From Alpha to Zero: How Business Architecture Helps Organizations Leverage Artificial Intelligence


17 December 2018


25 May 2020

Published In

Business architecture is front and center to helping organizations prepare for a digital future. In this installment of StraightTalk, we explore how business architecture can help organizations to harness this artificial intelligence (AI) revolution.

Business architecture is front and center to helping organizations prepare for a digital future. In this installment of StraightTalk, we spoke with Dr. Raj Ramesh, who gives us the straight talk on how business architecture can help organizations to harness this artificial intelligence (AI) revolution. This post is based on our recent interview with him.

Disclaimer: we’ve made some adjustments for our typical StraightTalk-style: the headings below represent StraightTalk asking the questions and our guest, Raj, responds in turn.

Make sure to check out Raj’s interview firsthand in our StraightTalk podcast 5-Minutes With Raj Ramesh.

Okay, break it down. What is AI?

Raj: “In simple terms, AI is about replicating human cognition in machines. The idea is to try to make machines that can interact with the world just like humans do.

In some narrow domains like chess, AI is even better than humans – like AlphaZero that has learned to play chess on its own and even beat the best human chess player.”

What do you think are some of the most important applications of AI for organizations?

Raj: “There are some common applications across many industries. For example, we could:

  • Use face recognition to identify employees who walk in through the door
  • Use computer interactions to chat with customers through chatbots
  • Use machine learning to understand what customers want so that product development can create the right products

Then there are industry-specific applications, such as leveraging AI for:

  • Loan approval for banks
  • Claims processing for insurance companies
  • Finding the best drilling location for oil companies
  • Diagnosing diseases in health care”

How can business architecture help to leverage and scale AI within an organization

Raj: “Business architecture has a huge role to play in the future of organizations. There is no doubt that AI will be an integral part of the future business. Some of the key questions organizations ask related to the application of AI are things like “Where do we start?” “How do we mature the capabilities that will enhance our competitive advantage?” These are questions that business architects will help to answer when they map business strategy all the way to execution.

When an organization plans to introduce AI, it’s going to be transformational. So they will need to answer questions such as:

  • How do we re-skill people?
  • Are we going to build or buy?
  • How do we make changes to the organizational structure?
  • How will our processes change?
  • How do we embed AI into the thinking and DNA of the organization?
  • Which capabilities should be enabled?

These are questions that business architects are great at answering.

Business architects will also help to design the future of these organizations. When we build AI applications, we do not want to take a haphazard approach. It is better to be deliberate and take an architectural approach to build a strong foundation. Business architects have to understand the business processes, information, and capabilities that are impacted by AI as they design the future organization.”

Because we love six-word memoirs, how would you sum all of that up in 6 words?

Raj: “To effectively implement AI within an organization, we need strong business architecture, so my six-word summary would be: AI and business architecture are best friends.”

See the diagram below that sums that sums all of this up, too.

Diagram showing how business architecture helps organizations with digital transformation

Business Architecture and Digital Transformation

Downloadable Media

What are the top things business architects should do to educate themselves about AI?

Raj: “Business architects should:

  • Learn to understand and appreciate data – data is the fodder for AI
  • Take one or two classes on AI – there are many free ones available
  • Be curious and ask a lot of questions – make sure to filter out the hype from the reality

Anything else?

Raj: “AI is here to stay, so this is an exciting space to be in and an exciting time for business architects.”

More Good Stuff…

5-Minutes With Raj Ramesh (StraightTalk podcast): Just in case you missed that link right there in the beginning, make sure to check out Raj’s podcast, which was the basis for this post, where he speaks with us about the applications of AI and how business architecture can help an organization to fully leverage it.

Videos on AI (Raj Ramesh on YouTube): Raj is an excellent storyteller and has an incredible ability to break complex topics down in a way that we can all understand. Make sure to check out his short and insightful videos on AI (and other topics).

An Executive’s Guide to AI (McKinsey): One of our favorites: an interactive guide to help you learn about AI.

50 Marketing AI and Machine Learning Stats (VentureHarbor): A load of fascinating statistics on AI.

Applying Artificial Intelligence For Social Good (McKinsey): An excellent article on how AI can help us to tackle some of the world’s most challenging social problems.

AI: A modern approach (Book by Stuart J. Russell and Peter Norvig): A comprehensive introduction to the theory and practice of artificial intelligence. (Recommended by Raj.)

Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies (Book by Nick Bostrom): A philosophical view of where AI might lead us. (Recommended by Raj.)

How to Create a Mind (Book by Ray Kurzweil): A provocative exploration of reverse engineering the brain to understand precisely how it works and using that knowledge to create even more intelligent machines. (Recommended by Raj.)

A Proposal for the Dartmouth Summer Research Project on Artificial Intelligence: Just for fun, the original proposal for a Dartmouth summer research project on AI (1955) where a group of leading computer scientists at the time thought they could recreate the human cognition in a summer project – and here we are still unable to understand or create much of the human brain’s grandeur!

AlphaZero: Shedding new light on the grand games of chess, shogi and Go (DeepMind): Just for fun, here’s some information on AlphaZero, the AI chess champ.

What Happens When Computers Get Smarter Than We Are (TED Talk): A TED Talk by Nick Bostrom which asks us to think hard about the world we are building right now, driven by thinking machines. Will our smart machines help to preserve humanity and our values – or will they have values of their own?

How to Get Empowered, Not Overpowered, By AI (TED Talk): A TED Talk by Max Tegmark which helps to separate the real opportunities and threats from the myths, describing the concrete steps we should take today to ensure that AI ends up being the best, rather than the worst, thing to ever happen to humanity.