If you haven’t yet figured out how to add AI to your product lineup, now is the time. Though it’s fun to imagine our next robotic coworker and to visualize how artificial intelligence (AI) may change our lives going forward, the reality is that AI is already at work within many software applications. In fact, by 2025, IDC expects 90% of software applications to embed AI in some capacity. Why?
As the pace of data creation continues to accelerate, businesses are having more trouble locating what they need to make timely, informed decisions, and AI can help them sort through the noise to get to what matters most. Analysts expect the market for these technologies to top $23 billion within the next few years, so there is plenty of opportunity for information management resellers to get involved.
AI and information management
Though AI has been defined in the past as any technology that replaced human effort with automation (which potentially includes all software applications), today’s AI goes much further. It falls into three categories. First, driven by more powerful onboard computers, robots have become smarter, and they are creating breakthrough efficiencies in manufacturing and inventory management. Second, the natural language processors (NLP) embedded in automated attendants have vastly improved over the simple yes/no responses that predominated 20 years ago. Many automated attendants have become so good that we really can’t tell the difference between automation and a live human being on a customer service call. You’re likely using this tech at home in the form of Alexa or Google smart speakers that respond to your voice commands and can even tell you the weather or a joke. Third, machine learning technologies embed AI algorithms to sort through vast quantities of data to pull out patterns that may be meaningful. Machine learning has advanced significantly in the last couple of decades due to the prevalence of large quantities of data online and the advancement of the computer processing power required to churn through it all.
Modern artificial intelligence algorithms, typically machine learning, already exist in some information management technologies. For example:
• Many data analytics applications leverage AI to sort through vast quantities of information and locate patterns in the data that may be important to decision-making.
• Some forms processing applications consider more data points than the simple OCR-based recognition of older technologies, resulting in much higher accuracy in the extracted data and fewer exceptions requiring manual handling.
Take some time to familiarize yourself with artificial intelligence, and learn to discern between older legacy applications that are taking advantage of today’s interest in AI to market themselves as such without really changing their underlying technology, and those that have re-architected themselves to take advantage of today’s breakthrough AI.
Calming your customers’ fears
For some, artificial intelligence is a bit of a hot-button issue, and it can spark an emotional debate. Two of the most common worries are that AI will eliminate jobs and that implementation requires a complete shake-up in the day-to-day work experience. If you’re hearing either objection from your prospects and customers, you can help to calm these fears.
AI will not eliminate jobs
After the fear of AI running away from human control, the most common misconception I hear is that artificial intelligence will eliminate jobs. However, the vast majority of analysts disagree. AI allows technology to reduce the human effort required to perform a task, but it works best in controlled settings. Humans still outperform artificial intelligence in higher cognitive functions such as evaluating, analyzing, and conceptualizing as well as creative endeavors such as design, artwork, and writing.
So, what does AI really mean for today’s workforce? We should expect AI to eliminate mundane and routine tasks, which means many of our jobs will simply shift toward tasks that require higher-level thinking. According to McKinsey, only 14% of the global workforce will need to switch occupational categories by 2030 to compensate for this realignment of job tasks. For example, invoice approval processes today involve data entry, comparing information across multiple sources, obtaining approvals, and cutting checks — highly routine and redundant tasks. These job functions are likely to be replaced by AI. However, businesses will continue to need experts who can analyze financial information to make recommendations that leverage resources for the best results. The role of accounts payable clerk will likely shift toward that of financial analyst as the use of AI accelerates in the workplace.
A couple of years ago, Gartner predicted that by 2020, AI would create more jobs than it eliminated. Further good news: this shift creates more meaningful work, so we should see job satisfaction ratings rise as AI becomes more prevalent.
AI works the way you do
Some SMBs have been reluctant to adopt AI for fear that it will be too disruptive to business practices and too hard for employees to adjust to the change. In many cases, AI can mimic human behaviors, so processes can often be automated without changing the underlying process structure. You simply substitute electronic task completion in place of manual tasks in your process flow, allowing the overall experience to feel similar but be completed more quickly and accurately. AI is often implemented with process automation, so look for technologies that include both to really improve your customers’ businesses.
AI offers transformative value
At this point, it is clear that the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has been wide-reaching. Many companies are dealing with the dual realities of an anxious workforce and lower overall revenue and profitability. However, numerous studies indicate that their spend on digital transformation (information management offerings) is flat or even slightly increasing over their expectations as the year began. Why? In a time when it’s desperately needed, information management delivers real financial benefits to organizations, and AI can be part of an offering with transformative value. Take a look at what happens when companies invest in AI-driven technologies.
• They build better products. 35% find that AI enhances R&D leading to faster innovation and next-generation products.
• Customers love them more. After implementing AI, 75% of companies have seen customer satisfaction scores improve by at least 10%.
• They make better decisions. 87% of CIOs report either substantial or transformative value to decision-making at their organizations.
Across the board, companies save money. Reducing administrative burden improves job satisfaction, boosts productivity, and leads to better results for employees. Organizations can expect to spend less on operating overhead, analytics, and payroll. In fact, Accenture reports that automating core administrative functions using AI unlocks $15 million in operating income for every 100 full-time employees. That’s $150,000 per person.
If you haven’t found a way to add artificial intelligence to your product lineup yet, stop delaying. You need to adjust in order to stay relevant in the long term as more and more technology shifts in this direction. But it’s also critical for your success today, as organizations scramble for efficiency solutions to offset the economic challenges of a COVID-19 world. In addition to helping your customers, AI can be a source of new revenue for your business to help you weather this downturn until we reach better days ahead.