Artificial intelligence (AI) is no longer a technology of the future, it is a technology of the now.

It is playing a significant role in our daily lives, from Netflix recommending content based on what you have previously watched to personal assistants such as Siri and Cortana.

Despite the technology entering the mainstream in the consumer sector, it has yet to be embraced in the same way by the business world.

I believe this is mainly due to the technology simply being misunderstood by organisations of all shapes and sizes.

There is a very good reason for this; AI is a comprehensive and complex topic that has lots of different strands to follow and explore.

By better understanding what the technology is, how it works and the benefits it offers, businesses can unlock upsides including increased productivity and streamlined costs.

Artificial intelligence defined:

Before we dig into the scale and scope of the technology, it is important to have a clear understanding of what we mean by artificial intelligence.

“The ability for computers to perceive, learn, reason, and assist in decision-making to solve problems in ways that are similar to humans”.

AI can be deployed across a range of business functions to take over manual, repetitive and time-consuming tasks undertaken by employees. It can also provide insight into data.

Its key capabilities include:

  • It can perform human tasks faster and in a more thorough way. This includes inspecting, repeating and analysing actions automatically
  • It can gather, analyse and process huge volumes of data and help identify key trends that humans might not spot or interpret accurately
  • It can do all of this in real-time, taking seconds to complete tasks that would take humans days or even weeks to work through

The business benefits of AI:

AI allows organisations and employees to work smarter, better and faster. It drives productivity, boosts efficiency and ultimately makes businesses more profitable.

When it comes to data, AI can gather, segment analyse and report on huge volumes of information. It can then make highly accurate predictions based on this information.

For consumer facing businesses, AI can be used to deliver a superior customer experience, from automated chatbots to real-time parcel tracking.

By doing much of the heavy lifting, AI frees up time for employees to focus on other aspects of their roles and to further educate and upskill themselves.

It also removes the risk of human error.

AI in action:

A growing number of businesses are joining the AI revolution and are already benefitting from the many upsides it offers.

Microsoft’s AI report says that organisations on the AI journey are outperforming others by 5% on factors like productivity, performance and business outcomes.

Here are a couple of examples of how AI is being used in the workplace:

  • The technology is being used to deliver personalised offers to online shoppers based on their previous buying profiles and habits
  • Businesses in the transport industry are using AI to send real-time passenger updates for trains, buses and taxis
  • Recruitment agencies are using AI to scan CVs and covering letters to filter out suitable candidates for roles

How to harness the power of AI:

In order to unlock the power and potential of AI, businesses need to take a considered approach to the technology.

They must also understand that AI does not replace human employees, rather it is augmented into their roles. The human is very much at the centre of it.

The first thing to consider when it comes to deploying AI solutions within your organisation is to identify where it can have the most impact and where it can be successfully integrated.

We always recommend starting with one area and then increasing its usage from there. As with any technology, it is best to walk before you can run.

Microsoft refers to this process at an AI journey and suggests organisations ask the following questions:

  • What are the business problems we want to solve – and how can AI help?
  • What are the opportunities we are missing?
  • Is our data ready? Are our people ready?
  • If not, how can we re-skill and re-train them so that technology augments their role rather than simply automates it?

By undertaking this process, you will gain a clear picture of how AI can benefit your business and what action you need to take to successfully integrate it into your organisation.

Other things to consider:

Deploying AI technologies across your business requires a collaborative approach.

This means bringing together senior managers from all sections of the business – operations, finance, marketing and, of course, IT, to ensure its potential is maximised.

It is important to understand what benefits AI can bring to your business and where those benefits will have the most impact.

By getting it right from the start, you can ensure you invest in the right technologies and implement them in the areas of your business where you will benefit the most.