The business of the future is an AI-fuelled organisation


With more than 20 years’ experience in business optimisation, Robbie Quercia specialises in the application of technology to enable efficiency, productivity and innovation.

The future of business will undoubtedly be led by artificial intelligence (AI). This is because companies are rapidly incorporating it into every core business process and at every stage of the value chain. This follows business moving from “why AI?” to a place of understanding its immense benefits in reducing costs and increasing efficiencies.

This is one of the key findings of Deloitte’s recently released, 10-year anniversary report, Tech Trends 2019: Beyond the digital frontier, which outlines how the convergence of new technologies with powerful technological forces is driving disruption across industries. New technologies include advanced networking, server-less computing and intelligent interfaces; and technological forces encompass digital experiences, cognitive technologies and cloud.

“The report highlights that in the coming years, as businesses gear up to address changing customer demands and to keep their competitive edge, companies will become full-blown AI-fuelled organisations,” says Robbie Quercia, Deloitte’s Western Cape consulting leader. 

In two consecutive Deloitte global surveys (2016–17 and 2018), AI has topped the list of emerging technologies in which chief infor­mation officers (CIO) plan to invest. This is because AI can increase productivity, strengthen regulatory compliance through automation and help organisations derive meaning from ever-larger data sets.

Robbie explains that while the concept of AI is not new to Stellenbosch-based businesses, since the town is firmly entrenched as one of the leading technologically innovative capitals of the country, the way that AI is being incorporated and the scale of its adoption is new. 

“Leading companies globally are beginning to systematically
deploy rapidly maturing technologies – machine learning, natural language processing, Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and cognitive – into products, services and every other core business function. They are no longer separate, but rather a strategic, core function of the business.”  

This is because AI-fuelled organisations understand the value of placing AI at the focus of the organisation, which can result in disruptive ramifications that ripple across the enterprise, with particular impact on data management, training machine learning, ethics, talent and culture.

However, Robbie is adamant that, contrary to popular belief, it is not about robots coming for jobs and replacing humans. Humans and machines will ultimately be required to integrate in the working world of the future.

“Business must move on from a place of fearing AI,” says Robbie. “It is about building ecosystems that are more efficient and productive. Specifically, it’s about how AI can be used to help solve a problem and encourage cost savings.”

To manage the adoption of AI into every core business offering, Robbie suggests organisations put a plan in place that uses the right technologies, techniques, talent and executive support, which will enable organisations to successfully navigate the digital transformation to become a business of the future. 

“For example, there must be a governance plan in place to monitor AI engines, much as the HR department would oversee the management and behaviour of human employees. This governance encompasses a wide swathe of considerations, including employee and customer privacy, data security and integrity, and safety in interactions between humans and machines. Data handling, management and governance – both of direct data input into the AI engine as part of its training and of derived data, which results from AI’s feedback loop – become even more critical when rules-based AI is able to act on its own.”

Besides a look at AI, Deloitte’s Tech Trends 2019 report highlights five other tech trends that will define the business of the future. Ten years ago, when smartphones and mobile apps were gaining traction and technologies like cloud and the Internet of Things were emerging, Deloitte released its first Tech Trends report. The organisation has watched this evolution unfold as the digital imperative and the changing role of technology redefine the enterprise, yet adoption of these trends continues to vary widely. Some compa-
nies are only beginning to explore trends Deloitte wrote about in 2010, while others have advanced rapidly along the maturity curve. 

“Mapping your digital future is no small order. But if you can be deliberate about sensing and evaluating emerging technologies and how these unlock new opportunities, and creating a series of well-defined but aspirational ambitions, you can make the unknown knowable, you can create the confidence and construct to embrace digital, while setting the stage to move beyond the digital frontier,” says Robbie.

If you want to learn how Deloitte Stellenbosch can move your business into an AI-fuelled organisation, contact Robbie Quercia at rquercia@deloitte.co.za.