Not using AI in the workplace? You're already behind, SAP executive says

Artificial Intelligence
AI is becoming more and more prevalent. (Image: Pixabay)

Artificial intelligence (AI) is still in its growing stages, but is increasingly being deployed across diverse industries that find it making tasks easier and freeing employees for more sophisticated work.

“AI is a cognitive enhancement that makes every employee better,” said Rob May, CEO of Talla, a developer of bots. “It will automate their busywork in ways that will save time and improve productivity, while enhancing decision making capabilities so employees are both more efficient and more effective. Deploying AI tools now is the first step to laying the groundwork for a digital workforce.”

“If you are not using artificial intelligence in the workplace, you’re already behind,” said Timo Elliott, vice president at SAP. “AI brings with it great opportunities for efficiency, accuracy, and better decision making, allowing us to make better use of our time and resources.

A nearly $200B marketplace

Indeed, the AI market worldwide is expected to grow from $21.46 billion in 2018 to $190.61 billion by 2025, according to research firm MarketsandMarkets. The drivers are expected to be growing big data, the increasing adoption of cloud-based applications and services and increasing demand for intelligent virtual assistants. The major restraint for the market is the limited number of AI technology experts, the report said.

Overall, “AI will enable skilled office workers to spend more time focusing on their core competencies over the mechanics of maintaining data,” said Claus Jepsen, chief architect at ERP company Unit4. “On a larger scale, this will result in lower financial costs for organizations and time saved on tasks usually spent on manual operations or classifying data.”

A variety of uses

A look at the way AI is already being used shows that companies of all sizes in all industries are crafting it for their particular needs, from setting up mentoring appointments to powering virtual people.

"AI is changing the fundamental nature of every organization, including in the industrial setting. When used with edge computing, AI has the potential to increase productivity and employee safety in the blue-collar workforce,” said Gabe Batstone, CEO of Contextere.

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Role Model Mentors, a service that matches high school students with youngsters in grades K-8 for tutoring in academics and sports, is using AI in a number of ways, including with a bot that turns the appointment-making process into a chat. By using AI, “we can easily speak the language of the user by automatically scheduling the appointment in their native app, such as a mobile-based calendar favored by parents or a text-based solution favored by high schoolers,” said CEO Derek Correia.

Employee onboarding is another way AI is being deployed. “If you think of what employee onboarding usually consists of, it can take a company at least a few weeks to onboard him/her successfully,” said Victor Thu, global head of marketing and product marketing for Digitate. “AI has the capabilities to interact with all of the different technologies in the enterprise and cater a specific profile for the employee in hours rather than weeks.”

Accounts payable automation is eliminating manual data entry, replacing it with a system that is able to extract information, even from a handwritten timesheet, summarize the data and enter it into the payroll system for processing, said Elliott of SAP.

Attorney Marc Lamber of Fennemore Craig is seeing his law firm use AI to increase efficiencies. “A lawyer can request a memo via AI, asking it to write a response based on a particular question,” Lamber said. “The attorney can then edit this memo, which saves hours in the drafting process.”

From the client’s perspective, “Most of the ‘haystacks’ that attorneys have to sift through are actually not relevant to the case. AI allows us to refine and hone our searchesmaking it much more cost-effective to obtain an answer,” Lamber said.

Frequently asked questions

The AI that customer service software firm Aspect Software deploys is mostly used to handle easy, frequently asked questions, leaving the more complex questions for the agents. A poll of customer service agents found 72% feel as a result, they make a bigger impact on their company because they could work on deeper issues. And 79% said it would help them improve their skills making they happier and more satisfied in their job.

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A survey by Accenture Strategy found AI and analytics are becoming more vital to the M&A process. More than half (58%) of executives said technology is allowing them to achieve targets and capture value faster in their deals. Companies that use AI for M&A can reduce due diligence time by 30% to 90%.

Ricoh is using AI to help power a virtual person who greets, informs and says goodbye to people at trade shows and meetings. While someone is interacting with Ricoh’s “person,” or hologram, its analytics package is collecting data on such things as engagement duration and personal identifiers. Ricoh customers that use the virtual person can deploy this data to try to improve customer service by knowing what messaging works well and what doesn't.

“In the years ahead, AI will make our work lives easier, and allow us to accomplish more,” said David Judge, vice president, SAP Leonardo|Analytics. “We will ultimately determine its level of assistance. As workers, we can choose to own certain tasks or delegate projects to the machine based on our preference. As executives, we will empower our employees do what they do best: creatively help the organization achieve its overall goals.”