In his introduction to “Could AI Solve the World’s Biggest Problems?” published in the MIT Technology Review, Will Knight alludes to the “wealth of promising opportunities for AI applications” and reiterates the importance of using AI to make the world a better place. Fortunately enough, large organization executives, like Eric Schmidt, the chairman of Alphabet, believe AI could, in fact, help us overcome global socio-economic challenges. But what about real-world business problems?
Can AI help us tackle the smaller day-to-day issues we experience in our, sometimes, siloed departments?
Simply put, yes. Artificial intelligence can enhance our abilities and provide us with the time and resources necessary to tackle other core industry or departmental issues. If developed in a strategic and ethically responsible manner, artificial intelligence can become a huge game-changer for any department. Adaptive in nature, artificial intelligence frameworks have been transforming the financial, human resources, marketing and sales, logistics and operations, as well as research and development departments across the globe. You see, AI can be applied to (almost) any business workflow and it can simplify your processes so that you can enhance your value proposition. Now, let’s look at some concrete examples to comprehend how AI is being used to improve various departments.
Like other industries, the financial sector is undergoing a significant shift. With the emergence of artificial intelligence, comes readily available high-performance computing power along with the necessary data to train machine learning algorithms at increasingly fast paces. Given that the financial industry is data-centric, AI-powered FinTech could be used for financial simulation and analysis purposes. With the ability to analyze and review large data sets, and access to valuable customer insight, today’s financial service professionals could see their role change. This isn’t to say that their role will be replaced by the machine, but rather they’ll have more time to invest where it matters most. For example, by automating reporting and coordination tasks, financial professionals will have more time to “focus on judgment work,” as noted by Vegard Kolbjørnsrud, Richard Amico and Robert J. Thomas in “How Artificial Intelligence Will Redefine Management.” Moreover, as financial service departments adopt intelligent systems to automate some of their tasks, they’ll experience a positive influx in human-to-human interactions amongst their employees and clients, which will enable businesses to solidify their relationships. For example, Wealth Simple for Advisors has turned to AI technology to automate portfolio management, compliance, investments, and client information for their brokers. Instead, they encourage advisors to “focus on [their] relationships” while they “handle the rest.” In short, AI will open the door to new collaborative opportunities and lay the groundwork for improved processes that allow employees to flourish.
Another business function that is benefitting from AI’s applications is Human Resources. How can a machine be applied to people problem? With expert systems, talent acquisition will be simplified and optimized. Imagine not having to source through thousands of cover letters and resumés and being able to find your top 10 candidate roster in less than 5. Applying a multi-modal contextual extraction framework to the HR process will take the leg work out of scouting for prospective candidates leaving recruiters with more time to actually meet and socialize with their potential candidates. More time with the candidates, also means that recruiters will be equipped with the insight and information they need to fill job openings faster. The key is to establish a symbiotic human-AI relationship in which the intelligent system assists a person or department in their day-to-day tasks, as opposed to being viewed as a threat. You know what they say: teamwork makes the dream work, right?!
Moreover, predictive analytics and trend spotting will provide HR teams with insightful data as to their teams by parsing data relating to their tenure, level, function, personality, and more. Attrition trend analyses will facilitate the business development aspect, and provide human resource professionals with thorough reports that shed light on any recognizable patterns. Consequently, HiPo (high potential) employees or employees at risk will be detected at earlier stages, allowing organizations to implement an appropriate course of action that protects the business and promotes its growth. Artificial intelligence is key to accelerating these company processes as the technology learns from past experiences to optimize resource management. By focusing on the right people and weeding out problem employees, retention rates will increase, and performance will increase as well, if and only if this system is structured and implemented in an ethical way. However, if employees feel as though they’re being observed by an elusive “Big Brother” figure, they might underperform and it could cause a riff between the employees and their managers. It’s critical to build these solutions with both the employer and employees needs in mind. Respect and transparency should be at the heart of any operationalization.
In short, AI is transforming HR departments by providing employees with more opportunities to grow, and organizations are benefiting financially from the optimized AI processes that are being implemented across their organizations. At the end of the day, AI is playing an important role in empowering both parties to reach their full potential.
