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5 ways AI can support your business today

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Artificial intelligence (AI) has, for decades, been the subject of science fiction and fantasy films. But we’ve come a long way since ‘Skynet’. Only a few months ago, Facebook deactivated a chatbot project, as the bots developed their own language to communicate with each other, making them redundant to the human employees ‘in charge’.

This is an extreme example, though. There are many practical AI applications that can support the day-to-day running of your business. And you don’t need to be a robotics engineer to learn how to use them.

In this article, we look at 5 types of AI, highlighting which areas of business they can be applied to. We also share our top tips for applications you can research for your needs.

How can I use AI in my business?

AI technology uses algorithms to analyse data, sometimes from many different sources. It uses this data to spot trends and irregularities. It can analyse vast volumes of data much faster than any data analyst, proving an efficient tool for businesses. As highlighted by Facebook’s recent hiccup though, the key to success is ensuring that your human employees can work effectively with your AI applications.

In 2016, a Narrative Science survey found that 38% of enterprises were already using AI to automate manual, repetitive tasks. And this is predicted to rise to 62% by 2018. However, a Forrester survey conducted that same year found that 39% of businesses are still unclear about what AI can be used for in a practical business context.

This shows a real gap in knowledge. The science is moving fast, but business owners need it packaged in an easy-to-implement way.

Here are 5 ways that AI can be applied in your business today

  1. Facebook for business

It might seem a little obvious to mention Facebook, but it is a great example of how machine-learning algorithms can track user behaviour and improve your ad targeting. Most of us are familiar with Facebook for personal use; however, there is a suite of enhanced tools available ‘behind the scenes’ that gives businesses access to the goldmine of data held within Facebook’s platform. It’s intuitive, user friendly, and immediately accessible. All you need to do to gain access, is create a ‘Page’ for your business.

Facebook ‘Insights’ provides you with a detailed analysis of your Page performance, including ‘views’, ‘likes’, and what demographic your posts are reaching. It provides specific information, such as the times during which each group of people are most active, and the types of post they respond to most. This helps you to create Facebook content that you know your audience will like.

It also tells you how long individuals watched your videos, and even if they had the volume turned on! This level of detail is invaluable for a Small or Medium Businesses, and helps you to understand your audience. And, if you want to target a new audience, Facebook is a great platform to test new products and content with this new demographic, since it helps you to find out what they do and don’t like.

‘Insights’ allows you to export data to Excel. It will also draft posts for you based on posting history, which you can choose to publish or not, and provides a detailed analysis of how the performance of your page, posts, and events compares to similar pages, (i.e. your competitors).

  1. Intelligent candidate matching for recruitment

From interview assistant bots that can answer the same question over and over again, to video interviewing and passive candidate identification, the applications for AI in recruitment are vast, and can remove much of the ‘donkey work’ from a recruiter’s day.

Creating job listings and posting them in the right places, using the right language to generate engagement from the right calibre of candidate, is enhanced through AI applications.

Technology such as Arya uses big data alongside behavioural pattern recognition to provide you with the best candidates for your roles. It matches candidate applications and specific criteria outlined in the job listing to create a list for a more personal interaction.

  1. Chatbots

Having sufficient staff to deal with telephone calls, emails, and social media interactions in a world that never sleeps is one of the greatest challenges for any business. Using a chatbot might be the answer. Think Siri for your business.

Gartner predicts that, by 2019, requests for customer support through mobile messaging apps will exceed customer support by traditional social media, and that, by 2020, 85% of customer interactions will be with AI.

Chatbots are created for a specific business purpose. For example, an online shop might create a chatbot to help customers purchase something. Instead of browsing a website, they can have a ‘conversation’ with a bot, explaining what they’re looking for. The chatbot then provides links to the products that fit the description.

Another great application for chatbots is to create your own personalised virtual assistant.

Sage this year launched the world’s first accounting chatbot, ‘Pegg’, an AI virtual assistant designed specifically to help you manage your finances. Pegg can keep a real-time account of your expenses, track incoming payments, and automatically balance your books. The more you interact with Pegg, the more intelligent it becomes, adapting to how you work and providing you with recommendations tailored to your business.

For customer service support, there are many ‘bot builders’ available online. Try MEOKAY, an easy-to-use tool that both skilled developers and non-developers can use to create a conversational messenger bot.

  1. Cognitive technology for asset management

AI can be used within organisations that use heavy machinery, to detect immediate faults and make real-time decisions. This is invaluable to businesses where mechanical failure would be catastrophic. AI gathers critical information from every sensor and moving part. The insight this information provides includes assessment of functionality and efficiency, but also predicts mechanical failure and automatically creates maintenance schedules. With machine learning, intelligent guidance can help you to maximise your yield.

As an example, DataRPM’s Cognitive Predictive Maintenance Platform integrates information from multiple sources to analyse and provide insights on a single platform.

  1. AI writers

AI writers can generate data reports, like quarterly earnings, market data, and regulatory reports. Rather than employees spending hours manually analysing and compiling data, you can use AI applications to automatically create these reports. They work by collating data from multiple sources within your business, using predetermined ‘intent’, or a set of inputted objectives, to ensure that the focus is on building strategy from the statistics.

Companies like PwC, Deloitte, and MasterCard use technology like Quill to do exactly this. The language technology is reportedly so smart that it’s impossible to distinguish it from a human.

AI-based applications cannot be just ‘bolted on’ to your business. For them to truly provide you with accurate information, and efficiently perform the tasks they are designed to, they need to be integrated with your existing technology, and the data sources need to be clean and accurate. The data you get out will only be as good as the data you put in.

AI is not something to be feared either! It is not about replacing people, but helping support people with the mundane and repetitive processes, allowing them to spend time on more proactive and productive tasks.

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