AI: The newest colleague in the workplace
Tue 5 May 2020 | Emma Hitzke
Emma Hitzke, Senior Director, Emerging Technologies at Oracle, explains how companies can engrain AI intelligently into their organisations
There’s no doubt artificial intelligence (AI) has huge potential to transform the modern enterprise. We’re already starting to see its impact – with recent research finding that AI can help organisations grow their annual profits 80 percent faster and errors being reduced by more than a third (37 percent). Indeed, AI is dominating many boardroom conversations, and we’re seeing increasing numbers of companies implementing, or considering the use of, the technology in one way or another.
However, to be truly future-ready, companies need to understand that AI will permeate throughout the entire business. Its impact must cut across functions and allow us to see the wider picture – it’s no coincidence that almost three quarters (72 percent) of businesses that use AI better understand overall business performance.
AI must be embedded correctly in order to be successful – and this means ingraining AI in processes and solutions across an organisation, with the ultimate focus on driving business impact. Businesses that achieve this will be the winners over the next ten years.
Intelligent conversations with your ERP system
A key driver for AI’s pervasiveness in enterprise is, in fact, consumer technology.
The consumer world holds many a source of inspiration – with AI’s improvement of apps like Netflix and Waze leading us to develop similar expectations for the apps we use at work.
AI is becoming more familiar – so much so that we’ll come to know it as a colleague. Much like the intelligent classmate we all knew at school, AI will help us in our everyday office life. From automating repetitive tasks, to delivering smart insights and continuously improving as we engage with it, a friendly AI in the form of an advanced digital assistant will be a huge asset to have around at work.
Chatbots are a particularly good example of how this sort of technology is evolving. 80 percent of companies are now using a chatbot in some form, according to research. While they are good at answering simple questions when people interact with them, staff will increasingly come to expect more. That’s where AI-powered digital assistants come in – these are better equipped to understand the intention and context behind requests. As well as this, AI will help digital assistants move from simply responding to requests, to proactively addressing employee’s questions and concerns.
As more staff talk to a digital assistant, the smarter it will become – think of a sponge which absorbs information. Every “conversation” creates important data that the assistant can learn from. Over time, it will use this accumulated knowledge to anticipate preferences—such as the type of reports a staff member will typically request, travel preferences and when the next quarterly business review is coming up. For a CFO, effectively having an intelligent conversation with your ERP system is no longer something far removed from reality.
The C-suite is already realising the importance of this technology. Productivity is increased by more than a third (36 percent) through the use of digital assistants, according to research, while financial analysis is sped up by 38 percent. And within half a decade, the vast majority of executives (83 percent) believe AI will completely automate their financial close processes.
A joined-up approach
AI’s influence throughout a business will also be driven by companies looking to ensure that its capabilities natively connect to the processes they already have. It will also help companies work smarter, with AI triggering actions regardless of device, vendor, product, or service.
Truly connected AI may even give way to connecting to an individual’s biometrics in the future. The impact of this could be huge – spelling a potential end for separate security documents, and even offering best product or service purchase recommendations as you are walking through a shopping mall or the airport. This isn’t a far cry from science fiction movie Minority Report.
AI is already prevalent in today’s society – nearly everywhere, in fact. Sometimes we see this technology, sometimes we don’t. We’re more familiar with chatbots, for example, than network security monitors, which are working away behind the scenes. Regardless, the impact of AI on our personal lives is having a considerable knock-on effect in the business world, as more people come to expect the same benefits in their working lives.
And why would businesses not make the jump to AI adoption? Modern cloud computing and algorithms make this technology a fast, efficient, and inexpensive approach to problem-solving. Developers discover those cloud services and algorithms and imagine new ways to incorporate the latest AI functionality into their software. Businesses see the value of those advances – even if they don’t know that AI is involved – and everyone benefits.
The companies likely to benefit most from increased AI adoption are those that demonstrate agility, customer-centricity and look to rapidly take advantage of emerging technology. As we move through this new decade, “enabling” the use of technology in your business won’t do – becoming “technology-led” will be the key to long-term success.