Artificial intelligence (AI) has been a focus for research for decades, but has only recently become truly viable. The availability and maturity of automated data collection and analysis systems is making it possible for businesses to implement AI across their entire operations to boost efficiency and agility.
AI has the potential to transform operations by improving three fundamental business requirements: process automation, decision-making based on data insights, and customer interaction.
When a company embraces an AI-first strategy, it makes a conscious decision to transform itself today and set itself up for ongoing innovation and adaptation in the future.
The beauty of AI is that it promises to deliver more benefits than you can even imagine. An AI-first posture enables the mechanisms and processes to make changes as needed where needed—production, supply chain, business processes, finance systems, and customer interaction. AI increasingly enables systems to operate autonomously, making self-corrections automatically as necessary. Machines can predict when they will need maintenance and troubleshooting, alerting technicians to act. AI also enables 24-hour operations with minimum downtime.
Among the benefits of AI-first strategies are:
Efficiency is a continual goal for any organization. The more efficient you can be, the less time and money you spend on a task. In a retail operation, for instance, AI-driven smart shelf systems use Internet of Things (IoT) and cloud-based applications to alert the back room to replenish items. Inventory systems make note of what is being replenished and, with the assistance of data analytics, predict when to order more and how frequently.
Looking for a real-world example? Check out how Lineage Logistics – who moves 40% of frozen and refrigerated cargo in the U.S. – successfully applied AI and analytics to reduce operating costs, energy usage, and warehouse inefficiency.
Because of its ability to process mind-boggling amounts of data within the time required to carry out an action, AI and its first cousin machine learning (ML) can identify trends, patterns, and anomalies that produce valuable business insights. Whether an organization is involved in fundraising, marketing, cybersecurity, manufacturing, or any number of activities, these insights have huge strategic value. They can predict customer behavior, or track an attempted breach of a network. They can balance yield with quality on a production line. They can help refine fundraising campaigns to ensure contributors aren’t overwhelmed with requests. This makes for well-run organizations that are better attuned to their needs and those of the people they serve.
Keeping in mind the retail example, the interaction between smart shelves and inventory systems occurs with minimal intervention, significantly reducing the chance of error. Whenever a task involves human activity, the chance of error is usually present because people are prone to distraction and fatigue. Such human frailties are not an issue for AI-driven systems. Fewer errors lead to increased efficiency, productivity, and ultimately, company profits. In simple terms an AI process can out-perform a human at very specific tasks.
Speed and efficiency go hand in hand—one motivates the other. Consider how much faster a task can be completed with fewer keystrokes on a keyboard and clicks on a screen. AI’s ability to multitask and review massive amounts of data accelerates activities in inhuman ways. Insurance and finance companies leverage this speed to review claims, loan requests, and credit checks. As a result, insurers process claims quicker and banks approve loans and mortgages in a more efficient manner. The result is fewer costs for the company and improved satisfaction for the customer. In many cases customers are running hundreds of live experiments and selecting the best performing for every customer interacting with their platform.
Workflows can get bogged down when large teams cooperate on a task, especially if members are dispersed through multiple locations in different time zones. AI-driven tools like speech recognition can boost team efficiency by accelerating tasks like transcribing recordings of meetings. A transcription in a medical context means a practitioner can capture data hands-off. A transcript from a legal deposition, business meeting, or webinar may have taken days in the past, but with AI now only requires a few seconds. This enables users to be more focused and complete tasks faster.
We could write multiple books on the benefits of AI, but you would need an AI-powered reader to get through them all and generate the summaries! AI has profound transformative power that can touch every aspect of an operation. Once a company decides to become an AI-first organization, the transformation can proceed. But you’ll need efficient, intelligent systems such as the Cloudera Data Platform to execute the strategy. Remember to start small and build iteratively.
Chris Royles is a Field CTO for EMEA at Cloudera. A senior thought leader in technical strategy, he holds expertise in complex systems, data and analytics, organizational and skills development.