BCG installs 'digital human' to advise its consultants

16 January 2020 4 min. read
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With consulting firms increasingly looking to deploy artificial intelligence to support human staff, Boston Consulting Group has unveiled a new ‘digital employee’ to help its Predictability, Teaming and Openness team. According to experts at the firm, advanced AI such as this could eventually yield a way to boost customer service and experience for many different companies and industries, at a large scale.

One of the most common fears regarding the rapid advance of artificial intelligence (AI) technology is that it will lead to large swathes of the workforce becoming obsolete. Reinforcing this, recent research from The Access Group revealed that millions of jobs could be impacted by technology, with some of their duties and tasks being automated in the future. Predictably, ‘elementary’ roles which feature higher levels of repetitive tasks are most at threat from automation.

Despite this emerging pattern, it would be wrong to assume that only blue-collar roles are set to be impacted by AI. Companies in the finance, insurance, information and communications sectors are already leveraging AI to improve both efficiency and accuracy, jobs which rely on rigid systems of routine in these sectors could easily be replicated by digital technology. Indeed, according to ONS, management consultants could soon find their roles drastically changed due to automation.

This does not mean that the professional services sector is certain to downsize its human workforce though. While consultants and business analysts in particular were estimated as being at a medium level of risk from automation by that survey, it is more likely that human talent will be repurposed. With machinery taking care of repetitive tasks such as administration, people in consulting will be freed up to pursue value-adding tasks instead.

BCG installs 'digital human' to advise its consultants

While there are still relatively few examples of what this hybridised future in the consulting industry might look like, Boston Consulting Group (BCG) looks to have given the rest of the industry a small glimpse of it. The global management consultancy has just employed a 'digital human' as an advisor to its internal Predictability, Teaming and Openness (PTO) team, with the digital employee under training set to help consultants with critical project tasks.

BCG’er, meet Miku

While ‘Miku’ has only just made her public debut – addressing an audience at IBM THINK in Sydney – BCG Managing Director Miguel Carrasco believes the firm’s ‘digital human’ has already helped the consultancy understand how such technology can help enterprises gain an edge on efficiency. AI like Miku could also be deployed to radically improve customer experience.

Speaking at the Sydney event, Carrasco explained, “From persona design through to integration with their chatbot - Miku took only a matter of weeks to stand up… Miku automatically takes spoken text and speaks and behaves appropriately in context to the conversational data. We also had the ability to override the AI engine with our own design and behaviour instructions. It truly was EQ by design - with incredible AI awareness, making the platform very easy and fast to implement.”

Demonstrating this, Miku then informed the audience, “I help the PTO coaches to support teams by giving advice on work-life balance issues and sharing our top tips on project management.” The AI followed this up by reminding Carrasco, “Speaking of which, have you had a busy week? I can set up a few reminders on your calendar to prioritise some downtime.”

Hermann Ruiz, a BCG strategic designer who worked with the UneeQ team during the implementation of Miku, contended on LinkedIn that digital employees are much more than a “piece of tech,” however. AI's can also enable companies to improve their engagement with customers by delivering highly crafted empathetic human experiences at scale. In order to do this, the machinery still needs to be ‘trained’ – it cannot simply perform every expected task straight off the bat.

Ruiz concluded, “For your digital employee to develop a relatable and friendly interaction that helps your customers stay with you and achieve what you promised to deliver, you need to combine computer science with human science and humanist skills.”