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If AI Is the Answer, What Are the Right Questions to Ask?

A former boss of mine had a recurring question he’d pose when we were trying to understand the impact of a particular story or trend: “If (fill in the blank) is the answer, what is the question?” It’s become easy these days, and probably useful, to fill in that blank with “AI.” AI has become the standard answer to many if not most of our industry’s questions—but are enterprises (and vendors) really asking the right questions?

Enterprise leaders I’ve talked with about AI often mention that a crucial step in evaluating the technology is deciding whether AI is even the best, most cost-effective way to solve the business problem at hand. For our industry, this is somewhat new. In previous generations of technology, vendors built the solution and rolled it out to end users, assuming they’d fit their communications processes around the tools the vendors provided. If they had a critical need, and enough large customers shared that need, the vendors might build the feature into their next annual software release—assuming that was possible.

AI forces IT leaders to engage with business leaders and processes at an unprecedented level. Again, thinking about previous generations of technology: The purpose of telephony, and then video, was to let people connect with each other to accomplish business objectives that IT didn’t necessarily need to understand at a deep level. IT people had to know how communications needed to flow, but they didn’t need to know why the communications needed to flow.

Making a business case for AI, particularly Generative AI, is another matter. The technology is completely bound up with the broader business processes, which is why Gen AI is making its first inroads in customer experience -- the one area where communications technology has always been deeply embedded in the enterprise’s unique workflows and use cases.

For other use cases, IT leaders need to understand what Gen AI brings to the table in solving a business problem. For a richly detailed look at how this may play out with existing UCaaS Gen AI-driven tools, I highly recommend you check out this in-depth No Jitter piece by Brent Kelly of Omdia and Kevin Kieller of EnableUC. It’s the second of a three-part series where Kelly and Kieller take apart these tools in depth, and offer their assessments of their current state.

But beyond the existing tools, there’s the ongoing question of whether Gen AI is ready to solve problems specific to a particular industry or individual enterprise. Here, of course, IT has to understand industry-specific business processes before knowing how or whether AI can provide the solution.

We’ll be exploring these questions of use cases and technology/business alignment at our brand-new Enterprise Connect AI conference, taking place Oct. 1 – 2 in Santa Clara, CA. We’ll be posting our first sessions shortly, and are building the program with an eye toward addressing these crucial questions about when AI is the answer to your enterprise’s questions. You can find more information on the event here, and I hope you can join us this fall for an insightful, in-depth examination of the challenges and opportunities around enterprise AI.