Artificial intelligence can enable its productive tools to be employed to fight against COVID-19. Here's how
April1, 20204 min read
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In the fight against COVID-19, enterprise artificial intelligence (AI) is not getting the same attention as teleconferencing and telehealth technologies.
A massive shift to working from home to avoid spreading the virus means virtual collaboration companies like Zoom Video Communications are in the headlines. The same dynamic is playing out in healthcare as hospitals attempt to prioritize physical care for the coronavirus patients and are trying telehealth product suites like TelaDoc to manage everyone else and scale up.
AIs role in getting us through this remains less intuitive that is because not enough AI solutions can be plugged into an organization on the run like teleconferencing and telehealth can today. In addition to that, it served up as point solutions that just help with a single task do not do sufficient good fast enough. What is needed is its suite that quickly makes entire workflows easier just like teleconferencing and telehealth can.
Its worth listening to Benchmark Capitals Chetan Puttagunta on the first point as the pandemic accelerated in the U.S. as he reminded us that during previous downturns, the companies that could deliver their solutions fastest and easiest rose to the top. If it takes too long to implement a technology, you are now in a holding pattern.
The weakness of point solutions may not be as clear in times like these. The Pentagons former head of information technology in the 1990s, Paul Strassmann, articulated it best. He called it managerial productivity versus operational productivity. Steve Jobs showed Strassmanns managerial productivity helps you do a few things well and then its value tapers off. Operational productivity lifts everything the enterprise does.
AI has to show up in the form of an operational productivity solution that helps everything work better in the industry it serves. It cannot just be a tool that is floating out of context of an industrys workflows. It has to feel purpose built, have the power of the kind of solution suite that demonstrates a grasp of the unique problems of a specific industry.
The current pandemic is likely to winnow the pack of AI companies down to a smaller group of enterprise suites as some run out of cash and others realize they need to get back to the drawing board.
The same was true for teleconferencing solutions during the Great Recession. Industry veterans like myself saw the field of companies reduced down to enterprises that learned how to grow in that environment and refine their suite to be at the forefront today.
Taking a page from that period, tech leaders are looking for early lessons from COVID-19s new world to see what the future will look like. Fundamentally, this crisis means utilizing integrated digital systems to recognize and respond to emerging risks and consumer demands. The key is responding, not just automating todays activities and workflows. Changing events need to be anticipated, recognized and reacted to. That is the test AI faces.
Until now, most predictive technologies have been based on assessing two variables retrospectively. AI can be deployed to explore multiple variables and how they change through time in relation to each other. Make this easy to plug in and deploy as a suite that delivers operational productivity and a new game becomes possible.
In the insurance industry, it can mean an active claim intake processes and alerts to emerge threats in a multi-variable world. In the financial services industry, it can mean real-time understanding of liquidity, capital reserves, when best to utilize these reserves and when best to increase them. In healthcare, it can mean empowering front-line clinicians with tools that pull in data for collective use and also help them make more informed treatment decisions.
There is a lot at stake. Strassman may now be in his 90s but he still speaks to local groups at his hometown in Connecticut. At such a gathering a few weeks ago he pointed out the tensions in the global economy that could be pushed too far by todays events. His small book on the subject has already been sold out on Amazon. A perfect example of more panic buying in pivotal times.
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