Many businesses take up artificial intelligence (AI) technology to try to reduce operational costs, increase efficiency, grow revenue and improve customer experience. To understand whether it can be good for your business, it is important to recognise the disadvantages and barriers to implementing this technology.
First, let’s have a look at the impacts AI can have on business.
For the greatest benefits, businesses should look at putting the full range of smart technologies – including machine learning, natural language processing and more – into their processes and products. By deploying the right AI technology, your business will:
- Be able to offer your customers a better and more personal experience
- Grow expertise by enabling analysis and offering intelligent advice and support
- Save time and money through optimising and automating routine processes and tasks
- Identify and maximise sales opportunities, thereby increasing revenue
- Be able to make fast business decisions based on the output of cognitive technologies
- Increase operational and productivity efficiencies
- Mine a huge amount of data to generate quality leads and grow your customer base
- Reduce human error, provided that your AI systems are correctly set up
According to a recent Infosys study, the main driving force for using AI in business was competitor advantage.
Research has suggested that AI isn’t always effective on its own, so to gain an advantage over your competitors, having humans and machines working together will produce the richest rewards. It is worth remembering that while AI technologies are effective in replacing the lower-level, repetitive tasks, businesses often achieve the greatest performance improvements when humans and machines work together.
To make the most of this powerful technology, you should consider AI as a means of augmenting rather than replacing human capabilities.
There are limitations you should be aware of before you decide to implement AI into your business.
For instance, you should have a clear strategy from the beginning when you are sourcing the data for your AI. The availability of data is one of the central roadblocks to a business implementing AI. Because of the abundance of inconsistent and poor-quality data, your business will struggle to create value from AI if you do not have a clear plan.
Another barrier to adopting AI is that there is a skills shortage, and with little availability of technical staff with necessary training and experience, it will be difficult for your business to effectively deploy and operate AI solutions.
Research suggests experienced data scientists are in short supply, as are data professionals who are skilled in machine learning, training good models, etc.
Another consideration when you are trying to procure AI technologies is cost. If your business lacks in-house skills then you may have to outsource, which presents maintenance costs. The computational cost for training data models can be expensive.
You will need to regularly upgrade your software programs, in order to adapt to a changing business environment and, in the case of a breakdown, recognise that there is a risk of losing code or important data. It is costly and time-consuming to restore this. However, this risk is no greater with AI than with other software development. If your system is designed well and that those procuring AI understand their requirements and options, these risks are easily mitigated.
Other limitations can include implementation times, integration challenges, and usability and interoperability with your other, pre-existing, systems and platforms.
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It is important to understand the ethical concerns relating to AI. The rapid development of AI has meant that a number of ethical issues have emerged. These include:
- The need to mitigate against unintended consequences, as smart machines are thought to learn and develop independently
- A need to address algorithmic bias originating from human bias in the data
- The fact that automated technology can give rise to job losses, which presents a need to redeploy or retrain employees to keep them in jobs
- What effect does machine interaction have on human behaviour and attention?
- How can there be a fair distribution of wealth created by machines?
- The security of AI systems (eg autonomous weapons) that can potentially cause damage
While these risks are impossible to ignore, one should keep in mind that AI can – for the most part – create better business and better lives for everyone. If implemented properly and responsibly, artificial intelligence has immense and beneficial potential. Whatever your motives are for considering artificial intelligence, the potential is there for it to change the way you operate your business. All that it takes at the beginning is a willingness to embrace new opportunities wherever you can.