AI – it’s not like pulling a rabbit out of a hat

Posted 1st March 2019
4 minutes read
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Chatting to our Mashbo comms bod, Nikki Girvan, after she attended the Liverpool LEP insights event ‘What can Artificial Intelligence do for your business?” at Blackburne House this morning, it was really heartening to hear some brilliant, common sense and effective advice from a group of organisations that have actually come together to use AI and machine learning in business.

As well as having a really interesting case study about how law firm Weightmansworked with the University of Liverpool to use AI to create a tool to works alongside its lawyers, supporting reasoning in casework using data, providing junior fee earners with guidance and freeing up time for other business activities, Professor Katie Atkinson and Dr Catriona Wolfenden also had some important insights into the process of using AI to solve real-world business issues.

First and foremost Professor Atkinson highlighted something that we as a software development consultancy come up against frequently – being approached by an organisation that has decided it needs to ‘do something with AI’ and comes to us with that as a brief.

It’s understandable. It’s a hot topic and the tech is rapidly changing the way we live and work – but AI isn’t just one thing, there is no ‘big AI machine’ to plug your business into – there’s more to it than that.

Identify, Collaborate, Understand & Invest

What business need to do is first identify the problem and the desired outcomes and work with technology and research partners to ascertain the correct solution.

This will require scoping and planning, time taken to work out just how machine learning can benefit the business and its people. It will also require collaboration and respect for the specialisms of each partner – in this case Weightmans provided the legal sector specialist knowledge and data, the University of Liverpool the research and Kira Systems, the tech.

We found a similar situation creating automated property management platform, PropertyCloud. We have the technical knowledge, but we needed our business investment partner, Rooms4u to bring that sector expertise to the table.

It’s not just about coming together either, it’s about learning to understanding one another – because tech, academia and sectors like legal and property speak very different languages.

Finally, they highlighted perhaps the biggest issue of all – levels of expectation.

An AI solution can’t be pulled like a rabbit out of a hat. It won’t be created in just a few weeks. In many cases you’ll be applying the tech to situations it has never been applied to before, there will be new integrations, surprise hitches and challenges you may not even have conceived. It takes time, patience, multiple iterations and it costs money – but done properly the results can be transformational.

Gavin Sherratt, MD, Mashbo