Seven ways to AI-power your business


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Businesses produce terabytes of data every day. But a vast majority of that data is never used. Therein lies a missed opportunity to put today’s most valuable resource to work. So how can firms process all that information at scale? Artificial intelligence — one of a handful of new technologies rapidly changing industries across the globe.

According to a 2018 study by MIT Sloan, 83 percent of firms see artificial intelligence (AI) as a strategic opportunity for their firms. But nearly the same number of business leaders (81 percent) do not understand the data requirements for AI.

As global tech giant IBM puts it: There is no AI without an IA. That is, an information architecture, a phrase coined by IBM to refer to a firm’s data strategy — how to both organize and mobilize the wealth of information pulsing through your workflows.

If your firm is hoping to embrace new tech in your operations, but aren’t sure where to begin, here are seven possible AI applications to get you started on your journey:

Provide job applicants with personalized information on career opportunities.

Application: HR and recruitment
Firm: Anheuser-Busch InBev

Issue: Drink and brewing multinational Anheuser-Busch InBev was struggling to manage the mountains of job applications arriving on their recruitment desks. Their lean team proved unable to respond to the applicant inquiries about company benefits and culture, often responding to the same questions again and again.

AI Solution: ZX Ventures, AN InBev’s innovationan arm, co-developed a virtual assistant that interacts with applicants, engaging in natural language discussions about the company’s offerings and opportunities. According to the company, the assistant was able to engage with applicants five times more efficiently than their recruiting staff could without it.

Help customers with basic queries and connect them with the appropriate experts.

Application: Customer service
Firm: Royal Bank of Scotland

Issue: Siloed information and redundancies across the Royal Bank of Scotland’s (RBS) various customer-facing departments left customers calling wrong numbers and waiting on agents struggling to find them answers. RBS needed a way to organize their data and make it instantly accessible to both their clients and their agents.

AI Solution: RBS built Cora, an assistant trained to help guide customers through simple problems and connect them with live agents for more complex ones. With the massive success of their first AI solution, RBS then worked with IBM to develop Marge, a tool designed to work alongside agents, providing them with accurate, relevant information stored across RBS’ various departments.

Instantly analyze claims and provide accurate quotes to customers.

Application: Claim processing
Firm: Autoglass BodyRepair

Issue: British auto repair firm, Autoglass BodyRepair identified claim processing as a glaring bottleneck in their workflows. Their advisors would spend anywhere from an hour to a few days collecting information from a claimant and analyzing the damage on their vehicle. With over 260 online claims coming in every day, they recognized an opportunity to streamline.

AI Solution: Visual recognition software allowed Autoglass BodyRepair’s customers to send in images of their vehicle damage through the firm’s website. The proprietary system then analyzed these images and instantly issued customers a quote. For more complicated cases that require human attention, all the necessary information needed to build a quote is instantly provided to the advisor handling the claim.

Equip farmers and agriculture experts with insights to boost crop yields.

Application: Agriculture
Firm: Thailand’s National Science and Technology Development Agency

Issue: Factors such as climate change, population growth, and food security have placed pressure on the Thai government to find ways to empower its traditional agricultural sector. As the world’s second largest sugar producer, Thailand’s economy stands to gain a lot as well if it’s able to bolster its crop yields.

AI Solution: The National Science and Technology Development Agency has embarked on a two-year research collaboration with IBM to pilot the Agronomic Insights Assistant — an intelligent dashboard and mobile application that equips experts with insights on crop health, soil moisture, pest and disease infestation risk, expected yield, and commercial cane sugar index.

Provide real-time performance analysis and report building.

Application: Data analysis
Firm: Carhartt

Issue: Thanks to inefficient data analysis, American apparel firm Carhartt often promoted out-of-stock products and missed opportunities to cash in on search trends. Like most firms, they relied on data spreadsheets to track what products were performing best. This manual analysis meant teams were always at least a week behind on acting on otherwise timely data.

AI Solution: Using Watson Commerce Insights, merchandisers were able to benefit from real time analytics and insights on online product placement adjustments. According to Anna Cole, their director of ecommerce, Carhartt measured record-breaking conversion rates over the holidays thanks to this system.

Streamline review processes so specialists can focus on strategizing.

Application: Auditing
Firm: EisnerAmper

Issue: Tasked with poring over thousands of dense, technical documents to identify specific pieces of information, accountants spend a vast majority of their time away from the higher-order strategic work they specialize in. These accountants also deal with shifting industry standards in tangential fields, complicating an already difficult job with regulations outside their field of expertise.

AI Solution: EisnerAmper accountants now utilize AI tools trained to understand the structure and intent of legal documents to more efficiently and more accurately move through their review process, freeing them up to focus on more creative, higher-impact work.

Automatically structure file dumps to unlock entirely new data toolsets.

Application: Data organization
Firm: Box

Issue: According to a 2017 report by IBM, 80 percent of corporate data is unstructured, & therefore, underutilized. Data storage provider Box hosts about 45 billion files across its enterprise users’ accounts — a figure that doubles every year. But with most of this data unorganized, valuable insights that could be gleaned from them lie dormant in Box’s servers.

AI Solution: Box now offers enterprise users the ability to inject their uploaded, unstructured data with AI to rapidly analyze their files, then automate and streamline its management. This means files can be instantly labelled with relevant keywords; images can be automatically organized not only by type, but also by content; and documents can be translated into supported languages. Not only are files more easily searchable, but entirely new applications of AI are made available to their owners.