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The impact of AI on the workplace Richard Ferrar, Head of Marketing, Peak (Information Technology and Services Provider)

Not so many years ago, artificial intelligence (AI) was the stuff of science fiction. Today, it is transforming near enough every sector in the business landscape, from healthcare, to retail and industrial. And it’s growing: a 2017 survey of Fortune 500 companies revealed that 81% of CEOs think AI and machine learning is either ‘very important’ or ‘extremely important’ to their company’s future ― up from just 54% in 2016[1].

AI is proving its worth for businesses, large and small, by allowing them to automate systems and gain valuable insights into how their customers are behaving and using that data to make smarter decisions, tailor their business offering and ultimately sell more products or services. In the retail sector, for example, Peak has deployed its AI system to enable retailers to achieve rapid growth in revenues and profits, whilst also optimising their businesses through data-driven insights to determine things like stock levels and operational constraints.

Transforming Workforce

Not only is AI revolutionising how businesses are operating and serving their client base by enabling the use of automated systems to improve insights and productivity, it is also being used to advance internal efficiencies and processes.

Chatbots and virtual assistants help us to organise our personal lives, so it’s no surprise that they are making their way into the workplace. They can help with simple manual tasks and streamline processes, from generating contracts, to creating meeting transcripts. Some will also introduce AI into specific areas of business. The recruitment industry, for example, uses AI to source the best candidates, while marketing specialists are using the technology to influence the likes of social media strategies to help with content creation and instant decision-making.

Embracing Digital Design

AI technology is also having an impact on how our future workspaces look and operate.

Gone are the days of assigned desks and traditional corporate design – the workplaces of those companies at the forefront of the digital revolution are moving towards a much more fluid and agile way of working. Spaces are more flexible, with communal areas designed to encourage idea sharing and collaboration – and state-of-the-art technology facilitating working on the go, from anywhere in the world.

Addressing Concerns

As with any new technology, there has been considerable debate around AI and its impact on the way that we work. 73% of CEOs recently listed ‘rapid pace of technology change’ as one of the top challenges their company will face in the next 12 months[2].

There are also the concerns that, ultimately, robots and other automated methods will replace humans in the workforce to the long-term detriment of the economy. However, the reality is that AI has the ability to enhance the business landscape and open up opportunities for the unemployed. In fact, Gartner recently predicted that AI will become a positive job motivator and create 2.3 million new jobs by 2020[3].

For example, Peak’s work with the UK’s largest independently owned motoring website, Regit – formerly Motoring.co.uk – saw a 27% sales increase in a 30 day period thanks to a unique algorithm that predicts when car owners are likely to change their vehicle. If a company can see this lift in sales through AI capabilities, then it will, in turn, create more opportunities to expand and grow the team.

Granted, we have some work to do in plugging the skills gap and training the next generation of workers for a more automated, connected work, but the outcome will be better than where we are today.

When the topic was recently discussed at Cisco’s Advanced Technology Fair, the point was made that, while AI is becoming a conduit to improved efficiency, it actually improves the power of the employee and makes him or her more valuable, elevating their potential insights and contribution[4].

AI brings a stream of new business opportunities, which will, in turn, inspire a culture of entrepreneurship, creativeness and innovation. While it will no doubt transform how we do business, analyse data and gather valuable insights, it is our ability as human beings to make decisions and interact with other humans that will create value in our workplaces and remain intrinsic to how business is done.