By: Mike Bowman, Sr. Director of Operations
Today, nearly all businesses and individuals depend on some form of artificial intelligence.
In the PricewaterhouseCoopers “AI Predictions 2021” report, out of more than 1,000 executives interviewed at US companies that use or have considered AI, 86 percent plan to use it as mainstream technology in their businesses.
Why Businesses Use AI in Their Operations
Artificial intelligence tools have become much easier to use and evolve so quickly that the benefits outpace the cost. Businesses that implement AI have lower production costs, lower overhead and telephony costs, higher production results and greater income.
These businesses also experience service benefits. Bots can keep operations open 24/7/365 for customer service, employee experiences are improved with lighter workloads, AI fills gaps in staff and consistency in the quality of information given to customers is easily maintained. AI can perform business intelligence (BI) tasks to identify success, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.
Why Are Some Companies Still Not Using AI?
Some businesses have concerns about AI that stem from not understanding the technology. Without education on AI, it can be difficult to see the potential return on investment (ROI) against the cost. Businesses can also lack the appropriate skill sets to design, build and manage an AI program.
While some businesses hesitate to implement AI because they think it will displace staff, it actually creates more jobs and offsets heavy workloads. Artificial intelligence is a process to add to business operations but can be made easier with more education on the technology. Invest in education and attend webinars, reach out to other companies who use AI, interview vendors, and even take classes.
Is AI Worth the Cost?
Companies need to look at their finances and goals to see if AI would be a practical expenditure. For many, AI is entirely worth the cost. Start by determining both hard and soft ROI. With hard ROI, businesses need to determine if they can afford AI and what they could save in labor and production costs. In the vein of soft ROI, they need to decide if they can’t afford not to implement AI and what non-financial benefits they will receive. Another way to determine if it’s the right financial decision is to do a thorough cost analysis to see how much labor will be saved – even down to the minute – with the help of AI.
Where to Start
Start small – ask whether AI can be used to augment the effort of people. Take phone calls for example. What if 30 seconds could be cut from 1 million calls in a year? Build an algorithm that can be set in place for a small goal, then work up to other goals and adjust the algorithm to match. Some businesses will want to build this platform in-house. Others will find it more cost-effective to rely on third-party providers. Get started on AI development as soon as possible to keep up with competitors.
Deciding What Type of AI to Use
With OCR, Intelligent OCR, RPA, NLP, ML, NLU, virtual assistants, Conversational AI and many other types of AI available to choose from, choosing the right one for corporate use is unique to each business.
AI model development is different from software development. Software is usually rules-based and typically follows unchangeable rules to turn data (such as invoices) into output (payments). An AI model, on the other hand, constantly changes and works with probabilities – not certainties – and learns as it goes. Based on positive or negative feedback from callers it begins to understand what people are asking or what they actually need. Once the goal of the AI is decided, businesses need to choose a type that aligns the best with it.
Staffing for AI
AI staff can be difficult to find and competition for people with these particular skills is incredibly fierce. One option to build AI staff is to identify talented people internally within businesses and provide them with access to the education that will give them those skills. Implement upskilling and continual initiatives to learn about AI.
Subject matter experts (SMEs) are also crucial to the development and implementation of AI. They are responsible for the stages of an AI project – from the scoping, building, deployment and monitoring phases. Invest in the right SMEs and they will be able to ensure the AI project can deliver on its promise.
How to Introduce New AI tools to Staff
Businesses should educate their whole staff on AI – it will become another tool they will be able to use to augment their own efforts at work. Be transparent on every step of the implementation program. Include employees in the planning and design of the program, solicit ideas, ask for feedback and have regular meetings to give employees updates. Make them part of the process and gain their buy in.
Building Responsible AI
The world of AI is still in its infancy. Businesses have a duty to create responsible AI that properly serves the people that come into contact with it. Assess models for ease of explanation, robustness, bias, fairness and transparency. AI bias is caused by bias in data sets and the people who build AI models and those who interpret its results. Regularly review algorithms to make sure there is no bias, and that no personally identifiable information (PII) is used as a data set that could potentially be misused.
Before AI can help businesses succeed, the final advice is to continuously invest in education on the technology. AI will be unique to each business, so constant education and training will help them navigate the new and unknown world of artificial intelligence.