Artificial Intelligence doomsayers have been trumpeting pretty loudly as of late. Their divine proclamation? That automation will soon take over every job from truck-driving to marketing creative direction. While it’s out of our wheelhouse to make such lofty declarations, we do have our ears to the ground as far as A.I. as a productivity tool in the marketplace goes.
Computer Weekly wrote “that software robots will soon automate 80% of repetitive tasks currently being done by people and increase productivity by freeing up humans to use their brains.”
There are several key areas that are and will continue to boost human productivity by automating tedium and making non-trivial tasks easier.
The chatbot invasion is well underway. Their first stop was customer support automation. But as bots grow in sophistication, so do the number of their use cases. These new contexts, ripe for automation, include sales, recruitment, and job coaching.
Automated vetting of sales and employment prospects has already gone a long way in saving companies time, but the potential for smart chatbots extends far beyond that. And it’s not that far away.
The latter is the newest possibility. While we're all familiar with chatbots as virtual assistant or customer service rep, the next step is individualized, real-time feedback throughout the work process.
The virtual coach will be available anywhere, at any time. Such programs could provide helpful, natural-language guidance and feedback. With a tight feedback loop, employees will more quickly develop skills and improve upon their existing skillsets. One such company attempting to create the pocket-coach of the future is BOLDR.
TURNING ANALYTICS INTO INSIGHT
How many charts of numbers does one have to stare at before finding the trends that imply actionable insight? Tell me! How many? PaveAI is one of many burgeoning AI companies tackling this problem. In founder Eric Ho’s own words, “PaveAI uses machine learning and data science to turn Google Analytics data into actionable recommendations and reports.”
Its algorithms comb through more than 16 million possible combinations to produce data-driven reports with insights and recommendations that help businesses achieve marketing goals.
AUTOMATING ROUTINE PROCESSES
McKinsey launched an ongoing study in 2015 to investigate the effects of automation in the workplace. Their findings confirm the beliefs of the more circumspect futurists out there: automation will take over for many tasks but not as many entire jobs.
“More specifically, our research suggests that as many as 45 percent of the activities individuals are paid to perform can be automated by adapting currently demonstrated technologies. In the United States, these activities represent about $2 trillion in annual wages.”
These automated activities don’t just include manufacturing, warehouse work, or driving. Even physicians will get a load off with A.I. -- such as with IBM Watson’s medical applications.
Consultants from Bain & Company estimated that one large firm was losing 300,000 hours per year because of one weekly executive meeting. And how many other meeting do these executives attend? One prospect of A.I. is automated preparation, gathering files and notes and even drafting the agenda. This doesn’t eliminate meetings -- we’re all still waiting on that development -- but it does chip away at the 300,000+ wasted hours.
LISTENING AND RESPONDING
Speech recognition, like the kind that powers Amazon’s Alexa, will increasingly edge out typing as the primary means for communicating with machines. Dictation, transcription, and translation have been the first tasks tackled. Apps like Dragon Dictation even have features to learn any idiosyncratic accent or unique pronunciations (or mispronunciations).
It will, of course, go much further than that. Information Age predicts:
“In the workplace of the near future, you’ll use voice commands to tap into the machine learning capabilities of your company’s interactive intranet to achieve value that goes far beyond the aesthetic….
AI will understand the most important connections and interactions from your network of colleagues, partners and customers (your work graph), and take it from there — handling everything from scheduling meetings, to responding to important correspondence and deleting irrelevant messages.”
KEEPING OUT DISTRACTION
As a broad category, machine learning -- like artificial intelligence, but narrower -- denotes a platform that recognizes patterns and adjusts accordingly.
One machine-learning application that runs in the background of our everyday lives is your spam filter. Every time someone marks an email as spam, the spam filter platform investigates and plucks out features common to other spam emails, building a database of features that won’t get past the gatekeeper.
The aim of application like spam filters is like that of any good assistant: remove your boss’s distractions so they can focus on important things. The promise of smart machines is that we’ll all have a robot workforce keeping our time sacred.
Distracted employees are a massive money hemorrhage for businesses. It doesn’t help that they are interrupted every 3 minutes on average, and it takes up to 23 uninterrupted minutes to re-establish focus. Communications from all sides -- apps, emails, video, and in-person -- and the distractions of tedious routine tasks in the mix of big-picture tasks add up to a frazzled employee. Befrazzlement is a killer to productivity in both quality and quantity.
SERVING UP WHAT YOU NEED
McKinsey Global Institute found that the average worker “spends an estimated 28 percent of the workweek managing e-mail and nearly 20 percent looking for internal information or tracking down colleagues who can help with specific tasks.”
This is where Digitile comes in. Digitile leverages social media behaviors with natural language processing and machine-learning to internal documents intuitively searchable across storage platforms. Just as sneaky and pervasive as external distraction is the internal distraction of not having readily available the tools you need to do your job. Digitile closes the loop between information and employee.
By bottlenecking communications, reducing distraction, and easing or automating the tedious activities requisite to knowledge work, A.I. can eliminate wasted hours and boost both productivity and morale.