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Effective AI implementation means looking beyond the hype

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Artificial intelligence is more than just a media fad, but investing in automation for the sake of it can cause more harm than good. Business leaders who are wary of what AI means in practice need to ask pertinent questions about how the technology will fit into their organisation.

Even at the best of times, business leaders are constantly told that in response to a variety of challenges, artificial intelligence is the answer. In many ways, this is true – over the past twelve months in particular, AI products have served as vital drivers of business continuity throughout an immensely difficult period. With the ability to improve productivity, resilience, and even identify new business leads, AI has reigned supreme.

Even before the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, AI adoption grew by an impressive 270 per cent between 2015 and 2019. Now, the global artificial-intelligence market is forecast to reach $267 billion by 2027, according to recent insights.

Yet, despite the need to innovate at pace, some organisations do not seem to be doing the necessary homework when deploying AI, and modelling suggests that this could come at a high price. Indeed, organisations that fail to make the most of tech adoption risk missing out on a staggering 46 per cent of their potential annual revenue.

Make no mistake, AI is more than just a media fad. But with this in mind, what trends should business leaders consider when implementing new AI?

Given the accelerated uptake of AI solutions, the market is becoming oversaturated with products purporting to deliver AI-driven insights that will lower costs, reduce time spent on tasks, improve flexibility and responsiveness and ultimately improve results. In many cases, AI can actually provide these advantages to businesses. However, these tools must first be harnessed correctly.

Unfortunately, given the vast amount of media attention that the term ‘AI’ seems to garner, many vendors will market their products as ‘AI-powered’ even when these claims are tenuous. No doubt, the AI field brings with it enormous commercial opportunities, but we are seeing an increasing need for companies to distinguish genuinely useful AI from software that won’t quite deliver on its claims.

Although these products may deliver real benefits to some organisations, they might not be suitable for those looking for more specific solutions to their business requirements. As AI becomes the norm across many organisations, and as more firms look to invest in cutting-edge tech to bolster their operations, this dilemma will present a challenge for those who are unfamiliar with AI.

Businesses can expect to see an increasing need to invest in in-house expertise and consultancy to determine which products will provide genuine value. A significant 41 per cent of business leaders surveyed earlier this year for research by Fountech Solutions said that they plan to hire new talent to deal specifically with AI, meaning that firms should be well equipped to cut through the noise.

With this in mind, I predict that as business leaders become increasingly wary of what ‘AI’ means in practice, they will begin to ask more pertinent questions about how this tech will fit into their organisation.

When it comes down to it, some businesses will not have a pressing need to implement AI at the current moment, while many younger firms won’t be ready to take on new tech. In any case, more decision-makers will be questioning whether AI-powered platforms fit the bill.

Even though organisations are feeling the pressure to automate, with a significant 36 per cent of firms expressing fears that their business is lagging behind its competitors when it comes to utilising AI technologies, it is equally true that investing in automation just for the sake of doing so can cause more harm than good. This is a common pitfall, particularly for younger firms with less in the way of budget, who might benefit more from improving their operations internally, or by investing in alternative software.

As we move forward, with any luck, businesses will be proceeding with more caution. If they aren’t already, decision-makers will increasingly look to vendors that can provide sufficient proof of value and demonstrate tangible benefits that their organisation can expect to enjoy from investing in AI solutions. Chief amongst these should be an ample return on investment, as well as enhanced data analytics – but of course, these advantages will all be sector- and industry-specific.

Reliable AI vendors should be able to deliver on these demands. Many will provide thorough evaluations of how their offering will benefit the individual business, and thereafter, a strategy outlining how they plan to support the implementation process or fine-tune the product.

Business leaders should also resist the temptation to run full steam ahead. Although enticing, the urge to implement too many AI features at once can be damaging, leaving employees overwhelmed with new tech that isn’t fully refined.

Thankfully, industry leaders are taking the necessary steps to ensure that this isn’t the case for their business. Almost half (48 per cent) of the decision-makers who participated in the Fountech Solutions research stated that they plan to send employees for AI-related training in 2021. In doing so, organisations will be able to ensure that staff have the right understanding and skills required to effectively harness AI, as well as remedying any glaring knowledge gaps that emerge.

Likewise, more businesses should be considering the other benefits to be gained from deploying tech in a series of incremental steps – namely, the ability to complete any final tweaks to the product before it is fully rolled out. Naturally, as with any implementation process, there will be some teething problems, so organisations should do what they can to avoid the fate of doing too much too soon.

A good place to start would be to clearly identify which business problem you are looking to solve first. Whether it is improving your sales and marketing with AI-infused customer-relationship-management systems, or acquiring competitive intelligence through analysis tools that can gather insights on leading market strategies, a well defined initial objective will help determine where to begin, and where to go from there.

When utilised effectively, AI has the potential to equip businesses with the tools they need to succeed, and to pinpoint new avenues for growth. While it is vital that these technologies are adopted effectually, I have every confidence that AI will prove a game-changer within many organisations in the months and years to come.

Ero Georgiades is chief operating officer of Fountech Solutions.

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