What You Need to Know Before Investing in AI
An Executive Voices Blog by Jack Hill
The world of artificial intelligence (AI) is a fast-paced, ever-evolving industry that has taken great leaps and bounds in recent years. With many companies incorporating AI into their processes and communication strategies, the status quo of running a business seems to be shifting. But there are many different types of AI, and multiple ways it can benefit businesses of all industries, so incorporating AI into your strategy is a process that needs careful planning and consideration.
To help you decide if it’s the right step for you, here’s what you need to know before investing in AI.
Types of AI
There are many, many AI tools and apps available to help streamline your business processes. Some of the most commonly seen AI applications are chatbots, used to streamline customer service. Any business with customers can make use of these technologies, which read customers’ queries via messaging and give appropriate responses. However, for the bots to work effectively and not leave your customers frustrated, it’s necessary to offer a clear way for them to contact a real person if their questions exceed the capabilities of the chatbot.
Data processing AI applications can massively improve productivity and cut down human processing time for large amounts of data. Computers can understand and organize data far quicker than any human brain can, and the risk of errors is reduced. By using AI to compile your business analytics, you can quickly assess your strategies and see where to focus your energy.
More advanced AI models, such as machine learning applications, can create a program for your business that learns and adapts as new information comes in. This can be extremely useful, but it does require regular checks to ensure that the data remains accurate.
Benefits and Risks
AI is not something you can just set up one day and forget about—it requires constant monitoring and updating to stay effective and serve your business at an optimum level. Some AI types are supervised, while others are unsupervised. This means that you can either develop a program to run, learn, and adapt by itself, or you can use human input to refine its capabilities.
The former may seem the most useful when it comes to saving time, there are risks associated with allowing AI to run independently. Choosing not to monitor your systems will make error detection more difficult and the technology will be liable to produce more inaccurate data. Additionally, depending on the nature of the task you’ve assigned to your AI, businesses must also consider the regulatory compliance implications. Misuse of machine learning models can result in reputational damage, financial penalties, and even legal action; monitoring your systems regularly will help safeguard your business against this.
However, constant monitoring can use up costly resources that may be better served elsewhere. As a compromise, some companies choose a hybrid AI program that uses human input but can also learn from it and take steps ahead if it deems new information viable and accurate. By feeding small portions of labeled data into the AI system, it can then attempt to label fresh data itself. A human can then check for accuracy, and the AI continues to learn and become more efficient.
It’s also important to keep in mind that AI can be unintentionally biased. If you’re using AI to generate content such as job listings, online written content, or communications, be sure to check it frequently to ensure it is in keeping with the ethics and moral standards of your company. There is also still a lack of concrete legislation around the use of AI when it comes to liability and dispute resolution, which is something worth bearing in mind.
One of the biggest fears around AI is the risk that it will eliminate human job roles in some sectors, but forward-thinking companies look to use AI to assist their employees and boost productivity, rather than replace them. Done right, AI implementation can help businesses save money and increase efficiency by up to 40%.
Developing and refining your own in-house AI program requires an initial investment of both money and time. You’ll need experienced developers and programmers to build the software, as well as a team who can maintain it. Outsourcing AI to an external vendor may seem more expensive, but it is a way to begin reaping (or testing) the benefits to your company immediately. The downside is that you cannot adapt or modify the technology to suit your business specifically, outside of the scope of the program offered by the vendor.
It’s important to note that there are lots of factors affecting the costs attached to AI integration for businesses, including the type of software you need and the nature of the projects you need it for. Research suggests that companies can expect to pay upwards of $300,000 for custom AI solutions. Ultimately, costs will differ depending on how comprehensive your use of AI is and, as technology develops and competition grows, we can expect to see AI become increasingly accessible in the future.
A danger of relying on AI for your business decision-making processes is the lack of new or original ideas and strategies. AI uses historical data to create solutions, so it cannot suggest a new idea by itself. However, predictive maintenance programs are invaluable when it comes to foreseeing potential problems for your business.
These programs use feedback from equipment, alongside volumes of data from all areas of your business, to predict patterns that could cause issues. This can help prevent periods where systems are unexpectedly down, or where equipment breaks. Not only does this save time, as humans aren’t needed to run unnecessary checks and inspections, but it also lowers labor costs and can extend the lifespan of your equipment.
Tailoring AI to Your Needs
Different licensing executives will need to implement AI into their business strategies in varying ways. Brand owners may focus on marketing AI applications that create social media content, ensuring they deliver a consistent tone and experience for their customers.
Retailers may benefit more from using customer service-facing AI supplements, to help ensure no customer is ever left on hold for extended periods of time. And manufacturers may need to use preventative AI technology to help ensure their machines and equipment run smoothly and efficiently.
A Worthwhile Learning Curve
Although investing in AI can seem a big step into the unknown, the benefits to your business can be massive. With so many different forms of AI available—and the opportunity to create your own, bespoke programs—learning about how AI is evolving and can boost your business is well worth the learning curve.
Jack Hill is a freelance software developer who is deeply interested in the development of AI. He enjoys sharing his knowledge with business owners to help them use AI to reach their goals (as well as freshly brewed coffee and trips to the beach).