Artificial Intelligence (AI) is often perceived as a far-reaching, overly ambitious solution that fuses robots and advanced software into self-replicating automations, however contemporary applications of AI buck those stereotypes and leave many unknowingly interacting with AI daily. Customer service chatbots and other support channels are just two prevalent examples of how AI has become a staple that serves as an accelerator for organizational efficiency and customer experience.
The term “AI” is often thrown around parallel to how it’s often described — generally undefined but regarding a process that’s seemingly far too advanced, futuristic, and unattainable. But understanding what AI is and the processes it enables provides clarity to its real-world applications.
AI & Machine Learning (ML)
Artificial Intelligence is the process of applying advanced algorithms to understand human intelligence and reasoning. These advanced algorithms enable computers to augment the planning, learning, problem solving, and cognitive decision-making capabilities of an organization. A surge in AI development has followed the appetite of companies to increase efficiencies wherever they can. These developments are filling the gaps to enable business teams to focus on high-value activities such as technological advancements in processing power and the growing ability to maintain and process data. AI and machine learning (ML) capabilities have reached unprecedented levels — enabling faster and more accurate data processing speeds than teams have previously experienced.
Machine learning is a specific subset of AI and is differentiated from other AI technologies by the ability to “self-teach.” ML technology is effectively able to reprogram and reanalyze inputs as more data is ingested. This is enabled through advanced algorithmic operations and results in increasingly more accurate output over time. With the capability to learn, recognize patterns, and accurately respond to changing conditions, more businesses are turning to AI and ML to perform repetitive tasks that would otherwise fall on their employees. These technologies are providing insights with greater accuracy and speed to ultimately empower companies with better decision-making capabilities.
This is particularly important in the office of finance and accounting, where precision and accurate insights are often major factors in the success of an organization. These business functions are also under tremendous pressure to decrease the time to completion of many tasks. As AI is beginning to make its way into the business landscape, it is enabling today’s business teams to finally “do more with less.” As a result, AI is effectively equipping high-performing teams with the capability and visibility to focus time on the most important areas.
AI's Top Impact Areas
- Visibility & Detection: AI can sift through data points at a much higher rate of speed than even the most experienced data scientists. These data points can be used in reports and key inputs to process and enable a new level of reporting and ultimately lead to more informed decision-making capabilities.
- Data Collection & Correlation: AI also extrapolates the capabilities of data collection, correlation, and updates. With the velocity required in today’s economy, it is not enough to have a general knowledge of customers. Being competitive in business requires a holistic view of the customer and their actions by aggregating all available data from the order management solution as well as today’s social media platforms.
- Task Management & Processing: Many of the customer service chat functions that are a fixture on the websites of online retailers and other companies providing goods and services are often enabled by way of AI. These use cases are similarly applied industry-wide to more efficiently answer and route questions, provide guidance, and mitigate processing inefficiencies.
As the benefits of AI become more pronounced and success stories are shared far and wide, many organizations want to ride the wave but are left wondering what AI looks like in their environment. How do they best deploy it? Where exactly is it going to help? And how much of a cost and time saver will it be?
Even with all the success stories that are available in the media, there are some serious considerations to consider when assessing whether AI is right for your organization. These include:
- Relevant Use Cases: Identification of the key tasks and areas of automation that fit the organization and industry.
- Risks and Opportunities: Identification of the risks associated with use cases to address key concerns across the organization. Inappropriate, or even perceptions of inappropriate use, can vary across industries and can have a considerable negative reputational impact.
- Data Availability: Artificial Intelligence is highly reliant on training and repetition to develop the patterns that enable correct operation. Organizations will need to seriously assess whether the data they have is sufficient to provide proper training.
To develop a successful implementation of an AI solution, organizations should consider and plan for the following:
- Use Case: What are the use cases for the technology, and how will these be implemented?
- Skills: Given the identified use cases, and the risks, what skills will be used to fill the gaps?
- Data: The data points that will be available for proper training and solution enhancement.
- Technology: The solutions that fit the use case and skills and can leverage the data that is available.
- Organizational ownership: Identification of the right team to own the management of the solution. This may be a cross-functional team, but care should be exercised to identify the right people.
As organizations continue to look for new ways to optimize key tasks, AI is becoming less of a mystery and more of a viable option for nearly all organizations. Even though it’s becoming increasingly viable, organizations must take key steps in assessing the right level of AI for the organization. With the right level of planning, preparation, and a well-planned deployment, AI can be a significant win for most organizations.
How Does AI Benefit Business Teams?
Best practices for deploying AI capabilities provide business teams with the ability to sift through high volumes of data and detect and alert the business teams of the outlying condition in an effective and appropriate amount of time. The business team then can proactively respond to and address potential concerns. This is particularly important and relevant in the following scenarios:
- Business & Audit Compliance: Within the business process risk & controls matrix of many organizations, the business teams are often responsible for periodically reviewing documents. Business teams are often making their best efforts to perform these reviews in a timely manner, but throughout the course of a year, there will inevitably be a few that are overlooked. When deployed effectively, the AI tools can proactively identify anomalies and enable the business teams to efficiently resolve preemptive concerns.
- Increased Sample Sizes: When deployed by internal and/or external audit teams, they are then able to review the full sample set rather than the previously limited random selection of values. Thus, audit teams are no longer restricted by time constraints to select a small sample testing set. AI empowers audit teams to evaluate the complete data set and proactively respond to mitigate risk and ensure greater reliability in financial statements.
- Increased Availability: Chatbots and AI toolsets provide business teams with answers to questions and increase the breadth of product knowledge based on the growing number of questions and correct response rates. Chatbots also decrease the amount of time business teams spend asking questions to find out the root of any issues or questions customers may have. They can even completely solve issues without human intervention.
The use of AI will certainly increase with the concurrent successes of use cases today. The business community has always been creative in applying technology to resolve complex business problems. As organizations discover new applications for AI, teams will be both challenged and enabled to reach higher levels of product optimization, customer retention, and profitability.
Special thanks to our partners at ThinkRisk.AI for collaborating and sharing key insights to this post.