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AI/Machine Learning
Commentary

Managing Uncertainty With AI and Big Data Beyond the Pandemic

We may never be able to stop chaos or a crisis from happening, but as IT leaders, we have the opportunity to manage it as efficiently and effectively as possible.

Throughout the global pandemic, people in every step of life were forced to interact with and rely on technology in new ways. Older generations adopted new habits like online grocery shopping, businesses quickly shifted to virtual meetings, and processes like vaccine distribution required a collaborative use of both AI and mass notification technology across all levels of government and industry.

These experiences demonstrated how the intentional use of advanced technology can help to improve the lives and well-being of people during times of volatility. Particularly in the last 18 months, an unprecedented level of instability has upended business as usual. As a result, organizations of all kinds are now preparing for unpredictability more than ever before and are turning to modern technology, such as AI and big data, to help them manage these uncharted waters.

I recently sat down with enterprises, small businesses and state and local government leaders during OnSolve Nexus 2021 to discuss how AI and big data can play a big role in managing uncertainty. From climate change and global COVID-19 disruption to domestic terrorism and ransomware attacks on critical infrastructure, uncertainty will be constant in the future. Using AI and machine learning to deal with the unexpected, forecast actions and anticipate potential risks will increase in demand. IT leaders must take center stage to help improve their adaptation and bolster resiliency, yet there are key challenges they face as it relates to leveraging AI and data to do so.

Uncovering Insights Teams Can Act On

At any moment in time, there are countless data sets being gathered around disasters -- whether it’s a hurricane, an active shooter, a power grid shutdown or a cyberattack. It is nearly impossible for any one person to process all the data being gathered and determine how the information could translate to a risk or business impact. This manual process leaves opportunities to potentially miss threats and the chance to mitigate crises. Over the past few years, I’ve seen organizations take data from disparate sources and apply artificial intelligence to smooth out the data sorting process, but still, without a focus on what has the greatest potential impact to your organization, the time it takes for leaders to react and make decisions will be slower. This can be a huge setback, as every minute counts when managing and reacting to uncertainty.

While AI plays an important role in making sense of the data, if the insights created are not helpful, it is still merely information. IT leaders must think about what kind of insights would enable teams to act during a crisis and then establish their data correlation and automation accordingly.

The Data-Trust Equation

Establishing trust in the data itself and transparency from the sources from which data is derived is a major challenge that leaders face today. I have witnessed many organizations -- both in government and in business -- look at results from a report or analysis and refuse to accept the results or leverage the insights because of a lack of transparency in the logic and process of data gathering.

Knowing the source of the data and whether the intent or outcomes produced are of strong moral principle is crucial, especially since recent events have only added to the challenge of trust in data. For example, when 14 countries questioned the World Health Organization’s virus data, decision making became much more complicated and confidence in the decisions was questioned across global, national, and local groups -- even among citizens.

Developing transparency and trust in data is foundational to leveraging data analysis and AI. The rigor and discipline that goes into collecting, curating, and making data transparent is a direct investment in the quality of the outcomes achieved.

Out of everything we have taken away from the global pandemic, I am in awe of how the intentional use of technology helped improve lives during times of uncertainty. We may never be able to stop chaos or a crisis from happening, but as IT leaders, we have the opportunity to manage it as efficiently and effectively as possible. By leaning into the power of AI and data, we can create resilient organizations through the next pandemic and beyond.