According to the analysts Gartner the number of businesses adopting AI grew by 270% in the years between 2015 – 2019. With such great demand for the technology, none more so than now, with many organisations faced with the challenge of doing more with less, it is no wonder that there is so much hype surrounding it. This hype, however, has led to many businesses investing in ‘AI for AI’s sake’.
Business leaders understand the potential benefits of AI and related automation technologies, however, fail to identify the business case and where true value can be delivered, often resulting in misaligned expectations and project failures.
To move beyond the hype, leaders need to identify and understand their business case, the relevant technology to solve this challenge, and most importantly whether there is true value in deploying AI. In some cases, it is appropriate to combine multiple technologies and human capabilities to achieve the outcomes sought and true transformation.
Where AI works
AI is an umbrella term that covers everything from driverless cars to chatbots and broader Intelligent Automation solutions. It is important for businesses to understand that it is the narrow application of different technologies within these solutions such as Machine Learning, OCR, or Natural Language Processing (NLP) that deliver the most impact and benefits to specific challenges.
For example, Robotic Process Automation (RPA), which combines computer rules and OCR as well as other technologies enables organisations to automate manual repetitive tasks involved with data entry and processing. RPA has seen increasing adoption over the last 5 years with Gartner stating that on average it can lower operational costs by 30%. However, RPA has its limitations through its application of rules-based decision making, which means that organisations face some challenges when applying it to the processing of unstructured or human language.
By introducing further AI technologies such as Machine Learning in the form of Conversational AI to RPA, businesses can automate the processing of this unstructured human language to a far greater degree.
A Conversational AI Assistant enables organisations to interact with employees or customers to gather information through guided interactions, delivering this to RPA bots to enter into business systems and trigger further activity.
This combination of technologies delivers even greater benefits to businesses (not just operationally but also helping to improve customer and employee experiences) and crucially frees up people to focus on more strategic or higher value tasks. These tasks are intrinsically human and are an important part of a business’s operation.
Similarly, AI technologies are extremely useful for supporting analytics activities – reviewing vast amounts of data and saving teams such as HR or Marketing significant time and effort. However, subject matter experts are still essential to understand this data and deliver actionable insights and strategies to their businesses.
As briefly covered in the previous examples, AI technologies can be applied to deliver efficiencies to a wide variety of business processes, however, people still play a fundamental role. Tasks such as building relationships with customers or negotiating contracts and discounts – these areas rely on the unique skills of an individual and should not be automated.
AI should, therefore, be considered as ‘Augmented Intelligence’ by businesses. Not as a solution that will reduce or remove workers, but rather as a solution for supporting employees and freeing them up to focus on the tasks that are more rewarding and deliver the most value to a business.
In conclusion, through understanding the real-world business applications of AI and automation technologies, their limitations, and the continuing role of people within key business processes, organisations can achieve sustainable success and transformation.