Dr Zoe Webster, our Director of Data and Artificial Intelligence, reveals how AI works and how it can future-proof your business.  
 

From search engines to predictive texting, emerging technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) are becoming more and more embedded in our lives – even if we don’t realise it. Deployed successfully, AI has almost limitless potential for businesses. It can free them from manual tasks and drive previously unimaginable efficiencies. All while creating new personalised services.

And yet, our recent The Future in 2021 technology survey has revealed that many leaders still don’t think AI is right for their business. Our AI expert Dr Zoe Webster sheds light on how AI is transforming data-driven organisations and the seven ways it’ll prepare your business for the digital future.

And if you want to find out more about AI, check out the above video. Watch as Zoe and award-winning business journalist Steph McGovern discuss what AI is, how it works and what it can do for business.


1) AI optimises internal operations

With the right connectivity, AI can pave the way for improved ways of working – especially for larger organisations that may have complex or outdated processes.

For example, it can help you make your business or supply chain more efficient by highlighting areas that could be optimised. This will save your business time and money.

AI also allows your employees to work with greater flexibility. And helps you prepare for any unforeseen events.

Optimisation isn’t just reserved for huge companies – SMEs can reap the rewards too. For example, Oxford-based MeVitae is a small deep tech business currently using AI to help companies make faster and less biased recruitment. They’re using AI for activities like automatically redacting features from CVs that might be picked up in cases of unconscious bias, such as gender and race.

2) AI provides intuitive marketing for increased sales

As AI searches for patterns within large volumes of data, organisations can harness insights to predict future behaviour. By using AI-powered tools like social listening and machine learning, your company will become more aware of trends, opportunities, and customer preferences. And be able to make changes to your offering accordingly.

Having a deeper understanding of your customers will help you create more targeted messaging, and even anticipate what your customers need. For example, think about when you’re buying a book online. You’ll often see a list of suggestions pop up on your screen. Those are put together through AI, using what you’ve bought before to offer new suggestions.


3) AI improves the customer experience

In a similar way to using data to increase sales, companies can use AI to provide better customer service. For example, they can take the insights they get from market research and user behaviour, analyse them through AI and use them to improve current services or inspire product innovations.

Chatbots and self-service apps are another great example of what your business can do with AI. As these tools develop and analyse more data, they become faster and more accurate. They can then be used to address customer needs automatically. All while providing an overall better customer experience.

4) AI allows resources to go further

AI can help businesses use their people in much smarter ways. For example, by using it to improve and manage operations, organisations can spread their resources and provide better services. Ultimately allowing companies to make a big impact without heavily affecting costs.

Some people still fear that AI will take their jobs. But this is far from true. On the one hand, it’ll help companies shift focus away from manual tasks and towards more complex queries. On the other, it’ll support and elevate other jobs.

So, for example, it’ll free people from having to analyse large, complicated volumes of data. And at the same time, it’ll help them make strategic decisions based on that same data.

5) AI drives innovation

With better insights from data, companies are often inspired and equipped to innovate. But also experiment and test new products, services, and ways of working.

Healthcare is a great example. AI can support this sector in the search for new drugs and vaccines by providing insights on patients and their medical history. It can also help tackle misinformation on vaccines and streamline manufacturing operations by monitoring production and identifying potential delivery network bottlenecks.

AI is advantageous for other sectors too. Take the creative industries, which can use it to quickly process and retrieve content to support post-production – anything from music scoring to video editing and captioning. Meanwhile, the public sector can use behavioural insights to develop solutions that better serve communities.

6.) You don’t need to be an expert

It’s a common misconception that AI requires specialist employees and technology. This is sometimes true, but it’s not always the case. No-code AI is slowly becoming more popular in the workplace because staff don’t need to have special skills to use it. These platforms often use tools such as drag-and-drop and other simple processes to help everyone to use end-to-end automation. Soon staff with any level of expertise will be able to reap the benefits of AI without having to worry about training costs.

7)  It's only the beginning for AI

The future of AI looks promising. And we’ve barely scratched the surface of its capabilities. From helping law firms to analyse large legal documents to building virtual assistants that support employees and clients alike – the possibilities are endless. This technology is at the forefront of a digital revolution with no signs of slowing down.

How do I start my AI journey?

If you want to start using AI, the first thing to do is identify how it can help your business. What opportunities and challenges is your business facing, and how data can help you address them? Where you see data playing a role, that’s where AI can be key.

Here are a few tips for starting off:

  • Start small and simple and work up to something more sophisticated in time. 
  • Make sure that your business has access to a sustainable source of data.
  • Consider the role people play in your decision-making process. Get people comfortable with using it right away, so that they’re fully aware of the benefits and limitations.
  • Make sure you have reliable connectivity that allows the exchange of data whenever needed, across your business.

Useful links

 

Who is Steph McGovern?

An experienced and award-winning business journalist, Steph McGovern has a long history in covering some of the world’s biggest financial stories.  

She made her television debut after winning the title of Young Engineer for Britain, having saved BLACK+DECKER money on a design she created. Following that appearance, she took up a work experience role on the BBC’s Tomorrow’s World, before becoming a part-time researcher while studying at University College London.

After graduating, Steph became the main producer for daily financial news on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. For three years Steph was the lead producer of business news on the one, six and ten o’clock news bulletins. Working with the then-business editor Robert Peston, Steph played a huge part in the award-winning coverage of the credit crunch and recession.

Steph also built her on-air profile, working as a business presenter on Radio 2 and BBC 5 Live. Now a household name, Steph regularly co-hosted BBC Breakfast until 2019, and now presents her own daily Channel 4 show: Steph’s Packed Lunch.

Born in Middlesbrough, she’s a mentor for young people in Teesside, regularly running workshops for children around the North East.

Finally, here’s something you may not know about Steph: she’s a former champion Irish dancer.