- Artificial intelligence (AI) can enable staff and team to be their best, and do the best work they can
- AI and machine learning across data sets can make communication with customers easier, and allow businesses to drive efficiency and performance
- Those that adapt to being ahead of the curve are the ones that survive and thrive.
For a long time now, the rhetoric around artificial intelligence and machine learning has been the same: that they’re robot job killers used by big corporates to save costs at the expense of people’s careers across industries.
We’ve all seen the stock photos media outlets have placed on articles about artificial intelligence in business – images of a humanoid robot with dark intent in its eyes, as workers are shuffled off to try and find a new job.
A recent report by accounting giant PwC suggests that about a third of all jobs in the United Kingdom could be impacted by automation by the early 2030s and a quick Google search for “robots taking jobs” brings up pages and pages of articles touting similar doom and gloom.
But just because a job can be automated doesn’t mean it will be.
Artificial intelligence is a computer’s ability to think for itself based on the knowledge it has gathered on people’s behaviour. Machine learning describes the method of building the formulas and algorithms that help a machine to think. In neither of those processes is there an ability for a machine to be creative, have feelings or make decisions based on ethics and
Which is why the doom and gloom scenario of a world inhabited by worker bots is unlikely to come to pass. Understanding and education about artificial intelligence and machine learning is what’s necessary here, so that the pair are more readily embraced in business.
Before you can do anything clever with artificial intelligence and machine learning, you need a good set of data to pull insights and information from.It could help to free workers from mundane, monotonous grunt work and allow them to shift their focus to being more creative and innovative in their current role and add more value to what they’re doing.
Really enabling your staff and team to be their best, and do the best work they can, is a sure-fire way to combat self-doubt and worry from people who are concerned about the impact of machine learning and AI on their roles. They’re likely to feel more loyal to you and your company as a result, so in the end it’s just good business all around.
Robots have come far
It was not so long ago that the only ideas for a future of robots in offices and factories, doing human jobs, came from works of fiction on the page or on the screen.
But over the past few decades there’s been rapid advancement in the functionality of computers.
The power at which they operate, the capabilities of software and the capacity for storing data and other information are all driving the development of artificial intelligence and machine learning.
Alongside that is the shift in how data is stored. It’s no longer kept locked away in filing cabinets or data centres. All types of information are generated online or uploaded to the cloud and can now be accessed by programmes and software that allow for that information to be used in innovative ways.
You’ve already seen machine learning and artificial intelligence in action in your everyday life, whether you realise it or not. Activities like fraud detection by banks and financial institutions – artificial intelligence is typically the technology used to monitor for sketchy activity on your accounts.
Online customer support through those little chatboxes that pop up on your screen, music and movie recommendations through services like Netflix, or playlist suggestions on Spotify or Pandora radio, helpful advice from “digital personal assistants” like Siri, Google, and Alexis, all of them are linked to artificial intelligence or machine learning in some way.
Using AI and machine learning in your business
Before you can do anything clever with artificial intelligence and machine learning, you need a good set of data to pull insights and information from.
In most instances, the cloud will be your best bet. It’s where the raw data of all of your customers (or more broadly, millions of users) is stored and can be used for analysis. The combination of artificial intelligence and machine learning across data sets can make communication with customers easier, and allow businesses to drive efficiency and performance to become more convenient.
Not all small businesses have a team of developers to come up with systems like these for themselves. But luckily in this day and age, they don’t need to. There are numerous intelligent apps, once only reserved for enterprise level organisations, available now in ecosystems that are at the disposal of small businesses globally:
Xero recently integrated machine learning into a manually repetitive task within its software: find and recode. Within the accounting platform, Xero’s subscribers have to code their invoices by manually assigning the correct labels to their paperwork. But sometimes, they get it wrong, which means their accountant or bookkeeper has to come along and tidy things up by assigning the correct codes. This is known as double-entry accounting and is a tedious, time-consuming task.
Xero applied machine learning capabilities to this problem to create a model that learns from invoice coding behaviours. It notes any mistakes recognised (and later corrected) and offers suggestions and predictions from what it has learned. That way, when a subscriber goes to affix an incorrect code to an invoice, the machine learning system suggests a label that should be used instead.
CRM tools have changed the game for small businesses, with the ability to keep track of deals in one central location, salespeople can spend more time talking to the customer, rather than managing their leads.
SalesforceIQ applies AI to CRM, automatically capturing and syncing data from emails, calendar and smartphone – analysing it to give insights on the customer relationship, as well as alerts on when a sales opportunity needs attention and reminders on follow-up tasks.
The minutes spent on the little things can add up to hours for entrepreneurs. While the application of consumer-facing digital assistants like Siri and Alexa may not be practicable as a whole to small businesses, there’s another generation of AI-powered virtual assistants that are entering the workforce and putting the hours back in the day of business owners.
Amy by x.ai is one of them, and when cc’d on an email request for a meeting, she’ll take care of everything end-to-end right up until the event lands in your calendar. Amy is able to offer suitable meeting times to the requestor, locations and even reschedule when a meeting gets cancelled at the last minute.
The technologies underpinning all industries have changed over the centuries. What has been proven time and time again is those that adapt to them ahead of the curve are the ones that survive and thrive. Rather than standing idly by and waiting for developing technology to surpass your business, learn how they can weave them in to support you and help you grow.