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Getting answers to questions

Once enterprise decision makers began to envisage how such a system could lower costs and increase efficiencies, expert systems began to pop up everywhere. Although the companies who supply expert systems are privately held and do not disclose revenues, it is safe to say that the market for expert systems has grown exponentially in the past five years, and will probably continue to grow rapidly, now that the companies in this segment are recognized for offering products that provide a high degree of knowledge worker impact. The applications would include customer and product support, decision support, diagnostics, inconsistency detection, product selection and recommendation, and regulatory compliance.

A good example of how expert systems have demonstrable knowledge worker impact is found at Cytec, a $3.2 billion specialty chemicals and materials company. Cytec manufactures and sells products to process precious metals such as gold, silver and copper after they are mined. Determining exactly which chemicals are to be used requires a detailed analysis by a specialist. Unfortunately, there are few specialists and they cannot be everywhere. To create a process that would streamline the work, Cytec used Exsys' Corvid platform to build an expert system that would allow non-experts to perform the necessary screening. Now an expert is only required if there is a unique and unforeseen condition. Exsys, founded in 1983, is a good example of a company that has survived the ups and downs of the market. Other companies in the field include Haley Systems and XpertRule Software.

Artificial intelligence may have originally been only a fad, but expert systems today are clearly here to stay. Experts won't find themselves being Hoovered, but as more technology is used to automate knowledge sharing, knowledge workers will find themselves getting faster and better answers to their queries.

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