Marketing & Sales
Marketing and sales departments from all industries are already seeing transformations. Customer and lead management tools powered by machine learning algorithms will provide marketing and sales teams with predictive sales intelligence and contextually personalized analytics that will help businesses better understand their customers and behavior, in context. Ultimately, as Janet Tran, Head of Global Mobile Strategy at OpenTable suggests, AI will help marketing and sales teams understand how to make advertising welcome. With contextually-relevant customer data, businesses will learn more about their customer preferences and be equipped with the knowledge they need to make their advertising efforts more authentic, meaningful, and relevant.
But, that’s not all! AI is currently creating new branding opportunities. Emerging conversational agents and voice user interfaces rely on voice, tone, persona, light sequences, light colors, and more. In fact, Amazon attempted to trademark its Echo device colored rings last year, which opened the door to interesting conversations. Marketing and sales departments will soon be faced with creative, yet ethically-charged marketing considerations as they forge their way through these conversational environments. As Manon Gruaz, Brand Strategist at Arcbees, notes that, “when it comes to conversational agents, we must give users the freedom to choose their interactions. Given that conversational interfaces border into our personal lives, it’s also important that we respect user preferences in regards to the level of intrusiveness perceived by the user. Moreover, data shouldn’t be used to manipulate or blind users as to the sales and marketing process. Instead, conversational agents should be used to cooperate with us, as users.”
Logistics & Operations
Moreover, logistic and operational departments are also experiencing a shift as AI tackles the menial and labor-intensive tasks, giving us, human beings, an opportunity to work more efficiently and turn our attention to other critical business-related issues. For example, Rethink Robotics uses machine learning to train their robotic arms and increase production speeds. And, APN, a high-precision machining for aeronautic components based in Quebec, collects as much data as they can from all of their warehouse machinery to further optimize their performance. In both cases, robotics are used to alleviate the heavy-lifting.
Moreover, thanks to artificial intelligence retail locations can analyze the foot traffic generated by any given store, look into behavioral patterns, or compare the number of hours worked in correlation to the company’s growth and key performance indicators. Amazon Go’s groundbreaking grocery store is a prime example of this, no pun intended. Not only have they created an automated sensor fusion check-out system, but they’ve also developed a complex machine learning algorithm that draws from user’s past purchase history to detect and identify items that are also automatically placed in the user’s shopping cart.
For businesses and manufacturers alike, this data is invaluable. With this wealth of knowledge, businesses will be in a position to streamline and optimize the operationalization of their workflows and processes to maximize their value added, utilize resources efficiently, and distribute product and services with more certainty.
Research & Development
Lastly, as AI continues to emerge, interdisciplinary research and development will be at the crux of it all. Researchers, like those at Google Deepmind, will be working towards developing models that find patterns, detect trends and correlations, as well as uncover inefficiencies, make predictive analyses based on contextually informed data, and inform fact-based decisions. Regardless of the field, scientists and researchers will be at the heart of it all as they make new discoveries, develop new frameworks and models, and find new use cases for AI to flourish.
At the end of the day, there’s no denying it: AI is changing our world. However, it’s up to us to ensure that AI is being used to enhance our capabilities in an ethically responsible manner. To achieve such a feat, we must continue to foster the open and democratized environment that large companies such as Element AI are pushing for. In fact, it’s thanks to this openness that, today, AI can solve real-world business problems by extracting massive amounts of valuable data, performing powerful analyses, and eliminating the menial and labor-intensive tasks we have to perform. Sure our jobs may change over the years, but these AI-powered technologies will allow us to focus on greater challenges as we work towards achieving our own full potential.
Thanks for giving my article a read. As CMO and Business Strategist at Arcbees, I hope that you can take something from our AI development and implementation experience. These are the issues we face in our day-to-day, and we’re grateful that we get to collaborate with amazing businesses who see the value in adopting AI into their realm for efficiency purposes.
How do you think AI could be applied to optimize your department’s processes?
Feel free to get in touch via twitter if you have any questions, or drop me a line in the comment section below if you’d like to talk about the article in more depth. I’m always eager to learn more about how other businesses are adopting AI. I look forward to reading your comments! Cheers!