Machine learning (ML), Artificial Intelligence (AI), Big Data – have we arrived at a point where, fundamentally, these buzzwords have merged into one and they mean the same thing? They certainly seem to appear to be joined at the hip.
For those that would like a definition, according to Tech Target ‘Machine Learning is a type of AI that allows software applications to become more accurate in predicting outcomes without being explicitly programmed. The basic premise of machine learning is to build algorithms that can receive input data and use statistical analysis to predict an output value within an acceptable range.’
The growth of MarTech
The growth of MarTech platforms has been exponential. In the CRM space HubSpot and Salesforce probably have the highest market share when it comes to managing a businesses sales and marketing efforts, with both platforms offering a range of cool features to monitor and track prospect engagement throughout the sales funnel, including lead prediction and scoring. At launch, both businesses were relatively early adopters of emerging technology. The co-founders of HubSpot, Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah set out to launch an online marketing platform, to address the flagging success of direct mail and other more traditional marketing activities – seeing amazing growth, the company brought in $82.3 million in revenue in Q1 2017.
Investment in AI takes centre stage
I am a firm believer that the technology and software we have access to today needs to serve humans, and bring faster, more cost effective solutions for businesses seeking to solve challenges around customer engagement, loyalty and retention.
Other big tech companies continue to flex their AI muscle – Microsoft, Amazon, and Google to name a few, all have huge research budgets to help them stay ahead of the competition. Moreover, interest and investment into AI has experienced incredible growth with Google acquiring Deepmind for $400 million in 2014 and Microsoft launching a new fund for AI start-ups in December 2016.
We’ve even seen industry associations such as the IAB launch an AI / ML Working Group to help marketing, technology and advertising executives understand, and navigate the impact new and emerging AI / ML MarTech platforms are having on the industry. As awareness in big brands and corporations is considered to be low, gathering knowledge on how this topic – and how you can use it – will definitely aide ones career.
GAFA – tech giants to watch
The big four to watch in the tech space are Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon. Big money is being spent on acquisitions and R&D with Google reported to have spent between $20 and $30 billion on AI in 2016 (with 90% spent on R&D and deployment and 10% on AI acquisition), according to McKinsey. Launched in 2014, Google’s Alexa has certainly become the leading digital assistant in many homes across the globe.
Deep learning AI provides a wealth of data to help brands and businesses better understand their customers, and the insight and tools to better engage with them. Having already introduced facial recognition technology in 2010, Facebook now plans to personalise what matters to each user, populating timelines with things they genuinely care about, rather than presenting posts and people they would prefer not to see.
Moreover, it has speculatively been reported that Apple, post the acquisition of AI start-up Emotient in early 2016, will focus on facial recognition technology and customers reaction to advertisements.
Is it just me of is it all starting to feel a little bit ‘BIG BROTHER’?
Emotional Intelligence – the human element
Whilst technology continues to evolve and global businesses lap up solutions being delivered to market, in my eyes technology most certainly does not replace the human brain. Data, through AI does provide tremendous insight, along side the great minds of many a data scientist – but it does not automatically deliver answers to all of the challenges faced.
Many CIO’s and CEO’s maintain the view that the application of ‘Emotional Intelligence’ (EI) has been critical to the success and growth of the businesses they build and lead. In this era of digital transformation, more than ever businesses need senior level executives that have the ability to lead, to influence, to perform and to manage a growing team. And whilst AI provides rational, factual information, there remains a huge role for human interaction, authenticity and connection.
It’s the team of people you wrap around your product or platform who are the ‘guardians’ to make your business a success. These ‘guardians’ build relationships with stakeholders; manage conflict by having strong social awareness, are aware of both verbal and non-verbal communications between peers, and have the ability to show empathy and really listen to ensure nothing being expressed is overlooked.
In high-pressure environments those with high levels of EI out perform others – for example, Gartner reported that ‘Top performers in computer programming were measured to have a 1,272% higher productivity rate than the average programmer’. Imagine what you business would achieve if all of our team had high levels of EI?
In very simple terms, it’s about enabling people and showing them the benefits of becoming super aware, being socially aware, choosing the right response, and being able to positively influence those around them to achieve a shared ‘end result’.