unveiling their Einstein product at Dreamforce this week. Yesterday Google announced a new phone which, as a fully integrated hardware/software offering, will enable a platform through which to deliver AI. However, these announcements come on the heals of Apple's not-so-successful Siri.

If you are a believer in Gartner's hype cycle then AI and Big Data are most likely in the Peak of Inflated Expectations, in our opinion. The Gartner survey just might hint at the next reality for AI: the Trough of Disillusionment.

And third, is the BuzzFeed report about how Big Data giant Palantir is losing some of its largest clients and struggling to collect on its accounts.

These three points added together give us caution. They also remind us that it's probably best if the larger companies bear the burden of this innovation risk, as their cash balances and customer base can withstand the potential for these technologies to not work as expected. In the meantime, we're keeping a very close eye on things.

Does Any of This Matter to You, the SMB?

Unless you are an investor in Big Data technology - an investor of time or resources - probably not. We would caution you to keep your antennae up if you're being sold a technology with this capability - will it really work as advertised? Will the benefits make up for your learning curve (And theirs in building out the tech)?

For example, if someone is touting that Big Data is surfacing suggested follows up for your sales team - dig into how they actually do it. In our experience, simple logic in an application can do just as good a job, if not better, at suggesting follow ups. And simple logic doesn't cost as much as to the customer as Big Data :).

Furthermore, while it can potentially be achieved someday, an SMB most likely doesn't have a large enough data set to benefit from Big Data and its capabilities.

Conclusion

While we wish the best for those who remain pioneers in this 50 year old technological dream, we remain cautiously optimistic of its ability to deliver value to you, the SMB owner. As it relates to sales software and your customer relationship management system, we are not sold that your sales software needs to be the "smartest" software. In our experience smart software is often confusing. We at VipeCloud believe that your needs require simple and effective software so that you can focus on profits.

Our two cents...

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