Embracing AI: Where to start on your path to digital transformation

The term ‘Artificial Intelligence’(AI) evokes mixed reactions – from fear of the unknown to excitement about the possibilities this new technology has to offer.

Whatever your views on AI, the sooner you and your businessstart to embrace it, the sooner you will see where the positives lie and how to use it to improve business efficiency and drive innovation.It’s relevant for SMEs just as much as larger enterprises.

Amyn Jaffer, Head of Intelligent Automation, Ultima explains that many companies are, understandably, unsure of where to start when it comes to introducing AI.You may also be among those wondering what exactly AI means and how it could make a positive difference to your business.

AI can be defined as an area of computer science that emphasises the creation of intelligent machines that work and react like humans. It’s a very broad term for a wide range of technologies and capabilities which can have a profound impact on organisations in any vertical.This broad scope often makes it hard to establish which aspects of AI are likely to suit any particular businessor scenario, butstarting with one of its simpler forms is the best approach.

The benefits of process automation

Intelligent Automation (IA) is the use of Robotic process automation (RPA) software with artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities to handle high-volume, repeatable tasks that previously required humans to performthem. These tasks can include queries, calculations and maintenance of records and transactions.

As well as being relatively simple to implement, using software robots is both affordable and effective, making it an ideal place for any SME to startits path to digital transformation. And the potential benefits are impressive.

Take, for example, an HR department.Here, Intelligent Automationcan be used for processing applications and absence management, as well as ensuring that eachcompanydepartment has the same information about each employee without the typical challenges of multiple system records.With these tasks managed in an automated manner, the HR team is free to focus on the more strategic aspects of their roles.

As another example, Intelligent Automationcan be used to simplify the process of reporting on credit for thousands of customers. In one case, a retailer reduced reporting time by 91%, creating savings of more than £100k, by using a ‘virtual worker’ to produce credit reports.

Any large-scale activities or groups of repetitive tasks that draw on or feed information into multiple systems are also candidates for intelligent automation. In practice, this could mean using cognitive services such as text and sentiment analysis to process and respond to natural language text within formats such as emails, documents and live webchats. The aim is to extract data from these sources without the need for human intervention.

Contact centres are simplifying the service agent process by using Natural Language Processing (NLP) to extract key information from emails and messaging chats, allowing their agents to focus on providing the best experience for their customers. Similarly, speech recognition software can be used to answer the phone and respond automatically to customersas software robotsare capable of analysingcalls and findingthe right information to help the caller.The robots gather the required information in milliseconds, making the service more efficient so that real people can deal with more challenging customer services issues.

Cognitive services can also be used to improve business efficiency through visualrecognition. One company is using this technology to tag information in photographs – a task that would take hundreds of man-hours to do, but just seconds with cognitive services.

The next level: intelligent data analytics

With these processes in place, companies can move towards introducing more sophisticated AIto mine their data and start to ask questions of that data that will deliver unique business insights. By automatically collecting and sifting through vast amounts of data and then training robots to make sense of the data by asking the data pertinent questions, you can start to solve the problems that have been keeping you up at night. For example, analysing your customer data to establish insights into how different things affect your customers’ purchasing decisions can give real business benefits and drive innovations in how you supply and market your goods.

Ultimately, we’re all likely to have a ‘virtual worker’ by our sides helping us to do our jobs, cutting out mundane, repetitive tasks and freeing us up to be more creativeand focus on business goals and innovation. To reach this stage the right foundations need to be in place,and the adoption of Intelligent Automation is the best place to start.

Not only is it simple to implement in many processes throughout most SMEs, software robots also provide positive, short-term ROI which is good for demonstrating to boards the tremendous potential of AI. We’re just at the beginning of the intelligent transformation journey- join in and make your company’s future bright.