3 Smart Things to Know Before Getting Started with AI
Artificial intelligence is all around us. The technology has evolved to the point where it’s capable of automating a variety of everyday tasks once performed by humans. These advancements aren’t reserved for Fortune 500 companies—today, businesses of every size use AI in some capacity.
Why? It’s a huge boon for business. Below is a primer on getting started with AI.
1. How you can use AI in your business.
A good way of thinking about AI is as a technology that excels at processing data, identifying connections and insights contained in said data, and using them to inform future processes.
For routine tasks that simply require sifting through vast amounts of information to identify errors or find relevant data points, AI already outperforms humans. Experts predict that jobs based on rote, routine tasks, such as driving trucks or analyzing medical information, will be replaced by machines more quickly than jobs that require a greater degree of creative thinking.
Similarly, certain elements of your business are better targets for automation than others. While brainstorming sessions are—at least for now—best left to flesh-and-blood employees capable of making spontaneous connections and breakthroughs, a variety of more routine tasks are ripe for disruption, such as customer service (chatbots, for example), customer relationship management (CRM), accounting, and scheduling.
2. Common roadblocks you might encounter.
Machine learning can be great for your business, but getting started with AI-enabled software presents its own challenges. As with most human workers, AI learns on the job, which can lead to some errors. But as the software processes more information and learns from its mistakes, its capabilities will improve.
Secondly, while you don’t have to build your own AI software—there are a variety of pre-packaged options, which we’ll get into later—you do need employees or contractors who are capable of setting up these packages and running them. What’s more, AI-software will automate many tasks currently performed by employees, which means people’s roles will evolve. It’s important to be transparent and open with workers about these changes, so they embrace AI as a tool rather than rejecting it as a threat.
3. Getting started is easier than you think.
Realize it or not, you’re likely already taking advantage of AI capabilities. The technology is baked into popular business tools, including Microsoft Office 365, QuickBooks, Slack, G Suite, Facebook, and Salesforce, among many others. They’re popular for a reason, as they seamlessly blend AI capabilities with human oversight.
From here, the next step is bringing on more robust AI offerings capable of performing tasks that might be handled by you or an employee. Internally, digital assistants, such as Amazon’s Alexa for Business, can help with many day-to-day functions, including responding to emails, scheduling meetings, even booking and scheduling business travel itineraries, saving you and your employees a significant amount of time.
On the customer-support end, consider deploying a chatbot, which is an AI software program designed to converse with customers and answer their questions in real-time. Again, there might be a few kinks in the beginning, but a number of companies (including Microsoft, Facebook, and Google) can help your company build a sophisticated chatbot capable of fielding questions from your customers.
Implementing AI technology to assist in your company isn’t business as usual; it might take a shift in thinking and culture. As the technology grows more sophisticated, it will become capable of anticipating and solving problems before they occur. In most instances, this leads to increased efficiency. But in some cases, it could literally save lives. In the near future, remote medical monitoring could detect and prevent life-threatening events before they happen, while self-driving cars could anticipate and avoid collisions.
The overall effect is a safer, more connected world. AI is poised to fundamentally change how we do business.