AI is an exciting, sometimes alarming concept for business leaders all over the world. It has the potential to revolutionize key business performance factors. But can the technology be trusted? And is there a human cost?
While we still don’t know exactly how AI will shape the business world in the coming years, it is already playing an important role in optimizing and automating certain tasks. In this article, we examine the current state of AI trends and what they mean for businesses everywhere.
Why Businesses Use AI
This is one of the complicated features of growth and advancement. Usually, it’s a by-product of technological adoption, not the original purpose of it.
But sure. Employers probably do appreciate the opportunity to save a little bit of money on staffing. More often, however, AI and other digital technology are used for two big reasons.
- Scalability: Let’s say you run a subscription meal service. For the first year or two, you were able to comfortably fulfill all of your orders with a pretty basic skeleton crew. Year three, you started to grow. All of a sudden, your departments are lagging. Billing can’t get the invoices out quickly enough. Customer service can’t keep up with all of their incoming messages. It’s a real mess.
You have two options. Keep hiring on to keep up with the new demand, until your staff is big enough to fill the Empire State Building, or find technologies that allow you to accomplish more with the same number of people. Given the choice, most people are going to explore option number two.
- They want to explore big-picture stuff: Your meal service business is doing well, but you are always looking for ways it could do even better. You decide you want to expand your revenue by focusing on upsells. This is a job that will require collaboration between billing, sales, and customer service. The only problem is they are all pretty swamped. Menial tasks. You can give up on this particular revenue strategy, or you can employ a technology that will free up some of your employee’s time so that they can pursue profit-producing goals.
See how it is? AI and automation are less about layoffs and more about optimizing processes.
Common AI Applications
AI is still a long way from achieving its true potential. That said, the technology has shown significant promise and growth over the last few years. Below, we examine some of the ways businesses are currently using AI to optimize their performance.
The most ubiquitous AI application is undoubtedly the chatbot. Affordable and easy to use, the chatbot serves as a way for businesses to maximize the efficiency of their HR and customer service departments. The way it works is simple. Information seekers ask their questions as if they were instant messaging a human.
The chatbot then provides the answer using speech patterns that are becoming more human by the day. Obviously, it’s an imperfect system. We’ve all had experiences where chatbots produce odd, or simply off-topic suggestions.
The truth is that perfection was never really the idea. It’s about efficiency. Let’s say that the chatbot is able to help 50% of customers before they ever need to pick up a phone and dial up a call center. That means that human customer service representatives now have much more time to devote to complex calls.
Wait times go down. Satisfaction goes up. It’s a beautiful thing. Same goes for HR. With a chatbot, HR professionals no longer have to spend half their days answering simple questions. The chatbot takes care of the grunt work, letting them focus on more important tasks.
As a species, we produce more data every day, than we did for the first several thousand years of human history combined. This is thanks mostly to digital technology, and its habit of leaving a record of pretty much everything.
This information can be a wonderful tool for those who know how to use it. The problem is that no human could possibly manage the quantities of information that are currently in circulation manually.
AI and automation help reign them in, sorting, storing, and interpreting information in databases. Good data implementation still takes a lot of work, but AI completely changes the game.
AI can also be used at the administrative level to make office management tasks easier. This involves taking inventories, monitoring equipment health, or even managing utility costs. IoT is a good example of a common AI-driven office management technology.
The Internet of Things pairs physical devices with the internet using Bluetooth. If your office has a smart thermostat, you have been using IoT. These simple but effective devices hook up to your HVAC and automate energy cycles. When people are in the office, your HVAC powers on. When people leave, it powers down.
It’s good for the environment, it’s good for your utility bills. It’s even good for the equipment itself. At the industrial level, IoT-powered sensors can even schedule equipment maintenance before serious issues emerge. This serves to help prevent productivity delays, and ensure the long-term health of industrial equipment.
Future of Employment?
Ok, so maybe AI isn’t a major threat to employment. Today. But what about ten years from now? Twenty?
You’re making a fair point. AI may not currently be poised to create a significant disruption to global employment. However, that could change in the next few decades. For example, self-driving cars would have an enormous impact on the future of employment. There are even programs that automate coding, surgery, and—gasp —content generation.
It’s precisely for these reasons that schools are now emphasizing STEM so strongly. As AI replaces human labor, new jobs in programming and engineering will emerge. Such is the case with most technologies. They close some doors, only to open new ones.