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Accenture: AI is the new UI

Artificial intelligence will be the new user interface for internal and customer-facing applications — not eventually, but soon, according to Accenture. In its flagship technology report Technology Vision 2017, “AI is the new UI” is one of five trends Accenture predicts will disrupt businesses in the next three to five years.

The overall theme of the report recommends a shift in software design philosophy from programming for the masses to programming for the individual. “The standard way people built applications 20 years ago was you had one interface to serve everybody,” said Michael Biltz, managing director of the Accenture Technology Vision at the Accenture Technology Labs in San Jose. “But as technology becomes more and more sophisticated with artificial intelligence, personalization, different interfaces, data from everywhere … you have the ability to design technology that’s going to specifically adapt to people.”

To get started on the “AI is the new UI” trend, Biltz said CIOs should focus on applications that need to change the fastest or, put another way, that are closely aligned with business goals. That will likely mean customer-facing applications will be touched first, but Biltz believes this will shift quickly to internal apps, where artificial intelligence can make employees more effective and more efficient.

Although AI remains a catch-all term today, Biltz encourages CIOs to consider technologies that make “an interaction or an interface more human or natural, so think voice recognition and natural language processing,” he said.

Accenture’s tech roadmap

Accenture’s 2017 report is based on a survey conducted with 5,000 business executives as well as interviews with internal experts, startups and corporate partners.

In addition to “AI is the new UI,” Accenture’s 2017 trends are as follows:

  • Design for humans: Technology should adapt to humans, not the other way around.
  • Ecosystems as macrocosms: Organizations are connecting with third-party companies to offer new services and attract new customers. But choose wisely: Partnerships forged today will affect what organizations will look like — and how customers will see them — in 10 years.
  • Workforce marketplace: Use platforms to find the necessary skills for a project’s success on demand; teams will be assembled and disassembled as needed.
  • The uncharted: What digital business will look like in three to five years is still unknown; early adopters will have opportunities to define it.

The trends are meant to be a realistic roadmap companies could — and Accenture believes should — accomplish in the next three to five years, according to Biltz.

“There’s a reason why something like quantum computing is not on the list. It’s not because we don’t think it’s important, and it’s not because we don’t think it’s eventually going to be big,” he said. “Rather, for most companies, they’re going to look at that technology and say, ‘Yeah, there’s not a lot for me to do right now.'”

Taken together, the five trends underscore an important directive for CIOs: Employee, customer and corporate goals will become increasingly intertwined going forward. Conversations will veer away from technology functionality toward practical use.

“It’s going to become more a question of who will be using the technology, what are their goals and how do we create technology that’s going to be able to help them reach their goals,” Biltz said.

And the iterative style of work that’s infiltrating IT departments now will become the norm. “How we act and interact with each other is continuously changing all of the time, and if you’re not iterative, no matter how smart you are or how good your initial design is, it’s to become obsolete as the world changes,” he said.