How AI can help translate real business value

With the promise that artificial intelligence (AI) brings, it has never been more urgent for leaders to understand the potential applications of the revolutionary technology. A Gartner survey found that only 4 per cent of chief information officers have already introduced elements of AI into their firm, yet 46 per cent are planning to implement AI solutions in the future

As a nascent and rapidly evolving technology, many executives are unsure of how to start the transition away from legacy systems and begin to embrace the exciting, but complex, range of AI-based tools.

Antony Bourne, president of IFS Industries at enterprise software provider IFS, believes that firms should start small on their AI journey. “It’s important to prove that a piece of AI technology can solve a business pain point and create real value, before implementing it throughout the company,” he says.

The set of AI-backed solutions available to businesses is expanding, presenting enterprises with an array of entry points into the technology. From implementing chatbots to improve the customer journey to introducing business process automation to streamline laborious tasks, few firms are unable to benefit from the next generation of AI technologies.

The growing number of case studies illustrating how AI has been able to transform inefficient processes and bring about tangible business improvements is helping C-suite executives visualise the power of AI.

Cubic Transportation Systems, a provider of integrated systems and services for transportation, have made use of machine-learning to give ticket machines the ability to self-diagnose. For example, if a ticket machine at Paddington Underground Station stops working, the machine will attempt to figure out the exact reason for the breakdown and then, if possible, fix it.

If it is not able to fix the issue itself, the machine will automatically raise a works order for an engineer to carry out a repair. The ticketing machine can even select the most suitable engineer who has the right skills to resolve the problem and send them a text message to arrange a service visit.

“Process automation and machine-learning have helped Cubic to be more efficient in how they manage their assets out in the field,” explains Mr Bourne. “The result has been a decrease in the IT overhead with a reduction of their field resource controllers by 75 per cent and with machine availability seeing an increase of 20 per cent.”

By using our AI technologies, firms can differentiate themselves in a crowded and competitive market

Advances in AI technology are also driving corporate interest in a diverse range of AI-based tools, including the internet of things (IoT), chatbots, robotics and natural language processing (NLP). For example, developments in NLP are set to alter drastically how customer service is performed with machines being increasingly able to understand and analyse human speech and text.

“If the software understands what the consumer wants, it can automatically do it for them. Automating interactions in this way goes beyond just reducing the volume of emails,” says Mr Bourne. “Customers receive more relevant responses and customer service staff are happier as they don’t have to perform as many mundane tasks.”

The advent of cloud solutions has radically changed the type of AI tools that businesses can make use of. IoT devices can now collect huge amounts of data and send it directly to the cloud, where it can undergo analysis to uncover actionable insights that can help identify new business opportunities and improve efficiency.

Before introducing AI technologies at a firm, these insights may have gone unnoticed and present a clear example of how immediate results can be gained when dealing with AI. “Businesses need a lot of data to make sense of it in a meaningful way. The cloud gives you that ability to hold data and then be able to analyse it instantly,” says Mr Bourne.

For companies at the top of their industry, adopting AI tools is no longer an optional add-on to current processes. “Companies that don’t embed AI into their product, service or processes will lose their competitive edge in the market; they simply won’t be able to keep up with the technology deployed by rivals,” he says.

“Internally, you won’t be as efficient. You may have three staff members performing data entry tasks to process invoices, as opposed to a competitor who uses an AI robotics process automation solution that is working 24 hours a day.”

Due to the massive demand for a tech-savvy workforce, even larger companies will find it difficult to acquire the right mix of employees who are experienced in implementing AI-based solutions. To extract the most value from AI and ensure these technologies are being used in the right business areas, choosing a knowledgeable partner that is well versed across the AI spectrum is crucial to this transition.

“There is a risk that companies going it alone on AI can go down dead ends and make costly mistakes. This is why firms considering starting their AI journey need to know there are companies such as IFS out there that can help guide them to meet their goals more quickly,” says Mr Bourne.

As an industry leader in enterprise software, IFS offers both readily available off-the-shelf AI tools and bespoke industry-specific solutions suitable for businesses of all sizes. “We have the knowledge and experience of a wide range of AI technologies in relation to different needs. By using our AI technologies, firms can differentiate themselves in a crowded and competitive market,” Mr Bourne concludes.