How AI is already reshaping the business world

AI is impacting multiple industries, but human skills will remain fundamental to every business's future success.
13 September 2019

Make no mistake, AI is already in the workplace. Source: Shutterstock

Once again, we prepare to enter tech’s silly season, where brands desperately try to win our loyalty on the run-up to Black Friday and the holidays. Watercoolers and Slack channels all over the world have colleagues debating the AI Chip Duel between Apple’s A13 Bionic and Huawei’s Kirin 990 5G.

At this year’s IFA, over 2,000 brands were showcasing smart products from toasters to closets that dry clean your clothes as you sleep. If your business is struggling to keep up with the pace of technological change here in 2019, the reality is that it will never move this slow again.

Overhyped emerging technologies such as AI and 5G are beginning to outgrow their buzzword status. The digital landscape is evolving. China’s smart speaker shipments, also known as  Voice-AI interfaces, grew by an incredible 500 percent in Q1 2019 alone to overtake the US and reach a 51 percent market share— something big is happening.

The 2020s look destined to be the decade where AI comes of age by increasing business value and greater ROI. Last year, research firm Gartner advised that global artificial intelligence business value would reach US$1.2 trillion in 2018, which was an increase of 70 percent from 2017. But AI-derived business value is forecast to reach US$3.9 trillion in 2022.

Whether it’s disruption or transformation on the road ahead will depend on your viewpoint. But AI is expected to deliver an era of unprecedented change across retail, healthcare, retail, insurance, logistics, legal, education, and almost every industry you can think of.

Removing repetition and giving businesses more time

Time is our most valuable non-renewable resource. But AI offers an opportunity to remove repetition and enable businesses to perform tasks in record time. What currently take hours for teams to complete will soon be achieved in seconds.

For example, many lawyers reading this will admit to feeling frustrated that 80 percent of their work is spent reviewing contracts. But they could soon find themselves having the time to spend on more value-add activities. LawGeex’s AI outperformed human lawyers in reviewing legal documents with 94 percent accuracy compared to the human lawyers who achieved an average of 85 percent.

AI could transform how legal documents are reviewed.

AI could transform how legal documents are reviewed. Source: Shutterstock

However, the most exciting aspect of the report was that lawyers needed hours to complete the challenge. Whereas LawGeex’s AI only needed 26 seconds. The verdict on how technology can transform the legal space on this evidence alone must make it a closed case.

Elsewhere, a company called Chisel AI is using natural language processing and machine learning to extract, classify and analyze unstructured data such as insurance documents 400 times faster than a human. Once again, these jobs were also completed with significantly higher accuracy.

The rise of AI-centric retail

The first sign of retail becoming more AI-centric than a human-oriented domain was revealed by AmazonGo, and it’s near-frictionless payment experience. Plans to open 56 Go stores by the end of 2019 are unlikely to materialize with only 15 currently open to the public.

A total of 156 stores by the end of 2020 also looks like a stretch right now. But make no mistake, Amazon’s cashier-less stores are just the beginning of a trend where consumer behavior will quickly begin to expect a frictionless experience everywhere.

Another example is a cloud-based “scan and go” app called Skip. The mobile checkout app has already enabled Russell’s Convenience to reach its customers directly with deals and in-store promotions. What is the ROI? It is increasing both satisfaction and frequency of shopping trips to its stores.

The moment where consumers enter another retail store and are faced with traditional friction points and the absence of customer experience is when many will rush to make changes. But a reactive rather than a proactive approach will make it too late to win back the hearts of impatience consumers.

We are already living in a mobile-first digital world. Almost every event, conference or concert are creating “Instagrammable moments” for visitors to share from their phones. Over the next few years, we will be adding 5G connectivity, AI, and IoT sensors in every location. The time to prepare for the inevitable is right now. But, don’t forget to put your employees at the heart of this transformational change.

The future of work

If we look back through our entire history, technology has always delivered the change required to help society progress. From the arrival of steam engines to the internet, old jobs have been replaced with new roles fit for a new era.

As technology continues to take away repetitive and mundane tasks, we have an opportunity to get back to being human. Collaboration, innovation, creativity, strategy, and management are human skills that enable people and machines to work side by side to increase efficiency and productivity.

However, it is every employer’s responsibility to put their money where their mouth is and instead of replacing people with machines. Re-skilling staff rather than displacing them will ensure you both can thrive together in a digital age. Every CEO will speak of how important the people are to the company, and they now need to prove it by ensuring that nobody gets left behind

Deloitte’s report on human capital trends predicts that within ten years, 20–30 percent of employment positions will be so-called ‘super jobs.’ There will still be a around 10–20 percent portion of low-wage, low-skill jobs, but in the middle, 60–70 percent of worker roles will comprise “hybrid jobs” that require employees to have both technical and soft skills.

Employees must continue to adapt to a new age of continuous learning. Equally, businesses in every industry need to retire the humans vs. machines debate about saving money. It’s time to understand that success in a digital world can only be achieved by leveraging the best of technology and human skills together.