Artificial Intelligence: Welcome to the Future World of Consulting

Posted by Natasha Engan on January 9, 2018

Artificial Intelligence, AI, Management Consulting, Deltek for Professional Services, Consulting Industry

By Natasha Engan, Deltek SVP of Global Consulting

Artificial intelligence (AI) is becoming integrated into the very fabric of our lives. Although “machine learning, predictive analytics, smart automation, chatbots, AI algorithms and natural language processing” may not be familiar concepts for most people, or part of our everyday language, they are changing the way we live, work and play.

Artificial Intelligence isn’t new. AI was founded as an academic discipline in 1956.  However, many newer technologies like Cloud, Analytics, IoT, 5G and such are coming together to speed digital transformation and to power the growth and adoption of AI technologies. So although AI is not new, we’re only scratching the surface of what it can and will do in the future. AI will most likely transform every industry as we know it today, including the consulting industry.

Artificial Intelligence and the Consulting Industry

So why is this important to you as consultants?  Recently I had the opportunity to participate in a panel discussion with several other consulting industry experts at an event hosted by Consulting Magazine in NYC. (For more on this event, “Firm of the Future: Transforming Your Business for Success”, see my first blog.)  One of the topics the panel addressed was Artificial Intelligence, and how it is a game changer for consultants and their clients.

We discussed how artificial Intelligence is integrated into the very fabric of our lives – and how it’s shaping the way we work and live.  Most of us are already experiencing AI through travel and entertainment technologies, such as navigational apps and video and music streaming. However, we are also seeing AI in our professional lives.  As consultants we are now using mobile apps to enter our time & expenses, which can also help us predict the number of hours we will work for certain clients on various engagements.

Artificial Intelligence Applications

Newer uses yet to hit critical mass are the AI-enhanced assistants, like Amazon Alexa or Google Home. These smart assistants can execute an exhaustive list of possibilities to make our lives easier. They can help us make hands free phone calls while driving or multi-tasking, check our calendars and schedule appointments, and access information quickly like local weather, traffic or sports scores via voice commands. In addition with smart home automation we can set timers and voice commands to remotely control lights, locks, thermostats, music and many smart household appliances. 

Another exciting area of AI discussed by the consulting panel was the applications happening in ecommerce. For example, Nike is using predictive analytics to determine when a child is likely to outgrow or wear out a pair of shoes. Nike uses this information to proactively deliver new shoes through a kids shoe subscription service for busy parents called “EasyKicks”. The parents have the option to keep the shoes or return them.  

Customer service is a natural fit for artificial intelligence. AI chatbots are helping organizations deal with large amounts of repetitive customer inquiries. By automating these responses through AI, companies can free up customer service experts to handle more complex customer issues. This allows them to hone their skills and become more valuable by participating in revenue-generating activities.

Predictive analytics is one of the most compelling uses of AI, because it enables organizations to identify future risk and opportunities based upon data, not hunches or assumptions. It has countless applications and is being used for predictive maintenance, predictive failure, fraud detection, underwriting, financial modeling, supply chain efficiency and more.  When predictive analytics is applied to purchasing, it helps organizations know how, why and when people are likely to buy. Applications of predictive analytics on big data will continue to grow, as will concierge bots, chatbots, and virtual assistants. All are the future of marketing, customer support and other core business areas.

As a growing number of AI use cases hit the news daily, businesses will continue to look for ways to incorporate AI into their solutions, business operations, supply chain management and customer-facing activities for efficiency, competitive advantage and new revenue streams.  AI has the power to change everything from customer service and robotics to analytics and marketing – in ways we may not envision today.

Artificial Intelligence provides a huge business opportunity for consulting firms. Consultants who anticipate — and adapt to these changes will redefine their organization and relevance. These professionals will be crucial advisers, whose expertise will be valued.

Summary

Artificial intelligence is set to transform businesses across all industries, allowing them to reinvent how they run, compete and thrive. Is your consulting firm embracing this technology to help your clients improve productivity, lower cost and create new growth opportunities? Should this be a new service offering for your firm? AI is here to stay – are you ready to jump in with both feet? It will be great fun.

Successfully implementing a good AI strategy depends upon good data. Data that is not fragmented across multiple systems and that is reliable, accurate and can be accessed real-time. Savvy businesses moving toward digital transformation have turned their focus to SaaS and cloud-enabled software because they need a flexible, agile ERP system that provides this foundation.

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About the Author

 Natasha Engan, Deltek SVP of Global ConsultingAs SVP of Global Consulting, Natasha Engan runs a 350 person worldwide consulting firm within project-based software giant, Deltek.


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