The Lasting Impact of Artificial Intelligence in Business
“Just as electricity transformed almost everything 100 years ago, today I actually have a hard time thinking of an industry that I don’t think AI will transform in the next several years”
- Andrew Ng
What is Artificial Intelligence?
Merriam-Webster defines Artificial Intelligence as a branch of computer science dealing with the capability of a machine to imitate intelligent human behavior.
There are no true overnight successes. Some would be surprised to know that Artificial Intelligence was first founded as an academic discipline in 1955. The abstract of AI in our minds tends toward the futuristic; we’re hearing the murmurings, we’re seeing the basics, but we’re not quite there. But the real roots of AI lie in the past and its actuality, like all sciences, is a constantly unfolding process.
Many technologies created using the science are no longer directly associated with the term; think search engines, spam filters and computer-played chess. As researcher Rodney Brooks put it, "Every time we figure out a piece of it, it stops being magical; we say, 'Oh, that's just a computation.'"
However, some argue that technologies such as these, which use an algorithm that responds to predefined user interaction, are ‘pseudo-AI’. According to Robert Adams in Forbes, “a true artificially-intelligent system is one that can learn on its own...which can make connections and reach meanings without relying on pre-defined behavioral algorithms.”
Puritanically, we can agree. But colloquially, we cannot. Artificial intelligence is a new popular standard, however it may be understood. Following decades of peaks and valleys, the latter of which were termed AI ‘winters’, our latest advances have catapulted progress to tangible constancy. Popular consumption and use has subsumed flawless definition.
According to Joanna J. Bryson, researcher, this can be associated with a “massive increase of digital data and available computing power, but also by innovations in AI and ML [machine learning] algorithms.”
How is AI already impacting businesses?
According to researchers at the University of Delhi, three aspects of business operation are already being enriched by AI integration: Customer Interaction, Sales Platforms, and Human Resources. We’re already seeing these implemented on a wide scale. Obvious examples are Amazon and Netflix, mega corporations who make viewing and purchase recommendations based on history. Thus, they capitalize on engagement, make UI experience easy and maximize the probability of user retention through curated content.
We’ll include a few examples below so that you can gain tangible insight into what results you could envision. Note -- we’re not associated with companies mentioned in this article unless specified; we’re just impressed:
User experience of a business is essential to the relationship formed with the brand, and therefore the opportunity for long-term engagement. With AI, real-time responsiveness is achieving curated results for client experience and consumption. Feedback on customer experience allows the anticipation of problems, which in turn mitigates causality. Predictive maintenance means that less money is spent on solutions, and more on prevention.
Cogito’s AI coaching system provides employees with real-time feedback on customer calls. Expediting requests and providing emotional intelligence, it works to minimize the frustration we’ve all experienced in trying to solve a simple problem over the phone.
Luxury-feel concierge service John Paul provides end-to-end customer and employee support. They partner with businesses to curate experiences and vet service providers, expediting and executing everything from a date night to a grand idea for a vacation, for your clients and employees.
Virtual assistance, growing in sophistication, allows for simple questions to be answered and solutions to be expedited. Purchase suggestions are tailored to the customer. Market insights and analysis amass and evaluate critical data so that better products can be built based on the attention trends of the demographic. AKA predictive analytics, with “better, more profitable and personalized campaigns”. And you can concretely save time and money through process automation.
heymate! (full disclosure, our platform), is an excellent option; not only is it a secure storefront for reservations, purchases and inventory, it also provides insights and sales analytics. It brings new technology to small businesses, hassle-free, so that it’s no longer just the big fish who have access to VR and AI.
“Anxiety about job loss to automation is nothing new…19th-century textile workers in England destroyed new machines to protest against employers who used inventions that allowed for faster and cheaper labor by less-skilled workers.” - Paul McClure, sociologist
The conversation surrounding the relationship between the workforce and AI is broad, and frequently mentions the loss of jobs to automation. The positive perspective dictates that industries will adapt; machines will handle more repetitive tasks, while humans will be more free to brainstorm and innovate. Changes tend to happen more slowly than we think, leaving room and time to find solutions.
Shifts that we’re currently seeing include AI-supported recruitment, where the best candidates are assessed through automated interpretation of their credentials, online presence and even tone of voice in an interview. Upskilling is becoming personalized to employees based on job role, present capabilities and goals. According to Elizabeth Greene of ON Semiconductor, agile learning processes will also “prepare employees for new roles that will undoubtedly require more human skillsets: analytical, strategic, critical thinking, cultural awareness, emotional intelligence.”
Pluralsight is a skill development company that partners with businesses and individuals to assess and upskill technology competency. They’re also investing in social impact and equality of access to tech knowledge, which is very cool. For every aspect of Learning & Development, from training to onboarding and upskilling, you can check out D2L, or Desire to Learn. They have a personalized approach, provide constructive feedback and actually engage employees to execute learning targets.
Another option is outsourcing in totality. Partnering with end-to-end service providers such as Synic, who are transparent, skilled, results-driven and affordable can be key in implementing AI in your business.
Why will AI be integral to the future of business?
So, why not stick with what’s been working? Trust that tech relevancy isn’t needed to maintain a client base? History has shown that in the minority, this is true. Some who decide to stay the course will make it through, usually with another innovation, even if it’s just constancy as part of the brand image! However, for most, the numbers don’t lie, and this evolution needs to be embraced.
The PWC AI Predictions of 2021 states that per respondents, 25 percent of companies “have processes fully enabled by AI with widespread adoption.” Perhaps more importantly, that’s a 7% jump in just the last year. Most of those who don’t adapt will be left behind.
It is a mistake to think that economies and industries are anything other than permanently changing environments. Symptomatic of human nature, they evolve. Doctrine and ‘ways of doing things’ are important, as long as they are responsive. Ray Dalio, CEO of Bridgewater’s idea meritocracy, which encourages radical transparency and stress testing points of view for a common goal, is an excellent example of combining informative experience with openness to evolution (note; not outcome).
That said, for small businesses, it can be harder to generate meaningful value, with less precedent, oversight and capital to underwrite AI’s implementation. The best advice, from PWC, is “don’t shoot for the moon.” There actually aren’t that many algorithms out there, and just one, the right one, for your business, can serve multiple purposes. “Instead of applying AI to a complete process, focus on specific tasks that are common across the business and develop reusable AI solutions.”
In other words, identifying opportunity for efficiency or growth in your business, and either developing it independently, with a software company, or sourcing a bespoke AI service that augments it for you. Smart investment today can mean relevancy tomorrow.
AI is already operating in commercial industries and will become an undeniable standard for business in the near future. Companies resisting this change may find themselves cut off from visibility beyond their local reach, and dwarfed by those with an automated presence. By embracing this science for its very real positive impacts on customer engagement, sales and employee development, businesses will find commercial benefit and achieve relevancy.
However, saturated innovations and markets become less valuable because they are saturated. At the very least, implementation should prioritize quality over quantity. And like all advances, innovation in AI will be key; new perspectives that make ideas stand out from the crowd, by standing on their own two feet.