Humans cannot watch thousands of transactions happening in real time, but an AI can monitor huge flows of data, and then take action to spawn workflows.
Why is AI an important tool for businesses to utilize for their strategies? Because it transfers decision making to systems that can do it faster, cheaper, and 24 hours a day, every day. It also automates activities so humans are not required to do menial, sometimes dangerous tasks. This improves efficiency, and in the end, all of this adds to generating a higher level of profits.
Scott Klososky, a sought after speaker on the topic of Digital Transformation and Founding Partner at Future Point of View, a boutique technology consulting firm, explains this further.
“AI’s can watch for anomalies in patterns of customer activity, and AI can watch the flow of email traffic for combinations of words,” says Klososky. “Being able to reduce communications, transactions and performance to data then allows AI’s to be built that can find problems or opportunities, then tell someone, or spawn a workflow to take advantage, or lower risk.”
For example, Netflix has an AI that watches all their users and what they are watching in real time. This allows them to automatically generate a layer of suggestions in the interface of what is hot and trending. A human does not have to figure that out and hand code the hot shows.
However, AI is an incredibly broad category that includes a vast array of different technologies that can be used to improve business processes. “For example, there are decision support systems, there are fully automated AI’s, there are surveillance AI’s, etc.” says Klososky.
When used correctly, AI significantly enhances highly complex business processes. James Layfield, CEO at Clearfind, explains one such specific use case – the bringing in of AI-enabled solutions to do the heavy lifting on highly complex tasks such as software selection.
As software becomes more and more complex, it is becoming more than the human mind can consider alone. AI can take every variable, and every product into account when making recommendations.
“Many have resigned themselves to phone calls, spreadsheets, demos, and so much manual work every time we want to know what is going on with our software,” says Layfield. “Everything in your business is driven by data, except for software, and that doesn’t make any sense because software is one of the fastest-growing line items for every business out there.”
Layfield is also General Partner in a fintech investment fund Treasury with the cofounders of Acorns, Betterment, and a board member of Paypal, and has angel investments across a host of technology ventures.
Layfield explains that the way that companies today are researching software is akin to how people looked for flights before the likes of Expedia and google flights. According to Layfield, his company uses AI to take a spreadsheet-laden, manual process, and automated it by saddling it to a massive database and sophisticated algorithm that gets you the best software choices within seconds.
“We’ve developed a methodology to gather the feature data, which cuts out all of the manual work for much more comprehensive and positive outcomes,” says Layfield.
The idea of using a mix of statistical techniques, computer science, as well as concepts borrowed from other disciplines, such as robotics, to process large amounts of data in order to help make decisions has fascinated scientists and business people alike for a long time now.
Today, thanks to the (relatively) low barrier to entry into the field and increased computational power at lower costs, the impact of AI is growing in all areas of business. We are past the point of using AI for limited use cases such as recommendation algorithms and fraud detection, we are building entire systems that are powered by AI and are designed to exploit these technologies to their full potential.
“This opens up a world of possibilities,” says Francesca Donadoni, CTO and Co-Founder of The PS Collective, a marketplace connecting womxn to clothing that fits and flatters their figures.
“We have the opportunity to build systems that are highly intertwined with the larger social and human system that we live in, but we have to do it right by accounting for the full population, not for only a fraction. This would create value and avoid building systems that are too centralized.”
AI, rather than a layer on top of your business, can now be the catalyst to connecting your ethos and the heartbeat of your brand to the right consumers.
Using their AI, The PS Collective not only improves their user experience but is also able to cut costs. “We are not running with any inventory because all of the clothing is taking a bespoke or slow-fashion approach,” says Donadoni. “Production will only start once the demand is there.”
The incorporation of AI to cut costs and improve the user experience does not have to necessarily mean a huge structural change to your processes or technology. AI might be able to let you know you already have the capabilities you require.
As Layfield explains, “Clearfind’s algorithms have spotted that firms already had the capabilities in-house for a new use case and didn’t need to purchase more software, it has identified opportunities to sunset products that were redundant and not needed, it has also been able to help firms find multimillion-dollar ERP systems in just a few hours rather than the months it usually takes.”
Another example, ConciergeBot, an A.I. virtual assistant platform, worked with a medical services client to provide an interactive, easy to use chatbot/voice bot to bridge a historically analog conversational experience (landlines) and, according to James Silva, CEO and Founder of ConciergeBot, “connect it to the digital world without the need for the clients’ end users or staff to install new software or applications, avoiding ‘software fatigue.’”
Other organizations are starting to harness AI to overcome long lasting bias and to promote diversity and inclusion. This is starting at the student level to help ensure resources are evenly distributed to those who need them the most. For example, the city of Mesa is using AI to help match the right students with the right collegiate opportunities to ensure success. In the business world, textio has developed an algorithm that helps hiring managers remove biased language from job postings which can help connect a larger candidate pool to the job.
Matt Spencer is the Co-founder and CEO of Suited, a predictive recruiting network that currently serves two industries: investment banking and law.
According to Spencer, “the combination of holistic data sets and AI allows firms to not rely on traditional, and often biased, factors such as GPA or school rank to determine a candidate’s potential.”
By only measuring things that are relevant to on-the-job success, “Suited is able to reduce adverse impact amongst underrepresented candidates in the industries we serve, as well as improve organizational outcomes for firms by helping them hire the right people from the start.”
AI is great at sorting through incredibly complex data and extracting meaningful insights. In the space of recruiting, using AI at the top of the hiring funnel can significantly reduce costs associated with typical recruiting efforts, such as travel or recruiter time-spent.
However, it’s important to note that the AI output is only as good as the data that it’s fed. The data AI works with must always be representative, relevant, and vast.
“When companies look to use AI to help automate otherwise manual tasks, they are also forced to formalize what data they think is important,” says Spencer. “This is a useful exercise and can help companies see where potential blindspots may exist.”
Technologies like those mentioned in this article provide business leaders with consistent data to support their decision making, enabling them to make substantial cuts and smarter purchases.
The most exciting aspect of AI in business, according to Layfield, is the potential to make people’s lives better, “It can help us contemplate a much wider range of possibilities with an exponentially larger dataset and simulate many outcomes instantaneously, it helps us be more precise, highly effective at reducing costs at no loss in quality, get what we need to get done faster and more efficiently.”
“AI can elevate people out of the mundane and administrative to solve bigger problems and enjoy their work more,” Layfield continues. “Let computers do the work they’re better at doing, so we can do the work we’re better at doing.”
Klososky echoes this statement, stating that, “When AI takes over many of the repeatable and boring tasks in the work world it then frees people to do more creative and relational work – which they will enjoy much more than sitting at a computer moving data all day.”
Additionally, Klososky is optimistic that “equality will be more easily monitored because AI can watch millions of transactions/data points and analyze when any bias might be happening.”
Once AI has been implemented correctly, Donadoni foresees “an organic elimination of socioeconomic, gender, and racial gaps.”
However, as Spencer emphasizes, “it’s always important to remember the potential pitfalls of AI and continuously check the output of models to ensure they are promoting equality.”
Business leaders will often use industry knowledge, historical experience, or “gut feel” and instincts alongside limited data to make the best decision they can. “The processing power of AI allows leaders to leverage significantly more data, gain a deeper understanding of what the information tells them, and make faster decisions with a higher probability of intended outcomes,” adds Spencer.
This holds true whether the decision relates to making hiring decisions, managing a workforce or operations, making investment decisions, or setting strategic direction.
“AI presents an incredibly exciting way forward,” concludes Layfield, “the question is, are you ready to embrace it?”