by Alex Guillen 17 September 2019
Artificial intelligence (AI) has been part of our lives for longer than you think. Whether it’s helping you find your favourite film on Netflix, sorting your Instagram feed to show photos from your best friend’s wedding, or recommending the latest dishwasher just when you needed it most – AI is impacting our lives daily.
And it doesn’t stop there. Recent breakthroughs highlight the extent of just how much AI is transforming the world. In healthcare, for example, the algorithms involved in AI are already being used to more accurately detect diseases, such as cancer, in their early stages. Additionally, in the midst of global warming, AI can be a critical tool for helping save our planet.
According to IDC, worldwide spending on AI systems is forecast to reach $35.8 billion in 2019, an increase of 44 percent from the amount spent in 2018. There is a clear focus on using AI to transform the way we work – with use cases such as automated customer service agents, sales process recommendation, and automation leading investment. In each of these cases, AI isn’t making major, intelligent decisions by itself. Instead, its role in optimising operations, transforming the customer experience, and even creating new products and services is a lot simpler.
Essentially, these AI bots are simply automated decision processes delivering – or framing – specific outcomes. These AI algorithms are perhaps less glamorous than the claims many individuals and organisations make about the potential of AI. Yet, bots are still the path towards creating a next generation workforce, helping to deal with time-consuming, repetitive tasks and leaving human employees free to focus on higher-value activity that provides greater returns.
However, before you can reap the full benefits that these bots can bring, there are a few things to consider.
Simplify, standardise then automate
The simple truth is you can’t automate non-standard processes. One may automate multiple sub-processes within a non-standard process if they themselves are standardised, but the top-level process itself can’t be automated unless it can be regularly repeated and produce the expected outcome… in other words, when it is standardised.
Anyone who has seen Mickey Mouse as the Sorcerer’s Apprentice knows what can happen if automation is implemented without due care. Bots can be a huge asset when processes are clean and clearly defined, but it’s important to note that they’re extremely disruptive and counter-productive to deploy when multiple processes conflict or are loosely defined.
The key to successful bot deployment is to identify clearly defined standard processes, or clean up existing processes so they are clearly defined. You then need to deploy algorithms under the watchful eye of a trained member of the team to ensure workflows run smoothly.
And that brings us onto the next layer of preparation – putting AI into the mix with people.
Bringing AI into the workforce
What we can expect to see in the next twelve months is organisations beginning to view AI as part of the employee base, versus being a piece of technology. In fact, our research shows over a third of business leaders believe AI to be the most beneficial tool for customer services. As more and more organisations implement bots to help with tasks, they are increasingly becoming part of the workforce. Tasks such as responding to a helpdesk enquiry by resetting a password, or transferring the customer to the relevant operator in the correct department, are just a small number of examples of how bots can help.
Just like with people, organisations will need to look at ways to best manage, monitor and provide support for the bots they employ. To be successful, organisations need to have a culture that fits automation – in the same way business culture has to fit all other sorts of staff, whether part- or full-time, Generation Z or veterans. Bots need clearly defined expectations, parameters of operations, standardised and refined processes, and competent supervision to be effective, so ensuring there is a process in place to support this is vital.
Adapting to AI to reap the benefits
As AI increasingly enters our workplace, businesses need to be prepared for this new way of working. Organisations should not only be asking what AI – or automation – can do for them, but how they can adapt in order to see the true benefits. After all, AI should no longer be viewed solely as a piece of technology – it is now clearly part of our workforce.
Alex Guillen is the Technology Strategist for Insight EMEA. His responsibility is the creation of the messaging, design and execution of the EMEA Insight Go-to-Market offerings for Cloud + Data Centre Transformation and Digital Innovation solutions and services.