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Artificial Intelligence

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By Steven Lee, AI managed service specialist, Bell Integration.

What comes to mind when people say AI and Automation? 

Still to this day when you speak to people about AI and Automation, responses are fraught with fear that stems from some fictional movie or you might hear a stock response from a worried peer.  Times are changing however, with more and more comprehensive fact-backed studies and real-life examples of where AI and Automation are delivering outstanding results.  Unbeknown to people, they are not new. 

AI and Automation are one and the same to me, with different aspects of a singular tool or combination of tools. AI is the Machine Learning and intelligence that allows the automations to be run and improved (either autonomously or through a CSI) over time.    Think of it as learning to drive a car:  the car (Automation) in which you are the driver (Human input), and to get from A to B you need an engine (AI) to be well designed and connected to the rest of the car to allow it to move.  Next to you is the driving instructor (Machine Learning & ChatBot) …… depending on how well the driving instructor communicates with you will depend on how well you drive the car and his/her feedback will help you improve for next time, so you become more efficient.  

What has changed? 

Market conditions have forced businesses to look at how they service and interact with their customers and their employees from a User Experience and Opex point of view.  With the increase in-demand for on-demand products and services, businesses have had to grow at an exponential rate.   

For large businesses, this is a calculated decision led by their ever-changing strategy but nevertheless determined by market conditions. For smaller businesses this sometimes is a kneejerk decision and sometimes it works out for the good, sometimes the bad. The question is, how can AI and Automation impact these decisions and the need to quick decision making? 

Is AI and Automation taking away peoples' jobs? 

This can be the elephant in the room, so let's look at this.  The world had been looking for ways to make peoples' lives easier since the beginning of time, from the sickle evolving into the lawnmower, letters into phone calls, pen and paper evolving to computers, libraries into the internet …  the list goes on. All of this to make people's lives automated and easier, and yet with all this automation the world population has grown at an unbelievable rate and there are more jobs than ever.

Having been involved with many exciting projects and from introducing automation into businesses, here are some of the scenarios it creates: 

  1. Allows businesses to cross and/or up skill department experts for faster RoI's. 
  2. Expands existing teams such as developers, PMO, other specialists' roles. 
  3. Introduces the option to bring services in-house, where new teams are established. 

I am not going to shy away from the fact that AI does create situations where you can automate to the point of reassigning individuals to other roles, however the reality is that it enables businesses to be able to cross skill and move employees around within companies, something that has been far too static for too long.  This is a positive development. 

How has AI and Automation impacted Banking and Finance? 

With the ever-changing landscape Banks face from consumer demands accelerated by new-generation banking clients and competition, answering those requests at different rates and in different ways can be a mine field.

From a customer's experience, being able to communicate across all channels of communication is a priority and the amount of failed chatbots in the market has not given Artificial Intelligence a squeaky-clean reputation.  Reasons for failure are due to NLP (natural language processing) and as most chatbots work on keywords, which they may or may not understand, the customer risks being asked the same question multiple times until they give up the will the live!

Some products in the market have focussed in on this as the key part of their toolset and the question we should be asking is ''If I had 100 customers ask a variation of the same question in different languages, can your product understand that question with a minimum 90% accuracy, and if so, where can you show me this?'' Because believe it or not there are existing products doing this with 98% accuracy. 

This being said, we are only just scratching the surface because when we begin to look at automation with internal IT supporting the business, there are institutions at the moment saving hundreds of thousands of hours' worth of work a month through automating processes.   And, the same things that these businesses are automating are the same things every business in the world either handles internally or via a service provider.    

How can people realise the benefits from such technology directly or indirectly? 

When I look at AI and Automation, I wonder why more people are not taking advantage of it, either directly or indirectly.  On a personal level, there are many ways you can consume automation, from finance management to automated shopping.  And for business, there are many ways automation can be consumed, whether you buy it directly to implement across your business, supported by internal teams, or begin to look at how your service providers use automation and how that can benefit you. 

Speaking with industry professionals to understand how automation could be applied in the  workplace is a good start, with automation technologies augmenting workforce capabilities significantly and, many would say, making human lives easier.

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