We continuously see new developments and applications that show the possibilities of artificial intelligence. Like getting inspired by Chef Watson, Google's AlphaGowho won the game Go, or a Chinese TV channel that uses a chatbotto do the weather forecast. But how can this technology be used for business services?

Often technologies are examined by the possibilities - what is technology capable of? – however, organizations should look at these developments from a different perspective, namely from their needs - how can technology add value?

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Applications for artificial intelligence

In general, artificial intelligence, can support three important business needs: automating business processes, generating new insights through data analysis and interaction with customers and employees.

Process automation

Artificial intelligence can be used behind the scenes to automate processes and procedures. This is typically used for recurring administrative actions and standardized processes in the back office, using Robotic Process Automation (RPA). At RPA, a robot mimics the actions of the user. For example, a robot can automatically log in, simulate keyboard and mouse input and search for information (crawlers), retrieval (scrapers), and combine (mashup). As a result, no adaptation to ICT systems is required. An example of RPA can be found at the British insurance company Davies Group. By using RPA, they are able to handle around 3,000 claims every day with four people. Without RPA about twelve people would be needed.

Generating new insights

Artificial intelligence can also be used to generate new insights from large amounts of data. Using smart algorithms, patterns can be detected and interpreted. For example, these algorithms can be used to make predictions about customers' buying behavior, detect credit fraud, or generate personalized digital advertisements.

The way in which such applications come up with the result - often on the basis of large amounts of data – goes beyond the human capacity to do this. A good example of generating new insights was demonstrated during the hackathon that we organized as part of our co-innovation program Digital We. With their 'Smart Road Maintenance’ solution, a group of students was able to develop a predictive model within 24 hours. Based on available open data and data from Department of Waterways and Public Works, predictions could be made where the greatest wear and tear on the road surface is expected. Location, curves and of course the weather turned out to be of great influence. With these insights more accurate estimations can be made when a road surface has to be replaced. By planning smarter - which means that the road surface is not replaced too early, but certainly not too late - large savings can be realized.

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Interaction with customers and employees

Digital technologies, such as smartphones and computers, function more and more as personal assistants and discussion partner. This trend is reflected increasing number of virtual assistants or chatbots: virtual applications that are able have a human dialogue with users based on natural language processing. These bots are often used to automate customer services. This makes it possible to help customers 24/7 to solve a wide range of problems. These bots are also used internally at organizations, for example to answer policy questions from employees about topics such as IT and HR.

One of the many examples is the well-known virtual assistant from bol.com.

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Obstacles

Applications that use artificial intelligence offer great opportunities for organizations. As with any development, there are also a number of obstacles to overcome.

Data policy

Most important is the availability of large amounts of high-quality data that can be used to train algorithms. In many organizations, the data is not available in one place, or it contains inconsistent or outdated data. This can lead to bad or wrong decisions. In order to prepare your organization for the future, in which artificial intelligence will play an important role, the first step is to have consistent information systems and high-quality data streams. Because garbage in = garbage out.

Culture

The fear of artificial intelligence lies not only in the doom scenariosas Elon Musk describes it, in which artificial intelligence is going to dominate the whole world. Many employees are worried about their jobs, because robots can work faster and more efficiently than people. Despite the fact that often people think that Intelligent Assistants will take over the work of employees, Gartner predictsthat from 2020 onwards, artificial intelligence implementation will have a positive effect on employment. However, the role of employees will change, and the competencies that are required.

In order to gain support within the organization, employees must be included in the process. This offers two advantages. By allowing employees to be part of the transformation process and by emphasizing the opportunities that artificial intelligence offers - reducing boring and repetitive tasks, leaving more time for interesting tasks - this gives positive incentives to make a success of these initiatives. In addition, employees have a lot of implicit knowledge. By involving them, this implicit knowledge can be made explicit.

Privacy

With artificial intelligence, services and contact moments can be offered even more personally. For some consumers this is something too personal. Organizations must consider privacy aspects and put the consumer in control. Transparency and trust are indispensable in this. Trust can be won by being relevant and delivering real value - to be at the right place at the right moment, when it is needed for the customer, with an offer that fits the wishes of that customer. When systems use personal data, permission must be requested and made transparent for what purpose the data is used.

Impact on your organization

The developments in the field of artificial intelligence are going fast and offer various opportunities for organizations. Personalized information services, new insights and automated processes and interaction can lead to an improvement of services. To implement artificial intelligence successfully, however, organizations need to manage a number of things. Not only the data policy must be well arranged, the privacy of consumers must also be monitored. It is clear that these developments will irrevocably change organizations and their services. The question is, how quickly can you adapt so that your organization can benefit from the opportunities that artificial intelligence offers.

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