It’s OK to admit it – you are not alone: very few people have come across the term ‘Decision Management’, and it’s not exactly the sexiest name either. It competes with ‘paving stone’ or ‘green salad’ for impact. Artificial Intelligence however is everywhere because it intrigues, frightens and excites all at the same time. And yet, as far as your business is concerned these two terms mean pretty much the same thing. The aim of Decision Management is to provide a platform where the decisions within your business (operational ones mainly) can be automated, either completely or partially. The automation of decisions is also the province of artificial intelligence, although many AI aficionados probably wouldn’t use those terms. More formally an agent (something that performs an action) is intelligent when it acts in a way that complies with some sort of performance measure.
Artificial intelligence embraces any method that will allow an agent to perform in a manner that meets some sort of objective. A self driving car that repeatedly drove on the pavement would not be meeting its safety objective (we assume). An automated agent that processed loan applications would not be performing its function if ninety per cent of borrowers defaulted on their repayments. This latter case is a classic application of decision management. However the word ‘management’ is perhaps where we can start to tease out the main differences between these terms.
It is one thing to have a swarm of automated agents approving loans, offering promotions to customers, detecting potential fraudulent activity – but it is clearly necessary to be able to manage these things. That means each agent is understood fully and documented, that changes are managed and audited, and that the performance of agents is measured – among other things. AI on the other hand mainly concerns itself with the mechanics of creating the agents in the first place.
Since a dull name such as ‘Decision Management” might appeal to the conservative mindset, it may be best to stick with it. On the other hand there is no doubting that most senior business managers will have reflected at least once on the impact of AI on their businesses. The extremely slow diffusion of the term ‘Decision Management’ into the management mindset might mean that the high impact of the underlying technologies is not well served by this term. ‘AI Management’ or “Artificial Agent Management’ or whatever, might be more appropriate in this respect.
What is beyond doubt is that AI will muscle its way into your business. If it is not to be an unmitigated disaster, someone needs to be thinking about how it is managed.