When you hear the words artificial intelligence you may immediately think of robots from a sci-fi movie, but AI is actually prominent in most businesses today. AI can include any intelligent systems with machine learning, including things as commonplace as business automation, advanced analytics and risk monitoring.
In a recent study – released during InfoSec at the beginning of June – conducted by Freeform Dynamics and network monitoring vendor Ipswitch, 92 per cent of those surveyed said that exploiting intelligent systems was critical or would be valuable to their competing effectively in whichever markets they operate.
Tony Lock, distinguished analyst at Freeform Dynamics, said this shows a clear recognition that the changing IT industry needs intelligent solutions in order to drive growth.
"There is very clear recognition that organisations today have to be able to exploit intelligent systems to basically make their businesses work properly, never mind to make them as effective as possible," he said.
According to Lock, for the study AI was defined as anything that thinks and learns continuously.
"Right at the front of the study we gave people a list of different types of intelligent systems," he explained. "This was to make sure we were talking about the world today, not the sci-fi world of 200 years from now. We gave them nine or 10 different areas. So using solutions in areas such as digital customer engagement; business-to-business automation; IOT; advanced analytics; process automation; workflow automation; industrial automation; and security (risk monitoring and management and fraud detection)."
The study found that 78 per cent said that assessing the full extent of the opportunity presented by intelligent systems was challenging. Sixty-three per cent said that making sure IT staff have the right skills to effectively use intelligent systems is also a challenge.
Robert Farmer, senior director UK and Ireland, Nordics and MEA at Ipswitch, said these worries provide an opportunity for the channel to get into the AI market, though currently there is a mixed response from partners.
"The way the channel is exploiting the opportunity is really mixed. Some channel partners are really on top of this, pushing forward. Others are maybe being a lot more reactive, and sometimes partners are even bringing in intelligent systems without realising they are doing it," he explained.
"Some of the things customers told us they found particularly challenging go from just the basics of assessing the full extent of the opportunity they have, all the way through to putting in the proper security measures, as well as things as basic as making sure all the IT staff have the right skills. So that is clearly an opportunity for managed services to be wrapped around these areas."
Wider adoption of intelligent systems brings more security concerns connected to firms' internal systems, as well as those that come from being dependant on other people's automated systems.
Twenty-one per cent of people in the study had already experienced security issues connected to automated/unexpected API access, with 47 per cent saying they could see this being a future risk.
"The concerns come from a number of things. It is partly from the complexity in their own networks, but it is mainly that many of them are obviously on the receiving end of other people's automated systems. Very few companies now are completely isolated," explained Lock.
"The issue is actually having the visibility to know what is going on. These are the areas that the customers don't have the skills around and don't have time to get to grips with. These are the things that channel partners could potentially provide as added services."
In order to protect customers from these issues, Lock said the adoption of AI in the channel must increase.
"It's got to become very, very broad," he explained. "Ninety-plus per cent of businesses say they know that these automatic intelligence systems are going to be important. AI will be essential for companies to make sure they prosper, even just carry on succeeding. So the opportunities are there for the channel in all areas. Essentially, the key is making this happen for the vast majority of potential customer bases," he added.
"Intelligent systems are today's challenge, not tomorrow's. These things are happening and they are impacting almost every organisation, irrespective of size or vertical. It is something that the channel's end users are being inhabited by, and they are looking for guidance."
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