Artificial intelligence is often considered one of the top disruptors of our generation. It’s forcing companies to apply a business strategy that combines intelligent technologies with operating models and human talent to reach customers in new ways.

We’re already seeing these advances play out. According to the Accenture Technology Vision 2018 survey, 84 percent of business and IT executives agree that through technology, companies are weaving themselves seamlessly into the fabric of our everyday lives.

Let’s examine the impact that AI is having on one sector in particular – communications and media companies. The value in store for the communications industry is especially strong: by 2035, AI has the potential to increase information and communication industry output by $1 trillion.

Accenture Strategy research finds that industry leaders are recognizing AI’s massive potential. For example, 72 percent of telecom executives cite AI as a top three business priority now, or expect it to be within one year. And 63 percent anticipate AI will drive additional revenue growth by accelerating the creation of new products and services.

Beyond Implementation: An AI Business Strategy

To reap the full rewards of AI, mere implementation is not enough. Unlocking value will require organizations to deeply integrate AI into their business and customer strategy, so it can be unleashed to advance priority goals and drive growth.

It takes seeing AI as a strategic competency that works in tandem with human talent to solve complex challenges, break into new markets, diversifies revenue streams and accelerates operational efficiency. For some organizations, AI is already a public face of the business, handling everything from initial interactions via chat, voice and.

At the same time, AI is also reshaping the role of communications sector strategists. Today’s strategists will need to closely collaborate with AI engineers and data scientists as well as become well-versed in algorithms and AI tools, which can help them with everything from surfacing new competitive threats, to identifying product opportunities or acquisition targets. And these strategists must come to play a central role in planning and iterating the investment strategy for AI.

Most importantly, strategists and workforces at large, will need to reimagine their roles to work hand-in-glove with AI.

According to Accenture Strategy’s Reworking the Revolution report, if businesses invest in AI and human-machine collaboration at the same rate as top-performing companies, they could boost revenues by upwards of 38 percent and raise employment levels by 10 percent by 2022. Business leaders must immediately prepare their workforces for an entirely new world where human ingenuity meets intelligent technology to unlock new forms of growth.

The Path Ahead

To scale AI, communications executives will need to seamlessly combine their AI business strategy with a bottom-up AI planning framework, as well as infuse AI into the strategy team itself. A few steps will be key:

  • Turn enterprise data into rapid insights. Telecom companies cite Big Data as the most important complementary capability to deploying AI. Modern AI feeds on numerous large data sets. Companies need a critical mass of AI competencies to rapidly exploit a comprehensive enterprise data inventory to fuel insights.
  • Drive best-in-class AI execution. As AI adoption soars, advantage will rapidly shift from AI data pipes to best-in-class execution of top use cases. Our data finds as many as three in four telecom companies are already finding sufficient use case – a promising sign of progress.
  • Determine how AI can move the key levers in your customer strategy. Companies must promote organization-wide collaboration on AI using a cross-functional team – one who intimately knows the levers of its customer strategy. Leveraging Big Data, business strategists should join up with data scientists, operating teams, and R&D on AI use cases that can directly impact profitable growth.
  • Lead with AI in an ecosystem. Telecom companies should embed AI and cognitive intelligence as a “brain” at the center of the organization, so they can constantly learn from customers and the ecosystem. They should then use these learnings to increasingly automate the creation of new services. The better companies do this, the more likely they can become the center of a new ecosystem that expands to capture the value of adjacent value chains.
  • Effectively resource bottom-up AI learnings to enable more exploratory AI prototyping. But don’t leave it at that – create an iterative feedback loop to apply those learnings to business strategy. This will be key to unlocking AI’s full value.
  • Foster AI-empowered innovation. AI is already helping solve a range of questions today. But companies should also be asking: “How can we use AI alongside human ingenuity to create what hasn’t been done before?”

AI is already revolutionizing the way communications companies engage with and target customers. We must now go a step further. Navigating the headwinds of new competition and industry disruption will require industry players to put AI on the frontlines of business strategy – and reimagine the role of traditional strategists – so they can seize on AI’s power to advance business goals and unlock new forms of growth in parallel. Today’s pioneers will be tomorrow’s winners.

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