Over the next decade, Artificial Intelligence will fundamentally reshape vast swathes of our lives. The world of business is primed for this change in three core areas - to the employment landscape, to employee productivity, and to new customer experiences.

According to McKinsey, Artificial Intelligence is contributing to a transformation of society happening “ten times faster and at 300 times the scale, or roughly 3,000 times the impact” of the Industrial Revolution.

The signs of that transformation are already all around us - Amazon recommends your next favorite book; Alexa tells you the weather; AI-driven cars idle next to us on the freeway; Netflix cues up your evening’s TV viewing.

As AI permeates the workplace, it’s imperative that companies across every industry starts thinking about what an AI-powered business means to them. As we begin preparing for the intelligent workplace, four key questions must be answered:

1) How much (and how fast) will your industry be disrupted by AI?

According to Bank of America Merrill Lynch, by 2025 the economic impact of Artificial Intelligence will amount to somewhere between $14 trillion and $33 trillion. But at this stage in its development, the impact of AI on the world of business is unevenly distributed. Retail, logistics and automobiles have already been changed beyond recognition, and the potential for AI to supercharge education and manufacturing is well-known. But less intuitive industries are also ripe for disruption - Kris Hammond of Narrative Science predicts that “a machine will win a Pulitzer one day”. What makes an industry likely to be disrupted by AI? Who is next to feel the impact, and where is AI less of an immediate concern?

2) How will AI impact business operations and strategy in the next 5 years?

Artificial intelligence has the capacity to completely upend existing business planning, job roles, interdepartmental relationships, workflows and corporate strategies. Artificial Intelligence drives huge questions around a business’ competitive environment, supply chain, and entire business model. As AI technology matures, how quickly will companies be able to react and roll out new strategies fit for an entirely new world?

3) How will AI affect employees and how can companies help hire and train accordingly?

80% of executives believe AI will improve worker performance and create jobs. But an influential 2013 study finds that 47% of workers in America have jobs at high risk of automation. Artificial Intelligence is sure to change the employment landscape drastically, and it’s essential that CEOs think seriously about how that change will impact the employees they manage. How will job roles change? Where will the next war for talent be fought? How should training and development evolve?

4) How will AI change the customer experience?

We live in a world where customers increasingly expect an immediate response to their queries, and demand 1:1 conversations with companies. It’s perhaps a relief to read that Gartner predicts that by 2020, 85% of customer interactions will be managed by AI. Yet anyone who has had to navigate an automated customer service line can confirm that non-human ‘customer interaction’ can leave a lot to be desired. How will AI impact the customer experience? Equally, how will new platforms enabled by AI - like voice and augmented intelligence - begin to change the way customers interact with companies?

These are big questions, and they’re relevant to every company, regardless of industry. Salesforce put together a formidable panel of experts to discuss them in Washington DC on the 4th April.

Introduced by Zvika Krieger of the World Economic Forum and moderated by Alexis Sobel Fitts, Editor at Conde Nast’s tech-focused BackChannel, the panel consists of:

  • Michael Chui, partner at the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI), McKinsey's business and economics research arm. Chui leads research on the impact of disruptive technologies and innovation on business, the economy, and society.

  • John Frémont, Artificial Intelligence Go-To-Market Lead for North America at Accenture. Responsible for driving AI strategy in North America, John joined Accenture in 2015 as part of Accenture Interactive’s acquisition of Chaotic Moon, where he was the Chief Revenue Officer and Managing Partner.

  • Sarah Aerni, Senior Manager of Data Science at Salesforce, where she leads teams building AI-powered applications across the Salesforce platform. Prior to Salesforce, she led the healthcare & life science and Federal teams at Pivotal.

Check out the video of the panel below: