AI – friend or foe for business?
In today's rapidly evolving business landscape, the potential of Artificial Intelligence (AI) cannot be overemphasised. It has the power to drive innovation and enhance customer experiences. However, amongst the promises of AI lie several challenges that can limit its use and applications. Deciding whether to embrace this technology or not is a decision that each business needs to make based on its own unique circumstances. However, the benefits of AI can be significant, and businesses that do not leverage it could potentially be left behind, so it pays to be aware and understand where it can be applicable and deliver the greatest value, while avoiding or mitigating any risks that it might pose.
One of the biggest issues currently is ensuring that AI is fair, reliable, human-friendly, and safe. The underlying data, algorithms and human inputs used to train or run the AI could result in biased or unfair decision-making, and this is something that needs to be guarded against. Similarly, decisions made by AI could be damaging to the reputation or the trust of the business or its customers if the AI is not tested or checked properly or if it is used for the wrong purpose or context.
There is also growing fear that AI might replace human workers and cause unemployment and social problems, and that AI might become uncontrollable and unpredictable. These ethical and practical issues need to be understood and solved, with rules, principles, and frameworks in place to ensure that AI can be used effectively and beneficially in a business context.
AI can help businesses improve efficiencies in multiple ways, analysing large volumes of data quickly and accurately, identifying patterns, trends, and insights, enabling businesses to make data-driven decisions more efficiently. AI can also automate repetitive tasks, reducing errors, speeding up processes, and increasing productivity. AI-powered chatbots can handle customer inquiries, algorithms can automate data entry and processing, and Robotic Process Automation (RPA) can manage routine tasks across departments.
AI can also be used to personalise customer experiences, accurately forecast, optimise processes, and facilitate predictive maintenance. It identifies bottlenecks, inefficiencies, and areas for improvement, continuously learning from data to minimise costs, reduce waste, and increase productivity. AI also analyses sensor data to predict equipment failures, schedule proactive maintenance, and avoid costly breakdowns and downtime.
In addition, as AI systems are scalable and consistent, able to deal with big and complex data sets and analyses, and can handle many variables at once, the quality of decision making can remain the same regardless of the size and volume of the data involved. They also learn and improve from new data, enabling flexible and efficient decisions that adapt continuously.
These benefits help businesses to save money, improve fraud detection and prevention, boost customer relationship management, improve energy management, optimise supply chains and more. They can reduce the risks associated with human error, especially around high volume, repetitive tasks, and spot patterns and connections that humans might miss, allowing for more effective fact-based strategic decision making.
Potential for the future
The potential and possibilities of AI in the future can benefit many different areas. For example, in healthcare, AI can make diagnoses more accurate, spot diseases early, and help with surgeries. Self-driving cars that use AI could make transportation safer and faster. Natural Language Processing (NLP) could deliver effective virtual assistants and perform tasks like transcription and translation. AI-powered robots can work with humans in various industries, and enable smart cities by saving energy, controlling traffic, and improving public services.
Banks already use AI to find fraud and give personal advice, and in the future, they could potentially use it for risk analysis and investment management. AI can change education with customised learning and less paperwork. To fight climate change, AI can study environmental data, lower energy use, and create green solutions. These are just some examples of what AI can do, and there are always new things being discovered.
Fighting the fear
Despite the current unease around AI, the reality is that, when used properly, AI is not something to be afraid of, but rather something to embrace and leverage. AI can help businesses improve their efficiency, quality, innovation, and customer satisfaction, to solve problems and create value, and adapt to changing customer needs and market trends. The challenges associated with AI should not be seen as reasons to avoid the technology altogether, but rather as incentives for businesses to develop and use AI responsibly and transparently. Businesses that see AI as an opportunity, not a threat, will be able to leverage significant competitive advantage.