It would be safe to believe that the debate around ‘If or not Artificial Intelligence (AI)-driven technology will make humans redundant has been suitably laid to rest, at least with this audience. And that opens up a gamut of exciting exchange of ideas and concepts on harnessing the potential of AI-powered digital transformation to succeed in business. Today, companies, from both traditional and sunrise sectors, are chalking out their aspirations for digital transformation. While this aim to transform predates the pandemic, the past 15 months have certainly accelerated the process. The seeds of this revolution were sowed at the turn of the century, though.
The bustling start-up space, as a basic example, will throw up startling numbers on how the time taken for start-ups to arrive at the aspirational Unicorn status is diminishing year-on-year. What took Naukri.com (1997) 16 years, took Flipkart (2007) less than nine years and Oyo (2013) less than six years. Let me hazard a guess on how the newer companies were able to achieve the same results faster – deploying a host of powerful technological tools that help them achieve more with fewer resources.
Making data work for you
Companies and leaders, today, are operating in highly competitive markets where decisions have to be made at break-neck speed. Early adoption of smart technology such as AI has been credited with enabling companies, in these rapidly evolving business environments, to transform themselves digitally.
Data is the new oil, one keep shearing. But unstructured, fragmented, unintelligible data in the hands of a data analyst is as effective as giving a printer the bark of a tree. Time and energy of the analyst may be spent judiciously if simple algorithms would place the data in a format basis pre-designed criteria, making it easier to read through, understand, deconstruct and arrive at conclusions. While the corporate world seems to place a huge premium on data collection, usage of tools to analyse is preciously rare. Data collation matrices such as the customer management system, worldwide web and social media offer ample scope to develop a strong predictive analysis model that can help enhance the customer experience, irrespective of the sector one is operating in.
The burning question that remains then is how best can we leverage technology to deliver value to our stakeholders in this competitive and dynamic environment – how do we build humane solutions in a digital world?
Customer experiences, company culture, business processes and product innovation are constantly under the spotlight, and AI is assisting this transformation. Media, retail, technology, automobiles, power generation –a few of the industries that are harnessing the power of digital transformation.
To begin with, AI has changed the way we even host meetings online. Automated scheduling, facial recognition, call transcription are some of the tools that have made redundant routine tasks that eat up into an individual’s time. Not only does technology complete the task faster, but it can work 24 hours without a break. Thus, across sectors, AI is automating routine cognitive tasks.
The media industry has reaped the benefits of this in ways such as auto-generated sales reports, customised reportage of social media chatter for brands, understanding consumer conversations or feedback, campaign performance and such. In the education sector, on the other hand, it has helped tackle the time-consuming grading process and pure data-based performance comparison among other aspects. The advantage of cognitive technology including AI, machine learning (ML) and natural language processing (NLP) over pure statistical approaches is dual – one where the compilation is free of bias, and the second that it learns and improves with every user interaction. It turns random unstructured data into a well-thought, planned and curated database that may be harnessed basis the requirement.
Content customisation is another key benefit of incorporating AI into business processes’ technology. Be it our social media pages or news sites that we refer to, they adapt themselves to throw up the kind of content we engage most with. Meta-data tagging enables this in the media space. The education sector, similarly, does this through a carefully-designed algorithm that gauges our proficiency by our past responses, and throws up questions or information thus making the offering compatible with the user.
Automating administrative tasks has been another big benefit from incorporating AI into business processes. Staying on the education sector, ‘Involvement of Teachers in Non-teaching Activities and its Effect on Education’, a 2018 report by the National Institute of Education and Administration (NUEPA) highlighted that government teachers in the country spend a mere 19.1 per cent of their working hours in teaching, while the rest of their time was divided between non-teaching core activities, non-teaching school-related activities and on other department activities. This dichotomy is easily solve-able by deploying the right technological tools. Deployment of AI in online learning is not a replacement for our teachers; it only assists teachers gauge the understanding and gaps with each student. This allows for customised course plans and classes to be designed basis the abilities of each student.
Learnings from the industry have resulted in the recently-launched Advanced Digital Transformation Program (ADTP) programme that Results & Outcomes has co-curated with MICA for professionals employed in the M&E industry. The constantly evolving digital transformation needs are rendering a rethink of marketing strategies, data analytics, and customer relationship management among brands and businesses. Created and delivered by experienced industry professionals, the courseis aimed at smoothening the transition for working professionals, empowering them with the required skill sets and practical application knowledge, ensuring they thrive in this digitally transforming world.
Data to fire up business, as the new oil
In times where we find ourselves place a high premium on accuracy coupled with speed – neither remain negotiable. And to catalyse this transformation, breaking new ground through adoption of smart technology seems to be inevitable.
Easing of complex business processes, improved customer behaviour trends’ intelligence, improved customer engagement through tools including gamification and virtual reality, ongoing back-end product checks and maintenance – these are only some of the tasks that smart technology runs smoothly, freeing precious human resource time and mindspace to undertake complex analytical tasks such as brainstorming, researching and innovating.
While AI-equipped technologies such as applications and chatbots are met with much scepticism, its role as an enabler of digital transformation is accepted. Before signing off, the one thought to leave behind is to invest wisely in a sound data strategy. There is no point in thinking about AI without a clear and defined data strategy.
By Tarun Katial, Investor and Founder, Results and Outcomes