artificial-intelligence-elon-musk-hawkingMachine learning, cognitive computing, natural language processing, speech recognition, robotics…the use of artificial intelligence in business is accelerating, with the market expected to double from 2014 to $9.2 billion by 2019, a CAGR of 15%*.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is not a new field or technology. With foundations in the 1940’s, programmable computers inspired scientists to discuss the potential of electronic brains. From a fledgling start, AI adoption in business is accelerating rapidly, for the first time you no longer need to buy your own super computer to access the natural language recognition, processing power and algorithms required to drive AI. Clever technology such as IBM Watson or API.ai is now readily and cheaply available via software as a service (SaaS) offerings, unleashing these technologies for millions worldwide.

But what relevance does artificial intelligence (AI) and associated technologies have for business advisors, coaches and professional service firms? Is AI a potential competitive advantage, just another distraction or a replacement for the advisor over the coming years?

Don’t believe the hype
Often exciting new advisory technologies in an early adoption phase elicit dramatic pronouncements of ‘the death of advisory’ or ‘the death of professional service firms’. The reality is often completely the reverse, with level heads recognising the technology as a powerful tool and potential (albeit transitory) competitive advantage.

What can AI do more effectively?
AI is one such technology. Advisors need to reflect on what AI can do more effectively rather than it being a direct substitute. Here’s a quick list of what AI can do better than an advisor:

  1. Respond lightning fast – AI doesn’t need to put clients on hold, write email replies or queue at the airline check-in counter
  2. Access an encyclopaedic memory – AI can understand and access 1000’s of business tools and processes
  3. Stay awake – 24 x 7 x 365
  4. Remember conversations – track and analyse all conversations ever had with a customer for future learning
  5. Analyse on the fly – review data trends to predict future behaviour
  6. Continually learn and improve – from 1000’s of conversation patterns

But dynamic data is where the advisor wins hands down
Critically AI’s potential positive impact on the advisory industry depends heavily on the availability of quality data to drive algorithms, understand patterns and predict actions.

Most advisors interact with data ‘mechanics’ from dashboards, financials and surveys to guide their growth, profit, and strategy work, a narrow lens to work with for AI. Mechanical data doesn’t capture intangible ‘dynamic’ information, those things harder to corral for a machine (but the ‘basics’ for an effective advisor):

  1. Intuition – a feeling as to whether a customer can achieve their objectives
  2. Political nous – understanding the power plays and relationships within a business
  3. Challenging – an ability to question direction and the vision of owners or managers
  4. Reading the back story – what has been the track record of a business’s implementation success?
  5. Who’s who? – Identifying high achievers with time to invest on a project, the blockers and those people it’s imperative to get ‘on side’ to drive the team
  6. Probability of change – the likelihood of the team to change their behaviours for a given time period
  7. Culture – identifying strategies with the biggest impact on buy-in from the team
  8. Highlighting WIIFM – (what’s in it for me?) the team’s appetite for achieving stated goals

Without the ability to draw on dynamic information, AI or analytics in isolation draw a narrow view of the business. Conversely, an advisor relying on dynamic without mechanical data and associated insights can miss critical information required for driving growth. Big picture ‘vision’ sessions will be for nought if the business is haemorrhaging cash.

So what’s the future relationship between business consultants, coaches, professional service firms and AI?

AI technology will be another tool – facilitating and enhancing data analysis and sharing to improve productivity, enhance the quality of insights and outcomes for clients. There’s no replacement for a trusted business advisor who can translate insights and recommendations gleaned from the data into actionable strategies successfully implemented. A powerful combination.

In summary, advisory AI technology is useless without advisors, but advisors can greatly benefit from advisory AI technology.

The future is here: Mindshop rolls out AskMindshop
smart-phone-screen-shot-aiMindshop has listened to the needs of advisors and has launched its first AI chatbot to compliment the work done by advisors in the field. AskMindshop plays to its strengths by:

  • understanding natural language conversations both typed and spoken (on the smart phone app)
  • listening and conversing with customers and advisors 24/7
  • knowing 100’s of business tools and processes, each with high definition videos
  • learning how customers describe business and personal challenges

AskMindshop understands in seconds, suggesting the most effective business tool or process to address almost any problem or opportunity faced by an advisor or customer.

Providing advisors amazing agility in the field
Developed over a period of 5 months and leveraging the latest API.ai technology (recently acquired by Google.com) the new AskMindshop chatbot provides Mindshop advisors a fantastic competitive advantage, powering their ability to rapidly respond to clients with the most appropriate solutions in the Mindshop toolkit.

First step in the AI journey
AskMindshop is the first step in Mindshop’s vision to open advisory to assist clients anywhere in the world, adapting to unique local requirements, and revealing a wealth of opportunities and price points.

*IDC Worldwide Content Analytics, Discovery and Cognitive Systems Software Forecast 2015 – 2019, June 2015