It was only a year ago that ChatGPT burst onto the scene, heralding the mass adoption of Generative AI. Here at last was a tangible form of what science fiction writers and tech enthusiasts had been promising for so long – the ability for a computer to produce content such as a picture, a story, an essay, or a press release. What might take a human many hours to research and write could now be produced in minutes. The capability now easily accessible by anyone with a computing device and an internet connection.
This realisation brought with it both excitement and fear. Some organisations chose to embrace the change and accelerated projects that included a form of AI in their product suite. Others issued warnings to their staff to stay away from Generative AI, fearful that valuable IP would be unleashed into the public domain.
At Spark we’ve understood that what our people and our customers are experiencing can’t be ignored. That we need to embrace this new evolution in technology in a way that will greatly enhance the AI journey we have been on for some time.
We are asking ourselves how the democratisation of AI, through the advent of widespread Generative AI tools, can be applied internally to increase productivity and boost our people’s job satisfaction. And we look externally and think about how it can improve our product offerings, and how what we learn can assist the many organisations, large and small, we partner with.
We note that many organisations in Aotearoa maybe grappling with how to harness the value of Generative AI, but that it is important to make a start.
- Habib Baluwala PhD, Spark Domain Chapter Lead
To get it onto business and technology roadmaps, not only for future products and services, but for their people’s professional development. A recent Gartner® report ‘Plan for Generative AI’s Impact on Jobs’1, points out “Generative AI will impact many workers but the timing and degree of impact will vary”.
"This contradictory mix of certainty and uncertainty leaves executive leaders struggling to make concrete plans for their workforce that align with their planned technology and business investments,” the report says.
Advances in AI won’t result in mass job losses in the near term and in fact in the longer term will create new jobs. According to Gartner, Inc. “By 2026, despite all the advancements in AI, the global jobs’ impact will be neutral”. It notes that “By 2036, AI solutions introduced to augment or autonomously deliver tasks, activities, or jobs will result in over half a billion net new human jobs”. Furthermore, by 2036 “the incremental spending for products, services and hybrid offerings to deliver AI solutions will exceed a minimum of $50 trillion.”
Generative AI is the next iteration after Predictive AI. The latter enabled companies to interrogate a data base and provide more recommendations as to what was most likely to happen next. In other words, it reduced the cost of predictions because it was used to calculate the highest probability of what future form of product or service would succeed. Generative AI has a much easier business case – it saves humans’ time. For example, a customer service representative can type a customer query into a Generative AI tool, and it will produce an accurate answer, tailored to that specific person’s needs, almost instantly.
The possibilities extend beyond providing more efficient customer service, with three international case studies demonstrating the value of Generative AI.
Writing headlines, summarising customer sentiment, and taking photos have generally been considered activities only humans can do effectively. Which is why the advent of Generative AI can generate fear and uncertainty in an organisation’s workforce.
Change management is therefore key to successful adoption. Executives need to work closely with their HR teams to understand how this technology can be applied in a way that enhances people’s roles and provides them with the ability to engage in more interesting work.
There are plenty of new and exciting employment opportunities with the advent of Generative AI. Just as the advent of social media over a decade ago saw the arrival of social media managers, AI is ushering in the ‘prompt engineer’. This role entails finding the right text prompts to generate the most effective AI-produced content. A skilled prompt engineer, who applies both art and science to be successful in their work, is fast becoming highly sought after in the job market.
While many global companies are now shipping products with AI capabilities, the first step for many organisations in New Zealand is to get curious. To ensure their workforce is at least aware of what Generative AI is, what it can do and how it might be applied.
The next step is to start thinking about governance – the privacy, security, intellectual property, and ethical considerations – so that tools are deployed safely. At Spark we have a set of AI principles which include keeping humans in the loop, ensuring there is the ability to explain outcomes, models are transparent, and fairness and bias are top considerations. We also have a usage policy that provides guidance on such things as how to use internal AI tools, and how to protect the privacy of our customers’ information.
With solid governance in place, you can then consider how to apply Generative AI where it is most productive. This is when it's important to work with HR to analyse people’s daily tasks with a view to applying new tools that boost productivity and free them up for more high-value work. And once in place, ensuring you monitor if tools are being used, and if not, find out why – technology needs to serve a business purpose, not exist for its own sake.
We’ve also found creating a prompt library and educating our people on how to effectively use it is a way of demonstrating the benefits of this technology, while also being a practical way to upskill our people.
Perhaps the most effective way we’ve found to introduce Generative AI has been to create ambassadors in every department. To equip them with the tools and knowledge to share with confidence the scope of this new technology, so that more of our teams can unlock its benefits.
We have always known that robots and computers will work alongside humans, and Generative AI gets us closer to that inevitable vision. It is evolving at a rapid pace, its impact will vary, but our people need to be along on the ride. Generative AI is not a fad, it is not a fancy, it is here to stay, and it will soon be core to every business success.
The full Gartner, Inc. report 'Plan for Generative AI’s Impact on Jobs’ has been made available for Insight Engine readers here.
Habib Baluwala is a leader in data insights and analytics who operates within the intersection of applied machine learning, platform services, and business strategy. Habib is skilled at translating advanced analytics and data to articulate key insights that create value and improve business performance.
1 Gartner, Plan for Generative AI’s Impact on Jobs, Helen Poitevin, Pieter den Hamer, Emily Rose McRae, 13 July 2023.
GARTNER is a registered trademark and service mark of Gartner, Inc. and/or its affiliates in the U.S. and internationally and is used herein with permission. All rights reserved.