Even though artificial intelligence (AI) provides businesses with significant short-term benefits, it can also ensure a vital competitive advantage. While reducing costs and increasing profits are key drivers for applying the technology, AI also provides for new business approaches.

The biggest problem that organisations seem to have when implementing AI is often the deployment of the answer into a production scenario. It is one thing to find an insight that could change the business from a data science perspective but turning that into an AI-powered process along with the operational KPI that supports it, is another thing entirely.

So, a business needs a process to bring organisational change management into the mix. Of course, AI can help with this by digitally gathering as much data as possible on people using the new AI solutions. This will enable the company to use AI models to pinpoint where champions (or protesters) are forming, and feed that back into the change loop.

Business sense

There are literally unlimited business cases for AI, but like any other technology innovation, the excitement must be tempered with a cost benefit analysis. If AI does not solve a specific business problem that results in increased value somewhere, then there is not a case for it.

Microsoft talks about four areas of digital transformation; empowering employees, engaging customers, optimising operations and transforming products. AI can help in all these areas. For empowering employees, AI can use image recognition to automatically convert photographed receipts into payroll expense claims. From a customer engagement perspective, AI can recommend additional products that are appropriate for an existing basket at either an online store, or at point-of-sale at a traditional shop.

When it comes to optimising operations, AI can be used for predictive maintenance to proactively monitor machines and predict failures before they occur, saving costly production line issues, as well as freeing up capital by avoiding stockpiling unnecessary spares. For transforming products, AI is often used to help companies move from selling products to offering a service, such as the often-mentioned case of General Electric moving from selling turbines to offering an always-on electricity generation service – and predictive maintenance also plays a part in this.

Importance of AI

AI is important to help solve problems that are too expensive or large-scale to address using human brain power alone. Already in the medical field AI is used to help tag diseases such as lung cancer from CT scans and X-Rays with far higher accuracy and capacity than human doctors. On the consumer side, AI applications have been developed to act as a ‘seeing eye’ that provides aural input to blind people based on their surroundings.

In food production, AI can help farmers improve yields by deploying drones to detect weeds and plant growth issues. It can also assist in processing soil sensor data to identify what impacts high production in certain soils. In energy, AI could integrate renewable energy sources into an existing grid more optimally and better cater for demand expectations at peak rates.

Clearly, businesses across industry sectors could harness AI to optimise systems and outperform competitors.

Process for change

When it comes to effectively implementing AI-led solutions, decision-makers must first decide on what the business goals are. Once done, they need to examine the various role players that will be involved in the process both internally and externally. A company must also get executive sponsorship from the top.

Fundamental to its success is its judicial use inside the organisation. Despite all the trendy perspectives around AI, the technology can still deliver on the fundamental requirements of business software such as reducing costs and increasing profits. Where it differentiates from traditional solutions is in the new approaches it enables decision-makers to embrace. And these are the areas where companies can really start excelling in as they head towards a digital future.

Irrespective, AI is something that must be embraced if a business is to remain competitive in the digital business environment.